Benzodiazepines Side Effects

Written by Chloe Nicosia

A Brief Look at Benzodiazepines Side Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms

While there are many different types of benzodiazepines, there are many similarities between the different brand names and various chemical compounds. Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription medication that is officially classified as a tranquilizer. Some common names for this type of drug include Xanax and Valium. As you may have ascertained from their tranquilizer classification, these drugs are known for their calming and sedating effects, commonly being prescribed for patients with anxiety or stress related medical issues. While these drugs can have very positive effects on patients when used in prescribed doses, the benzodiazepines side effects can be intense, and even fatal, when abused.

Before we take a look at the benzodiazepines side effects, let’s look at the different types of benzodiazepines. Benzos are generally classified by the length their effects last, with the three basic classifications being as follows: Ultra-Short Acting, Short Acting, and Long Acting. Ultra short acting benzodiazepines can be some of the hardest forms to withdrawal from. This classification includes medications like Versed and Halcion. While less addictive than the ultra short acting classification, the short-acting benzos are available in high volumes, making them much more commonly used. This classification includes medications like Xanax, and Ativan. The last classification, is the long-acting version of benzodiazepines. These are still abused but far less regularly than medications like Xanax. This classification includes medications like Valium and Librium.

While there are over two thousand different types of benzodiazepines, only about fifteen of these are currently approved for sale. While this strict approval rating is for a number of safety reasons, it’s largely due to the fact that benzodiazepines are commonly abused, not to mention its common use as a date rape drug. Benzodiazepines are commonly abused due to their widespread availability and their intense physical and psychological effects. However, this intensity comes at a steep price, benzodiazepines were responsible for over seventeen percent of drug related deaths in 2006, and that number has only been rising in recent years.

While low doses can be a blessing for patients in need, benzodiazepines side effects can take a terrible toll when abused.

Benzodiazepines Side Effects:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Coma
  • Blurred Vision
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Memory Loss
  • Slurred Speech
  • Mood Swings
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Weakness of Limbs

In addition to this list of side effects, there can be signs and symptoms of abuse that are non-specific as well, some that resemble the very reason patients are prescribed benzodiazepines in the first place, including: anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, headaches, migraine headaches, and physical weakness.

While benzodiazepine abuse can be health endangering and even fatal, benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms can be just as dangerous. When most people think of terrible withdrawal symptoms, they are most likely to imagine heroin withdrawal, due to its portrayal in countless pieces of pop culture, cinema, and literature, however, unlike heroin, the benzodiazepines withdrawal symptoms have been known to be lethal. This is why we highly recommend going to a detox, rehabilitation, or treatment center when attempting to stop use of benzodiazepines.

Some Common Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Aches and Pains
  • Hot and Cold Body Temperature Changes
  • Anxiety
  • Chest Pain
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Increased Sensitivity to Touch and Sound
  • Hypertension
  • Flu-like Symptoms
  • Tremors
  • Visual Disturbances
  • Hallucinations
  • Hyperthermia
  • Coma
  • Homicidal Ideation
  • PTSD
  • Suicide
  • Mania
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Catatonia

While a number of these withdrawal symptoms can result in fatalities, catatonia, convulsions, seizures, and suicidal ideations, are by far the most common causes of lethal withdrawal symptoms. We understand that many current addicts may see this list and feel deterred or may even feel that sobriety is not a good idea, but we want to remind everyone that as withdrawal progresses, patients find their physical and mental health improves with improved mood and improved cognition. In fact, when withdrawing under the care of a treatment center, planning, and in some cases medication, can help mitigate the vast majority of withdrawal symptoms, making the process immensely easier, safer, and more comfortable than otherwise.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db22.pdf

http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0750765884800787

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs002130050278