Flurazepam is a benzodiazepine prescription drug used to help patients fall asleep and, once there, stay asleep. Like all other benzodiazepines, flurazepam works by slowing down the patient’s brain so they can sleep. Other uses for flurazepam include sedation, control of convulsions and relaxing muscles.
Flurazepam is not recommended for people who have to be alert or drive the morning after taking the medication as it can stay in the bloodstream for several days. Unlike some other sleeping aids, such as Ambien, flurazepam is long acting and not only puts people to sleep, but also helps them stay asleep. Flurazepam is not intended for prolonged administration — the positive effects of the drug may begin to dissipate after just one week. Instead, patients are advised to seek treatment for underlying physical or mental disorders that could be contributing to their insomnia during the period of time that flurazepam is actually effective.
There are certain side effects that can occur with benzodiazepine-based sleep aids like flurazepam. These effects include sleep walking, sleep cooking and sleep driving. Drinking or taking other drugs while using flurazepam can enhance these affects, as can flying on an airplane.
Flurazepam works on the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA, an amino acid, is the most important central nervous system inhibitory neurotransmitter and also regulates muscle tone. When the brain’s ability to absorb GABA becomes impaired, it will also lose the ability to shut itself down (i.e. to sleep). Flurazepam mimics GABA, thus increasing availability of the neurotransmitter.
People who take flurazepam report dizziness and memory impairment, in addition to the welcomed drowsiness. Because it is a benzodiazepine, it should never be taken with alcohol or other drugs as severe interactions could ensue, including death. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, children and elderly patients should be monitored carefully when taking the drug.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) lists flurazepam on the Schedule IV of narcotic drugs. Like all benzodiazepines, prolonged use of flurazepam can lead to dependence and, thus, it is intended to only be used for short periods of time. Further, some users become addicted to the “high” associated with the drug and will abuse it recreationally. Patients who become addicted to flurazepam should be weaned off the drug slowly, in order to avoid potentially life-threatening withdrawal effects.