A Small Intro on Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are synthetic drugs used primarily to treat anxiety and in people with insomnia (trouble sleeping). They are also used to treat cases of muscle stiffness, panic disorders and premenstrual syndrome. Additionally, they are extremely effective in people undergoing alcohol withdrawal.
Benzodiazepines are basically psychoactive drugs or drugs that work on the central nervous system and alter mental factors like mood, consciousness and behavior. Depending on their strength and efficacy, they can be categorized as weak, medium and higher strength Benzodiazepines.
Strength Deciding Parameters
Benzodiazepine, like any other drug, has a half-life and strength or potency. The half-life of a drug is the time taken by the plasma concentration of a drug to be reduced to half of its original value. It is used to estimate the time taken by the drug to leave the system. The strength of a drug is the amount of drug in a given dosage form. Different Benzodiazepines have different strengths. It provides physicians with the flexibility to change the prescriptions as per their requirements.
Benzodiazepines with a shorter half-life are felt more intensely in comparison to the ones with a longer half-life. While short-acting Benzodiazepines are used in the treatment of insomnia, longer-acting Benzodiazepines are recommended for the treatment of anxiety.
Here is a list of Benzodiazepines based on their strengths and half-lives.
List of Benzodiazepines
Weak Benzodiazepines with a longer half-life
Librium is the trade name of Chlordiazepoxide medication. It is used in the short-term treatment of severe anxiety along with the management of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It is also used in Irritable Bowel Syndrome to decrease gastrointestinal motility. It is available in 5mg, 10mg and 25mg capsules. It has a half-life of 6-30 hours.
Tranxene is the trade name of Chlorazepat. It is used in the treatment of anxiety, alcohol withdrawal syndrome and even seizures. It is available in 3.75 mg, 7.5mg and 15mg tablets. It has a very long half-life of 50- 180 hours and should be used wisely.
Diazepam, known by its tradename Valium, is a popular benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety, seizures and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is also used as a muscle relaxant and a sedative before surgeries. It is available in 2mg, 5mg and 10mg doses and has a half-life of approximately 48 hours.
Serax is the trade name of a short-medium strength Benzodiazepine called Oxazepam. It is effective in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia, along with controlling alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It is available in 10mg, 15 mg and 30 mg strengths and has a half-life of 4-15 hours.
Temazepam is sold under the brand name Restoril and is a short term medication used to treat insomnia. Restoril is available in strengths of 7.5mg, 15mg, 22.5mg and 30mg. It usually has a half-life of 5-24 hours with an average half-life of 9 hours.
Medium Strength Benzodiazepine
One is the trade name of a medium strength Benzodiazepine called Clobazam. It is primarily used in the treatment of seizures in young children. It is only used in children of 2 years or older. One is available in tablet and suspension form. The tablet form is available in 10mg and 20mg strengths. The suspension form is available in 2.5mg/ml strength. The half-life of Onfi in children is 16 hours, while in adults is 36-42 hours.
Xanax belongs to the higher strength medication called Alprazolam. It is used in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. Xanax can be used individually or in combination with other medications. It is usually available in 0.25mg, 0.5mg,1mg and 2mg tablets, taken 3-4 times a day. Xanax has a half-life of 6.3-26.9 hours with an average half-life of 11.2 hours.
Ativan or Lorazepam is a benzodiazepine used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. It is contraindicated in patients with Myasthenia Gravis, narrow-angle glaucoma and pregnant patients. Ativan is available in 0.5mg, 1mg and 2mg strengths with a half-life of around 12 hours. Ativan takes 20-40 minutes to kick in, after which it provides a sedation effect of 6-8hours.
Halcion is the tradename of the benzodiazepine called Triazolam. It is used to treat insomnia by acting on the brain to produce a calming effect. It starts kicking in within 30 minutes of use and provides a restful, uninterrupted sleep of 7-8 hours. Additionally, Halcion treats other psychological disorders like anxiety, aggression, schizophrenia and suicidal behaviour. Halcion is available in 0.125 mg and 0.25 strengths and has a half-life of 1.5-5.5 hours.
Klonopin is the tradename of the benzodiazepine Clonazepam used to treat seizures, panic disorders and anxiety. It is also used in treating akathisia- a neurological problem movement of restlessness and quivering of muscles. Klonopin starts working within an hour of use and lasts for 6-12 hours with an elimination half-life of 18-60 hours. It is available in strengths of 0.125mg – 2mg.
But, it’s important to be careful.
While using these medications for short periods in their correct doses as advised by the physician is safe, the side effects due to misuse or overuse cannot be ruled out. Nausea, drowsiness, abdominal pain and hallucinations are some of the common side-effects associated with the medication.
Not to mention the complications associated with overdosing on the medication are troublesome, and their illegally acquiring may result in penalty or jail.
Everything is good only when within limits. Excess of anything becomes unhealthy even if it is a medication leading to serious withdrawal symptoms on discontinuing it. Benzodiazepines, no matter how safe, work on the body through the brain. It should be understood that tampering with them is equivalent to tampering with the brain and might lead to irreversible brain damage. So don’t use them in the long-term without consulting with your physician for sure.