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Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines

Published on March 29, 2021
Side Effects Of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilizers, can cause drowsiness, sedation, dry mouth, and dizziness immediately after taking them. They can also affect your health in the long-term. 

Many benzos are controlled substances, which are strictly regulated by the government. Not taking them as directed may increase your risk of side effects.

Short-Term Effects Of Benzodiazepines

After taking a benzodiazepine, you may start to feel some effects right away. Most benzos, such as alprazolam, diazepam, and lorazepam are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and alcohol withdrawal. Common brand names include Xanax, Valium, and Ativan.

They may also cause adverse effects, such as:

  • sedation
  • drowsiness
  • physical and mental impairment
  • decreased blood pressure
  • light-headedness
  • decreased concentration

You may be at risk of these side effects every time you take benzodiazepines.

Long-Term Effects Of Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They mostly affect neurotransmitters in the brain, which can affect how your brain works long-term. After long-term use, you may be at an increased risk of physical and mental health problems.

Some studies have reported noticeable declines in cognition after long-term use of diazepam (Valium). Others have noticed a higher chance of hip fractures in patients on benzos who are 65 or older.

Are Benzodiazepines Habit-Forming?

Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming. In most cases, benzodiazepines are prescribed for short periods of time. Long-term benzodiazepine use may increase your chances of tolerance and physical dependence.

Physical dependence can lead to withdrawal when the use of benzodiazepines stops. There is evidence that benzo withdrawal can be more intense if higher doses were taken. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and may include:

  • hallucinations
  • seizures
  • worsened anxiety
  • insomnia
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • intense cravings
  • short-term memory loss

The withdrawal timeline depends on the type of benzo being taken. For short-acting benzos, withdrawal can start hours after the last dose. For long-acting benzos, withdrawal usually takes longer to start, but also lasts longer.

Are Benzos Effective For Long-Term Use?

Benzodiazepines have long been prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and other symptoms. Their long-term effectiveness is in question and there are other effective treatments, but they continue to be prescribed.

Antidepressants have been shown to effectively treat both depression and anxiety. Many treatment programs offer therapy, a non-medicated option to help your mental health. The long-term side effects of benzos may even be a reason people seek out professional care.

Mixing Benzodiazepines With Opioids

Benzodiazepines are one target of substance abuse. One way they are abused is by mixing them with opioids. This makes a more intense “high” caused by both substances, but is also very dangerous.

Mixing these substances greatly increases your risk of a life-threatening overdose. Benzos and opioids have an additive effect when mixed, which increases the potency of a dose. Telling signs of benzo or opioid overdose include:

  • respiratory depression (extremely slowed breathing)
  • difficulty breathing
  • unconsciousness or coma

Without immediate medical attention, benzo or opioid overdose can cause permanent brain damage or even death.

Treatment For Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepine dependence and withdrawal can be difficult to go through, but you should not try to handle it alone. To find treatment options for benzodiazepine withdrawal and addiction, please contact us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

American Family Physician - Risks Associated With Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use
Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Benzodiazepines
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Ativan (lorazepam)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - KLONOPIN TABLETS (clonazepam)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - LIBRIUM (CHLORDIAZEPOXIDE HYDROCHLORIDE)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Xanax

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