Benzodiazepines - Uses - Dosages - Side Effects - Precautions

Benzodiazepines: Frequently Asked Questions Answered

What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that are used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. They are also known as tranquillisers as they work on the central nervous system to produce relaxation. There are different types of benzodiazepines. They are popularly known as Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, and Versed. Short term usage of these medications is effective and safe. However, long-term usage can lead to tolerance and addiction.

What are the uses of benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepine is commonly used for treating anxiety, panic disorder, insomnia, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, muscle relaxation, generalised anxiety disorder, tic disorders, and bipolar disorders. They are also given before surgery. They help treat symptoms such as racing thoughts, agitation, distractibility, and unusual talkativeness. The medication works on the central nervous system by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter known as GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), which induces a relaxing and sedative effect to reduce anxiety.

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What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?

While the side effects of each type of benzodiazepine vary, all of them have three symptoms in common. These include drowsiness, lightheadedness, and dizziness. Additionally, a few commonly prescribed benzodiazepines may result in side effects such as slowed breathing, nausea, and nervousness. Serious side effects of these drugs include amnesia, confusion, hallucinations, double vision, irregular heart rate, change in sex drive, hostile behaviour, delirium, impaired coordination, dependence, tolerance, and rashes. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Benzodiazepines

1. Do benzodiazepines affect serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which plays a major role in several bodily and cognitive functions such as mood, appetite, emotions, and digestion. It also helps in the regulation of the sleep cycle. Currently, studies suggest that benzodiazepines may have an indirect effect on reducing serotonin activity in our brain.

2. What contraindications are associated with benzodiazepines?

Most medical specialists believe that benzodiazepines are contraindicated in patients battling alcohol or drug abuse. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use benzodiazepines since it may cause an adverse reaction. Other contraindications include hypersensitivity to the medication and compression of the optic nerve (angle-closure glaucoma). This results in nausea, vomiting, ocular pain, and blurred vision.

3. When should benzodiazepines not be used?

Benzodiazepines should be avoided by individuals aged 65 years and older, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Benzodiazepines may exacerbate people with medical conditions such as depression, fibromyalgia, asthma, sleep apnea, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Consult a doctor before using these medications to avoid the risk of developing an adverse reaction. Follow the instructions and precautions given by your doctor for safe and effective treatment.

4. What is the normal route of administration for benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are commonly administered through intravenous and oral routes. In some cases, they are also administered rectally, intranasally, and intramuscularly. Individuals with seizures are intranasally administered this medication to avoid any issues. In elderly individuals with seizures, the medication is administered rectally to stop the seizures. Benzodiazepine is administered in small doses for a short duration until the condition has improved significantly.

5. Can benzodiazepines lower blood pressure?

Currently, research studies indicate that benzodiazepines may lower blood pressure in individuals above 60 years of age. It has also been suggested that benzodiazepines may lower blood pressure in individuals with high blood pressure. Currently, no studies suggest that the medications may lower blood pressure in individuals below 60 years of age. More research needs to be conducted to understand the association between blood pressure and benzodiazepines.

6. Do benzodiazepines affect heart rate?

Yes. Research indicates that consumption of benzodiazepines may lead to side effects such as irregular heartbeat (bradycardia). Studies have found that the administration of benzodiazepines such as diazepam can increase blood pressure and heart rate in healthy individuals. Consult your doctor and understand the benefits and risks of taking benzodiazepines before usage.

7. Do benzodiazepines cause dementia?

Yes. Studies indicate that long-term use of benzodiazepines may result in cognitive impairment in older adults. Heavy and long-term usage of these medications also increases the risk of developing dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the serious side effects of taking these medications include amnesia, confusion, and impaired thinking.

8. Do benzodiazepines affect cognition?

Yes. Studies suggest that long-term and heavy usage of benzodiazepines may affect cognitive abilities such as processing speed, visuospatial ability, memory, and verbal learning in older adults. However, there are limited studies and more that need to be conducted to get a better understanding between benzodiazepines and cognition.

9. How can I use benzodiazepines safely?

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs. Before taking them, consult your doctor and understand the benefits and risks associated with the drug. Ensure that you follow the instructions and the dosage given by your doctor for safe and effective treatment. Benzodiape is usually prescribed for 2 to 4 weeks in small doses until the condition has significantly improved.

10. Can Benzos cause respiratory depression?

Yes. Benzodiazepines taken with other drugs or medications can lead to severe respiratory distress or depression. It may cause slow and ineffective breathing. It may prove fatal if not treated in time. Ensure that you follow the instructions and dose given by your doctor. Do not alter the dose or stop using the mediation without your doctor’s consent.

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Disclaimer: The information provided herein is accurate, updated and complete as per the best practices of the Company. Please note that this information should not be treated as a replacement for physical medical consultation or advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy and the completeness of the information so provided. The absence of any information and/or warning to any drug shall not be considered and assumed as an implied assurance of the Company. We do not take any responsibility for the consequences arising out of the aforementioned information and strongly recommend you for a physical consultation in case of any queries or doubts.