“The Next U.S. Drug Crisis”: Benzodiazepines

Headlines discussing anti-anxiety medications as “The Next U.S. Drug Crisis” are cute, but misleading. No, this is not a novel problem. This was not created overnight. Just because it is just now getting more media attention does not mean people have not been dealing with this ‘drug crisis’ for years.

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What are benzos?

Benzodiazepines (also called “benzos”) are a class of agents that work in the central nervous system and are used for a variety of medical conditions.

 

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What are benzodiazepines used for?

Benzodiazepines may be used to treat:

  • alcohol withdrawal
  • anxiety
  • as a muscle relaxant
  • panic disorder
  • seizures
  • sleep disorders
  • to induce relaxation and cause amnesia prior to surgical operations.

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Benzodiazepine Mechanism of Action:

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These produce CNS depression by enhancing the effects of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), thereby decreasing brain activity.

Benzodiazepines are classified by their duration of action that ranges from less than six hours to longer than 24 hours. Some benzos have active metabolites that prolong their effects.

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Common Benzodiazepine Terms:

Street names: “Benzos”, “Downers”, “Nerve Pills”, “Tranks”

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5 Most Commonly Prescribed:

  • Alprazolam (e.g., Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (e.g., Ativan)
  • Clonazepam (e.g., Klonopin)
  • Diazepam (e.g., Valium)
  • Temazepam (e.g., Restoril)

These are also the most frequently encountered benzodiazepines on the illicit market.

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Are benzodiazepines safe?

When prescribed by a doctor and used for short periods of time, such as the day of surgery or for less than two weeks to aid sleep, benzodiazepines are safe to take.

Problems start to arise when benzodiazepines are taken at higher dosages than recommended, or when they are taken for more than two to four weeks. Benzodiazepines are potentially addictive and the risk of becoming emotionally and physically dependent on them increases the more you take. In addition, tolerance can develop with their use. This is when the same dose no longer gives the same effect, and a dosage increase is needed to ease symptoms again.

Benzodiazepines should only be taken at the lowest dose for the shortest possible length of time.

 

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What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?

Drowsiness, sleepiness, or dizziness are the most common side effects reported. This can make it dangerous for people taking benzodiazepines to drive or operate machinery or perform other hazardous tasks. Alcohol may potentiate these effects.

Other commonly reported side effects include:

  • amnesia (forgetfulness)
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • nausea
  • sexual dysfunction
  • unsteadiness when walking or standing
  • unusually slow and shallow breathing
  • vision problems (blurred or double vision).

Withdrawal symptoms may occur with abrupt discontinuation – symptoms may include convulsions, cramps, insomnia, sweating, tremors, and vomiting.

Some people develop a paradoxical reaction to benzodiazepines – this is the opposite reaction to what you would expect. They may become agitated or very anxious, develop hallucinations, have difficulty sleeping or exhibit bizarre behavior such as taking off their clothes in public or taking unnecessary risks.

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SOURCES:

Drugs.com

Drug Enforcement Administration Report

5 thoughts on ““The Next U.S. Drug Crisis”: Benzodiazepines

  1. There seems to always be some kind of crisis with medications, but I do believe these issues are very misleading! I was, and was being the key word, taking Xanax for years for anxiety as it is really bad for my other issue of MS. Out of nowhere my pain doctor told me I would need to get the prescription from my general doctor, so I did. Then that was not good enough and I would need to get the prescription for a psychiatrist and then that was not good enough! He ended up saying I needed to decide if I would rather taking medicine for pain or anxiety. I ended up choosing medicine for pain because that gets SO severe all of the time. I promise I was on the lowest dose possible and even broke it in half! I think the US likes to create crisis’s to scare people and add lots of confusion, which is very wrong! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing information!!!

    I have a question that is a little off topic! You do freelance writing? I am wanting to get into this type of work, but really have no idea how to. Do you have any suggestions? Us Carolina girls need to stick together to be even more successful!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Thanks for the comment! 1) I think that this is actually an issue. I know that some patients (such as yourself) may have had positive experiences with benzos, but that is not always the case. I have seen people who become dependent on them, don’t know how to cope with anxiety without popping pills. They are not meant for long-term use. I read a memoir that detailed the addictive nature of benzos; obviously not everyone will become addicted, but the potential consequences are catastrophic and even deadly. 2) I have been trying to get into freelance writing! It isn’t as easy as it seems! I have written for several sites for free to try to get my name out there (Consumer Health Digest, The Mighty, other blogs, Odyssey), but that came with no paycheck. I also tried ‘Blasting News’ as a freelance journalist, but after 5 articles (2 of which were of the site’s homepage), they claim to only owe me 47 cents… so, that is BS. I’ve looked into creating some kind of kindle ebook, so maybe that can bring in some money via writing. If you figure something out, let me know! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I totally know that many people become dependent on benzos and also do not take them as prescribed, which can and has been deadly! When I was taking them I never took the full amount because I did not want to be dependent on them. Honestly even taking far less than was prescribed, when I stopped taking them I saw some things that were not pleasant at all! But I did stop them a while ago now and I am doing fine without them!
        I just started doing some research about freelance writing and it is overwhelming! I never thought it would be easy, but there is SO much information out there! That is pretty incredible though you did have 2 articles on a site’s homepage, that was complete BS they said they only owed you .47 cents each! I have thought about doing a self publish book considering writing a book is one of my goals. If I actually figure something about with any of this I promise to let you know! I am sure between the two of us we can figure something out to earn a little money from writing! Thank you so much for your response!!

        Liked by 1 person

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