What are benzodiazepines and mechanism of action?
Benzodiazepines are man-made medications that cause mild to severe depression of the nerves within the brain (central nervous system) and sedation (drowsiness).
Seizures, anxiety, and other diseases that require benzodiazepine treatment may be caused by excessive activity of nerves in the brain. These drugs may work by enhancing the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that nerves in the brain use to send messages to one another. Gamma-aminobutyric acid reduces the activity of nerves in the brain and increasing the effect of GABA with a benzodiazepine, reduces brain activity.
Uses for benzodiazepines
Adult men and women use benzodiazepines to treat:
Status epilepticus (A life-threatening disorder of the brain.)
Other uses for benzodiazepines
These medications also are used for:
Sedation during surgery
The treatment various types of anxiety disorders, for example:
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Social anxiety disorder (when antidepressants aren't effective)
Panic disorder (when antidepressants aren't effective)
Benzodiazepine drugs (also called benzos) are habit forming and can lead to addiction. Long-term use also can lead to tolerance, which means that lower doses will become ineffective and patients will need higher doses. These drugs are abused to get 'high' due to their effects on the brain.
Withdrawal symptoms and signs for benzodiazepineIf you stop taking these medications abruptly you may experience withdrawal symptoms that include:
Increased anxiety and tension
Dry heaving and vomiting
Muscle pain and stiffness
A host of perceptual changes
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms depends on amount and duration of benzodiazepine use.