What Are Benzodiazepines? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects
Benzodiazepines, often called "benzos," are a type of prescription drug. They are used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety disorders, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Benzos have been around for more than 50 years and are some of the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide. However, they can be addictive if abused.
Wondering if this drug is right for you, or worried about supporting someone going through benzodiazepine addiction? This blog post will discuss everything you need to know, including what benzodiazepines are, their uses, benefits, and side effects.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a type of psychoactive drug, meaning they affect the brain and nervous system. Specifically, benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down brain activity. This can lead to a feeling of relaxation and calmness. As such, benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. They are also sometimes used as a sedative before surgery.
Benzodiazepines are typically taken orally, though some can be injected. They are available in a variety of forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, and injections. The specific form will depend on the type of benzodiazepine prescribed.
There are many different types of benzodiazepines available, including alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan). Each type of benzodiazepine has a different potency and duration of action. For example, alprazolam is a short-acting benzodiazepine while diazepam is a long-acting one. Doctors will prescribe the benzodiazepine that they feel is best for the individual patient's needs.
Among their various uses, benzodiazepines are most commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are the most widespread mental health disorders in the United States, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18. Benzodiazepines can be very effective in treating anxiety, as they work to reduce symptoms like worry, racing thoughts, and restlessness. In fact, studies have shown that benzos are more effective than placebos in treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
However, it's important to note that benzodiazepines should only be used as a short-term treatment for anxiety. This is because they can be addictive and lead to tolerance, meaning you will need to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. If you are struggling with anxiety, it's important to talk to your doctor about other treatment options that may be more appropriate for long-term use.
Benzodiazepines offer a number of potential benefits when used as directed. In addition to treating anxiety disorders, they can also be used to treat seizures and muscle spasms. As mentioned above, benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system, which helps to reduce seizure activity and relax muscles.
In addition, benzodiazepines can be used as a sedative before surgery. This is because they help to reduce anxiety and make you drowsy. As such, you may be less likely to remember the surgery or experience pain afterward.
Like all medications, benzodiazepines come with a risk of side effects. The most common side effects include:
- impaired coordination
These mild side effects usually go away after a few days of taking the medication. However, some people may also experience more serious side effects, including:
- slurred speech
- difficulty breathing
- impaired judgment
If you experience any of these side effects, it's important to stop taking the medication and talk to your doctor right away, as this prescription may not be suitable for your continued use.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the abuse of benzodiazepines. This is because they are often used to self-medicate anxiety or stress. Benzodiazepines can be addictive, and people who abuse them may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. These withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and seizures, making it difficult for users to stop use with willpower alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, it's important to seek professional help. There are many treatment options available that can help you safely detox from the medication and avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Getting Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction
If you or someone you know is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, it's important to seek professional help. There are many treatment options available that can help you safely detox from the medication and minimize the effects of withdrawal. The most common treatments for benzodiazepine addiction include:
- Inpatient treatment: This type of treatment involves staying in a hospital or rehabilitation center so that you can detox under medical supervision. This is often the best option for people who are struggling with severe addiction and physical dependence.
- Outpatient treatment: This type of treatment allows you to live at home while attending regular counseling and therapy sessions. Outpatient treatment can be a good option for people who have milder addictions.
- Support groups: Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous can provide you with emotional support and guidance as you detox from benzodiazepines.
Additional Resources for Recovery
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse: This website provides further information about the risks of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): This website provides a directory of treatment facilities for people struggling with substance addiction, including benzodiazepines.
- SAMHSA's National Helpline (1-800-662-4357): This helpline, which is available 24/7 all year long, can provide you with information about treatment options and support groups in your area.
Get Answers with Countrywide Testing
Benzodiazepines can be highly addictive, even if prescribed and used correctly as recommended by a doctor. If you think a loved one may be struggling with addiction to benzos, it's important to get them medical help as soon as possible.
Of course, it’s not always easy to tell whether a loved one is abusing drugs. If you need answers, Countrywide can help. We offer easy, multipanel drug tests that can be used in the comfort of your own home, letting you know if and when your loved one needs support for substance addiction.