What are benzodiazepines, and how do they work?
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs primarily used for treating anxiety, but they also are effective in treating several other conditions. The exact mechanism of action of benzodiazepines is not known, but they appear to work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, chemicals that nerves release in order to communicate with other nearby nerves. One of these neurotransmitters is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that suppresses the activity of nerves. Scientists believe that excessive activity of nerves may be the cause of anxiety and other psychological disorders, and benzodiazepines reduce the activity of nerves in the brain and spinal cord by enhancing the effects of GABA.
For what conditions are benzodiazepines used?
Benzodiazepines are used for treating:
anxiety and panic
seizures (convulsions), and
insomnia or trouble sleeping.
They also are used for:
sedation prior to surgery or diagnostic procedures,
alcohol withdrawal and drug associated agitation,
nausea and vomiting,
Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), chlorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and midazolam are used for anxiety disorders.
Clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), lorazepam (Ativan), clobazam (Onfi), and diazepam (Valium) are used for seizure disorders.
Estazolam (Prosom), flurazepam (Dalmane), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion) are used for insomnia or trouble sleeping.
Midazolam (Versed), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium) are used in anesthesia.
Diazepam (Valium) also is used for muscle relaxation.
Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) is used for alcohol withdrawal.
unsteadiness (especially in older people, who may have falls and injure themselves as a result)
nausea (feeling sick)
low blood pressure
increased saliva production
sight problems (such as double vision)
changes in sexual desire
incontinence (loss of bladder control)
jaundice (yellow skin)
breast development in men