Benzodiazepines: How They Can Help (And Hurt) Anxiety

Article Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC of Addiction Hope

Canal_St-Baxter_StThe pace of life at which our society runs seems to only become more rampant as the years pass. Our rapidly evolving culture, in combination with technological advances, makes for lifestyles that are bursting at the seams with activities, functions, careers and more.

Individuals today are generally leading more stressful lifestyles in a chaotic attempt to balance ambitions, finances, work, relationships, and more.

Our Lifestyle is Forcing Us to Turn to Medication

In an effort to keep up with the demanding lifestyles we have found ourselves in, many people have turned to medication to help manage the stress and anxiety that is often experienced. A common class of medications used for anxiety treatment is Benzodiazepines, which function by enhancing the action of a chemical in the brain called gamma-amniobutyric acid (GABA).

Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between low levels of GABA in the brain and increased feelings of anxiousness.

What Are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines can be classified by whether they function as short or long acting. Examples of short-acting benzodiazepines would include many sleeping aides, such as Ambien, which are commonly used for insomnia.

In contrast, long-acting benzodiazepines are utilized to treat and manage ongoing Anxiety, with a specific example being the drug Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are among the most effective classes of drugs for treating generalized anxiety and anxiety disorders.

While these medications are incredibly helpful to an individual in managing and overcoming anxiety and associated disorders, this class of medications carries with it a high risk of dependency. Men or women who regularly take a benzodiazepine medication may become addicted to the euphoric feeling that is induced by the drug and experience the need for more of the drug.

With a staggering number of individuals struggling with a degree of anxiety or an anxiety disorder, medication can be a therapeutic part of a management protocol. Here are some important factors to keep in mind if you are considering the consumption of a benzodiazepine medication to help better cope with anxiety and stress in your own life and to prevent possible dependency:

  • Use prescription under the guidance of a physician and psychotherapist

    Involving and creating a form of accountability for yourself will enforce guidelines when using these medications. Having a counselor involved in your medication use may also be helpful for addressing the root causes of the anxiety and developing healthier.

  • Limit Use

    Many individuals regularly consume their medication without assessing how they are feeling. While benzodiazepines are meant to be used as needed for managing symptoms of anxiety and stress, they are often taken beyond the prescription guidelines. Consuming these medications regularly can establish dependency on the drug.

  • Taper doses as appropriate

    It is crucial to work with your physician to ensure that you are being tapered off the drug in a manner that will help minimize dependency. If a tapering schedule is not followed to help wean off the drug, severe physical consequences may result.

Knowledge Is What’s Needed To Use Benzodiazepines Correctly

In our society today, we are constantly bombarded with many factors that can increase the stress levels in our lives. While benzodiazepines can play a helpful aspect in managing stress and anxiety, it is crucial to understand the dependency risk that comes with taking these types of medications. Being fully aware of the risks and benefits can encourage you to exercise better caution when using a prescription medication for managing anxiety.