What Are Benzos Prescribed for and How Do They Work? Benzodiazepines, or benzos for short, are anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) drugs that are commonly used to treat anxiety disorder, panic disorder, insomnia, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Their sedative properties place them in a class of substances referred to as central nervous system (CNS) depressants.
How Benzos Work, Benzodiazepines boost the action of gamma-aminobutyric (GABA), a brain chemical that cells use to transmit information to each other to reduce brain activity and anxiety.
Popular benzodiazepines include:
- alprazolam (Xanax, Xanax XR)
- clobazam (Onfi)
- clonazepam (Klonopin)
- clorazepate (Tranxene)
- chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
- diazepam (Valium, Diastat Acudial, Diastat)
- estazolam (Prosom is a discontinued brand in the US)
- lorazepam (Ativan)
- oxazepam (Serax is a discontinued brand in the US)
- temazepam (Restoril)
- triazolam (Halcion)
The Dangers of Benzos Use
Benzos are commonly abused drugs, among the most popular being Alprazolam (trade name Xanax.) In addition to the usual oral ingestion, tablets and capsules can also be crushed and snorted, smoked, or injected. This often results in a stronger, faster-onset high and the corresponding dangers that abuse in this manner can invoke.
A benzodiazepine overdose can occur when the drug is ingested in a quantity greater than indicated. While benzos on their own are not usually fatal, symptoms such as CNS depression, impaired balance, ataxia (loss of coordination), and slurred speech may occur.
Mixing high doses of benzos with other CNS depressants, however, can be quite risky. These drugs include but are not limited to antidepressants, alcohol, barbiturates, and opioids. Combining any of these substances with benzos can result in serious complications such as coma and death.
Statistics compiled by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention find that multiple drug intoxication involving benzodiazepines accounts for a large share of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, as well.
Related: What is Benzo Addiction