Benzodiazepine Facts

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that produce central nervous system depression and are most commonly used to treat insomnia and anxiety. There is the potential for dependence on and abuse of benzodiazepines particularly by individuals with a history of multi-substance abuse.

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that produce central nervous system depression and are most commonly used to treat insomnia and anxiety. There is the potential for dependence on and abuse of benzodiazepines particularly by individuals with a history of multi-substance abuse. In legitimate medical use, benzodiazepines are useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are categorized as either short-, intermediate- or long-acting. Short- and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines are preferred for the treatment of insomnia; longer-acting benzodiazepines are recommended for the treatment of anxiety. Benzodiazepines are psychologically habit-forming and are considered major drugs of abuse.

Common Names:

  • Benzodiazepine
  • Diazepine

Street Names:

  • Benzos
  • Downers
  • Nerve Pills
  • Tranks

Effects:

Benzodiazepines are a psychoactive drug, which impact and enhance the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), and muscle relaxant effects. Benzodiazepines, particularly those having a rapid onset, are abused to produce a euphoric effect. Abuse of benzodiazepines is often associated with multiple-substance abuse. Diazepam and alprazolam are used in combination with methadone to potentiate methadone’s euphoric effect. Cocaine addicts use benzodiazepines to relieve the side effects (e.g., irritability and agitation) associated with cocaine binges. Benzodiazepines are also used to augment alcohol’s effects and modulate withdrawal states. The doses of benzodiazepines taken by abusers are usually in excess of the recommended therapeutic dose. Benzodiazepines have been used to facilitate sexual assault.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome—often abbreviated to benzo withdrawal—is the cluster of symptoms which appear when a person who has taken benzodiazepines long term and has developed benzodiazepine dependence, stops taking benzodiazepine drug(s) or during dosage reductions. Benzodiazepine withdrawal is similar to alcohol withdrawal syndrome and barbiturate withdrawal syndrome and can in severe cases provoke life threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Severe and life threatening symptoms are mostly limited to abrupt or over-rapid dosage reduction from high doses. A protracted withdrawal syndrome may develop in a proportion of individuals with symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia and sensory disturbances. In a small number of people it can be severe and resemble serious psychiatric and medical conditions such as schizophrenia and seizure disorders. A serious side effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal is suicide.

Substance Classification:

Benzodiazepine

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