Sedatives have been in use for a long time in the United States and across the world. Mostly, these are substances that would reduce excitement and irritability and thus induce sedation. They would depress the nervous system, and this would result in the decelerated functioning of this system.
Benzodiazepines work by causing depression of nerves in the central nervous system. In particular, these drugs would enhance the effects of GABA that is found within the brain (Ogbru, 2019). Primarily, this a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of brain nerves when it binds with benzodiazepines. In essence, GABA-benzodiazepines binding would lower the activity of the brain and thus bringing calmness to people with anxiety and seizures.
Several types of sedatives have been prescribed in hospitals to manage various situations of the patients. However, some of these sedatives have been abused and have, consequently, resulted in addiction among the users. In particular, benzodiazepine has been a regular sedative that is commonly prescribed in healthcare organizations (Ogbru, 2019).
Statistics on Use and Misuse
About 12.5% of people in the United States use benzodiazepines (NIDA, 2018). Mainly, this stands for about 30.5 million individuals in the country (NIDA, 2018). The population of adults who receive benzodiazepine prescription increased to 5.6% in 2013 from 4.1% in 1996 (W-BAD, 2019).
Approximately 46.3% of those people who abuse this drug do it to relieve tension, and 22.4 % do it for sleep reasons (NIDA, 2018). The remaining 11.8% do it to get high, and 5.7% engage in the misuse of experimentation (NIDA, 2018).
Most people obtain these drugs from relatives and friends, and only about 20% receive them from doctors (NIDA, 2018).
The use or abuse of benzodiazepines has several effects on the users. Usually, people would have different reactions towards these drugs, and this would mean one may not experience all the side effects. Length of addiction or usage of these sedatives would, to some extent, dictate the impact that a person would experience. The following are some of the side effects that one would experience after taking benzodiazepines.
Dizziness is one of the side effects of these drugs. Individuals who take benzodiazepines are likely to feel drowsy (Ogbru, 2019). When doses are high, the level of dizziness becomes more pronounced. It is because of the effects that these drugs have on the central nervous system.
If the worst case scenarios, vertigo would develop in the users of the medications. Additionally, a person could experience fainting cycles. Primarily, to manage the fainting spells, it would be necessary to take the correct doses as prescribed by the doctor.
Impaired cognition is another side effect of the medications. Sedatives would have the potential to impact the cognition of an individual. Benzodiazepines would impair various elements of cognition. Verbal learning, speed of processing, and others are some of the domains of cognition that these drugs affect.
Impaired judgment is also a side effect of these sedatives. The effects of the drugs on the brain could have considerable effects. The confusion and impaired decisions would have an impact on the thinking and the ability to make choices. Impaired judgment would result in a person.
The commonly used medication in treating sleep and related disorders is benzodiazepines. It is sedative-hypnotic and would be used on patients to promote sleeping in them. The drug has been used in the United States for at least 50 years (Wick, 2013). In essence, this has made it possible for the healthcare system of the country to develop a love-hate relationship with benzodiazepines. The first benzodiazepine was identified in 1955 by Leo Sternbach, who was a Hoffmann-La Roche chemist at the time (Wick, 2013). It was chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and in the following years, it was sold and marketed as Librium. The search for more of benzodiazepines continued, and Roche produced Valium (diazepam) in 1963 (Wick, 2013). The competitors of the company started researching for possible analogs.
In the beginning, benzodiazepine seemed less toxic, and people did not think that they could lead to dependence. Unlike other sedatives, they did not cause respiratory depression. It is some of these advantages that made the popularity of benzodiazepines increase and their patient demand to go high. In the mid-1970s, these sedatives became among the most prescribed drugs among the patients (Wick, 2013). However, at the time, research was ongoing on these drugs, and soon, it was possible to establish the mechanism of action of these drugs. They affected gamma-aminobutyric acid to induce their effects.
In the coming years, the propensity and enthusiasm that the clinicians had on benzodiazepines started to fade. They had a new concern that they had to consider during the prescription of these sedatives. They needed to consider dependence issues and the possibility of abuse of the drug. The information about benzodiazepines was quickly accumulating, and legislators and medical leaders started to take actions that would control the use of these drugs. Legislations and guidelines directing their use were developed. At the same time, clinicians started to elicit concerns about the use of benzodiazepines by old patients as the medications had reduced therapeutic responses. The knowledge of the side effects of these sedatives also increased, and there was a need to address the situation. To date, the story of benzodiazepines continues to change as new information on these medications would be found occasionally.
There are several types of benzodiazepines that patients or individuals could use as sedatives (Levels, 2016). The onset of actions by these types is different, with some being slow, others moderate, and others would act quickly. The choice of the kind that would be used on a person would depend on the symptoms of the patients, the type of wanted sedation, and how quick the sedation is wanted. They exist in different formulations. Some could be given as an injection, rectal gel, capsule, oral liquid, or tablets.
The action time for all these types could be different. Also, the duration in which these drugs are active when they are in the body could be different. In essence, it would vary from one type to the other.
Estazolam (Prosom) (Ogbru, 2019)
Benzodiazepines Long-Term Effects
Usually, health care professionals would prescribe benzodiazepines for short-term use since they can alter the functioning of the brain. However, when one develops dependence of this drug, it would have several long-term effects on the body (Baldwin et al., 2014). Addiction is one of the long-term effects of this drug. Importantly, the patient could develop cognitive decline due to changed brain function. The cases of confusion increase in the patient when the person uses this drug for a long time.
Sleep and Mood Disturbances
Benzodiazepines could worsen the sleep issue when used for a long time. Usually, they affect sleep architecture and thus resulting in inconsistent sleep patterns. They could lead to decreased sleep or increased sleep time. They could also affect the sleep mood and energy.
Additionally, benzodiazepines could cause physical and mental health. It could lead to psychological conditions such as psychosis, PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The users could also experience sexual dysfunction problems.
Self-harm and suicide is also an effect of long-term use of these drugs. Usually, the side effects of benzodiazepines would cause a psychiatric disturbance in a person. Again, the drug has some effects on the functioning of the brain. In essence, these factors and others would make the person to develop suicidal thoughts (Baldwin et al., 2014).
Studies have indicated that people who are addicted to this drug have higher chances to engage in self-harm activities compared to other people. Additionally, the users of this drug could engage in suicide during the withdrawal phase. Therefore, it would be necessary that the withdrawal is done a way that is procedural and one that will lower the possibility of suicidal thoughts.
- Baldwin, D. S., Aitchison, K., Bateson, A., Curran, H. V., Davies, S., Leonard, B., … & Wilson, S. (2014). Benzodiazepines: Risks and benefits. A reconsideration. Focus, 12(2), 229-234.
- El-Gharbawy, D. M., Ramadan, E. S., El-Mehallawi, I. H., Draz, E. I., & Maklad, A. I. (2015). Detoxification methods of benzodiazepines mono-dependence: application and comparison. Mansoura Journal of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, 23 (1).
- Kaufmann, C. N., Spira, A. P., Alexander, G. C., Rutkow, L., & Mojtabai, R. (2016). Trends in prescribing of sedative‐hypnotic medications in the USA: 1993–2010. Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety, 25(6), 637-645.
- Levels, C. (2016). Benzodiazepines. Retrieved from http://2tlwk93pj6ddba08a1egtidy.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/final_info_benzodiazepines_sheet_ext_001.01_07262016_mmedits.pdf
- NIDA. (2018). Research suggests benzodiazepine use is high while use disorder rates are low. Retrieved on 7 June 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/latest-science/research-suggests-benzodiazepine-use-high-while-use-disorder-rates-are-low
- Ogbru, A. (2019). Benzodiazepines. Retrieved on 7 June 2019, from https://www.rxlist.com/benzodiazepines/drugs-condition.htm
- W-BAD. (2019). Statistics. Retrieved on 7 June 2019, from https://w-bad.org/statistics/
Wick, J. (2013). The history of benzodiazepines. The Consultant Pharmacist®, 28(9), 538-548.
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