Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed by medical professionals to help those dealing with insomnia and anxiety. These pills, the most common being Xanax and Valium, put the user in a very relaxed state that is enjoyable to some. The hypnotic, overall peaceful effect may become physically addictive, and psychologically addictive as well.
Benzos are only supposed to be used for a short time due to their addictive properties. However, the majority of people may end up using the drug for an extended periods, especially if they have become dependent on the drug.
While benzos may have a pleasing effect on the brain and body, the results of long-term use can be devastating. While there is still plenty of research being done on the actual side effects of benzos, the results show that there is an overwhelming amount of serious impact on the brain when used in excess.
There are several neurotransmitters found inside of the brain. These transmitters are what help the nerves interact with one another to accomplish day to day activities, from small to large. Benzos work directly with neurotransmitters, affecting the communication between the nerves of the brain.
One of the most important neurotransmitters that a benzo effect is known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Medical professionals believe that an overactive GABA will leave an individual with excessive stress and anxiety. When this transmitter is interrupted and slowed down with benzo, you may feel calmer and at ease, thus causing the ‘high’ felt by users
Benzodiazepine (BZD, BDZ, BZs) is a psychoactive drug. The chemical structure of a benzo includes two parts: the benzene ring and the diazepine ring counterpart. Fused together, these parts create the psychoactive drug that produces an enhancing effect on GAMA and the GABA receptors, leading to an overall feeling of hypnosis and sedation. It also contains muscle relaxing properties, anti-anxiety properties, and anticonvulsant properties.
Using benzos for a longer time than prescribed or abusing them can be incredibly dangerous to your health, especially in the brain, as that is where the drug operates. Not only can it cause brain damage over a period of time, but there are also many short-term side effects that can harm your body as well.
While these short-term side effects can be frightening, they aren’t nearly as bad as the long- term effects that benzos can have on the brain. After prolonged use in high doses, there is a potential for extreme effects on the brain, including:
Studies, including one the British Medical Journal in 2014, have shown that prolonged use of benzos can lead to an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Abusing benzos can also lead to an early onset of dementia, and those who abuse the drug have a 50 percent higher chance of getting dementia in their lives.
Some of the effects on the brain can occur during withdrawal. These include brain zaps and shocks, head shocks, electrical shocks, brain shivers, and brain fog. None of these are technically dangerous, but the feeling can be excruciating, or downright frightening.
If you want to get off of benzos, including Xanax, you should never stop using it abruptly or cold turkey, as this can bring on terrible side effects. Always work with a medical professional to wean or taper off benzos.
There is also a high risk of overdose when it comes to benzos, as they are relaxers and most people won’t notice that they have taken too much until it is too late. It is imperative to note the different overdose symptoms of benzos, as an overdose can easily turn fatal.
The best way to mitigate damage due to benzos is to stop using or abusing the drug. However, remember that the withdrawing should occur in a slow and patient process, rather than quitting cold turkey. In cases where a user is severely dependent on the drug, quitting cold turkey may result in psychosis, seizures, and even death.
In most cases, professional detox in a medical facility is an optimal way to get off benzos, as the specialists will help with the step by step process and offer different medications to help with the withdrawal.
Some users may also have prolonged withdrawal effects like feelings of depression, anxiety, and sleeping difficulties. Remember that the intensity and duration of the withdrawal will differ from person to person, but getting help and recovering from benzo addiction is the best way to ensure that no further brain damage is being done.
Benzos are technically safe when used in small doses over a short amount of time. However, if your use progresses and you become addicted to the drug, it can cause physical and mental detriment. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re in that category, please reach out for recovery help as soon as possible.
While studies are still being conducted on the connection between benzos and brain damage, it is ultimately clear that benzos have a negative impact and affect the memory and receptors in the brain, that could lead to an early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Quitting now is your best bet for a healthier brain and staving off any of the long-lasting side effects that go hand in hand with benzos.
Drugs.com. Benzodiazepines. (February 5, 2019) Retrieved from from https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/benzodiazepines.html
Psychology Today. Brain Damage from Benzodiazepines. (November 18, 2010) Retrieved from from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/side-effects/201011/brain-damage-benzodiazepines
British Medical Journal. Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: case-control study. (September 2014) Retrieved from from https://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g5205
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The effects of benzodiazepines on cognition.(2005) Retrieved from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15762814
verywellmind. How Long Does Withdrawal From Benzodiazepines Last? (July 17, 2019) Retrieved from from https://www.verywellmind.com/benzodiazepine-withdrawal-4588452
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. News Alerts. New Research Reinforces Suspected Grim Future for Benzodiazepine Users. (March 8, 2016) Retrieved from from https://www.cchrint.org/2016/03/08/new-research-reinforces-grim-future-for-benzodiazepine-users/