What is a Benzo?

Benzodiazepines (BZD, BDZ, BZs), sometimes called”benzos”, are a class of psychoactive drugs whose center chemical structure is that the combination of a benzene ring and a diazepine ring. Back in 1977 benzodiazepines were globally the most prescribed drugs. They are in the family of medications commonly called minor tranquilizers. Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of this neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the GABAA receptor, resulting in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties.


High doses of many shorter-acting benzodiazepines may also lead to anterograde amnesia and dissociation. These properties create benzodiazepines useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, muscle cramps, alcohol withdrawal, and as a premedication for dental or medical procedures. Benzodiazepines are categorized as short, intermediary, or long-acting. Short- and intermediate-acting benzodiazepines are preferred for the treatment of insomnia; longer-acting benzodiazepines are advised for treating stress. Benzodiazepines are usually viewed as safe and effective for short-term usage, which is considered just two to four weeks.

Although cognitive impairment and paradoxical effects such as aggression or behavioral disinhibition sometimes occur. A minority of individuals can have paradoxical reactions like worsened agitation or anxiety. Benzodiazepines can also be related to a greater risk of suicide. Long-term use is controversial because of concerns about decreasing effectiveness, physical dependence, benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, and also an increased risk of cancer and dementia. Long-term, stopping benzodiazepines frequently contributes to improved physical and psychological health. The elderly are at an increased risk of both short- and – long-term adverse effects, and consequently, all benzodiazepines are listed from the Beers List of inappropriate medications for older adults.

There’s controversy regarding the safety of benzodiazepines in pregnancy. While they are not major teratogens, doubt remains as to if they induce cleft palate in a small number of babies and if neurobehavioural effects occur because of prenatal exposure; they are known to cause withdrawal symptoms in the infant. Benzodiazepines may be taken in overdoses and can cause dangerous deep unconsciousness. However, they are less toxic than their predecessors, the barbiturates, and death rarely results in every time a benzodiazepine is the only drug taken. When coupled with other central nervous systems (CNS) depressants like alcoholic beverages and opioids, the possibility of toxicity and fatal overdose increases. Benzodiazepines are generally abused and taken in combination with other drugs of abuse.

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