Benzodiazepine Abuse

Benzodiazepines are a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium and Xanax. They are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. When people without prescriptions obtain and take these drugs for their sedating effects, use turns into abuse.

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Doctors may prescribe a benzodiazepine for the following legitimate medical conditions:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Seizure control
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Inducing amnesia for uncomfortable procedures
  • Given before an anesthetic (such as before surgery)
  • Benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system, produce sedation and muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Symptoms

At normal or regular doses, benzodiazepines relieve anxiety and insomnia. They are usually well-tolerated. Sometimes, people taking benzodiazepines may feel drowsy or dizzy. This side effect can be more pronounced with increased doses.

High doses of benzodiazepines can produce more serious side effects. Signs and symptoms of acute toxicity or overdose may include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Headaches
  • Weakness

Despite their many practical uses, benzodiazepines can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms and even seizures when they are stopped abruptly. Dependence and withdrawal occur in only a tiny percentage of people taking regular doses for short periods. The symptoms of withdrawal can be difficult to distinguish from anxiety.

The following is a list of some of the most commonly prescribed and abused benzodiazepines:

  • Ativan (Lorazapam)
  • Klonopin (Clonazepam)
  • Valium (Diazapam)
  • Xanax (Alprazolam)