- What are benzodiazepines?
- What are their uses?
- Benzodiazepine side effects
- Is it OK to drink alcohol or take similar drugs to benzodiazepines together?
- Can you become addicted to these drugs?
- Withdrawal symptoms and signs
- List of examples of generic and brand names for benzodiazepines
- List of formulations available
- Is it safe to take benzodiazepines if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding my baby?
What are benzodiazepines, and how do they work (mechanism of action)?
Benzodiazepines are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves within the brain (central nervous system) and sedation (drowsiness).
Seizures, anxiety, and other diseases that require benzodiazepine treatment may be caused by excessive activity of nerves in the brain. These drugs may work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. Gamma-aminobutyric acid reduces the activity of nerves in the brain and increasing the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine, reduces brain activity.
What are their uses?
Adult men and women use benzodiazepines to treat:
- Panic disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Status epilepticus (A life-threatening disorder of the brain.)
- Premenstrual syndrome
Other uses for benzodiazepines
These medications also are used for:
- Sedation during surgery
- The treatment various types of anxiety disorders, for example:
Benzodiazepine drugs (also called benzos) are habit forming and can lead to addiction. Long-term use also can lead to tolerance, which means that lower doses will become ineffective and patients will need higher doses. These drugs are abused to get 'high' due to their effects on the brain.
Benzodiazepine side effects
Common side effects include:
- Memory impairment
- Improper body balance
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Reduced libido
Serious side effects include:
- Respiratory depression
- Dependence and abuse
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Slow heart rate
- Severe low blood pressure
- Akathisia (a movement disorder)
- Increased heart rate
Quick GuideSleep Disorders: Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and More
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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