Benzodiazepines (a.k.a benzos), a class of depressants that affect the central nervous system, are often prescribed to adults for anxiety and insomnia because they produce calming, relaxing effects. They also are prescribed to prevent muscle spasms. Physicians tend to view these drugs as relatively safe. In fact, “benzos” such as Klonopin, Xanax and Valium are among the top 100 most commonly prescribed medications.
Benzodiazepines have been found to be addictive and can cause death, especially in high doses or in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Though benzos should only be prescribed for one to two weeks, they are often taken long term.
Benzos are addictive in the same way that opioids, cannabinoids and the club drug hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are addictive. Each of these drugs reduce an inhibitory influence on dopamine-producing cells which causes dopamine spikes.
Benzos are sedative, hypnotic drugs, which exist in many forms. Numerous brand names for benzos include Valium, Rise, Clozan, Seresta, Domar, Paxil and many others. These medications also have a half-life, ranging from 2.5 hours to more than 200 hours. This is especially important to know because if a person drinks alcohol or takes another psychotropic drug an hour after taking a benzo, it may cause a problem.
Benzos and pregnancy
Like some other drugs, benzos taken during pregnancy cross the placental barrier. Usage can affect the growth and development of the baby, as well as life for the newborn.
Newborns of mothers who prenatally used benzos are more likely to be sick in the first few weeks of life and later. These babies also are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms that can include breathing problems, sucking difficulties, poor body temperature control and poor muscle tone.
Self-withdrawal is not safe and must be medically supervised.
Withdrawal symptoms may include dizziness and nausea, anxiety and insomnia. Medical detox and addiction must be treated with a holistic, multidisciplinary approach that encompasses family recovery with individual rehab.