Benzodiazepines are a drug classification.  They affect gamma-aminobutyric, a neurotransmitter which reduces nerve activity.  Gamma-aminobutyric is an inhibitory, tranquilizing neurotransmitter that suppresses the function of neurons in the brain.  Benzodiazepines amplify the effects of this neurotransmitter to slow down the nerve activity in the brain.  Since excessive nerve activity has been linked to anxiety disorders, it’s speculated this may be why it is an effective treatment.  By acting as a depressant on the Central Nervous System, benzodiazepine calms down nerve activity.  It relaxes the muscles and reduces anxiety.

Besides Anxiety, the Benzodiazepines’ classification is used to treat varied conditions.  These include:

  • Insomnia

  • Alcohol withdrawal

  • Nausea’ Depression.

  • Muscle tightness

Benzodiazepines have some harsh side effects.  This can include aggression, a confused state-of-being, headache, disorientation, and problems with memory, and Seizures. Anterograde amnesia is a side effect of benzodiazepine use. This type of amnesia causes either partial or full failure to recall recent events.  A study conducted on elderly participants found benzodiazepines can cause the onset of Dementia.

Benzodiazepines are helpful in the treatment of medical and psychological issues, and they are widely prescribed as a prescription medication.  Short term use of this drug class is safe, but when their use is extended, there are problems.  Users can build up a tolerance of these drugs and require increasing amounts to bring about the same results over time.  Addiction is a threat.  High benzodiazepine use can lead to adverse conditions like impaired judgment and memory, hostility, and euphoria.

Adverse Benzodiazepine Drug Interactions & Medical Conditions.

Certain substance interactions with these drugs like alcohol and opioids can be dangerous or even fatal.  A sobering fact if 30 percent of opioid overdoses treated were associated with benzodiazepine abuse, too.  It’s important to know that all opioids aren’t street drugs and some are present in medications.  Some of these include:

  • A flashing red light should also appear if you are on any type of sedatives.  Some of these are:

  • Eszopiclone aka Lunesta

  • Phenobarbital

  • Zolpidem aka Ambien

If you are taking any of those medications, alert your physicians.  Taking them with benzodiazepine can cause a serious or critical reaction.  Sadly, opioids and benzodiazepines are often prescribed to people together.  Physicians are now being advised to use care when prescribing benzodiazepines and opioids and to avoid mixing them whenever possible. People who are taking these medications are at greater risk for a medical emergency.   There are other medical conditions warrant caution before taking benzodiazepines.

  • Respiratory conditions – Benzodiazepines can compromise your breathing.  So, if you have Speel Apnea or a respiratory condition, benzodiazepines represent a risk.
  • Elderly – There is a higher risk of addiction to benzodiazepines among the elderly and one study indicates it could cause the onset of Dementia.  It can also exacerbate symptoms of memory loss and poor coordination.
  • Breastfeeding mothers – Since benzodiazepine can pass through breast milk and put infants at risk.
  • If diagnosed with PTSD or Depression – Benzodiazepines can bring on severe mood changes and put these individuals at risk of suicide.

The onset of dependency on these drugs can come early, in some cases, in less than a month.  When benzodiazepines are consumed, they trigger the release of dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical that produces the euphoric high from pleasurable activities. Benzos possess a strong addictive factor like that of opioids and GHB.  The drugs interact with and eventually alter the way the brain’s neurotransmitters behave.  Statistics show 44% of people who take benzodiazepines develop tolerance within six months.

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal

Since benzodiazepines change the function of the brain’s chemistry, addiction can be difficult to kick.  This is why working with addiction and medical experts to withdraw from benzodiazepine use is essential.  They can administer a treatment that will allow a slow withdrawal from the substance.

The severity of withdrawal from a benzodiazepine depends on the amount consumed and the duration of its use.  Once addicted to benzodiazepine, sudden, cold-turkey withdrawal is not an option.  This can produce severe and dangerous symptoms including tremors and seizures.  It can also cause an increase in medical and psychiatric symptoms of existing conditions. Withdrawal must be done under the watchful eye of medical professionals.

Treatments that may be administered vary according to the half-life of the abused drug.  In some cases, a long-acting benzodiazepine may be administered to help with symptoms. Other drugs may also be administered to help with the withdrawal.  These include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and Phenobarbital among others. In all cases, the situation is reviewed for severity by the professionals treating the patient.

Benzodiazepine Uses

Different types of benzodiazepines are used in prescriptions for different purposes. A benzodiazepines list includes:

  • Alprazolam aka Xanax is prescribed for treating panic disorders and anxiety.
  • Chlordiazepoxide aka Librium is prescribed for treating the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Flurazepam aka Dalmane is prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety.
  • Diazepam aka Valium is prescribed to treat seizures, panic attacks, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal.

Other commercial names paired with their common prescription medication names are Clobazam/Onfi, Clorazepate/Tranxene, Estazolam/Prosom Lorazepam/Ativan, Oxazepam/Serax, Temazepam/Restoril, and Triazolam/Halcion.

Benzodiazepine Abuse

Fast-acting benzodiazepines are widely abused.  These drugs produce a quick feeling of euphoria.  People who abuse benzodiazepines sometimes abuse other drugs with them like methadone as an enhancement of that drug’s euphoric effect.  People addicted to Coke may use it to reduce the agitation commonly associated with high cocaine use.  Due to its sedative effect, benzodiazepines are a common date rape drug.

Abuse of prescriptions is a common means of obtaining excess benzodiazepine.  Individuals may get various prescriptions from different doctors to get enough to get high or to sell.  Of all the benzodiazepines, the two most commonly found in illegal trafficking are clonazepam and alprazolam.  This is because these two benzodiazepines are fast-acting and have high-potency.

Common reasons for abuse of benzodiazepines besides euphoria is to relax, reduce tension, or sleep.  Due to its effect on the brain’s chemistry, benzodiazepines may be used to mask certain symptoms of mental illness.

There are different signs of benzodiazepine addiction.  Some to look are a loss of critical thinking skills and judgment, constant doctor “shopping” to get new prescriptions for benzos, mood changes, increase in risky behaviors, and an inability to cut back on the benzodiazepines used.

Street Names/Slang For Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines go by many colorful street names.  It’s important to know the street names to understand the expressions that may be used by a loved one you don’t know is addicted to benzodiazepine. Among common slang names are:

  • Candy

  • Benzos

  • Downers

  • Tranks

  • Blues

  • Sleeping Pills

There are also different street names for specific benzodiazepine.

  1. Xanax: Zannies, Goofballs, Bennies, Lues, and Peanuts.

  2. Klonopin: K, K-Pin, Super Valium

  3. Valium: Tanks, Drunk Pills, Dead Flower Power, and Foo-Foos.

  4. Ambien: Zombie pills, TicTacs, and NoGos.

  5. Ativan:  Stupefy, Candy, Nerve pills, and Roofies.

Although benzodiazepines are widely abused, the chance of benzodiazepines overdose by themselves is low.  The problems arise when they are taken along with other drugs as a boost.  If there is a toxic effect from benzodiazepine, the common antidote used is flumazenil.  This drug is a benzodiazepine receptor antagonist, and it is used to reverse the sedative effects of the benzodiazepine.  It’s also known under the brand name of Romazicon.

Questions or concerns about benzodiazepines (benzo’s)?  If so, don’t waste time and reach out to Sunshine Behavioral Health with any questions or concerns you may have.