Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for people who suffer a variety of ailments particularly anxiety and insomnia. Most are administered orally or they can also be given intravenously. These are relatively safe, and if a person is overdose, it will rarely result in death.
These are well-tolerated and effective drugs in the short-term for a wide range of conditions such as convulsive disorders, muscle spasticity, involuntary movement disorder, presurgical sedation, detoxification from other substances and alcohol associated with cardiovascular or gastrointestinal conditions. However, using it can be addicting. These agents are often taken in combination with other drugs of abuse by patients with addiction disorders. Therefore, proper care is ought to be use when benzodiazepines are prescribed to the patients with a remote or existing history of substance abuse.
Over dosage of benzodiazepines, particularly when combined with alcohol may lead to coma. Long-term use of it can cause physical dependence. The use of benzodiazepines must therefore start only after medical consultation; and it should be prescribed the smallest dosage possible to provide an acceptable symptom of relief. The most common symptoms of overdose include the central nervous system (CNS); depression and intoxication with impaired balance, and slurred speech. Severe symptoms include coma and respiratory depression.
The long-term adverse effects of benzodiazepines include a general deterioration in both physical and mental health. This tends to increase with time. The adverse effects can include cognitive impairments and behavioral problems such as feelings of turmoil, difficulty in thinking constructively, loss of sex-drive and social phobia. There is increased anxiety and depression, loss of interest in leisure pursuits and interests, and inability to express feelings. There are paradoxical reactions such as aggression, irritability and impulsivity and suicidal behaviors which sometimes occur. These reactions happen after chronic use of benzodiazepines.
Adverse effects of benzodiazepines are also dangerous for the elderly. The adverse effects can be mistaken for the effects of old age. The elderly experience more dependence and are more sensitive to its effects of sedation, memory problems, impairment of motor coordination and increased risk of falls and vehicular accidents. The long term effects of benzodiazepines in the elderly can be similar to dementia, depression or anxiety syndromes and can progressively worsen over time. Benzodiazepines should be prescribed to the elderly with great caution and at low doses for only a short time.
Benzodiazepines are known to have damaging effects to the placenta and the fetus. They are associated with congenital malformations when used during pregnancy and may lead to heart deformities in the fetus. They should be avoided during pregnancy especially in the first trimester since the health of both mother and unborn baby are at risk.
Anyone suspected with an overdose of benzodiazepines should be treated as an emergency. Over dosage of this has its share of withdrawal symptoms which can take some time depending on the length of time the person has been using benzodiazepines. The use of benzodiazepines should be done with utmost care. It has its good benefits in the medical industry but it also has its bad effects when not properly used.