What are benzodiazepines?

A lot of my clients have asked me what benzodiazepines are and what they do. I am interested in helping my clients effect change without the use of medication, but as they are so widely prescribed, here is a simple explanation of these drugs.

Benzodiazepine is a psychoactive drug which enhances the effect of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA for short. This drug can be used as a sedative and can make people very sleepy: thus, it has been prescribed for patients suffering from insomnia and as a drug to be taken before medical or dental treatment. It also has anti-convulsant and muscle relaxant properties: it has been prescribed for seizures and muscle spasms.  In addition, it has been prescribed by psychiatrists for a number of other problems including alcoholism—incidentally, the soporific effect helps sufferers with their addictions—and various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

Benzodiazepine drugs work by increasing the efficiency of GABA—this is a neurotransmitter that has a ‘quietening effect’ on the body. As a result, this reduces the action of the excitatory neurotransmitters in the body. In short, it has a calming effect on the body. GABA controls excitation by binding to the GABAA receptor: this increases the total amount of conduction of chloride ions across the cell membrane. This causes a hyperpolarized state. This means that an action potential is less likely to occur.

Here are some commonly known benzodiazepines on the market:

Alprazolam; Diazepam; Loprazolam; Lorazepam; Triazolam; Oxazepam; Bromazepam
 
Chlordiazepoxide

Please speak to your medical professional for more advice.

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