When people hear about benzodiazepines, they might not immediately recognize or understand the word. However, if you mention Xanax or Valium to someone, they have a higher chance of knowing what it is. These two are the same thing. Benzodiazepines are a category/type of medication and pharmaceuticals like Xanax are a form of benzodiazepines (otherwise known as benzos). They’re a depressant primarily used to help those with anxiety, seizures, or sleeping disorders.
While benzos are a form of prescription medicine that are sometimes misused, even when taken within your doctor’s instructions there can be side effects. Here at Shadow Mountain Recovery, we believe in the importance of knowledge. Being equipped with information can help you make the decisions you feel are best for your life and your path.
So what exactly are the side effects of benzos? Does taking them longer impact the side effects? Let’s find out.
Benzodiazepine Side Effects Over Time
All medications have a list of potential side effects. These come from reactions within an individual’s body that can’t always be predicted by medical professionals. Usually, the side effects have been observed during studies of the medication and are listed on the prescription as a “heads up” for the patient.
There are side effects, however, that can come from long-time use of prescriptions, especially outside of medical orders. Side effects for each person may vary in both how they present and how much they might impact your life. It’s important to know these potential side effects in order to be able to make informed decisions about your own health.
Short-Term Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Use
Not everyone will experience the same side effects when taking benzos, but here are just a few of the short-term side effects of taking benzodiazepines.
- Dry Mouth
Long-Term Side Effects of Benzodiazepine Use
Most benzodiazepines are prescribed for short-term or as-needed situations. Because of this, many people prescribed benzos won’t have to worry about long-term side effects. If you’re using benzos regularly, here are some of the side effects you might experience:
- Memory loss
- Anxiety and depression
- Skin rashes
- Disturbing dreams
- Irritability and aggression
In addition, taking any substance long-term increases your chances of a potential overdose. While benzo overdoses on their own are rarely fatal, many people like to take them in combination with other substances like alcohol or opioids. This combination can be fatal, but overdoses can be helped if caught in time. Here are some signs that a loved one might be experiencing a benzo overdose:
- Mood swings and aggression
- Slow and shallow breathing
With New Mexico’s Good Samaritan Law, you do not have to worry about getting into legal trouble for seeking medical assistance for an overdose.
How Benzodiazepines Affect the Mind and Body
Benzos are a nervous system depressant. Despite this, they can still impact your mind and body in more ways than just by calming you down.
Benzos have a short half-life, which is half the amount of time it takes for a substance to enter and exit the body. When substances or prescriptions have a shorter half-life, the body has less time to adjust to them no longer being in your system. When you take a substance regularly, your body can become accustomed to the effects it produces, and then when you stop taking that, you experience withdrawal.
With withdrawal can come unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, or paranoia. Because of this, some may continue to take benzos in order to negate or reduce the withdrawal effects. This is what can lead to addiction and other potential changes in the body as long-term use continues.
There are signs to look out for if you think you or a loved one might be dealing with benzodiazepine misuse. Let’s break them down by category.
Behavioral Signs of Benzodiazepine Use
Whether long-term or short, there are side effects of taking benzodiazepines that can impact your behavior. For some, it can cause confusion, memory loss, or even slurred speech or stuttering. In the case of short-term effects, many times doctors will only prescribe benzos for as-needed situations like to manage seizures or panic attacks, so side effects from it won’t last long.
If you’re taking benzos for a longer time, you might also experience irritability, paranoia, and even personality changes.
Physical Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse
Benzos have a long list of physical side effects that can be experienced. Some of the more common ones include things like headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, dry mouth, and even double vision. In the case of long-term use, these side effects can escalate to weight gain, rashes, fatigue, lethargy, and some people even develop skin rashes.
Psychological Signs of Abuse
Many people who take benzos outside of a prescription do so to experience feelings of euphoria, calmness, and reduced stress. While these are all possible while using benzos, there are also negative effects that can occur for your psyche when you take them.
Benzodiazepines are an anxiety medication, however, when misused one of the most common side effects is increased anxiety. In addition, benzos used for a longer-period of time, or without a medical prescription, can lead to side effects such as depression and increased feelings of isolation.
Treatment for Benzodiazepine Use Disorder
Benzodiazepine Substance use becomes a substance use disorder whenever it starts to negatively impact your life. You may participate in things you enjoy less, be unable to stop thinking about taking the substance, or even miss out on work or family things in order to use a substance.
There are, however, treatment options available to recover from benzo use disorder. Here at Shadow Mountain Recovery, we understand how unique each recovery journey is. This is why we offer such a variety of evidence-based treatment plans for our clients to ensure they find the path that works right for their healing journey.
We offer a detox program to help you safely stop taking a substance while managing withdrawal symptoms alongside our professional, licensed medical staff. We also offer both inpatient and outpatient programs to help set you on a path to success. We will work with you to determine what will best suit your unique needs and be with you every step of the way.
If you want to learn more about our treatment programs, or have any questions at all, give us a call today at 505-657-2117.