5 Risks of Long-term Benzodiazepine Use

5 Risks of Long-term Benzodiazepine Use

Benzodiazepines offer medical benefits for those living with anxiety disorders and panic attacks. But the drugs are meant only for short-term use, and taking them for too long can increase your risk for benzodiazepine addiction.

At Revolution Psychiatric and Addiction Treatment, we specialize in innovative therapies, including nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) infusions to help you safely detox from benzodiazepines.

Board-certified psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist Richard E. Repass, MD, also offers psychiatric counseling and other outpatient services that support your long-term recovery from addiction.

An overview of benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are depressant medications that can relieve anxiety and panic attacks. The drugs are also used for treating seizures and muscle spasms.

The brand names of common benzodiazepines include:

Taking benzodiazepines has a calming effect on your central nervous system and slows down activity in your brain. When taken as prescribed, you might feel more relaxed and even drowsy.

Taking too high of a dose of benzodiazepines can lead to respiratory distress, loss of reflexes, confusion, and other impairments.

What to know about benzodiazepine addiction

Because benzodiazepines are addictive, your risk for addiction to the drug increases if you take it daily for at least one month. You may also be at increased addiction risk if you misuse the medications by taking benzodiazepines recreationally.

Addiction occurs when your brain becomes dependent on the drug and develops a craving for it. Becoming addicted to benzodiazepines also increases the likelihood that you’ll need to keep increasing the dosage you take to achieve the same calming effect.

Risks of long-term benzodiazepine use

In addition to addiction, the long-term use of benzodiazepines can lead to other complications such as:

Increased anxiety

Benzodiazepines are often prescribed to relieve anxiety, but when you use them over an extended period of time, the drugs can actually worsen anxiety disorders. As your body develops a tolerance to the medication, the effects of benzodiazepines on your symptoms lessen.

Cardiovascular concerns

Misusing or abusing benzodiazepines can decrease your heart rate and increase your risk for low blood pressure, blood clots, and poor circulation. In cases of severe misuse, benzodiazepines can lead to heart failure.

Cognitive impairments

Peer-reviewed studies have shown that long-term use of benzodiazepines may cause significant cognitive decline that doesn’t improve even after you discontinue the drug. Cognitive issues can include verbal learning difficulties, memory loss, and slower cognitive processing speeds.

Sleep problems

Short-term use of benzodiazepines can help you sleep better, but using the drugs for too long can interfere with the natural stages of sleep. Benzodiazepine misuse can also negatively affect your respiratory function while you’re sleeping.

Premature death

Increasing the dosage of the benzodiazepines you use can put you at risk for overdose, which leads to serious health complications and premature death.

Long-term benzodiazepine use can also impair your ability to care for yourself properly, which can increase your risk for car accidents and other fatal events.

Addiction recovery is possible

While recovery from benzodiazepine addiction can seem daunting, effective treatments are available to support your journey.

Dr. Repass and our team offer infusions of BR+NAD™ to help you detox from the drugs without painful withdrawal symptoms.

We also provide general psychiatric counseling, so you can learn how to cope with the challenges of addiction in a healthy way.

Call us at Revolution Psychiatric and Addiction Treatment in Mercer Island, Washington, to schedule a benzodiazepine addiction consultation today.

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