Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are psychotropic medications typically given to people who are suffering from anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety include a heightened nervous system, excessive worry and rapid heart beat. Benzodiazepines calm the body and the mind, thus reducing anxiety symptoms. Benzodiazepines can also be used to treat seizures, depression due to anxiety, panic disorders and/or insomnia, according to Drugs.com.
How They Work
Chemicals in the brain, called neurotransmitters, are often imbalanced in individuals with mental health issues. According to Rxlist.com, benzodiazepines affect a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA reduces the activity of nerves in the brain (thus reducing anxiety), and the benzodiazepines increase the effects of GABA.
Xanax (generic name is alprazolam) is among the most popular brands of benzodiazepines. It is most often used to treat anxiety or panic attacks. It can also be used to treat individuals who are depressed because of their anxiety. There are two types of Xanax: regular Xanax and Xanax XR. Xanax XR lasts longer in the body. An individual may take between 0.25mg to 4mg per day, depending on what the doctor deems appropriate.
Valium (generic name is diazepam) is used to treat anxiety disorders or for the short-term relief of anxiety. It can be used to treat muscle spasms or symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as agitation and tremors. It may also be used to treat certain types of seizure disorders. The dosage of Valium depends on what the doctor is treating, as well as the patient's individualized symptoms. Broadly speaking, the dosage of Valium can be between 1mg to 40mg daily.
Klonopin (generic name is clonazepam) is a medication to treat anxiety, certain types of epilepsy, seizures and panic attacks, according to Drugs.com. Klonopin is a long-lasting benzodiazepine. The doses are 0.25mg, 0.5mg, 1mg, or 2mg. For individuals with seizures, the dose should not exceed 1.5mg per day divided into three doses, according to rxlist.com. In patients with panic attacks, the dosage should be 0.25mg as needed throughout the day.
Ativan (generic name is lorazepam) is used to treat individuals with anxiety or anxiety with depressive symptoms. The dosages are 0.5mg, 1mg or 2.mg, according to rxlist.com. Although everyone's tolerance differs, the usual range is 2mg to 6mg a day. These are taken throughout the day, and the largest dose is usually before bedtime to help with insomnia related to anxiety.
Common side effects of benzodiazepines include, but are not limited to: clumsiness, constipation, cough, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, headache, changes in appetite and sexual desire, increased saliva production, trouble concentrating, weakness, weight changes, unsteadiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, runny nose, muscle aches and nervousness, according to drugs.com. If you develop a sudden allergic reaction to the medication, seek medical attention immediately.
Abuse of benzodiazepines is common. To avoid becoming addicted to your medication, take it as directed by your doctor and do not give any of your medication to anyone else. Others without anxiety issues may feel a “high” from the medication and may become addicted to it.