How Do Benzodiazepines Work on the Nervous System?
Learn how benzodiazepines interact with your body’s central nervous system.
With all the talk of “benzos” in mainstream music today you might wonder, “What are these drugs and how do benzodiazepines work?” References to brand name benzodiazepine drugs exploded over the past few years. What makes them so popular that people rap about “popping bars” and some even name themselves after these drugs?
Painkillers and other types of opiates tend to cause more waves in the media. The alarming numbers of overdoses due to opiate use has law enforcement and other agencies wondering how to respond. This leaves benzodiazepines standing stage right, somewhat flying under the radar for most people.
Still, around 4 million people in the United States are daily users of benzodiazepines. The drug’s popularity skyrocketed between 1996 and 2013 with a 67 percent increase in filled prescriptions. Additionally, 23 percent of people who overdosed on opiates in 2015 also had benzodiazepines in their system.
Though alone they might not cause as many fatalities as their opiate counterparts, they are still dangerous. They’re a difficult drug to kick and they severely impact your body if you use too many. So how do benzodiazepines work on the nervous system and what do they do? Continue reading to learn more.
What Are Benzodiazepines?
Benzos. Bars. Xannies. Whatever you call them, they snuck into songs topping Soundcloud charts worldwide. Benzodiazepines are a prescription medication used to treat depression and anxiety. They’re more commonly known by their brand names, including drugs such as:
In order to classify as a benzodiazepine, a drug must have some of the following side effects:
- Anxiety relief
- Muscle relaxer
- Amnesiatic (causes mild memory loss)
They are extremely popular due to these sedative properties. The combination of the side effects listed above tend to “take edge off,” making it feel like the world is easier to deal with. Mixing them with alcohol or other drugs amplifies these effects but also increases the risks. But how do benzodiazepines work?
How Do Benzodiazepines Work on Your Nervous System?
Benzodiazepines are a sedative medication, meaning they put users in a sedated state. They don’t knock you out entirely but they directly impact your central nervous system (CNS). The sedative effects of these drugs help people who suffer with extreme anxiety or overwhelming depression. But how do benzodiazepines work on your body?
They interact with GABA neurotransmitters, the part of your brain responsible for your body’s motor skills. This slows down, or in some cases stops, the activity of neurons in your body. The anxiety relief, muscle relaxant, hypnotic state caused by Xanax and other benzos comes as a result of the slowed neuron activity.
Benzodiazepines cause an overall decrease in your cognitive abilities. Along with the above side effects, their interaction with your CNS also causes:
- Decreased reaction time
- Poor coordination
Long-term use of these drugs may cause irreversible damage to your body. Some studies report a noticeable drop in cognitive abilities in those who take an average of 17 mg per day. Those in the study didn’t see a return of their thought processes even after three months with no use.
How Dangerous are Benzodiazepines?
Any substance that directly affects your central nervous system comes with the chance of disastrous results. If you take too many or combine them with too many additional substances, you could possibly slow your body to the point of stopping entirely. Your chances of overdose and death are high unless you receive immediate medical attention.
Benzos claimed the lives of 8,791 people in 2015 alone. The death toll due to benzodiazepines shot up to over 10,000 the following year. This number seems small in comparison to the nearly 50,000 caused by painkillers. That keeps them from making as many headlines as opiates do but it doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous too.
They still come with dangers even when taken at moderate doses. Remember, how do benzodiazepines work on your body? They affect your central nervous system, the part responsible for your motor skills. Studies show that driving under the influence of benzodiazepines is often just as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Additionally, older adults and elderly people who use them experience higher rates of hip fractures. The sedative effects of benzos affect their ability to move around and increase their risk of falling. One study revealed that 2.55 times more people over the age of 65 suffered a hip fracture when taking Ambien.
Seeking Help for Benzodiazepine Abuse
You no longer need to ask, “How do benzodiazepines work?” Now you might ask, “How can I find help for my loved one with a benzodiazepine addiction?” Thankfully, hundreds of addiction treatment centers exist to help people who struggle with substance abuse.
Different types of centers offer different levels of care, from detox facilities to inpatient treatment to outpatient programs. If you need help finding out which program is right for your loved one, our counselors at Hawaii Island Recovery can help. Give us a call today at 877-721-3556 to learn what we can do to show the one you care about a new way of life!