Free Term Paper: Effects of Long-term Benzodiazepine Use
There are many effects of long-term benzodiazepine use. Benzodiazepine refers to a psychoactive drug that has diazepine ring and benzene ring’s fusion as its central chemical structure. It can also be defined as any drug in the minor tranquilizers’ family that works against convulsions and anxiety in order to give the user muscle relaxation and sedation. Benzodiazepines work in a similar way in the human brain but their durations and potencies in terms of their affinities in the receptor site and actions vary. For this reason, there are benzodiazepines that are more effective than others in treating certain conditions.
Uses of benzodiazepines that may lead to effects of long-term benzodiazepine use
Among the common uses of benzodiazepines include:
- Use of sedative-hypnotics to induce sleep
- Use of anesthesia adjuncts to induce amnesia and sleep
- Anxiety reduction
- Treating panic disorders
- Preventing or treating seizures
- Muscle relaxant
- Alcohol withdrawal
Benzodiazepines belong to a large class of drugs and their development history is long. They were first approved by the FDA during the 1990s. Since these drugs are available generically, they are very affordable. Because they are all listed as the DEA schedule IV controlled substances, they have addiction; diversion and abuse potential- drugs.com.
Common benzodiazepine drugs
The most common benzodiazepine drugs include Alprazolam, Bretazenil, Bentazepam, Brotizolam, Bromazepam, Camezapam, Cinolazepam, Delorazepam, Diazepam, Clonazepam, Zolpidem, Medazepam, Oxazepam, Pinazepam, Pyrazolapam and Tetrazepam- drugs.com.
Common effects of long-term Benzodiazepine use
The effects of persistence use of benzodiazepines vary among people. However some effects are common among users.
Dependence on the drug
This drug though launched initially as a drug that cannot lead to the formation of a habit or addiction has been rapidly appeared in the scenes of illegal drug use. Benzodiazepine abuse is reportedly high among methadone and heroin abusers. Benzodiazepines are also highly abused by individuals who are highly dependent on alcohol. Cases of individuals with dependence problems have been reported although there is a distinctive feature of the dependence on benzodiazepines. People who develop dependence on the drug do not have classic tolerance. This implies that they do not increase their daily dosage of the drug. Usually, this occurs to users who have a dependence history on the other drugs.
Benzodiazepine causes withdrawal symptoms that are similar to those of other tranquilizer or sedative drugs. Delirium and/or grand-mal seizures can occur if a person stops using the drug at once. Eight out of 200 patients that were admitted at the detoxification unit in McKinnon for primarily using benzodiazepine drugs suffered the withdrawal syndrome. Four experienced delirium while others had seizures- http://www.benzo.org.uk/lennane.htm (follow the link for more details). This indicates that as the effects of long-term benzodiazepine use, withdrawal symptoms have a higher risk of causing seizures than that of alcohol.
Seizures and delirium do not occur when benzodiazepine is withdrawn gradually. However, there are other symptoms that the user suffers. They include insomnia, irritability, gastrointestinal disturbances, anxiety and dysphoria. Other specific symptoms that can occur include perceptual distortions and unduly loud sounds. Others include sight distortion, sight misinterpretation, visual hallucinations, depersonalization and unreality feeling. Patients can also experience taste and smell distortions. Paranoid feelings and thoughts can also occur as well as stiffness in different body parts including the face. Myoclonic jerks can also occur as muscular spasms or fasciculation and local tremors. The symptoms can be distressing and unpleasant and achieving normalcy can take time. For more information about benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome, follow these links-wikipedia.org, addictionsandrecovery.org.
Cognitive impairment is among the most controversial effects of long-term benzodiazepine use. This drug has been reported to cause impairment in different cognitive domains including processing speed, verbal learning and visuospatial ability. Several papers that were published in the 60s and 70s indicated that benzodiazepine caused short term memory, psychomotor and cognitive function problems.
According to these papers, benzodiazepine cause psychomotor performance and cognitive functioning impairments such as vigilance, reaction time, reasoning, accuracy, speed, judgment and arousal. However, the papers showed that this impairment is gradually reversible with some users improving after 6 years though others suffered permanent and semi-permanent impairment- benzo.org.uk.
A study by Gorenstein, Bernik, Pompeia, and Marcourakis (1995) indicated that there was no significant improvement in performance even after abstaining from the use of benzodiazepine for 10 months- sciencedirect.com. Another study, Tata et al (1994) showed that there were significant memory, verbal learning, visuomotor, visuoconceptual and psychomotor abilities impairments among chronic users of benzodiazepine after six months of successful discontinuation- sciencedirect.com.
Physical and mental health effects of long-term benzodiazepine use
Persistent use of benzodiazepine can cause exacerbation or creation of mental and physical health condition that may improve six months after quitting the use of the drug. Such conditions include anxiety and sleep problems. Improvements on physical and mental wellbeing of the user become apparent between three and six months of abstaining from the drug. For instance, there was a study that indicated hypnotic users experienced less severe anxiety and sleep problems six months after withdrawing from the use of benzodiazepine. They experienced improved health and their distress levels had dropped. Hypnotic users who continued their medication did not show improvement in general health, anxiety and insomnia- wikipedia.org.
Research shows that there is an association between long term benzodiazepine use and increased violent, aggressive and impulsive behavior’s risk. 53 percent of people who persistently used benzodiazepine had violent characteristics. 5.3 percent of those on psychotherapy had aggressive or violent behavioral patterns- wikipedia.org. Those using benzodiazepines on daily basis are highly likely to suffer psychotic symptomatology which includes hallucinations and delusions- wikipedia.org.
Continued benzodiazepine use causes immunological disorders. A study conducted on outpatients that were visiting the psychopharmacology department showed that clonazepam and diazepam had long-term impacts though there were temporary immunotoxic impacts on pregnant rats’ fetus. Nevertheless, a high diazepam dose causes permanent immune-suppression in the neonatal rats- wikipedia.org. Further studies have not been conducted to determine the immunotoxic impacts that diazepam has on humans. Nevertheless, high diazepam doses in humans cause a high pneumonia risk on the basis of a study on individuals with tetanus- wikipedia.org.
Suicide and motor vehicle accidents
This is also among the most controversial effects of long-term benzodiazepine use. There is an association of the long-term benzodiazepine use with suicide and motor vehicle accidents. This risk of people driving under the influence of benzodiazepines is high due to the availability of benzodiazepines in generic form. This risk is similar to that of driving under alcohol’s influence though that of alcohol is slightly higher- aafp.org.
Persistent benzodiazepine’s use is also associated with self-harm or suicide. Depressed adolescents are at a higher risk of committing suicide or self-harm while taking benzodiazepine. However, further research is required to determine the extent of similar effects on adults. Due to benzodiazepine dependence, clinical picture deteriorates and this includes deterioration in the social arena causing drug abuse and comorbid alcoholism. Over-dependence on benzodiazepine leads to suicide. Misuse of benzodiazepine increases suicide risk among the drug users. 23 percent of all females and 11 percent of all males who misuse sedative hypnotic tends to commit suicide- wikipedia.org
Hip fracture risk increases among older individuals by about 50 percent due to persistent benzodiazepine use. A study that involved 43,343 participants showed that there was a 2.55 times increase in hip fracture risk among individuals aged 65 years and above who used zolpidem- aafp.org.
Although the effects of long-term benzodiazepine use are underestimated by some people, it is apparent that they are real and severe in some cases. Benzodiazepines increase various risks including the risk of cognitive impairment, drug dependence, withdrawal symptoms as well as physical and mental health problems among others. As such, people should be careful when using benzodiazepines. Effective alternatives which can be considered exist. For instance, antidepressants and psychotherapy can be used to treat anxiety disorders. Anxiety can also be treated using short-term medications that do not cause benzodiazepines’ dependence risk. There are also alternative drugs such as doxepin, ramelteon and trazodone which can be used to treat insomnia without the rebound risk.
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