In the Netherlands, as many as 1 in 10 residents use one or more types of benzodiazepines.
These medicines are mainly prescribed for anxiety, insomnia and general restlessness.
Although benzodiazepines are very commonly prescribed, this does not mean that these drugs are harmless.
Already taking benzodiazepines?
Has your doctor recently prescribed you a benzodiazepine but you haven’t started it yet?
Do you know someone close to you who uses benzodiazepines?
Then I advise you to read this article carefully. After all, taking benzodiazepines is not without danger.
Purpose of this article: In this article you will learn what benzodiazepines are and how they work exactly. I also give you a list of benzodiazepines that are often prescribed in the Netherlands. You will learn why these drugs can be dangerous and you will be introduced to a much healthier alternative to overcome your fears.
What are Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines have a calming, muscle relaxant effect and reduce feelings of anxiety. These medicines are also often referred to as tranquilizers or benzos in colloquial terms.
Another popular name for benzodiazepines is ‘pammetjes’, after the last three letters of the active ingredient of these drugs (Bromazepam, Lorazepam, Temazepam, etc.).
Doctors almost always prescribe benzodiazepines as a temporary solution for anxiety or sleeping problems. Taking benzodiazepines for several weeks is generally considered safe.
Long-term use is always not recommended. There are several reasons for this:
Thanks to the relaxing effect of benzodiazepines, you will fall asleep more peacefully and your feelings of anxiety will decrease. After a few weeks on benzodiazepines, you should be able to go through life without them again.
Yet many users find it difficult to get rid of benzodiazepines. Curious why this is so? Then read on carefully.
Many users feel very good with benzodiazepines. In the evening a ‘pammetje’ before going to bed ensures that you calm down and fall asleep well and that feelings of anxiety are suppressed. So why not…
The problem with these drugs, however, is that your body can get so used to them that you become dependent on them after a while. You will then no longer feel well without your daily dose of benzodiazepines.
What’s more, if you use these agents for a longer period of time, there is a good chance that you will need an increasingly higher dose to achieve the same effect.
Is that so bad? Yes for sure!
A benzodiazepine addiction is not only very harmful, but also dangerous for both your physical and mental health.
There is also another important danger in benzodiazepines. These medicines can make you quite drowsy and tired. This decreases your reaction time and makes it harder for you to concentrate.
At home, at work and certainly in traffic, this can lead to very dangerous situations.
If you have been taking benzodiazepines for a long time, never stop taking these drugs abruptly. The use of benzodiazepines should always be gradually withdrawn. If you don’t, you could get withdrawal symptoms.
Even if you don’t stick to the daily dose that your doctor has prescribed, you can still experience withdrawal symptoms. But more on this later…
First, let’s take a look at how benzodiazepines work exactly.
How do benzodiazepines work?
In this section you will find out exactly how benzodiazepines work. Of course, this effect involves some medical science.
I know this isn’t always easy to understand. That is why I have tried to explain the effect of benzodiazepines as simply as possible.
Curious about how benzodiazepines affect your brain functions, be sure to read on.
Your brain contains stimulating neurotransmitters (glutamate) and inhibitory neurotransmitters (gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA for short). These neurotransmitters ensure optimal communication between the different neurons in your brain.
There is naturally a balance between these neurotransmitters. This ensures perfect communication between the neurons. If there is too much activity in the neurons, the GABA neurotransmitter ensures that the function is inhibited.
If you are deficient in GABA neurotransmitters or if they don’t work properly, you can get many psychological complaints. You can especially suffer from anxiety disorders, stress and sleep disorders.
Benzodiazepines activate the GABA receptors. As a result, the stimulating neurotransmitters are sufficiently inhibited. This restores a balance in the brain. As a result, fear, stress and tensions disappear and you start to feel calmer.
Now that you know exactly how benzodiazepines affect the brain, you may think that these drugs are the perfect way to conquer your fears.
Benzodiazepines can indeed help you suppress your anxiety, but unfortunately… they are certainly not the perfect drug.
Benzodiazepines cause a lot of unpleasant side effects. The use of benzodiazepines is therefore not without danger.
They can cause annoying but harmless side effects. Other side effects can be very serious and also dangerous.
Mild Side Effects
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Dry mouth
- Less sex drive
- Weight gain
- Skin problems
- vivid dreams
Serious side effects
- Fatigue, drowsiness, drowsiness
- Reduced responsiveness
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- think slower
- Decrease all feelings
- Breathing problems
- Impaired coordination
- muscle weakness
- Sweating and palpitations
- Habituation and dependence
These last side effects (habituation and dependence) can lead to very serious withdrawal symptoms if you decide to stop taking benzodiazepines. When these withdrawal symptoms occur and what they may be will be discussed later in this article.
The United States Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies benzodiazepines as substances that pose a low to moderate risk of addiction.
However, this classification is disputed by other experts. Research shows that after a few weeks, both physical and mental habituation can occur. This is also the case when these drugs are taken in limited doses.
There are many different types of benzodiazepines. Which medicine your doctor prescribes will mainly depend on your complaints. Some benzodiazepines have a very strong anti-anxiety effect. Other types help better with falling asleep.
If your fear is not in proportion to the circumstances, it is called an anxiety disorder. Let’s take arachnophobia or spider fear as an example.
If you are actually confronted with spiders, this confrontation can even lead to a panic attack . A benzodiazepine can offer a solution to keep these feelings of anxiety under control.
The main classification for benzodiazepines is by duration of action. With some of these products you immediately feel the effect, but this effect does not last long.
An example of this is Alprazolam . Other benzodiazepines have a longer effect, such as Frisium.
Overview list types of benzodiazepines
Do you take benzodiazepines or has your doctor prescribed medicines that you suspect are benzodiazepines? Then the list below can be very useful.
You will find both the generic name and the brand name of various benzodiazepines in this list. I also immediately mentioned the duration of action of the benzodiazepines. This way you immediately have all the information at a glance.
|Alprazolam (Xanax)||Short to medium duration of action|
|Bromazepam (Lexotanil)||Medium to long duration of action|
|Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)||Long operating time|
|Brotizolam (Lendormin)||Short operating time|
|Clobazam (Frisium)||Long operating time|
|Clonazepam (Ritrovil)||Medium to long duration of action|
|Clorazepic Acid (Traxene)||Long operating time|
|Diazepam (Valium)||Long to very long operating time|
|Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)||Long operating time|
|Flurazepam (Dalmadorm)||Medium duration of action|
|Ketazolam (Unakalm)||long acting|
|Loprazolam (Dormonoct)||Short operating time|
|Lorazepam (Temesta)||Short to medium duration of action|
|Lormetazepam (Noctamid)||Short operating time|
|Medazepam (Medazepam)||Long to very long operating time|
|Midazolam (Dormicum)||Short operating time|
|Nitrazepam (Mogadon)||Medium duration of action|
|Nordazepam (Calmday)||Long to very long operating time|
|Oxazepam (Seresta)||Short operating time|
|Prazepam (Reapam)||Long operating time|
|Temazepam (Levanxol)||Short operating time|
As I mentioned earlier, benzodiazepines can cause habituation and dependence. Depending on what you are taking these medicines for, your doctor will only prescribe them for a short or medium period of time.
As your body gets used to the use of benzodiazepines, you need higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect. Addiction to benzodiazepines can be both physical and mental.
This means that if you decide to stop taking benzodiazepines you could experience withdrawal symptoms. Especially if you have been taking benzodiazepines for a long time, it is important to gradually wean them off.
If you don’t, you will definitely get withdrawal symptoms. These can be not only very intense, but also dangerous.
Research has shown that as many as 40% of users who took benzodiazepines for more than 6 months experienced withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms usually start about 24 hours after the last dose. Depending on the person, these can last from a few days to several months.
The length of time in which you have taken benzodiazepines also plays a role in this. Other factors that influence the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms are the daily dose, alcohol or drug use and the combination with other medicines.
It is precisely because of these withdrawal symptoms that users often turn to benzodiazepines again. After all, life is much easier with a daily dose of these anti-anxiety drugs.
Do you want to know which withdrawal symptoms you can experience and why they can be dangerous? Then read on carefully.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines
When you stop taking benzodiazepines, your body usually goes through 3 phases.
The first phase
During the first phase you get so-called rebound phenomena. The condition for which you took these benzodiazepines may then return.
For example, if you took benzodiazepines for an anxiety disorder, you can experience these fears again in the first few days. These may even occur to a greater extent than before.
Very often, the intensity of these rebound phenomena has to do with the half-life of the type of benzodiazepine you were taking.
Rebound symptoms of short-acting drugs will occur more quickly than those of long-acting drugs. After all, the substances of the latter remain in the body longer.
The second phase
After about 5 days, the rebound symptoms may get worse.
Other withdrawal symptoms also appear at this stage. These can be quite intense for up to 28 days after taking the last dose. Some withdrawal symptoms can even last for months.
What these withdrawal symptoms can be is discussed in more detail later in this article. Let us first check what you can expect in the third phase.
The third phase
While you experience most of the withdrawal symptoms in the second phase, they can persist into the third phase as well.
You understand that these long-lasting symptoms can have a very negative impact on your quality of life.
When you stop taking benzodiazepines, you may experience both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
In order to inform you optimally about these withdrawal symptoms, I would like to list them for you.
Physical withdrawal symptoms
- Gastrointestinal complaints
- General pain complaints all over the body
- The feeling that ‘spiders’ are crawling under your skin
- muscle spasms
- Excessive sweating
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Hypersensitivity to light, sound or touch
- Impaired reaction time and concentration problems
Mental withdrawal symptoms
- Panic Attacks
- anxiety attacks
- Loss of sense of reality
- Hallucinations or delusions
- The feeling of ‘not quite there’
- Depressed feelings
- Suicidal Tendencies
If you have only been taking benzodiazepines for a few weeks, as prescribed by your doctor, the withdrawal symptoms are usually not as intense. Sometimes you may not experience any withdrawal symptoms at all.
If you have used these resources for a long time, never stop. If you do, these withdrawal symptoms will be very intense.
The big problem with these withdrawal symptoms is that they are very similar to the symptoms you experienced before taking these drugs. This makes the urge to take this drug again very strong. Try to avoid this.
If you do this anyway, there is a good chance that you will end up in a vicious circle. And of course you will never get rid of these resources again.
If you want to stop taking benzodiazepines, always do this in consultation with your doctor. This will draw up a dismantling schedule. If you follow this tapering schedule very carefully, the chance of withdrawal symptoms is quite small.
The effect of benzodiazepines seems quite simple: a daily dose of these drugs and you are freed from a lot of fears. But it’s not that simple at all. Your fears are indeed suppressed by it. However, you will never be able to completely get rid of your fears with benzodiazepines.
I hope this article has made it clear to you that there are indeed quite a few risks associated with taking benzodiazepines.