Every year, over 30 million Americans use benzodiazepines – and that number is rising. The number of people misusing or abusing benzodiazepines is also increasing. So, before you start a benzodiazepine prescription, you should know all the facts.
Benzodiazepines sometimes referred to as benzos, are a class of prescription medications. They are usually prescribed for anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and severe muscle tension. While they are intended for short-term use, the addictive nature of these medications is dangerous.
Never use benzodiazepines without consulting a doctor. These drugs can have harmful effects over time. Keep reading to learn about the long-term effects of benzodiazepine abuse.
Types of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are a specific type of prescription drug that slows down nerve activity in the brain and central nervous system. Some of the most common benzodiazepines include:
Different benzodiazepines are prescribed for different conditions. Some are fast-acting and others work more slowly over a longer period of time. If you are not sure whether the medication you were prescribed is a benzodiazepine, talk to your doctor or a pharmacist right away.
How Do Benzodiazepines Work
Benzodiazepines work by interrupting the normal processes of the brain and central nervous system. The compounds bind to receptors in the brain and block signals. When the signals are blocked, the communication between the brain and body slows down.
The brain is responsible for the symptoms of anxiety, pain, and other conditions that benzodiazepines are meant to treat. Therefore, slowing down the brain and body connection can improve symptoms of those conditions.
Why Do People Take Benzodiazepines
Doctors prescribe benzodiazepines for physical and mental health conditions. They are almost always prescribed for short-term use. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for the following conditions:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Seizure control
- Muscle relaxation
- Inducing amnesia (used for medical procedures)
- An anesthetic (before surgery)
Benzodiazepines offer short-term relief for the conditions above. Other forms of physical, psychological, or pharmacological care may be needed for long-term relief.
Short-Term Effects of Benzodiazepine Use
When people take benzodiazepines they feel calm and relaxed. And even though this is the intended effect of the drug it’s a problem because it can lead to benzodiazepine abuse. After taking the medication for a short time people become used to the feeling it provides and they want more.
The short-term effects of benzodiazepine use include lack of focus, memory impairment, slow motor function, and tiredness. Taking benzodiazepines during the day can affect a person’s ability to conduct normal activities of daily living.
Long-Term Effects of Benzodiazepine Abuse
There are long-term effects of benzodiazepine abuse that you should be aware of before you start taking a prescription. Before you start taking a benzodiazepine prescription, you should know the long-term effects of abuse.
Dependence and Withdrawal
Taking benzodiazepines for a long period of time can cause dependence. They are highly addictive drugs, especially when taken for a long time. The brain develops a craving for the response caused by benzodiazepines.
The following are symptoms of benzodiazepine dependence:
- Doctor shopping (getting a prescription from more than one doctor)
- Asking friends, family, colleagues, and/or classmates for their benzodiazepine pills
- Wanting to cut back on the volume of abuse but not being able to do so
- Changes in mood
- Risk-taking behaviors, such as driving after abusing benzodiazepines
- Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol or other drugs
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it may be time to seek help. With proper intervention, you can safely stop using benzodiazepines.
Trying to stop using benzodiazepines after long-term use may result in withdrawal symptoms. Your body is used to having benzodiazepines in your system. So, when things change, the body may react poorly. The following are symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal:
- Muscle spasms
- Aches and pains
- Panic attacks
- Hypersensitivity to stimuli like light and touch
It is possible to safely detox from benzodiazepine use. Working with professionals or visiting a rehab facility is the best method.
You should never take more than the prescribed dose of a benzodiazepine. Unfortunately, when people take benzodiazepines for a long time the effects are not as strong. So, people will start to take more than they were prescribed to get the same effects as when they started.
Taking too high of a dose means that the body cannot break down the drug. The central nervous system will slow down so much that a person is at risk of death. Some of the symptoms of a benzodiazepine overdose include:
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty breathing
If you experience any of these symptoms after taking a benzodiazepine, get medical help right away. If left untreated, a benzodiazepine overdose can lead to death.
Recent research shows that one of the possible benzodiazepine long-term effects is cognitive impairment. Long-term use may lead to memory issues and difficulty communicating and learning.
After taking benzodiazepines for a long period of time people may struggle to learn new things or retain information. Their communication and speech can also be impaired as a result of long-term use. Cognitive side effects of long-term benzodiazepine use are even worse for older adults because they can make underlying dementia worse.
Protect Your Health, Know the Risks
If you are considering a benzodiazepine prescription you may have asked yourself, “can benzodiazepine hurt me?”. And the truth is that there are serious long-term effects of benzodiazepine abuse. Knowing the possible complications might make you think twice before starting a prescription.
If you are struggling with benzodiazepine abuse, you can get help. And by safely detoxing you can reverse some of the negative long-term effects of benzodiazepine use. Need help or want to enroll in treatment for an abuse disorder? Contact us today.