As you may already know, benzodiazepines (or benzos, for short) can cause dependence and addiction. This type of Schedule IV controlled substance has the potential to be dangerous and even fatal, but benzos are still prescribed more commonly than any other type of drug. Why are these substances so available? And are there any benzodiazepines that are considered illegal?
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines, otherwise known as “benzos,” are a class of Schedule IV drugs that are designed and prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, seizures, and insomnia. Some doctors also prescribe benzos for conditions like other sleep disorders, bipolar disorder, and alcohol withdrawal. These types of medicine work by enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain that promote calmness, relaxation, and sleep. Benzodiazepines usually come in the form of an oral tablet or pill, but they may also be administered intravenously by a medical professional.
Illegal Benzodiazepines: Do They Exist?
Even though benzos can be extremely dangerous, none of them are considered illegal because they are all available by prescription.
Some benzodiazepines that are available by prescription include:
- alprazolam (Xanax)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- diazepam (Valium)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- midazolam (Versed)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- flurazepam (Dalmane)
- temazepam (Restoril)
- sleep aids (Ambien, Lunesta)
While none of the benzos above are considered illegal, some people may still find them and use them in illegal ways. Some individuals may see a few different doctors to get more medicine, write fake prescriptions, or purchase benzodiazepines illegally.
Benzodiazepines: Risks & Warnings
Benzodiazepines are safe when used short-term, but can be dangerous when someone uses them long-term. The potential for dependence increases after two weeks of using benzos. Whether someone uses benzos responsibly or abuses them, they are at risk for certain side effects. Common side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, depression, impaired coordination, depression, increased anxiety, and depression. These effects can be uncomfortable, but are usually not dangerous and will go away quickly. There are, however, some serious side effects of benzo use that require immediate medical attention.
These serious side effects may include behavioral changes, memory problems, and delirium.
Taking too many benzodiazepines in a short period of time may lead to additional symptoms such as an overdose, which can be fatal if it isn’t treated as soon as possible. If someone uses benzos and stops taking them suddenly, they are likely to experience withdrawal. Symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal include anxiety, panic, restlessness, fatigue, tremors, dizziness, flushing, tremors, muscle aches, sweating, sleep problems, shortness of breath, sweating, seizures, gastrointestinal issues, hallucinations, headaches, and more.
Using Benzodiazepines Responsibly
People should only use benzodiazepines if their doctor prescribed one to them. They should communicate with their doctor about all other substances they are using. Benzos should not be mixed with alcohol, cannabis, or opioid medications.
If someone stops using benzodiazepines suddenly, it is likely that withdrawal will occur. Therefore, you should tell your doctor if you plan to stop taking your prescription. They will work with you to create a plan that will help you wean off of the medication.
Benzodiazepines can greatly help with mental health, but they can become dangerous if taken for too long or used irresponsibly. If you or a loved one are struggling benzodiazepine use, contact our team of substance abuse treatment representatives by calling 866-345-2147.