Can Benzodiazepines Be Used Long-Term?

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a man-made medication that works in the central nervous system and can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. These conditions include anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, and used as a muscle relaxant. Benzos act on specific receptors called gamma-aminobutyric acid- A, or GABA – A, receptors. They work by attaching to these GABA – A receptors and make the nerves in the brain less sensitive to outside stimulation. This creates a calming effect that is very sought after by individuals suffering from substance use disorders. The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax
  • Librium
  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Restoril
  • Halcion

Benzodiazepines often react to different people in different ways, even when taken as directed. Long-term use of benzodiazepines will often result in benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, which is very prolonged and painful. If you or a loved one are struggling with a dependency on benzos, please reach out for help today.

Can Benzodiazepines Be Used Long-Term?

What Happens When You Abuse Benzos?

While Benzodiazepines can be taken long term if they are taken as prescribed and don’t pose any imminent threat, the likelihood of misuse and abuse is very high. According to NCBI:

BZD misuse and abuse is a growing problem. Approximately 2.3% to 18% of Americans have misused sedatives or tranquilizers for nonmedical use in their lifetime. Nearly 10% of these individuals met criteria for abuse or dependence. In 2010, there were an estimated 186,000 new BZD abusers. Emergency departments (EDs) have seen a sharp 139% increase in BZD-related visits.

Once you start to abuse benzos and take them for a long time, you’ll feel withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. This is because your body becomes dependent on the actions of benzos in your brain and how they alter the way you feel.

Long Term Misuse of Benzodiazepines

Long-term misuse will lead to dependency and addiction. With addiction comes a long list of short term side effects. These side effects usually go away as the benzodiazepines wear off or as the body adapts to the drug.

Taking benzodiazepines recreationally and in larger doses more often than prescribed can result in a variety of side effects including:

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • Impairment of motor coordination
  • Depression
  • Blurry vision
  • Memory impairment
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shallowed breathing
  • Mood swings
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Overdose

As previously mentioned, benzodiazepines don’t normally cause any imminent threat when taken as prescribed long term, but they are rarely prescribed for long term use because they do change the way the brain functions, also known as dependence. Benzo dependence is a very serious long term effect of regular benzo use and can cause harmful withdrawal symptoms.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

After someone has become dependent on this drug, and the drug is removed from the body, the brain will severely struggle to restore its normal balance. This results in a very uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal process. Withdrawal symptoms can occur after as little as 1 month of use. The severity of withdrawal relies on a range of variants, but symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Racing pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Aches and pains
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

In addition to the risk of developing dependence over a long period of use, benzos can also cause lasting effects on the brain and body. Many medical professionals indicate that long term use can negatively affect memory, sensory perceptions, learning abilities, and processing speed. The long term risks increase with the length of time taking a benzo medication.

Get the Help You Need for Benzo Addiction

We offer many different treatment programs that provide therapeutic education and guidance for each individual to help them safely reintegrate into society. Addiction isn’t an easy thing to face. Luckily you do not have to face it on your own. Our admissions counselors and professionals are available around the clock. We are ready to help you or a loved one overcome the disease of addiction. Now is the time to change your life. Let Garden State Treatment Center help you do it.