What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications. These medications are used as short acting medications. They are most often prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). They can also be prescribed for insomnia, as a muscle relaxer, for restless leg syndrome and for seizure disorders.
Some of the common benzodiazepines are Valium, Ativan, Klonopin and Xanax. Valium was once the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, however, today in the United States, Xanax is increasing in popularity.
How do they work?
Benzodiazepines act quickly and can usually help to calm anxiety within 30 minutes of taking the medication. This is why they are commonly prescribed for individuals suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.
Because these medications are quick to work and short-acting, which means they work only for a certain number of hours (usually between 4 and 12 hours), they can be taken on an as-needed basis rather than needing to be taken on a daily basis, such as antidepressant medications.
Benzodiaxpines are not a cure for anxiety. They can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety but will not help to manage the underlying reason. Therapy is often an important part of treatment for anxiety because it can help someone resolve the underlying causes of their anxiety.
These medications are a central nervous system tranquilizer. They work with chemicals in the brain to help slow down or quiet the messages being relayed by neurotransmitters. Chemicals produced in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are reduced, causing you to feel less anxious.
Are benzodiazepines safe?
This type of medication is frequently prescribed for anxiety because they are quite effective at helping to manage and reduce symptoms of anxiety. That is not to say that benzodiazepines do not have side effects or dangers. They are very addictive and it is extremely dangerous to mix these medications with alcohol, prescription pain killers or sleeping pills.
That said, many people to help control feelings of anxiety use these medications on a daily basis. When used as prescribed, and under the supervision of a trusted physician, you should be able to use these medications safely. See also: Benzodiazepines, Are They Safe?
What are the common side effects of benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines can cause a number of side effects. Some of these side effects can interfere with daily activities and people should be cautious of driving or operating equipment, especially until they understand how the medication affects them.
Some of the common side effects include:
- Memory loss
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Slow reflexes
- Impaired thinking
In addition, people taking benzodiazepines over a long period of time have a higher risk of developing symptoms of depression. Because these medications work to decrease emotions, some people may feel an emotional numbness or an inability to feel pleasure or pain while taking this medication.