Benzodiazepines-What are Benzodiazepines? Also known as “benzos,” benzodiazepines are a sedative medication. They are frequently prescribed to help patients deal with problems like insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions in which patients need assistance remaining calm or when they are dealing with stress. While it is not entirely understood how benzodiazepines work within the patient’s brain, they enhance the effect of neurotransmitters, boosting production and release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the Brain’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA helps to suppress nerve activity.
Differences Between Benzodiazepines:
While all types work similarly, benzodiazepine types differ in some ways, including:
· Speed of onset
· Affinities for receptor sites
Because of these differences, some types work better for treating specific conditions than others. There may also be a need to try more than one to find an effective treatment for a particular situation.
What Are Examples of Benzodiazepines?
There are many types of benzodiazepines on the market today. The most commonly prescribed and used include:
Other types of benzodiazepines include:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Midazolam (Versed)
· Tranxene (a fast-acting type)
· Prosom (intermediate duration)
· Restoril (intermediate duration)
· Dalmane (long lasting)
· Librium (long lasting)
· Ativan (intermediate onset)
What Are Benzodiazepines Used For?
There are numerous uses for benzodiazepines today. Classically, they have been used to help treat anxiety and stress. However, some types can be used to treat many additional conditions, such as:
- Seizure disorders-Anticonvulsant (increases seizure threshold)
- Panic disorders
- Antianxiety-Anxiolytic for anxiety disorders
- Lessening alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Muscle relaxant
- Amnesic (Memory loss) during Anesthesia
Benzodiazepines do not provide adequate pain relief (Analgesia)
What Are the Side Effects of Using Benzodiazepines?
Most side effects of using benzodiazepines are mild. They include:
- Loss of orientation
- Weakness in limbs
- Short term memory loss
However, there are more severe side effects that might occur, including:
- Sleep disturbance
Respiratory Depression and Arrest (Especially if mixed with other drugs and or Alcohol)
Benzodiazepines will not affect the cardiovascular system. However, the decrease in catecholamines during sedation can cause hypotension in a dehydrated/volume depleted patient.
Benzodiazepines lower intracranial pressure and cerebral blood flow secondary to vasoconstriction in the brain.
Note that all benzodiazepines have the potential for dependence and abuse. Individuals who have been taking benzodiazepines long term should wean themselves from the medication slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.