Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs that contain the core chemical structure of benzene and diazepine. Librium was the first benzodiazepine that was discovered in 1955 which was marketed by the Hoffmann-La Roche pharmaceutical drug company beginning in 1960. Also known as benzos, these prescription medications are safe for short term use but have lasting long term negative side effects and are highly addictive.
The most common benzodiazpeines include Xanax, Klonopin and Librium but there are many others on the market. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, alcohol withdrawal and insomnia as well as various other disorders and psychological conditions. Lorazepam and other types of benzodiazepines may be prescribed for a range of conditions and are usually used on a short term basis due to the powerful addictive side effects that are found in long term benzo use.
There are various uses medically for benzodiazepines including the use to treat anxiety and withdrawal from alcohol. Therapeutically, benzos possess a sedative, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant significance that allow them to be used for treating panic attacks, agitation and insomnia. Most of the time, benzodiazepines will be administered orally but in some cases the drugs may also be injected intravenously or intramuscularly depending on the severity of the condition being treated and on the condition of the patient
Benzodiazepines are used to treat panic attacks and related anxiety disorders. These medications are best reserved for as needed cases and not to be taken on a long term basis. Benzos are generally well tolerated by the individual and they provide positive treatment for many individuals but they are not recommended for people who have had a recent history of substance abuse or for those with certain depressive symptoms. Tolerance is common when benzodiazepines are used and for long term disorders it is recommended that other forms of treatment be sought out rather than long term benzodiazepine use.
Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
The most common side effects of benzo use include muscle relaxation and sedation but other possible side effects may also be seen in a user. Drowsiness or dizziness as well as a lack of alertness may be present when an individual is using benzodiazepines. Additionally, coordination can suffer causing the elderly to fall or become injured as a result of the medical use of benzodiazepines.
People who use benzos are likely to suffer from decreased libido and erectile dysfunction as a result of the use of this pharmaceutical medication. Depression is also common for long term benzodiazepine users as is impairment of judgment and driving skills. People who take benzodiazepines may also suffer from some of the less common side effects of these prescription medications including appetite changes, blurred vision, confusion and nightmares.
Long Term Effects of Benzodiazepines
Generally, benzos are not recommended for long term use because of their effects on both physical and mental health. Mentally, people who use benzos for a prolonged time period may experience cognitive impairment and behavioral problems. They may feel upset, depressed and anxiety may increase as a result of long term benzodiazepine use. Additional long term side effects of benzodiazepine use may include loss of sex-drive, agoraphobia or social anxiety, and altered perceptions of one’s self, the environment and relationships.
Long term use of benzodiazepines also results in the increased likelihood of an individual becoming addicted to the prescription medications. Benzodiazepine addiction or dependence results in both a psychological and a physical dependence on the drug. Evidence shows that benzodiazepine tolerance begins to develop after a few days or weeks of using the drug and within 4 months the drugs have nearly completely lost their anxiolytic properties all together.
Addiction to benzos such as Xanax or Klonopin can result in serious health complications and side effects. People who suffer from an addiction to Benzodiazepine will feel like they cannot survive without the drug and may even try to cut back or take less of the drug only to fail over and over again. Tolerance to benzodiazepines increases and when the drugs are eliminated from the system the individual will feel withdrawal symptoms that make it even more difficult to stop using the medication.
Withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines include anxiety, depressed mood and sleep disturbances. Benzodiazepine users may also suffer from hypersensitivity or a hyper sensitive reaction to touch or to pain meaning they may feel extreme pain or they may hurt when touched. Shakiness and tremor as well as twitches and muscle pains are also common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Dependence on benzos is a common occurrence for people who are prescribed the medication or who take the medication for longer than 4 weeks at a time. Physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are common and in some cases the individual will not be able to cope with the symptoms and will seek out new ways to get the medication or drug. In severe cases, withdrawal from benzodiazepines may also include psychosis, delusions and even epileptic seizures as a result of the benzos being eliminated abruptly or being reduced.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Addiction and Withdrawal from Benzos
Although the treatment for benzodiazepine addiction is characterized as having a severe and traumatic withdrawal process there are ways to manage the withdrawal from benzos in a manner that reduces the withdrawal symptoms and results in a less traumatic experience. Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction includes various methods of therapy and counseling as well as safe detoxification from the drugs.
Most drug rehab centers that provide treatment for benzodiazepine addiction will provide a detox phase that requires gradual dose reduction in order to lessen the effects of the withdrawal symptoms. In this type of detoxification, the individual will still have withdrawal symptoms but they will be greatly reduced and in most cases will not be so dramatic. These symptoms will gradually decrease over time and eventually the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal will disappear altogether allowing the individual to focus on complete recovery from the addiction.