Benzodiazapines: Signs and symptoms of problematic use; and treatment options available
Help with Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a sedative (downer). They are psychoactive drugs available as a tablet, capsule, injection or suppository. Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which results in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant and amnesic action, and as a result they are generally prescribed to reduce anxiety or stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles. Recently a new group of non-benzodiapines hypnotics have been developed, which have similar effects to benzos (z-hypnotics).
Benzodiazapines have been available since the 1960’s as a replacement for barbiturates, which were the previous tranquilisers available. By the mid 1970, Valium (one of the better known Benzodiazepines) was the most frequently prescribed drug in the world. They were marketed at the time as a less dependency creating and milder form of Anxiolytic, however, time has show that these substances can have serious side effects, like creating dependency in certain individuals. Users can maintain very high tolerance levels of use.
For this feature, Dr. Brion Sweeney, Consultant Psychiatrist in Substance Use, outlines the common signs and symptoms of problematic use of benzodiazapines; and also provides information on a range of treatment options available to those looking to come off the drug. In referring to the wider use of benzos within our society, Dr. Sweeney also discusses the issue of prescribing, and how non-pharmacological alternatives need to be made available.