What is Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines (Benzos) are used to treat severe anxiety or if you are very distressed. Learn about the benzodiazepine drug class including their uses, a list of common benzodiazepines, side effects, warnings and withdrawal .
Most popular benzos
- As anxiolytic in general;
- Panic disorder with or without fear of open spaces;
- Bipolar affective disorder (phases of depression and mania): treatment of mania;
- Major depression: associated with antidepressants in anxiety depression and beginning of treatment.
- Akathisia (extreme restlessness, usually caused by psychiatric drugs);
Restless legs syndrome
- Discomfort or pain in the legs that leads to the need to move them, impairing sleep.
Vertigo and balance disorders
- Nausea , fainting, falls, tinnitus and hearing disorders.
Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Burning sensation inside the mouth, without physical changes.
How do benzodiazepines work?
Benzos slow down the activity of the central nervous system by enhancing the inhibitory effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a chemical (neurotransmitter) that is used to control messages travelling from one cell to another.6 This action produces a calming effect in the brain, resulting in the various anti-anxiety, sedative or anti-seizure activity seen with these drugs. Benzodiazepines can target different GABA receptors in the brain and are also categorised according to the time it takes to produce an effect and for the drug to clear the body. Therefore, some benzodiazepines are better than others for treating particular conditions. For example, short-acting drugs tend to be used to treat insomnia whereas long-acting drugs are used to control anxiety.
What side-effects are associated with the use of
Benzos can have an important role in the short-term treatment of numerous conditions and in general have acceptable side-effect profiles. For example, some people can experience drowsiness, nausea or reduced co-ordination. However, long-term and regular use often leads to tolerance and dependence and for some individuals, ceasing or reducing the dose of long-term benzodiazepine
treatment can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. As such, some benzodiazepines (alprazolam and flunitrazepam) are scheduled as a drug of addiction.