Learn About This Prescription Depressant
Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are depressant drugs.1 Benzodiazepine drugs have a delaying effect on the central nervous system (CNS) while slowing down messages sent between the brain and the body. Depressant drugs have a delaying effect on the brain, not to be confused with a dual diagnosis of depression and substance use disorder.1 Some examples of other depressant drugs are alcohol, cannabis, and heroin.
Due to the calming effect benzos have on the brain, they also relax the muscles. The GABA neurotransmitter activity very acutely manages seizure.11 Benzodiazepines are considered to be some of the most effective drugs for acute seizures and status epilepticus.
The benzodiazepines most commonly used for seizures are diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and midazolam (Versed).
According to Access Anesthesiology, “[b]enzodiazepines produce hypnosis, sedation, anxiolysis, anterograde amnesia, anti convulsion, and centrally produced muscle relaxation.”13 They note that benzos don’t provide any analgesia.
How severe the withdrawal symptoms are will depend on a variety of factors, including:
Large amounts of Benzodiazepines can lead to a Benzodiazepine overdose. A Benzodiazepine overdose can occur on purpose or accidentally.1 Symptoms of Benzodiazepine overdose include:
Researchers in France and Canada found a connection between benzodiazepine use and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study showed that people who had taken a benzodiazepine for three to six months had a 32% greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than people who did not. Those taking benzos for more than six months had an 84% greater risk.
Treatment will frequently depend on if benzodiazepines were initially prescribed to address an existing condition.17 If there is a psychiatric condition previously managed by the benzos, an alternative plan to manage the condition will need to be developed. Typically, a combination of therapy and pharmacologic support is used to treat addiction to benzos.
Medically supervised benzodiazepine tapering requires hospital admission or another form of inpatient detox. A medically supervised detox may be required by the doctor depending on:
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