Benzodiazepines are medications commonly used to help with anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. In addition, they can be used to help create a sense of calm, make sleeping easier, or for a range of other purposes. Still, they all require close medical supervision because they can have serious side effects and are relatively likely to cause addiction.
Unfortunately, benzodiazepines are also popular as recreational drugs, and many people with legitimate prescriptions abuse them and take more of them than they should.
Since benzodiazepines create a sense of calm in users, along with a mild high, and other euphoric sensations in some cases, they can also be a difficult type of drug to withdraw from. Not only do you have to withdraw from the chemical dependence on the drug most users form, but you also have to deal with increased emotions and sensations because the drugs aren’t numbing your system.
Not all benzodiazepines have the same side effects or the same uses. Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with the possible side effects of benzodiazepines and the withdrawal symptoms from Benzodiazepines.
Even if you have a legitimate prescription and use these drugs responsibly, there is still a chance that you will have side effects from the drugs and withdrawal symptoms when you stop. Your doctor or an addiction treatment center can help manage these symptoms, but they can’t help if you don’t recognize what’s happening and when it’s time to get help.
So, whether you’re here because you’re worried that a friend might be abusing benzodiazepines, are considering taking them yourself, or want to learn more about a newly prescribed drug, you’re in the right place.
Keep reading to learn more about the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines.
What Is The List Of Benzodiazepines?
There are a lot of different Benzodiazepines, in different strengths, for different purposes, and in versions that are meant to be used long and short term.
Here’s a list of benzodiazepines currently in use:
The Most Common Brands Of Benzodiazepines:
These are the most commonly prescribed [Replaced hyperlink for easier reference] and used benzodiazepines.
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
All benzodiazepines can create a chemical dependence and tolerance in users relatively quickly, even when used responsibly.
However, these benzodiazepines may be more effective for one-off or occasional use than other alternatives. At the same time, because of the risks and problems, it’s generally recommended that these drugs only be used with close medical supervision.
Short Term Benzodiazepines:
These benzodiazepines can be used for many purposes, including helping with insomnia, calming anxiety and restlessness, and causing amnesia when combined with anesthesia before surgery.
They aren’t intended for long-term use and don’t tend to work for very long either, but that doesn’t mean that these benzodiazepines are less addictive.
- Etizolam (ProSom®)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane®)
- Temazepam (Restoril®),
- Triazolam (Halcion®)
- Midazolam (Versed®)
Long Term Benzodiazepines
Long-term benzodiazepines both tend to last longer in your body and have longer effective periods, and are safer, though not risk-free, to use long term. These are often used for people who need daily anxiety management, serious insomnia, and sometimes as anti-convulsant.
Some of these medications may have other common but off-label uses. However, they still have the same risks and side effects when used for those reasons as when used for on-label problems.
That said, even when a benzodiazepine is widely used and considered safe for long-term use with medical supervision, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for recreational use or use without medical supervision.
Benzodiazepines, like all medications, always come with a certain amount of risk, and only your doctors are likely to be able to assess and manage your risk effectively.
Long-term benzodiazepines include:
- alprazolam (Xanax®)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium®)
- clorazepate (Tranxene®)
- diazepam (Valium®)
- halazepam (Paxipam®)
- lorzepam (Ativan®)
- oxazepam (Serax®)
- prazepam (Centrax®)
- quazepam (Doral®)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
A List Of Risks & Side-Effects Of Using Each Benzodiazepine
Because Benzodiazepines are a closely related set of drugs and medications, and because they tend to work similarly in the brain and body, they all tend to have the same side effects and risks.
However, the risks and side effects of benzodiazepines may vary in severity and duration, and using benzodiazepines improperly can worsen the side effects and risks of taking benzodiazepines.
One of the main risks of any benzodiazepine is that regular use of these drugs has a high risk of causing addiction. Even people who would not easily addict to other drugs and medications are relatively likely to develop an addiction to benzodiazepines.
Additionally, even properly managed, long-term use of benzodiazepines has been shown to have serious mental and physical side effects and consequences.
The risk of chemical dependence and addiction is so strong that there have been quite a few studies on how doctors can help people going through benzodiazepine withdrawal so that there are more options for patients who need to use benzodiazepines and are at higher risk of addiction and other problems.
Some of the most common side effects of benzodiazepines include:
- Memory problems
- Delirium, especially in the elderly
People who take benzodiazepines are also at increased risk of accidents and reckless behavior, especially if they are on benzodiazepines long-term.
It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery even if you are used to the benzodiazepine and even if you feel fine. Benzodiazepines can reduce your reaction times and make it harder to be aware of your condition and mental state.
Long-term use of benzodiazepines may also be associated with cognitive decline, which may be difficult to measure depending on the form and type of decline.
Withdrawal Symptom List For Detoxing Off Benzodiazepines
Withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines can also be extensive and difficult to manage independently. Therefore, if you’ve been prescribed benzodiazepines, it’s incredibly important to follow your doctor’s instructions on how to stop the medication.
It is not a good idea to stop taking benzodiazepines cold turkey, especially if you have been taking them for a long time or in high doses.
Even if you suspect that you are addicted to benzodiazepines, it’s usually better to have a medically managed withdrawal that minimizes the symptoms and risks of withdrawal, especially if your addiction is severe or you have a history of substance use disorders or mental illnesses.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal:
- sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)
- shortness of breath
- muscle cramps
- gastrointestinal problems
- feelings of unreality
- muscle pain
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe and may get worse quickly. If you are unable to get a medically assisted withdrawal or decide to try it alone, it’s important to have people around you who can help supervise and make sure you’re safe and healthy throughout the process.
Unfortunately, several of the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can make it difficult to eat or drink enough to stay healthy. That can be a serious problem and can become serious when it gets severe, especially if you are still dealing with the worst symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Dehydration and having too few electrolytes can be one of the most dangerous problems with benzodiazepine withdrawal. It’s important to drink lots of liquids, especially drinks that have electrolytes, like supplement drinks, Gatorade, and fruit juice (preferably not concentrate). Gelatin, rice, and cereals can be easier to handle than other foods and are a good source of additional calories when detoxing.
If you decide to trust friends or family to help while you’re detoxing, it’s important to make sure they are prepped for the kinds of symptoms you’re likely to experience, what kinds of foods and beverages you need, and what symptoms or problems mean they need to call 911 and get emergency help.
A General List Of How To Know If You’re Addicted To Benzodiazepines & How To Get The Treatment Help You Need
Benzodiazepines, more than most medications or drugs, may require medical intervention and assistance while going through withdrawal. There are carefully designed protocols for handling benzodiazepine withdrawal to make it safer and less painful for the person going through withdrawal.
If you are using benzodiazepines more often than you should, taking more than you are prescribed, feeling like you need to shop for doctors to get enough medication, or considering ordering benzodiazepines online, all of those might be signs that you have a benzodiazepine addiction.
Remember, addiction to benzodiazepines is common, and it’s not a sign of weakness on your part. Instead, benzodiazepine addiction is a chemical process; your doctors should be prepared to help you manage it.
If your addiction is severe, your doctor doesn’t have the tools to manage it, or you’ve been addicted for a long time, it might be a good idea to see if you can get specialty support from a treatment center. Even if you don’t choose an inpatient program, specialized treatment centers can help you manage your symptoms, learn coping skills, and identify when withdrawal symptoms become dangerous.
Are you ready to recover from your benzodiazepine addiction?
Ocean Recovery can help. Reach out to us today to find out more and to learn about our programs.
Ocean Recovery has sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our Editorial Policy.
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- Edinoff AN, Nix CA, Hollier J, et al. Benzodiazepines: Uses, Dangers, and Clinical Considerations. Neurol Int. 2021;13(4):594-607. doi:10.3390/neurolint13040059
- 3. Johnson B, Streltzer J. Risks Associated with Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use. afp. 2013;88(4):224-225.