Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication, meaning that they slow down the functions of the body and brain. They can be prescribed to help with conditions such as anxiety or insomnia, which involves difficulty getting to or staying asleep. 

How Do Benzodiazepines Work?

The human body makes a natural chemical known as gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical reduces activity in the areas of your brain that are responsible for emotions, memory, reasoning, and essential functions such as breathing. Benzodiazepines are designed to increase the effects of GABA on the body and brain. As a result of this action, this medication can relax your muscles, make you feel sleepier, and reduce anxiety levels. 

When Are Benzodiazepines Prescribed?

Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed as a treatment for severe insomnia or severe anxiety. They are usually only considered when either of these conditions is having a significant impact on your life. There are different types of benzodiazepines that may be prescribed by a doctor to treat different types of conditions, such as panic disorder. In some situations, benzodiazepines might not be the most effective treatment option. Alternatives such as talk therapy or SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be prescribed instead. 

How Often to Take Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines can be addictive, therefore it’s important to know how often to take them and understand some of the main side effects of long term benzodiazepine addiction. Most benzodiazepines will be more effective when taken as a one-off dose or a short-term treatment under the supervision of your doctor. Your doctor will provide tailored advice for you, but in general you should avoid taking this medication every day and avoid taking it for longer than four weeks. 

If you take benzodiazepines for longer than four weeks continuously, your brain can quickly get used to their effects, making them less likely to keep working for you. Along with this, taking them for long periods of time continuously can also make your brain more sensitive to natural brain chemicals when you stop taking them. 

Who Are Benzodiazepines Not Suitable For?

It’s important to be honest about your medical history and symptoms if you are requesting this medication from your doctor. Normally, you will not be a good fit for benzodiazepines if you have sleep apnea, severe lung disease or breathing problems, severe kidney or liver disease, or myasthenia gravis, which is a neuromuscular condition. While benzodiazepines may still be prescribed at your doctor’s discretion, they may be cautious about offering you this medication if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, chest and lung problems, muscle weakness, or a personality disorder diagnosis. 

Taking Benzodiazepines with Other Medication

Combing benzodiazepines with other types of medication can alter the effects that it has. In some cases, it may lead to negative side effects. Antipsychotics or antidepressants may be prescribed at the same time as benzodiazepines. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about being prescribed benzodiazepines while taking another medication. 

Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed on a short-term, low-dose basis. Since they can be addictive and lead to serious side effects if not taken correctly, it’s important to follow the advice of your doctor carefully if you have been prescribed them.