List Of Commonly Abused Benzodiazepines | Strongest To Weakest
Benzodiazepines are drugs prescribed to treat anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and insomnia. They’re often abused because of their sedative-hypnotic properties and the pleasurable sense of relaxation they can produce.
There are many types of benzodiazepines. Some are stronger than others, and some last longer. Which one a doctor prescribes depends on your personal needs.
The strength of a benzodiazepine depends on its potency as well as its half-life. Half-life is how long it takes for your body to metabolize and excrete half of the drug dose.
Long-acting benzodiazepines take effect gradually and stay in your system for a prolonged period. They’re typically prescribed for anxiety.
Short-acting benzodiazepines take effect quickly but don’t last as long. They’re often prescribed for insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep).
List Of Commonly Abused Benzodiazepines From Strongest To Weakest
Stronger benzodiazepines are more commonly abused than weaker ones because they have a more intense effect. Some people prefer fast-acting “benzos” that hit their system quickly. Others prefer a longer-lasting high.
High-potency, long-acting benzodiazepines are the strongest:
- Clonazepam (Klonopin): Clonazepam is prescribed to treat panic disorders and some seizure disorders. It can help reduce the occurrence and severity of panic attacks and anxiety.
- Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol): Flunitrazepam has the same potency as lorazepam (Ativan), but lasts longer. It’s illegal in the United States but has a reputation as a date-rape drug (“roofies”) because it’s primarily abused to sedate people without their knowledge.
High-potency, long-acting benzodiazepines are also strong but don’t last as long:
- Triazolam (Halcion): Triazolam is prescribed for short-term insomnia relief. It slows brain activity, so you can relax and go to sleep.
- Alprazolam (Xanax): Alprazolam treats anxiety disorders and panic attacks by reducing abnormal brain excitement. It’s one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines for anxiety and also one of the most abused.
- Lorazepam (Ativan): Lorazepam is an anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) drug prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, and certain types of seizures. It’s also used in combination with anesthesia before surgery.
Low-potency, long-acting benzodiazepines are weaker but still have a prolonged effect:
- Diazepam (Valium): Diazepam is prescribed to treat anxiety, acute seizures, continuous seizures, and muscle spasms. It’s also used in detox for alcohol withdrawal or to help someone taper off a stronger benzodiazepine before addiction treatment.
- Clorazepate (Tranxene): Clorazepate is used for anxiety and alcohol withdrawal. It can also help with seizures when combined with other medications. It reduces abnormal electrical brain activity.
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium): Chlordiazepoxide is prescribed for anxiety and may be used before anesthesia for surgery. It can also ease agitation resulting from alcohol withdrawal.
- Flurazepam (Dalmane): Flurazepam treats insomnia by reducing brain activity. It’s typically prescribed only for short-term use.
Low-potency, short-acting benzodiazepines are the weakest:
- Temazepam (Restoril): Temazepam is prescribed to treat insomnia. It works similarly to other benzodiazepine sleep medications. If symptoms don’t improve in seven to 10 days, a doctor may recommend an alternative treatment option.
- Oxazepam (Serax): Oxazepam is used for alcohol withdrawal and other types of anxiety.
Most benzodiazepines are intended for short-term use only, as they are addictive and less effective after prolonged use.
Dangers Of Benzodiazepine Abuse
As central nervous system (CNS) depressants, benzodiazepines slow down vital functions like breathing and heart rate so you can relax. They target gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain and enhance the functioning of GABA, which calms brain activity.
Benzodiazepines also increase dopamine, a chemical in the brain’s reward system that gives you a pleasurable feeling. When you abuse benzodiazepines, your brain adapts and doesn’t naturally regulate its own activity. It begins to crave the drugs and becomes addicted to them.
Tolerance & Dependence
Even with prescribed use, you may develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines, so you need a higher or more frequent dose to produce the same effect. Increasing your dosage against medical advice is dangerous and can lead to physical dependence as well as addiction.
If you’re physically dependent on benzodiazepines, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms if you abruptly stop using them. Withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening and keep many people from successfully stopping drug abuse.
Excessive Sedation & Overdose
Like most prescription drugs, benzodiazepines can have side effects, such as drowsiness, muscle weakness, and memory problems. They can cause excessive sedation that interferes with everyday life. These unpleasant effects are more likely to occur with drug abuse.
Abusing benzodiazepines also increases the risk of overdose, especially if you combine them with other CNS depressants, like alcohol or opioids.
Benzodiazepine Addiction Treatment
If you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s benzodiazepine abuse, we can help. At Ark Behavioral Health, we offer personalized treatment programs that meet you where you are to give you the best chance of recovery success.
To learn more about commonly abused benzodiazepines or our addiction treatment options, connect with us today.
American Family Physician - Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives
Johns Hopkins Medicine - Benzodiazepines
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Well-Known Mechanism Underlies Benzodiazepines’ Addictive Properties
University of Utah - Sedative-Hypnotic Equivalency Chart
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