Are benzodiazepines safe to take every day?Veronika Litinski, MSc Medicinal Chemistry, MBA
Are benzodiazepines safe? The answer is yes; benzodiazepines are safe when taken as directed over a short period of time. Benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed type of tranquilizer. They help with moderating insomnia, panic, and anxiety or before minor surgery.
How long can you take benzodiazepines safely?
Do not plan on taking these drugs routinely or for longer than two weeks because they are addictive. The wide range of benzodiazepines potency and effect duration requires an expert clinician to select the right medication. For some, stopping benzodiazepines too abruptly can cause severe withdrawal symptoms and worsen anxiety. Genetic factors influence individual response to these medications. Your DNA may guide safe and effective benzodiazepine therapy.
What conditions are Benzodiazepines prescribed for?
Benzodiazepines are prescribed to treat:
- Panic & anxiety
- Alcohol withdrawal (they can control seizures caused by alcohol withdrawal)
- Pre-surgery to relax patients, so they don’t experience the stress of the surgery
How do Benzodiazepines work?
Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are prescription medications that work by slowing brain activity and causing sedative and calming effects. But when people combine their prescription drugs with alcohol, they actually create much worse problems for themselves.
Are Benzodiazepines, opioids, alcohol, and other medications dangerous in combination?
Benzodiazepines mix poorly with some drugs. For example:
- Use of benzodiazepines before surgery is associated with a higher risk of opioid abuse when opioids like Percocet are prescribed for pain relief after surgery. When prescribed Tylenol #3 or Percocet, alert your pharmacist if you are taking a benzodiazepine to treat anxiety or depression.
- Benzodiazepines in higher doses can cancel out the effectiveness of ketamine, a drug sometimes prescribed for depression.
- The combination of antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol with the benzodiazepine drug lorazepam enhances both drugs’ sedative effects.
- If they’re used with common stimulant-type ADHD drugs, both drugs can cancel one another out
Accidental deaths involving benzodiazepines are frequent. The FDA and Health Canada added a warning label on benzodiazepines to urge the public to seek medical help if someone taking benzos experiences unusual dizziness, light-headedness, extreme sleepiness, slowed or difficult breathing, or unresponsiveness.
What are the common side effects of Benzodiazepines?
- They can make you feel dizzy, groggy, confused, and uncoordinated
- They can be addictive if taken for long periods of time
What are the different types of Benzodiazepines?
Short-acting benzodiazepines are used for sedation during surgery or as a sleep aid. In contrast, long-acting ones are prescribed for anxiety, depression, and management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
|clorazepate (Tranxene)||alprazolam (Xanax)||chlordiazepoxide (Librium)|
|midazolam (Versed)||lorazepam (Ativan)||clonazepam (Klonopin)|
|triazolam (Halcion)||clobazam (Onfi, Frisium)||diazepam (Valium, Diastat)|
As with most common medications, receiving a prescription tailored to your unique DNA profile can make all the difference in avoiding dangerous side effects and helping you feel better, sooner.
Which benzodiazepines are the best and safest for you?
Your liver enzymes break down drugs and are needed to transform them into active metabolites for your body to use. Depending on your genetics, your liver can have a slower or faster rate of processing various drugs.
- If your liver enzymes act too slowly on the tranquilizer, then you may feel sleepy or groggy. This effect can be even worse for the elderly because liver function declines with age. See our blog on how to prevent falls in the elderly if you’re interested to learn more about this.
- If your liver enzymes act too quickly, the drug may not stay in your system long enough to affect the condition for which it was prescribed.
Your doctor can prescribe the right benzodiazepine or an alternative for you by using information from a DNA analysis like Pillcheck, which helps determine how you will respond to many medications. If you are concerned about your benzodiazepine therapy, consult with your doctor.
Are benzodiazepines safe? Conclusions:
- Benzodiazepines are safe to take as directed for a short time. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to manage anxiety, insomnia, seizures, panic disorders, moderate alcohol withdrawal, and before minor surgery.
- Liver enzymes play an essential role in how effective and safe these drugs are for you. Genetic variations, age, and other medications you’re taking affect the risk of side effects and medication success.
- If you are worried about side effects or poor control of your symptoms, get Pillcheck to find which medications work best for you based on your DNA.
Want to know more about Pillcheck and how it can help you?
09-23-2020 FDA Drug Safety Communication: Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class
Brett, J., & Murnion, B. (2015). Management of benzodiazepine misuse and dependence. Australian Prescriber, 38(5), 152-155
Andrashko V, at al. The Antidepressant Effect of Ketamine Is Dampened by Concomitant Benzodiazepine Medication Front. Psychiatry, 28 August 2020