The use of sedative drugs dates back to ancient times. Bromide was the first chemical compound with a sedative effect and was introduced into the range of medicines during the middle of the 19th century. It was not until half a century later, in the early twentieth century, when barbiturates were created, which were used years later for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia , epilepsy and other diseases of a psychiatric nature.
The benzodiazepines are beginning to use during the 60s and because of its mechanism of action were gradually displacing the use of barbiturates to treat psychiatric illnesses. Today there are around 2,000 types of benzodiazepines presented in pills, ampoules, drops and lozenges. This medicine can only be purchased with a prescription and its regular or temporary use may pose various risks. We invite you to continue reading this eHealth article where we tell you everything you need to know about benzodiazepines, what they are and what they are for.
What are benzodiazepines?
In the early 1960s, the first benzodiazepines were prescribed for the treatment of anxiety in the United States. The first drug was known by the name of Librium and then Valium appeared, master drugs produced by the Hoffman La Roche laboratory.
At that time, both benzodiazepines were very famous among society because they were an alternative for people to better cope with the difficulties of daily life, however, the world population was unaware of the addictive power and important side effects of these drugs. Therefore, many individuals used these drugs lightly, in fact, in 1978 the sale of 2.3 billion Valium was recorded.
Benzodiazepines are relaxing and sedative drugs that are indicated to treat various clinical conditions. These medications are generally administered orally, but intravenous administration may be required in emergencies to achieve almost immediate effect. These drugs work in the body by causing the neurotransmitter GABA to exert a depressant effect on the nervous system by reducing the transmission of nerve impulses. That said, benzodiazepines decrease the body’s activation, cause a sedative effect, relax muscles, and mitigate anxiety symptoms and alarms.
Types of Benzodiazepines
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there are currently more than 2,000 drugs that belong to the group of benzodiazepines that are usually divided according to the time they have an effect on the body. There are three groups of benzodiazepines and they are as follows:
These types of drugs act for no more than 12 hours in the body and their mechanism of action is very fast, which is why they are used to treat sudden conditions such as panic attacks, anxiety attacks or difficulty sleeping. The temporary effect of these benzodiazepines can make the person want to consume a dose of the drug again to continue enjoying its action, this, without a doubt, can lead to dependence. Some of the drugs that belong to this class of drugs are called triazolam and midazolam.
These drugs are the ones that are used to treat anxiety disorder because they are kept in the human body for a long time. However, the prolonged permanence of the drug can cause the effects of two doses to come together, which would cause a careful sedation. Unlike short-acting benzodiazepines, these take time to act in the body and their effects can take up to 2 days after the first intake. Clonazepam and diazepam are the best known drugs that are part of these benzodiazepines.
This group of drugs does not act as fast as short-acting drugs or as slow as long-acting drugs. They usually remain in the body for 12 to 24 hours and are indicated for milder anxiety processes and chronic insomnia. Among the best known drugs in this group of benzodiazepines we find alprazolam and lorazepam.
What are benzodiazepines for?
Now that we know the mechanism of action of these drugs and their different types, we can explain in detail for which conditions they are prescribed and what is their effect in each case. So, let’s learn about the main uses of benzodiazepines:
Benzodiazepines are best known for their indication for the treatment of sudden episodes of anxiety, anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Depending on the type and degree of anxiety that the person suffers, it will be decided which benzodiazepine to take, for example, a short-acting drug will be prescribed for cases of anxiety attacks, a long-acting drug to treat GAD and an intermediate-acting drug. for cases of moderate anxiety or phobias such as social phobia .
Treatment for insomnia
Currently, the use of benzodiazepines to combat insomnia is very common. When the problem occurs to fall asleep, short-acting drugs are usually prescribed and when the problem is maintaining sleep or waking up frequently at night, long-acting or intermediate drugs are usually prescribed.
Some psychiatrists usually prescribe alprazolam as an adjunct medicine in the treatment of bipolarity, since it allows squid the states of anguish, panic and anxiety that this disease causes.
Seizures and spasms
Benzodiazepines help control the neuronal excitation that leads to the seizures of epilepsy. Likewise, the muscle relaxation provided by these drugs is widely used to treat muscle spasms or motor complications. In both cases, intermediate or long-acting drugs are usually prescribed.
The withdrawal syndrome that occurs after an addicted person suppresses alcohol consumption generates a very important state of alertness and anxiety. For this reason, many doctors prescribe some type of benzodiazepines in order to eliminate withdrawal symptoms and help the patient avoid a relapse.
Side effects of benzodiazepines
Long-term use of these drugs, abuse of the prescribed dose, and light-taking of benzodiazepines can cause unfortunate side effects that will require immediate discontinuation of use.
Many people who have used benzodiazepines for a reasonable time end up tolerating the effects of the drug or create a significant dependence on the action of the drug in the body. For this reason, it is important that the administration of these drugs is supervised by a medical specialist who keeps a strict control of the prescribed dose and the time that the patient has consuming said treatment.
It is common for people who develop tolerance to the effects of the drug to increase the dose of the drug of their own accord in order to experience the effect of the drug. Although a benzodiazepine overdose is not life threatening, it can cause a form of sedation so strong that the person can be life-threatening from activities such as drowsy driving.
Stopping benzodiazepine treatment can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headache, insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. This is considered a temporary rebound effect that can be avoided if the drug is gradually stopped.
Difficulty performing certain tasks
The sedative effect of these drugs can decrease motor skills, power of concentration, and proper performance of tasks. Many people who use these medications have confessed to feeling giddy or scattered during work hours, which has led them to compromise their productivity. Also, these drugs can cause memory problems such as retaining new information or remembering an event prior to taking the drug.
In elderly people or people allergic to these drugs, it may happen that the drug, instead of depressing the nervous system, activates it and causes anxiety, irritability, anguish and panic.
To avoid dependence and other side effects of benzodiazepines, it is essential to follow the treatment to the letter as well as to consult with your doctor for any adverse effects resulting from the consumption of these medications. The intake of these drugs should only be carried out for the prescribed time and their consumption should not be prolonged unless the treating physician indicates otherwise.
Interaction of benzodiazepines with other medications
The combination of different types of benzodiazepines, as well as the mixture of these drugs with certain medications, alcohol and narcotics can be counterproductive to health and cause death. Analgesics and antihistamines stand out among the list of drugs that should not be combined with benzodiazepines. Likewise, consuming alcoholic beverages while under the influence of these drugs can increase their function in the body in a dangerous
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.