What are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?

If you are someone you know has a prescription for benzos, knowing the side effects of Benzodiazepines is essential. Benzos often start as a prescription for a serious sleep or anxiety problem, maybe even anesthesia, but long term, the side effects of benzos can compound.


What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines, sometimes called “benzos” for short, represent a class of drugs used for sedation. Benzo side effects vary based on the reason for its administration because the reason dictates how much is prescribed by a doctor.

Benzos like Xanax, valium, or Klonopin might be given for panic attacks, seizures, or other anxiety disorders. Stronger versions like lorazepam might be used by a doctor for anesthesia.

Benzodiazepines have many uses in the medical field because they work by slowing down the transmission of GABA in the brain, so they calm or sedate people. Recent medical research has considered using strong doses of benzodiazepines after serious trauma in order to prevent PTSD because the benzos can be strong enough to stop your brain from writing short-term memory into long-term memory. So, if there aren’t memories of the trauma, there isn’t PTSD.


However, the use of prescription benzodiazepines comes with many risks and side effects.


  • In 2019, over 16% of overdose opioid deaths involved benzodiazepines.
  • Between 1996 and 2013, prescriptions for benzodiazepines increased from1 to 13.5 million.
  • The quantity for prescriptions increased too during the same period, from 1 kg to 3.6 kg.


What are the Side Effects of Benzodiazepines?

The side effects of benzodiazepines are many, and what you experience will depend on your situation, what other drugs you are taking (if any), and how much of the benzos you take. Common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Memory problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Light-headedness
  • Muscle problems
  • Constipation
  • Nausea


Other, less common side effects can include:

  • Tremors
  • Incontinence or difficulty urinating
  • Digestive problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rashes
  • Changed to sexual desire


How Can Benzos Affect the Body?

Long term, the side effects of benzos start with addiction. When benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat sleep disorders, the effects start to wear off after just a few weeks which means the amount of benzos used to achieve the same effect goes up. With time this can manifest in the form of addiction.

The cognitive impairment will happen with the long-term use of benzodiazepines in many cases. Because benzodiazepines change the production and release of GABA in your brain, something that helps you with sleep and calming neural activity, long term use can cause things like:


  • Drowsiness
  • Ataxia
  • Amnesia


Similarly, regular use of benzodiazepines can result in secondary and tertiary side effects like increased motor vehicle crashes by those who are driving while under the influence. Being under the influence of benzos is the same as being drunk.

Another study found that increased use of benzodiazepines long-term in people over the age of 65 increased the risk of hip fractures by 50%, given the increased risk for unsteadiness and muscle problems.


How Do I Know How Benzos Will Affect Me?

The best way to know the side effects of benzodiazepines is to check with a medical professional first. If your doctor feels that you may benefit from taking benzodiazepines, they may try to start you off with a low dosage to make sure there are no negative reactions before increasing the dosage.

Good anxiety treatment will tackle a comprehensive range of problems contributing to your anxiety. For many people, anxiety does not exist in isolation. It is coupled with other mental health problems (some of which are also rooted in genetics) like depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse.


Contact us today to learn how we can help you with anxiety treatment.

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