Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. They work by targeting the central nervous system to slow down brain activity and lower anxiety levels.
Common benzodiazepines include:
Hypnotics are generally used to treat sleep disorders and some are classified as benzodiazepines. Both drug types are central nervous system depressants.
Hypnotics (that are also benzodiazepines):
Hypnotics (that are NOT benzodiazepines):
Long-term use of benzodiazepines poses severe health risks, particularly in adults ages 55 and older. Among all prescription drug types, benzodiazepines pose the biggest risk for addiction among older adults.
Benzodiazepines can affect your judgment, memory, concentration and motor skills with long-term use. These side effects can last long after you discontinue use.
The risk of injuries, specifically hip fractures, increases at least 50% while using benzodiazepines. The drugs cause impaired movement and can make you feel off-balance, leading to potential falls and injuries.
Driving while taking benzodiazepines can be equated to driving with a blood alcohol level of between 0.05 and 0.079, just below the legal limit of 0.08.
You can develop a tolerance to benzodiazepines relatively quickly, which means you may need higher doses to treat the same symptoms. That can also result in patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms after only one month of daily use.
Benzodiazepines are generally not misused on their own. People who misuse them are also typically misusing other prescription drugs such as opioids or using other substances such as illegal drugs or alcohol.
Alcohol use while taking benzodiazepines can be fatal.
Alcohol metabolizes in the body first, which can lead to a dangerous build-up of benzodiazepines if you continue to use them along with alcohol.
Both substances depress your central nervous system and slow breathing. Taken together, your breathing can slow substantially and your risk for overdose and death increases.
Source: American Addiction Centers
Approximately 30% of opioid-related overdoses involve benzodiazepines.
Taken together, the drug combination increases your risk for overdose 10-fold because they both have sedative effects that can slow breathing and cause overdose and death.