Among the most common uses of Benzodiazepines are sedation or sleep, relief of muscle spasms or anxiety as well as to prevent seizures. Benzodiazepines in higher doses act as hypnotics, anxiolytics in moderate amounts and in lower amounts as mild sedatives. Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States among drugs that affect the central nervous system functions.
Officially classified as depressants by the Controlled Substances Act, Benzodiazepines are associated with hostility, irritability, amnesia and vivid or disturbing dreams, as well as physical dependence and tolerance. In withdrawal, the syndromes are like those of alcohol addiction and may require hospitalization. Tapering down the dose eliminates many of these difficult symptoms and is preferred to abrupt cessation.
As millions of prescriptions are written for Benzodiazepines every year, not many people lower their dosage or seek help for abuse. Of the relatively few who do abuse Benzodiazepines, their habits are maintained by seeking their drug supply from different doctors, buying drugs from other users or forging prescriptions. Benzodiazepines is particularly high among heroin and cocaine abusers, often associated with adolescents and young adults who take Benzodiazepines looking to get ‘high’. When missed with alcohol or other depressants the risk of death significantly increases.
Patients who suffer from sleep-onset insomnia, without daytime anxiety, are often prescribed short-acting Benzodiazepines. Common shorter acting Benzodiazepines that are used to control these symptoms include estazolam (ProSom), flurazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion). For sedation, anxiety and amnesia in critical care setting, Midazolam (Versed) is often prescribed. In the United States it is available as an orally administered syrup (primarily for pediatric patients) or an an injectable.
When patients suffer from daytime anxiety, Benzodiazepines with longer duration are typically prescribed. Among these are alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium, halazepam (Paxipam), lorzepam (Ativian), oxazepram (Serax0, prazepam (Centrax) and quazepam (Doral). These drugs can also be prescribed as anticonvulsants, specifically Clonazepam (Klonopin) diazepam, and clorazepate.