Effects of Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use
Benzodiazepine is a group of drugs (diazepam, nitrazepam, alprazolam, temazepam and oxazepam) used to treat restlessness in people who are hospitalized, anxiety, mania, alcohol withdrawal, sleeping problems, agitation and epileptic seizures or fists. There are different types of benzodiazepines including intermediate, long and short acting.
The medication which is widely used in neurology, psychiatry and other branches of medicine can be sniffed, taken by mouth and in some cases, intravenously. The drugs have also been used as induction agents in medical schools during anesthetic practice.
Medics always advice that just like any other drug, benzodiazepines should be used for short term since they are effective. Benzodiazepines also have side effects including short term and long term effects. Short term effects include anxiety disorders and this commonly affects anyone under the benzodiazepine treatment.
On long term use, the drugs can easily lead to dependence. Today, this is considered a risk. Taking the drugs intravenously is also a concern across different parts of the globe because cases of drug abuse have been reported. Even so, there are patients who do not suffer any side effects following the use of benzodiazepines. However,
- If you know someone who has been prescribed benzodiazepine
- If you have been prescribed with the drug or
- You are concerned with addiction or the withdrawal effects of the medication, it is essential that you understand the effects of benzodiazepine treatment over a long haul
This review will therefore take a look at the effects of benzodiazepine use
Effects of long term benzodiazepine use that you should know
Common effects of long term benzodiazepine use include unusual sleep behaviors and anterograde amnesia. These may occur especially if you are using traditional benzodiazepines and more specifically triazolam use.
Next day drowsiness also known as hangover effect is a common with the drugs when used for a long time. This is common with flurazepam and diazepam. The group of benzodiazepine has sedative effects that usually carry on to the next day. As a result, they can easily impair daily activities and driving. The effects are worse amongst the elderly.
Severe allergies including angioedema and anaphylaxis are also associated with long term use of benzodiazepine. They are rare effects of long term benzodiazepine use and usually disappear within a day or two
Long term use of the medication can also lead to addiction, tolerance, abuse or dependence. Benzodiazepines including alprazolam, lorazepam and triazolam are known as potent benzodiazepines and have shorter elimination half-lives. Therefore, they can cause dependence and tolerance following prolonged use.
Research also reveals withdrawal reactions as some of the effects associated with medications that are short acting. The effects are common if you suddenly stop medication after long term use.
Higher doses of benzodiazepine can also lead to rebound insomnia.
Similarly, research shows that benzodiazepine should not be used during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. The drugs can harm the baby.
Use of benzodiazepine by the elderly can lead to many side effects whether a patient is under short acting or long acting benzodiazepine. The drugs can lead to
- Over sedation based on age related factors
- Hip fractures and falls especially if a patient is under the treatment of long acting benzodiazepines
- Impaired blood pressure management and balance control. These have been closely linked to short and long acting drugs.
- Memory loss, mood swing and worsening sleep are also common effects of long term benzodiazepine use amongst the elderly.
- In other cases, coma and unconsciousness can occur. As a result, medics’ advice that elderly persons should use the drugs moderately and if possible, benzodiazepines should be avoided in persons above the age of 65.
Severe effects of long term benzodiazepine use
Long term use of benzodiazepine drugs can also lead to serious health issues including cardiac and respiratory arrest. These effects of long term benzodiazepine use are common if a patient is receiving intravenous (IV) benzodiazepines. Other reactions following the administration of IV medication include
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin rash
- Double vision and blurred vision
- Injection site reactions
- Slow heart rate
- Respiratory depression and
- Cardiac arrhythmias
Other major effects of benzodiazepines include sleepiness, memory and concentration problems and unsteadiness
Drug abuse and addiction are also now considered possible risks and severe effects of benzodiazepine use. This is why medics advice patients to follow the doctor’s prescription and watch out for addiction signs when under treatment.
How can you tell that you are addicted to benzodiazepine?
Using benzodiazepines for a long time leads to addiction in around 4 in every 10 patients. This can lead to full blown tolerance especially with dose escalation to many times the recommended treatment levels. It is reported that patients under high doses of benzodiazepine treatment can be emotionally and physically dependent on the drugs and can easily suffer psychotic disorder and severe withdrawal if medication is dropped.
Therefore it is wise that you watch out for these signs to prevent addiction
- lack of sleep
- agitation and feeling tense
- if you feel bad after taking the drugs
- if you have to take more and more benzodiazepines to achieve a certain effect
- when you crave the drugs
- Sensitivity to light and blurred vision
Summary on the effects of long term benzodiazepine use
In general, effects benzodiazepine use can be reviewed under different categories including
Psychological effects- they affect behavioral, psychomotor and cognitive abilities of a patient. These effects include anxiety, sleepiness, depression, and episodes of amnesia as well as panic attacks. According to research, 17mg of diazepam or valium over a long time can lead to substantial cognitive impairment. Withdrawal following the use of the same drug for more than three months can also occur.
Physical effects– these include dizziness, vertigo, dysarthria and ataxia. In the elderly, lack of coordination is common and can easily lead to falls. Severe physical effects of benzodiazepine use including weight gain, impairment of sexual function, menstrual disorders and body rash.
Hip fracture is common amongst the elderly under benzodiazepine medication. In different research studies, zolpidem can increase the risk of falls and hip fracture by 2.55 times amongst patients aged 65 years and above.
Real side effects– long term use of benzodiazepines can also cause real life effects such as impairments when driving a car. According to epidemiological research, road traffic and domestic accidents have been widely reported following term use of the medication.
Overdose and dependence risk-overdose risk is also considered a long term effect of benzodiazepine use. This is specifically great when benzodiazepine is used with other drugs including opioids and alcohol. In this case, it is imperative to strictly adhere to a doctor’s prescription and advice.
It is therefore essential to note that driving while under benzodiazepine treatment is equal to driving under influence and more specifically, with blood alcohol level of 0.050 and 0.079 percent.
Withdrawal effects- these are effects that occur after giving up on the use of benzodiazepine after a long time. They are the most challenging effects of long term benzodiazepine use and they include twitching of muscles
- dizziness and tremors
- irritability and anxiety
- heightening of senses and altered perception
- poor concentration
- bizarre dreams, fatigue and sleeping problems
- paranoia, hallucinations and delusions
Expert advice on how to prevent effects of long term benzodiazepine use
As mentioned earlier, there are patients who do not suffer any side effects of long term benzodiazepine use. However, in such cases, one can easily get addicted to the drugs. As a result, it is essential to avoid long term effects of benzodiazepine use and addiction by
- following the doctor’s prescription and
- Ensure that the drugs are used with caution and in short term (less than four weeks). This prevents long term effects as well as addiction.
- Always have a natural alertness rhythm during the day and sleepiness at a night. Avoid going to bed until you feel sleepy.
- Have a good sleeping environment based on your needs. An ideal sleep environment should not be too hot, too cold, or too humid. It should be quite and dark
- Avoid anything that interferes with sleep when you are about to sleep. This includes nicotine, alcohol and caffeine.
- Avoid strenuous evening effects while under benzodiazepine medication
- In the event of anxiety, take time to resolve them before taking medication and before bedtime
- Exercise distraction and relaxation techniques and avoid daytime naps while under benzodiazepine drugs
- Note than despite the fact that benzodiazepines are known for their effectiveness, they should only be used for short term. They become less favorable and pose adverse effects when treatment is prolonged. What’s more, efficacy will always wane and risks become even more when you become addicted to the drugs.
- It is additionally important to note that patients with severe panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia disorders can be effectively treated with short term use of benzodiazepines. However, a medic should offer a comprehensive treatment strategy for full management of the panic, insomnia and anxiety and to prevent long term usage as well as related effects.
Using benzodiazepine with other drugs
The effects of using benzodiazepine with heroine, alcohol, opiates and other drugs are unpredictable and dangerous. There have been cases of breathing difficulties among many patients. Breathing difficulties increase the risk of overdependence and death.