October 3, 2023

Benzodiazepine Side Effects

image representing benzodiazepine side effects
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Benzodiazepine side effects can be aggravating. Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a class of prescription medications indicated to address various medical conditions. Medical professionals commonly prescribe them for managing anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. In certain cases, they may also be used off-label to alleviate symptoms related to tics and bipolar disorder.

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While short-term usage of benzo drugs is generally considered safe and efficacious, prolonged use can result in the development of tolerance, dependence, and other unwanted side effects of benzodiazepines.

If you are concerned about benzodiazepines side effects, this guide addresses the following issues:

  • What is benzodiazepine therapy?
  • What are the main side effects for benzodiazepines?
  • Can the effects of benzodiazepines be dangerous?
  • Are benzos side effects life-threatening?
  • How to connect with benzo addiction treatment in California.

Short-Term Effects of Benzos

Benzodiazepines, often referred to as benzos, are medications that can produce a range of short-term effects when taken. These effects are typically experienced shortly after consuming the medication and can include:

  • Anxiety reduction: Benzodiazepines are mainly prescribed to alleviate anxiety and can provide rapid relief from symptoms of anxiety disorders. They promote relaxation and calmness.
  • Sedation: Benzos have a sedative effect, which means that they can induce drowsiness and promote sleep. This sedation can be helpful for individuals experiencing insomnia or severe anxiety.
  • Muscle relaxation: These medications have muscle relaxant properties, making them useful for conditions involving muscle tension or spasms.
  • Anti-seizure effects: Benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to control and prevent seizures, particularly in emergency situations.
  • Euphoria: Some people may experience a sense of euphoria or well-being when using benzos, which can contribute to their potential for misuse.

Long-Term Effects of Benzos

While benzos can provide short-term relief, long-term use can lead to a range of adverse effects, including:

  • Tolerance: Over time, the body can develop tolerance to the effects of benzodiazepines, meaning that higher doses are required to achieve the same therapeutic results.
  • Dependence: Prolonged use of benzos can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Individuals may find it challenging to function without the medication.
  • Withdrawal: Discontinuing benzodiazepines after long-term use can result in withdrawal symptoms, such as increased anxiety, insomnia, and even seizures in severe cases.
  • Cognitive impairment: A common long-term benzo side effect involves impaired cognitive functions, including memory and attention.
  • Increased fall risk: Elderly individuals who use benzos are at a higher risk of falls and fractures due to the medications’ sedative effects.
woman looking down representing adverse effects of benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines Risks

Carefully consider the following risks associated with benzodiazepine use. Firstly, benzos can interact with other medications, potentially causing adverse effects or reducing the effectiveness of other treatments. 

Benzos can impair memory and cognitive function, potentially affecting daily life and work performance. High doses of benzos or mixing them with other substances, such as alcohol or opioids, can result in overdose, which can be life-threatening.

The euphoric benzodiazepine effects triggered can lead to misuse and addiction, especially when used recreationally or in higher doses than prescribed. Abruptly stopping benzo use can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, making it essential to taper off the medication under medical supervision.

Individuals prescribed benzodiazepines should be aware of these potential effects and risks, use them as directed by a healthcare professional, and seek guidance if they have concerns about their use.

FAQ

What is a benzo?

A benzo (benzodiazepine) is a prescription medication and Schedule IV controlled substance in the United States.

What are benzodiazepines used for?

Benzodiazepines uses include the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and seizure disorders. They work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps calm the central nervous system.

Are there any adverse effects of benzodiazepines?

Yes, there can be adverse effects associated with benzodiazepines. Common side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired coordination. Prolonged or improper use can lead to more severe adverse effects, including addiction, memory problems, and withdrawal symptoms.

Can you get addicted to benzodiazepines?

Yes, benzodiazepines have a potential for addiction, especially when used for extended periods or in higher doses than prescribed. Developing a physical and psychological dependence on these medications is a significant concern, and abrupt discontinuation can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Are there any bad side effects of benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines can indeed have several adverse side effects, including drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, and impaired coordination. Additionally, long-term use may result in memory issues, mood swings, and a heightened risk of addiction and withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing the medication.

Benzodiazepines Detox

Detoxification from benzodiazepines is the first vital step in the recovery process for those who have become dependent on these medications. Supervised medical detoxification offers the safest and smoothest pathway to withdrawal due to the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Medical supervision with tapered reduction in dose

Detoxing from benzodiazepines should be carried out in a medical setting or under the guidance of a healthcare professional. This is essential because withdrawal symptoms can be intense and even life-threatening. In many cases, a gradual tapering of the benzodiazepine dose is recommended rather than abrupt cessation. This helps the body adjust to lower levels of the medication and reduces the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and hallucinations. These symptoms can vary in intensity depending on factors such as the dosage and length of benzo use.

Duration

The duration of benzodiazepine detox can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on individual factors. The goal is to safely manage withdrawal symptoms until the person is benzodiazepine-free.

Medications

In some cases, healthcare providers may use other medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings during detox. These medications are typically chosen based on the specific needs of the individual.

Supportive care

Beyond medical treatment, individuals undergoing benzodiazepine detox may benefit from psychological support and counseling to address the underlying issues that led to benzo use and dependence.

Relapse prevention

Detox is only the initial step in treating benzodiazepine dependence. After detox, individuals should engage in comprehensive addiction treatment, including therapy and support groups, to prevent relapse.

Reach out to healthcare professionals or addiction treatment centers for guidance and support. Attempting to detox from benzodiazepines without proper medical supervision can be dangerous, and professional help increases the likelihood of a safe and successful detoxification process.

 

an image of Gratitude Lodge's benzodiazepine side effect treatment center

Get a Safe, Comfortable Benzo Detox at Gratitude Lodge

If you need help detoxing from benzos, we can help you at Gratitude Lodge in Newport Beach and Long Beach, CA. Our treatment centers are inclusive and pet-friendly, providing you with access to medications to streamline benzo withdrawal and a smooth transition into ongoing inpatient treatment.

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs offer personalized therapy that draws from the following interventions:

When you are ready to detox from benzos and start living free of medication, call 888-861-1658 for immediate assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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