Benzodiazepines are a class of sedative drugs and include alprazolam (Xanax), chlorazepate (Tranxene), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), flurazepam (Dalmane), halazepam (Paxipam), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), oxazepam (Serax), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion). Benzodiazepines became available in 1957 with the synthesis of chlordiazepoxide. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs designed to enhance the GABA inhibitory systems, producing hypnotic, anxiolytic, and sedative effects. They are classified as general sedatives that are used to treat convulsions and sleeping problems, or serve as a muscle relaxant and amnesic. They may be prescribed to treat muscle spasms, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, disturbances, and alcohol withdrawal. They are also often used as medical anesthesia in surgery.
Taken properly, benzodiazepines are safe and effective since they only affect brain receptors that control worrying and thinking while avoiding vital brain receptors. Millions of prescriptions for benzodiazepines are given to Americans every year, and most people use them properly and for short periods of time. However, a tolerance to benzodiazepines may develop over long-term use, and physical dependence can result. Withdrawal symptoms are similar to alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and can cause severe effects to mental cognition. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines are often abused, mostly by adolescents, in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Such abuse frequently leads to overdose and death. Side effects can include delayed muscle reactions, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and learning, dizziness, and sometimes amnesia.