Benzodiazepines, sometimes called benzos, are drugs that are meant to calm the brain by enhancing how the GABA receptors function.
They are in charge of opening up the GABA activated chloride channels and therefore enabling the entry of chloride ions into the neuron.
Because of their sedative effects, benzos are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the US as well as in most parts of the world.
They are classified as either ultra-short acting, short-acting or long-acting. Most people are familiar with Xanax and Valium, both commonly used benzos.
Although they are used for the treatment of a number of conditions including insomnia, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, seizures, agitation, alcohol withdrawal and even muscle spasms, benzos can also have a range of side effects especially when abused. Including in the sexual department!
1. Erectile Dysfunction
One of the major and most common side effects that benzos have on users is erectile dysfunction.
The sedative and relaxing nature of the drug is responsible for decreased interest in sex and other sexual activities, a decrease in the excitement that comes from sexual intercourse and decreased sensations and pleasure.
This is largely due to the fact that benzos inhibit the production of testosterone which is a sexual hormone that helps trigger and retain sexual desire in both men and women.
One may therefore experience problems during ejaculation or even reduced and diminished orgasms. In some cases, the intercourse in itself may be accompanied by pain.
The risk of erectile dysfunction is especially large in male users of benzos.
2. Psychomotor Side Effects
The abuse of benzos can also have adverse effects on ones psychomotor abilities.
This is especially prevalent among elderly users of the drug. Because of the lower levels of concentration, dizziness and weakness associated with the long term use of benzos, elderly users tend to be more prone to slips and falls.
This means that the risk of getting fractures also increases drastically.
Even people driving under the influence of benzos are likely to have an increased risk of being involved in a road accident.
Over-sedation from benzos has also been associated with increased accidents at work especially in cases involving the operation of machinery.
3. Cognitive Side Effects
Yet another common side effect of using benzos is the impairment of memory.
This may be because of the sedative nature of benzos. One of the most commonly occurring cognitive side effects of benzos is a decreased episodic memory.
This means that people who use benzos may experience memory lapses hours after using benzos.
The memory lapses result in the patient not having any recollection of even the most recent events and activities.
The cognitive side effects of benzos are especially heavy in seniors and most may experience forgetfulness and confusion after using benzos.
4. Paradoxical Reactions
Though benzos are used to treat insomnia and anxiety, they have been found to have effects which are directly opposite to their intended uses.
It is these reactions that are called paradoxical side effects.
They include increased levels of anxiety, excessive talking, increased levels of insomnia, vivid and scary dreams, increased aggressiveness and even higher levels of depression.
These reactions are not very common, however, if they occur it is among people using the short-acting benzos or among patients who have just started taking benzos.
Probably the most worrying thing about the paradoxical reactions brought by benzos is the fact that they mostly affect children and the elderly.
Other paradoxical reactions to benzos include hallucinations and changes in personality.
As extreme as it may sound, this is actually one of the most worrying side effects of the prolonged use of benzos.
Various studies have established that the use of benzos in the treatment of depression and anxiety can be associated with increased suicidal tendencies in users.
This is largely because of paradoxical effects such as increased anxiety and increased aggression, which end up emotionally eating the patient from within.
Among the elderly and individuals with respiratory problems, the use of benzos may cause the respiratory system to fail hence resulting in death.
The risk of self-poisoning increases when benzos are used together with other drugs.
6. Emotional Side Effects
One of the most common side effects of benzos is the decreased ability to feel emotions.
Long term users of benzos may find that they no longer get feelings of pain nor of pleasure.
So extreme is the effect of benzos on emotions that some long term users have reported not being able to appropriately respond to family events in terms of emotions.
This effect is probably because benzos have the effect of inhibiting the centers of the limbic system that are associated with triggering human emotion.
7. Increased Risk During Pregnancy
Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid the use of benzos during the late stages of pregnancy except under situations that warrant the use of benzos.
Even so, use of the drug should be under the supervision of a qualified physician.
Pregnant ladies using benzos may experience neonatal complications.
In addition to this, the slow rates of metabolism in the fetus and neonate may result in significant concentrations of benzos in the infant even as late as 2 weeks after birth.
When this happens, the infant may experience hypotonia and even a lack of interest in suckling.
Mothers using benzos are also advised not to breastfeed their babies as the breast milk may contain small doses of benzodiazepines.
Babies exposed to such breast milk may experience irritability, excessive crying and even sedation.
8. Addiction As A Side Effect
Due to the increased tolerance that benzo users may experience after some time, they may find themselves having to increase the dosage of the benzodiazepines for them to work.
With time, this leads to an addiction to benzos.
In fact, some patients may go as far as getting more supplies by visiting several doctors or illegally buying more un-prescribed benzos from drug stores.
When this happens, patients may find themselves depending on the drug for psychological balance and emotional well-being.
Patients who are highly dependent on benzos end up being chronic users hence exposing themselves to even greater risks.
9. Withdrawal As A Side Effect
Once addiction happens, benzodiazepine users may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms whenever they try to reduce the dosage or stop taking the drug.
Restlessness, increased irritability, inhibited vision, headaches and profuse sweating are just some of the withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced.
If withdrawals are experienced, it is highly advised that the patient seek professional help because withdrawing cold-turkey from benzos can actually kill you.
- Benzo Addiction Support: http://BenzoAddictionSupport.com