Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Medical Journals - Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are sedative-hypnotic agents and they act as central nervous system depressants which is a category of drugs that slow normal brain function. Most of these drugs act on the brain by affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that facilitate communication between brain cells. gamma-aminobutyric acid works by decreasing brain activity. Although the different classes of central nervous system depressants work in unique ways, ultimately it is through their ability to increase gamma-aminobutyric acidactivity that they produce a drowsy or calming effect that is beneficial to those suffering from anxiety or sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines commonly are used for a variety of situations that include seizure control, anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, insomnia, control of drug-associated agitation, as muscle relaxants, and as preanesthetic agents. They also are combined frequently with other medications for conscious sedation before procedures or interventions. Because of their widespread popularity, these drugs commonly are abused. In addition, Benzodiazepines frequently are used in overdose, either alone or in association with other substances.

Among the medications that are commonly prescribed for these purposes are the following:
Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal), which are used to treat anxiety, tension, and sleep disorders.

Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide HCl (Librium), and alprazolam (Xanax), which can be prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks; the more sedating benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion) and estazolam (ProSom) can be prescribed for short-term treatment of sleep disorders.

In higher doses, some central nervous system depressants can be used as general anesthetics.

Despite their many beneficial effects, barbiturates and benzodiazepines have the potential for abuse and should be used only as prescribed. During the first few days of taking a prescribed central nervous system depressant, a person usually feels sleepy and uncoordinated, but as the body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drug, these feelings begin to disappear. If one uses these drugs long term, the body will develop tolerance for the drugs, and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same initial effects. In addition, continued use can lead to physical dependence and - when use is reduced or stopped - withdrawal. Because all central nervous system depressants work by slowing the brain's activity, when an individual stops taking them, the brain's activity can rebound and race out of control, possibly leading to seizures and other harmful consequences. Although withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be problematic, it is rarely life threatening, whereas withdrawal from prolonged use of other central nervous system depressants can have life-threatening complications. Therefore, someone who is thinking about discontinuing central nervous system depressant therapy or who is suffering withdrawal from a central nervous system depressant should speak with a physician or seek medical treatment.

At high doses or when they are abused, many of these drugs can even cause unconsciousness and death.

N.B: Given the unique properties of Benzodiazepines, such central nervous system depressants could very well be used in combination with other form of drugs which by themselves are not palatable and may therefore be rejected by the human body through the normal purging reflexes. Since Benzodiazepines surpresses gag reflexes, the inpalatable drugs will then be given sufficient time to be fully absorbed into the human body to achieve whatever purposes they are meant for.

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