Benzodiazepines belong to a group of drugs that have anxiolytic, hypnotic, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties. These drugs are commonly prescribed for short-term relief from severe anxiety or insomnia. The person’s body develops dependence and tolerance to these drugs, hence long-term use of Benzodiazepine can create problems. Benzodiazepine receptors are believed to be linked to GABA (g amino butyric acid) receptors. The activation of benzodiazepine-GABA complex is believed to dampen the high neuronal activity.

Benzodiazepines are similar to other kinds of sedative drugs and have a depressant effect on the nervous system. They get accumulated in the body and brain as they are fat soluble. These properties of benzodiazepine create widespread toxic effects on the body, causing illness with multiple symptoms, including different physical and mental problems. According to medical research, there are three basic reasons for Benzodiazepine epidemic in the United States – wrong diagnosis, wrong prescription, and wrong treatment.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed drugs – in fact, Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), Clonazepam (Klonopin), and Lorazepam (Ativan) are listed among the top 100 most frequently prescribed drugs. According to one research report on benzodiazepine, almost 15 percent of the population has taken this drug once or more. The popularity of these drugs has increased because of the fact that they can be taken from time to time whenever the patient feels the need. 

Benzodiazepine, when used alone, hardly carries any risk of severe toxicity. However, in most of the cases, benzodiazepines are used in conjunction with other drugs having similar kind of abuse potential, and this can significantly enhance the toxicity of benzodiazepine. Its interaction with other central nervous system depressants, such as hypnotics, sedatives, antidepressants, antihistamines, anticonvulsants, and alcohol, is highly synergistic. Its overdose in combination with alcohol can sometimes prove quite fatal.

Benzodiazepine Side Effects

  • Memory Loss – When benzodiazepine, such as Midazolam (Versed), is used as a pre-surgical medication, which can provoke amnesia. This effect is quite different from sedation. Due to this, episodic memory (keeping track of the most recent events and remembering their time sequences) is highly affected. This is significantly prevalent in heavy alcohol drinkers who simultaneously use benzodiazepine. Also, patients who have taken doses of benzodiazepine continuously for more than a year develop defects in visual ability and continual attention.
  • Retardation Of Psychomotor – This type of condition is normally found with a sudden increase in dosage. Also, it is more prevalent in the case of elderly people who have poor metabolism rates and are already susceptible to central nervous system depression. People abusing Xanax may develop several symptoms, including drowsiness, ataxia, poor concentration, muscle weakness, diplopic, vertigo, motor in-coordination, and psychological confusion. Also, there are reports showing benzodiazepine affecting driving skills, as it slows down the reaction time and hence increases the risk of accidents.
  • Anti-Social Behavior – Some people who take benzodiazepine show symptoms of paradoxical inhibition, such as aggression, overexcitement, resentment, irritability and impulsivity. Some severe cases may show attacks of violence. These symptoms are most common in the elderly and children.
  • Depression – Reports have shown that benzodiazepine use can also cause depressive symptoms. In some severe cases, it may also invoke suicidal thoughts. Also, studies have shown that, with the higher dosage of benzodiazepine, depressive symptoms rise, and if the treatment is discontinued, then it reduces the depressive symptoms.
  • Problems In Pregnancy – Benzodiazepine have adverse effects on the fetus, as it may lead to the development of subsequent withdrawal symptoms. Also, breast feeding mothers may suffer due to the excretion of benzodiazepine in breast milk.

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