Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription drug that is used to treat various conditions, including anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. While benzodiazepines can be helpful for short-term use, they can also be addictive and lead to long-term health problems if misused or abused.
What Conditions Do Benzodiazepines Help Treat?
Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that is typically used to treat:
- Seizures. A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells that causes stiffness, twitching, or limpness. Most seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Benzodiazepines help reduce this abnormal electrical activity.
- Insomnia. Benzodiazepines bind to GABA receptors in the brain, which helps to reduce excitement and anxiety. This can help to promote calmness and relaxation, making it easier to fall asleep. In addition, benzodiazepines can help to reduce the number of awakenings during the night and increase the overall efficiency of sleep.
- Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. They can occur in any muscle in the body, but they are most common in the legs. Benzodiazepines help relax the muscles and reduce the severity of spasms. In some cases, they may also be used as a sedative to help people cope with the discomfort of spasms.
- Anxiety and panic disorders. Panic disorders are characterized by sudden and unexpected attacks of terror, accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Benzodiazepines interact with GABA receptors in the brain. Research shows that people with panic and anxiety disorders have significantly lower GABA levels. By increasing the activity of GABA, benzodiazepines help reduce symptoms of anxiety and panic.
In some cases, they may also be used as a pain reliever.
How Do Benzodiazepines Work?
Benzodiazepines work by binding to specific receptors in the brain, known as GABA receptors. This increases the activity of the GABA neurotransmitter, which has an inhibitory effect on the nervous system. As a result, benzodiazepines help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Even though benzodiazepines are generally safe and effective when used as directed, they can cause drowsiness and impaired coordination.
Benzodiazepines are usually taken orally in the form of a pill, but they can also be injected. The effects of benzodiazepines typically last for several hours, and they can be addictive if they are not used as directed.
Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse & Addiction
Although benzodiazepines are highly effective, they can be abused. Some of the most common signs of benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Impaired coordination
- Mental confusion
- Frequent feelings of annoyance and irritability
- Manic-type moods
- Difficulty completing tasks that require extended attention
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Other signs of benzodiazepine abuse include:
- Taking the medication more often or in higher doses than prescribed
- Forging prescriptions
- Stealing pills from others
- Blacking out
- Overdose which can result in death
Additionally, people who abuse benzodiazepines also tend to experience financial problems, relationship difficulties, and problems at work or school.
The Long-Term Effects Of Benzodiazepines Abuse & Addiction
Since benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, people who abuse them can quickly develop an addiction. Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to several serious health problems, including:
- Liver damage
- Heart damage
- Respiratory problems
- Memory problems
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Impaired motor skills
Long-term abuse can also lead to depression and anxiety. Treatment for benzodiazepine addiction typically includes detoxification and behavioral therapy. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse. With treatment, people who suffer from benzodiazepine addiction can often overcome their disorder and live healthy, productive lives.
Some of the most severe long-term effects of benzodiazepine abuse and addiction include:
- Slowing down the heart. Benzodiazepines can slow down the heart rate and lower blood pressure. They can also cause drowsiness and impair cognitive function. Benzodiazepines should be used with caution in people with heart conditions, as they can increase the risk of hypotension and bradycardia.
- Breathing difficulties. While benzodiazepines are generally safe and effective when used as directed, they can cause difficulty breathing. This can happen because benzodiazepines can reduce the activity of the respiratory center in the brain, leading to shallow breathing or even respiratory arrest. In some cases, this may require hospitalization or mechanical ventilation.
- Liver problems. Benzodiazepines can also cause liver problems. The most common symptom of liver damage from benzodiazepines is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Other symptoms include dark urine, clay-colored stools, nausea, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms while taking benzodiazepines, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Liver damage from benzodiazepines is usually reversible if caught early, but it can become serious if left untreated.
- Cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that benzodiazepine use can cause problems with memory, attention, and executive function. These impairments can persist even after people stop taking the drug. Though they are generally considered safe, there is growing evidence that benzodiazepines may cause cognitive impairment, especially in older adults. One study found that seniors who took benzodiazepines had a higher risk of developing dementia. Another study found that people who took benzodiazepines had a significantly lower score on a test of cognitive function. Benzodiazepines work by depressing the central nervous system, which can lead to impaired memory and thinking.
Let Us Help You Break Free Of Benzodiazepine Abuse
Benzodiazepines can be helpful for short-term use, but they should not be taken long term. If you are struggling with benzodiazepine addiction or abuse, please contact us for help. We can provide you with the resources and support you need to regain control of your life. You are not alone in this struggle; we will support you every step of the way.
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