Benzodiazepines are among the most commonly prescribed depressant medications in the United States today. More than 15 different types of benzodiazepine medications exist to treat a wide array of both psychological and physical maladies based on dosage and implications. To be characterized as such, each benzodiazepine displays one or more of the following drug actions: anxiety relief, hypnotic, muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, or an amnesiatic (mild memory-loss inducer). Due to their sedative properties, benzodiazepines have a high potential for abuse, especially when used with other depressants such as alcohol or opiates.
Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax© (alprazolam), Librium© (chlordiazepoxide), Valium© (diazepam), and Ativan© (lorazepam). Another benzodiazepine that has been the focus of a great deal of media attention is flunitrazepam, trade name Rohypnol©, which is known widely as "the date-rape drug" due to its involvement in many sexual assault cases in recent years.
Short Term Effects
Low to Moderate Doses
Benzodiazepines are prescribed for relaxation, calmness, and relief from anxiety and tension. In some cases side effects will occur; these vary widely depending on the type of benzodiazepine, the dose, and the person. They can include:
- Impaired motor coordination
- Drowsiness, lethargy, fatigue
- Impaired thinking and memory
- Altered vision
- Slurred speech, stuttering
- Respiratory depression
- Nausea, constipation, dry mouth, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea
At high doses benzodiazepines can cause extreme drowsiness. In addition to the adverse effects listed above, the following are also observed:
- Slowed reflexes
- Mood swings
- Hostile and erratic behavior
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