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Benzodiazepines Risks and Dangers

In spite of the fact that benzodiazepines are considered to be one of the most effective options in the fight against anxiety - moreover, they are claimed to be the safest - nonetheless, they also may pose danger to the human body.

First of all, they produce a number of side effects, some of which can be quite serious. For example, muscle weakness and confusion, often experienced by the patients during Xanax and Ativan therapy (these drugs are the most often prescribed these days), seem to be the mildest ones. Besides, patients may suffer such unwanted adverse reactions as drowsiness, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems.

Other commonly experienced side effects include blurred vision and slurred speech. Loss of appetite and sleep changes or inability to fall asleep are also observed during anti-anxiety therapy. Hyperactivity in some patients and aggravated depression in others were reported due to benzodiazepines use as well.

One of the other quite serious side effects of benzodiazepines is amnesia (memory loss), which is especially pronounced in elderly. It is necessary to note that due to this effect on the human brain benzodiazepines gained a sad popularity of a date-rape drug.

Definitely, adverse reactions occurrence and severity levels differ from patient to patient depending on the age and overall state of health of every person. The good news is that many patients report of the side effects disappearing after some time. Scientists suggest that body gets used to the medicine and learns to treat it right without negative response to therapy.   

Some adverse reactions tend to become visible after a long-term use of benzodiazepines; that is why these drugs are approved only for the limited to the short time usage (2-4 weeks).  

Tolerance is one of such undesirable events. It usually develops if a drug is used for a long time. When the body gets used to it, medication loses its effectiveness and the larger dose is necessary to suppress the symptoms of anxiety, which returns to the patient as soon as the body stops responding to the drug properly.

In fact, scientists confirm that the long-term use of benzodiazepines worsens anxiety. One more reason for the short-term therapy is the risk to develop dependence. Even the use of benzodiazepines at prescribed levels can lead to it.

The most vivid sign of physical dependence is the experiencing of withdrawal symptoms after the drug discontinuation, which include insomnia, nightmares, hypertension, tachycardia, anxiety, perceptual disturbances, distortion of all the senses, dysphoria, and, in rare cases, psychosis and epileptic seizures. Since all these symptoms are dangerous, the dose of the drug is lowered over a long period of time to avoid withdrawal.

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By the way, in terms of withdrawal symptoms Ativan (lorazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam) are less attractive for the users than, for example, diazepam or oxazepam.

Benzodiazepines are the first-line option if anxiety has to be treated. Although these drugs are claimed to be safer than other pills, they still conceal a lot of risks and dangers; thus, the first rule a patient should always remember is to follow doctor’s recommendations and inform him of any suspicious events and feelings.


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