October 13, 2015
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Benzodiazepines (cont.)

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What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?

The most common side effects associated with benzodiazepines are:

Other side effects include:

  • transient drowsiness commonly experienced during the first few days of treatment,
  • a feeling of depression,
  • loss of orientation,
  • headache,
  • sleep disturbance,
  • confusion,
  • irritability,
  • aggression,
  • excitement, and
  • memory impairment.

All benzodiazepines can cause physical dependence. Suddenly stopping therapy after a few months of daily therapy may be associated with withdrawal symptoms which include a feeling of loss of self-worth, agitation, and insomnia. If benzodiazepines are taken continuously for longer than a few months, stopping therapy suddenly may produce seizures, tremors, muscle cramping, vomiting, and sweating. In order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, the dose of benzodiazepines should be tapered slowly.

With which drugs do benzodiazepines interact?

All benzodiazepines cause excessive sedation when combined with other medications that slow the brain's processes (for example, alcohol, barbiturates, narcotics, and tranquilizers). The elimination of some benzodiazepines (for example, alprazolam [Xanax] and diazepam [Valium]) is reduced by drugs that slow elimination of drugs in the liver (for example, ketoconazole [Nizoral,Xolegel], valproic acid [Depakene,Stavzor], cimetidine [Tagamet], and fluoxetine [Prozac]). Reduced elimination may result in increased blood concentrations and side effects from the affected benzodiazepines. Antacids may reduce the rate of absorption of benzodiazepines from the intestine. Separating the administration of antacids and benzodiazepines by several hours may prevent this interaction.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/2/2015

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