Examples of Benzodiazepines
Common examples of benzodiazepine medications that are prescribed to treat mental health issues and insomnia include:
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Midazolam (Versed)
Buying benzodiazepines off the street from drug dealers is never advised, as often these pills are counterfeit drugs that contain a variety of other substances, pressed into a lookalike version of Xanax or Valium. These counterfeit pills are unregulated, and they are produced with the sole purpose of making money. Many contain fentanyl, and, as they say, one pill can kill if you end up with a high dose of this potent opioid. You can never be certain that what you are taking is what you think it is when it is purchased from a drug trafficker.
Times When Benzos Are Prescribed
Benzodiazepines are prescribed for a wide scope of reasons. They reduce distress, induce calm, and help relieve certain types of physical or emotional pain on a short-term basis. Benzos are not a cure, they are an aid to help you through a particularly difficult period of time and are most effective when used alongside other treatments like therapy, physical health care, and lifestyle changes. Most are effective (and safe) when used as a one-time dose rather than an everyday medication, as a tolerance can quickly develop if used regularly for more than a few weeks. It is not a good idea to use benzodiazepines if you have a substance use disorder or health issues like heart or lung problems, liver or kidney disease, or muscle weakness (myasthenia gravis).
Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for issues like:
- Anxiety disorders
- Panic disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Alcohol detox withdrawal symptoms
- Depression or grief
- Restless leg syndrome
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Sedation or muscle relaxation
- Seizure disorders or acute seizures
- Inducing amnesia during medical procedures
You should exercise caution when taking other medications, as benzodiazepines can react or change the drug effects. Never drink alcohol while using benzos, and avoid using other drugs, as serious complications, brain damage, and even death can occur. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about drug interactions before mixing prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
7 Negative Effects of Benzos
There are several negative effects of benzos that can arise from short-term and long-term use. Some of the risks include:
- Dangerous or uncomfortable side effects – common side effects that can arise while taking benzodiazepines include slurred speech, drowsiness, nausea, cognitive impairment, memory loss, and respiratory depression. Users may feel confused, have blurred vision, experience memory issues, and begin to develop cravings for benzos.
- They physically alter brain structures – benzos make changes to the structures in the brain that regulate neurotransmitters, which can make long-term stress and anxiety management much more difficult to the user, long-term.
- They cause users to develop a tolerance – the effects of the drugs lower very quickly in regular users, making their effects less noticeable. This causes users to take more of the medication than prescribed, leading to physical dependence with dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can cause a psychological dependence.
- They are addictive – benzos cause a rapid psychological dependence along with a physical dependence, making them highly addictive, even when they have been prescribed by a doctor. Quitting benzos often requires therapy and other treatments in a rehab program.
- There is a serious risk of overdose – because these medications lead to respiratory depression, if you take too many or mix them with other depressant substances like alcohol or opioids, they can cause you to relax so much that you simply stop breathing, which can lead to serious brain damage and death.
- Withdrawal symptoms are serious – quitting benzos after developing a physical dependence is not easy and can be dangerous to the user’s health if not overseen by medical professionals. Common withdrawal symptoms include headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, muscle stiffness and spasms, difficulty breathing, dizziness, tremors, paranoia, tension and anxiety, psychosis, hallucinations, and seizures. Quitting often necessitates a medication-assisted treatment plan with a slow tapering-off of these addictive drugs.
- They are overprescribed – unfortunately, the effects of benzodiazepine drugs are not as well known as those of other prescription medications, making them under-regulated and over-prescribed. Doctors often feel pressure to provide “quick fix” help to people suffering from anxiety, sleep issues, or other ailments over longer-term therapies and antidepressants. They also do not have the time to speak in depth with patients about their lives and their conditions, or to educate patients on the risks of taking benzos. It can also be more difficult for patients to receive therapy and mental health help, leading to a dependence on medication to relieve symptoms.