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Benzodiazepine Dependence


What is Benzodiazepine Dependence?

Benzodiazepines (“benzos”) have muscle-relaxant, anticonvulsant and sleep-inducing effects that can cause both a physical and psychological dependence on the drugs. Tolerance to a benzo reduces the efficacy of the drug for relieving the symptoms for which it was prescribed and lead to higher dosing over time.

Is Benzodiazepine Dependence Dangerous?

The risk factors for benzodiazepine dependence include long-term use beyond four weeks, use of high doses, use of potent short-acting benzodiazepines, addictive personalities, and proclivity for drug abuse. Use of short-acting benzodiazepines leads to repeated withdrawal effects that are alleviated by the next dose, which reinforces dependence in the individual. Repeated withdrawals from benzodiazepines have been shown to cause increasingly severe withdrawal symptoms, including an increased risk of seizures; a phenomena known as kindling. Benzo withdrawal symptoms can emerge despite slow reduction but can be reduced by a slower rate of withdrawal. The time needed to withdraw can vary from a couple of hours to a day or more and often depends on length of use, dosage taken, lifestyle, health, and social and environmental stress factors.

What are Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms from benzos can range from a mild and short-lasting syndrome to a prolonged and severe syndrome that includes anxiety, depressed mood, perceptual disturbances, dysphoria, sleep disturbance, hypersensitivity to touch and pain, tremors, shakiness, muscular aches or pains, muscular twitches, sweating, ringing in the ears, headaches and in some cases, psychosis and epileptic seizures.

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