Benzodiazepines: What Are They, Side Effects and Risk

Benzodiazepines, which are usually known as “benzos,” are a class of psychotropic medication primarily used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms. How do benzodiazepines work? They increase GABA activity, one of the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitters.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that decreases neuronal activity, making neurons less active. This leads to a relaxing effect. By enhancing GABA activity, benzodiazepines can manage anxiety and produce calmness.

Although benzodiazepines are highly effective in treatment, you need to know how to use them responsibly, their adverse effects, and their risks. Despite their effectiveness, benzodiazepines have a high possibility of dependence, addiction, and misuse.

Side Effects

Although benzodiazepines are effective, they produce side effects as well. The typical side effects are dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, tiredness, headache, dry mouth, nausea, constipation, and sexual dysfunction or impaired ability. However, these side effects depend on the type of benzodiazepine and an individual’s sensitivity to the drug.

Side effects such as drowsiness affect the patient’s ability to concentrate, perform complex tasks that require mental alertness, and ability to operate machinery. Dizziness and lightheadedness often occur when you stand up quickly after sitting or lying down for some time. Fatigue and weakness are also side effects.

Blurred vision and difficulty focusing can affect one’s ability to drive safely or perform tasks requiring keenness. Moreover, disorientation and cognitive impairment might exist, particularly for the elderly or people with pre-existing mental disorders.

Benzodiazepines often cause headaches as a side effect and these can range from mild to severe. Dry mouth, nausea, and constipation are common digestive side effects of benzodiazepines, while changes in appetite are less common but may happen.

Long-Term Use and Dependence

One of the most apparent dangers related to the use of benzodiazepines is the possibility of addiction and dependence. If you wonder how do benzodiazepines work, benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that can create feelings of relaxation, euphoria as well as calmness.

The brain may become tolerant to the effects of benzodiazepines when used for a prolonged period. Therefore, the patient ends up taking more dosage to achieve the same effect, and this may result in physical and psychological dependence.

Risk of Abuse

Besides the risk of dependence, benzodiazepines may also be misused. Some patients abuse benzodiazepines to obtain a euphoric or calming effect. One of the factors that contribute to benzodiazepine addiction is the pleasurable effects that patients seek to experience when they self-medicate or to boost the effects of other substances, such as alcohol or opioids.

Benzodiazepines can lead to addiction, overdose, and even mortality, especially when abused in combination with other drugs substances. When Benzodiazepines are used together with alcohol or opioids, they can lead to respiratory depression, coma, or even death.


If you ask, how do benzodiazepines work? Remember that even though benzodiazepines have proven to be productive in managing certain conditions, they should be cautiously used and only under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Always take benzodiazepines as prescribed and consult your doctor on any concerns or side effects you may experience.

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