Benzodiazepines, a prescription medication, most commonly referred to as benzos, are their own class of drugs intended for various medicinal purposes. When used correctly, they can lessen the symptoms associated with anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, insomnia, and more. When taken in excess, however, or when not prescribed, they can have dangerous effects. It’s essential to know more about them to understand just how much they can impact your life.
Are Benzos Dangerous?
When properly prescribed benzodiazepine is taken as intended, benzos can be extremely helpful in minimizing your symptoms. They work within the central nervous system and attach to specific brain receptors to limit sensitivity to stimuli. Take them strictly as your doctor warns you, and for only a limited time; they should be dangerous.
When taken improperly, however, the medication can prove dangerous. Developing a prescription drug addiction to these pills can make it extremely difficult to stop using them. Doing so abruptly can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms, which are the most dangerous part of benzodiazepine addiction. A misused benzodiazepine prescription can lead to substance use disorder.
Some common withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Original symptoms returning with greater severity
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive sweating
- Poor concentration
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Mental health issues
Because these symptoms can last for weeks or even months, people who withdraw from benzodiazepine use may have heightened anxiety or fall into depression. Following a proper benzo withdrawal tapering-off procedure is essential to slowly work the benzos out of your system safely and effectively. With the right treatment options handling benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms is much easier. That is why many turn to a substance abuse treatment center for assistance with the detoxification process.
Types of Benzodiazepines
There are many types of benzodiazepines. The kind you’re prescribed depends on the symptom or issue you are experiencing. You may recognize many brand names, such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin, each of which is a different type of benzo that should only be taken for a limited time and precisely as prescribed to you. Other types are given in such small intervals/doses that they are not as worrisome as the leading brands.
Temazepam is commonly prescribed for insomnia. If you have trouble sleeping, your doctor may advise you to begin taking an oral capsule in a small dose, such as 15 or 22.5 milligrams.
Restoril is the brand name typically seen for this drug, though there are others. It is not to be taken with alcohol or any opioid medication or drugs that can slow your breathing. You may stop breathing altogether if you mix temazepam with something else that is equally a sedative.
Diazepam is another common type of benzo. Valium is the usual brand name prescribed. It works to ease anxiety and can assist in alcohol withdrawal.
There are oral tablets, solutions, and concentrates that may be provided, often in low doses of just 5 milligrams. This type can also slow your breathing and cause drowsiness, making it imperative that you never mix it with other drugs that slow your breathing or alcohol.
A doctor may insist you take alprazolam, or Xanax, for certain panic and anxiety disorders. They often start you on a very low dose of just .25 or .5 of a milligram in an oral tablet or a 1-milligram oral concentrate. However, your body may become accustomed to the drug over time if you take it daily, requiring you to increase your dosage.
Some people need to stop taking Xanax because they experience side effects like mood changes, unusual muscle movements, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. Your doctor will work to find an alternative that does not cause reactions like this.
Klonopin is the brand name typically offered when prescribed clonazepam. This type of benzo is often given in an oral tablet. It is given for various seizure disorders and may even work for some panic disorders. Changes in behavior and suicidal thoughts are common with this medication, so it must be taken exactly as prescribed and stopped if these thoughts occur.
Some people take chlordiazepoxide for anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, or relaxation before a medical procedure. Brand names such as Librium, Mitran, and Poxi may be provided. It is not approved for any person below the age of six. Dizziness is common with this drug, making it more likely to experience falls and injuries.
Triazolam is often given for a short time to help with mild insomnia. Many patients receive a very small dose of an oral tablet and are only expected to take it for a week or so. This type is not prescribed if you are also taking an antiviral medicine, antibiotic, cancer medication, or nefazodone, as they do not interact safely with one another.
Midazolam is not usually prescribed. Instead, this form of benzo is an oral syrup that patients can take to help them relax before a procedure, such as dental work or minor surgery. Because this is usually intended as a one-time use and is not as widely prescribed as the other types, this is the least harmful version of benzodiazepine to worry about.
No matter which type you’re taking and for how long, you must seek medical attention if you have difficulty breathing or experience unusual symptoms. Urgent care may be required.
How Addictive are Benzodiazepines?
Benzos quickly work their way through your body, offering an immediate sedative-like effect. Because they almost instantly offer muscle relaxation and curb anxiety, these pills can be highly addictive to people looking for these results.
Benzodiazepine abuse is relatively common when people do not take the medication as prescribed. The calming effect of these substances can encourage people to take them in higher doses or buy them off the street. Abusing these drugs can often lead to drug addiction if the pattern of use is not interrupted.
Because withdrawal symptoms easily occur, it is also more likely that the people who are prescribed them will continue taking them to minimize the terrible thoughts and feelings that can stem from them. The more people rely on them to curb their symptoms, the more addicted to the drug they become, only perpetuating the cycle.
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