The Hidden Dangers of Benzodiazepines

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Benzodiazepines are medications that are used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. All medications have risks and side effects, and benzos are no exception. As a matter of fact, the possibility of overusing them is very real and carries with it the risks of dependency, overdose and death.

Dual Diagnosis put together a fascinating infographic about the hidden dangers of benzodiazepines. While there are people who truly depend on these medications, some people overuse or abuse them. We need to be aware that benzodiazepines pose a real risk when not used as directed.

Let’s go over some of the highlights from the infographic so that you can better understand the full scope of the benzos problem.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a type of medication that have been used since the 1950s to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. They were found to be a safer alternative to barbiturates.

Benzos are considered Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants because they suppress the central nervous system and decrease brain activity for 6-24 hours. The most common brand names of benzos include Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium and Restoril.

Why are Benzos Prescribed?

It’s always a great question: Why are benzos prescribed if they are so dangerous?

Benzodiazepines can be safe when used as directed and under the supervision of a medical professional. It’s when these medications are abused that they become a problem.

Benzodiazepines are prescribed for conditions such as the following:

  • Anxiety disorders (OCD, PTSD, phobias and generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Convulsive disorders (epilepsy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis)
  • Impulse control disorders

As you can see, some of these conditions are extremely severe and can interfere with a normal quality of life. This is why some doctors feel that benzos are the best option.

What are the Short and Long Term Risks?

The risk for benzodiazepine addiction has been known since the 1980s. In 2010 alone, over 345,000 people were sent to the emergency room for benzo-related issues. There were 6,507 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2010 from benzos, and 95 percent of the hospitalizations reported using other drugs as well.

The prescription drug problem in our nation hasn’t helped. More people are using these drugs to get high, and they are combining them with other drugs to get a more profound effect. Since benzos suppress the central nervous system, they become exceptionally dangerous when combined with alcohol.

Other health risks are also concerning. There is a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia in the long term, as well as side effects such as memory loss, depression, vertigo, confusion and irregular heartbeat.

Benzodiazepines can be very dangerous. Just because they are legal and prescribed by medical doctors does not make them safe. If you or someone you love has a problem with benzos, a treatment program can help. Call The River Source to learn more.