Benzodiazepines are commonly defined as one of several different types of lipophilic (easily absorbed by the body's lipids) amines that are used as muscle relaxants, sedatives or tranquilizers. Ultimately, lipids can be found in the fat in the body.
So, Benzodiazepines Are Drugs, Right?
Yes, benzodiazepines are used to describe specific drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, just to name some familiar ones. And, all benzodiazepines generally are prescribed to relieve anxiety, or as sedatives or tranquilizers, although they can have other uses.
What Are the effects of these drugs? How can that lead to abuse or addiction?
Diazepam, which is the generic name for Valium, produces a calming effect on the body. When this occurs, people who take this drug can feel less anxious or nervous, and feel as though they are better able to cope with situations. For some people, this can be very important, as without Valium, they would literally feel overwhelmed with constant anxiety or worry, and could possibly not be able to function at all. Using Valium allows them to carry out their daily tasks and responsibilities more efficiently.
Some people, however, use Valium as a "means of escape." Valium can produce a dissociative effect; that is, a person may feel unaffected by anything that occurs. For some people, this is exactly how they want to feel at all times. In order to maintain this feeling, they take Valium in larger and larger doses, or take it more often than they should. When this occurs, this is a sign that Valium is being abused.
Klonopin, another drug in the Benzodiazepines family, is one of many drugs that can be used for different medical reasons. Not only is Klonopin (the brand name for clonazepam) used as an anti-anxiety drug, just as Valium is, it also has a sedative effect. In other words, it helps a person to sleep. Klonopon can be prescribed more often as a sleep aid than an anti-anxiety drug because it produces this effect so well.
However, just like people who take Valium for the dissociative effect, some people would rather sleep than face the daily challenges of life. For them, Klonopin provides this sleep; that is, until they have built up a tolerance to it and must take more and more in order to achieve the sedative effect. When this happens, the drug is being abused.
Xanax, like Valium, helps a person to "calm down." Like Valium, Xanax can make it possible for people to go about their daily lives without suffering constant feelings of anxiety or worry. Again, this may be necessary for some people, as otherwise they would not be able to function at all.
However, like Valium, Xanax can be abused by those who want to continue having the calm feelings that this drug gives. In order to do this, they continue taking the drug even though they no longer actually need it, or don't need it as much as they did. Or, if they are taking it on a daily basis, they start taking more whenever it is time for the next dose, or they do not wait long enough between doses.
How Can Benzodiazepine Abuse Be Avoided?
First, a person should determine if there is indeed a medical necessity for such medication. Could the feelings of anxiety be controlled through counseling, learning relaxation techniques, or other ways that do not require drugs? Have any of these been tried? Was enough time given to see if they would indeed work? All these are questions a person can ask in an effort to decide if Benzodiazepine use can be avoided. If it is determined that benzodiazepine use is needed, the health care professional prescribing the medication should carefully monitor the amount given and the frequency in which the patient is asking for refills. If it is apparent that too much is being taken, the health care professional should voice his concerns to the patient.
Patients should take care to follow dosage instructions exactly, and should monitor their physical and emotional feelings closely. As soon as it can be determined that the medication has worked, and the feelings of anxiety are under control, the person should begin a gradual decrease of the dosage, under medical supervision, until complete cessation has been achieved.