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Benzodiazepines (cont.)

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Are there differences between benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines differ in how quickly they work, and for what they are most commonly used.

  • Diazepam (Valium) and clorazepate (Tranxene) have fast onsets of action,
  • oxazepam (Serax) has a slow onset, and
  • lorazepam (Ativan), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin) have intermediate onsets of action.

Although most benzodiazepines are used interchangeably, some are most commonly used for certain conditions.

  • Alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), chlorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and midazolam are used for anxiety disorders;
  • clonazepam (Klonopin), clorazepate (Tranxene), and diazepam (Valium) are used for seizure disorders;
  • estazolam, flurazepam, quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion) are used for insomnia;
  • midazolam, lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium) are used in anesthesia;
  • diazepam (Valium) also is used for muscle relaxation;
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium) is used for alcohol withdrawal.

What are the side effects of benzodiazepines?

The most common side effects associated with benzodiazepines are:

  • sedation,
  • dizziness,
  • weakness, and
  • unsteadiness.

Other side effects include:

  • a feeling of depression,
  • loss of orientation,
  • headache, and
  • sleep disturbance.

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.



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