Benzodiazepines (commonly known as ‘Benzos’) are a class of psycho-active drugs. Benzodiazepines can be useful for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, seizures and muscle spasms; however, they are also directly associated with substance abuse. Benzodiazepines are taken by some recreational users as a means of ‘coming down’, although for some abusers, it is their main drug of choice. High doses of Benzodiazepines can cause 'drunken' and sometimes aggressive behaviour. Long-term use of Benzodiazepines can lead to a physical dependence.
Benzodiazepines can be administered in several ways, including:
- Intravenous injection
- Intramuscular injection
- Sublingually (place under the tongue to dissolve)
Common benzodiazepines (and their primary trade names) include:
- Bromazepam (Lexotanil or Lexotan)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Flurazepam (Dalmane)
- Lorazepam (Ativan or Temesta)
- Nitrazepam (Mogadon)
- Oxazepam (Serax)
- Temazepam (Restoril)
Other benzodiazepines (and their primary trade names) include:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Estazolam (ProSom)
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
- Lormetazepam (Loramet)
- Mexazolam (Sedoxil)
- Midazolam (Dormicum)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Street names for benzodiazepines include:
- Rugby balls
Benzodiazepines are commonly divided into 3 groups by their 'half-lives'. Half-lives refer to the time required for half of that substance to be removed from the body, by either a physical or chemical process.
- Short-acting compounds have a half-life of less than 12 hours
- Intermediate-acting compounds have a half-life of 12-24 hours
- Long-acting compounds have a half-life of mroe than 24 hours
Regular use of Benzodiazepines with shorter half-lives often results in a faster tolerance and physical dependency than that of long-acting Benzodiazepines; this is due to the length of time that the drug remains in the system. Longer-acting Benzodiazepines, however, have side-effects that can persist for longer than 24 hours. A physical dependence may occur if Benzodiazepines are taken regularly for more than a few weeks.
Conversely, Benzodiazepines are used in the management of alcohol withdrawal as they work to alleviate delirium tremors (DTs). Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) or Diazepam (Valium) are the most commonly used Benzodiazepines associated with alcohol detoxification.
Benzodiazepine abuse can often cause the following side effects:
- Ataxia (incordination of muscle movements)
- Impaired judgement
When non-prescribed Benzodiazepines are used, they can cause a serious loss of inhibitions; this problem is often exacerbated by mixing Benzodiazepines with other substances. If an individual were to use Benzodiazepines with a substance such as alcohol, the risk of overdosing is significantly increased due to depression of the respiratory and cardiovascular system.
Alcohol abusers are at increased risk of acute adverse reactions and problems arising form long-term use of benzodiazepines.
Side effects associated with alcohol and Benzodiazepine use can include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory processing problems
- Suicidal thoughts
- Inability to operate machinery
- Mood swings
- 'Hang over' effects
- Aggressive and violent outbursts
In severe cases, major behavioural changes can result from Benzodiazepine abuse. Such behavioural changes include mania, schizophrenia, anger, impulsiveness and hypomania. Individuals with mental health problems and personality disorders place themselves at significant risk of developing behavioural changes if they abuse them.
Benzodiazepine addictions and poly addictions, e.g. the use of both alcohol and Benzodiazepines, can be treated effectively in a suitable rehab clinic. In a safe and comfortable environment, supported by trained and experienced clinicians, individuals can gain the strategies and skills needed to achieve long-term recovery..