Benzodiazepines possess sedative, hypnotic, anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, and muscle relaxant properties. They boost the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces the activity of neurons that cause stress and anxiety. Examples of benzodiazepine drugs are:
- Xanax, Xanax XR
- Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat
Benzodiazepines: Why/When Are They Prescribed?
Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers and are of the most prescribed medications in the United States. These drugs treat medical conditions such as:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Seizure control
- Muscle relaxation
- Inducing amnesia for uncomfortable procedures
- Given before an anesthetic (such as before surgery)
These drugs are highly addictive. Despite their many helpful uses, they can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Dependence can result in withdrawal symptoms and even seizures when they are stopped abruptly.
Benzodiazepines: Prescribed For aging Alzheimer’s patients
Benzodiazepines are prescribed for aging Alzheimer’s patients to reduce their anxiety and insomnia. A recent study examined data from more than 31,000 Finnish people with Alzheimer’s, most of whom were women in their 80s. Drugs in the study included Valium, Xanax, Librium, Ativan, Restoril and Serax. Those who were taking one or more benzodiazepines were 41 percent more likely to die than those who took none, with the highest risk being within the first four months of taking the drug.
This study is part of a growing body of research targeting the risks of unnecessary prescriptions and the unusual effects that can be experienced by older adults and those with cognitive decline.