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Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Benzodiazepines

Read more about Benzodiazepines.

Effect of Benzodiazepines on Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Common names include:

Benzodiazepines reduce symptoms of anxiety by enhancing the function of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter thought to be abnormal in people with GAD. These drugs produce a sedative effect, reduce physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, and often cause drowsiness and lethargy.

Benzodiazepines are fast-acting and useful for treating acute anxiety and insomnia. These drugs can be habit-forming when used long-term or in excess. They may cause withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, and insomnia when discontinued. In such cases, you should taper off the medication slowly, over a period of weeks or months under a doctor’s supervision.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be severe at times. It can include restlessness, tremors, delirum tremens, and seizures that can be life threatening. Dangerously high fever, confusion, hallucinations, and dehydration may also occur. Benzodiazepines should not be used for more than four weeks. GAD may return after stopping the drug, but that is often true of any medication or treatment. Talk to your doctor before changing how you take this medication.

Side Effects and Warnings

Do not take with alcohol or other sedating drugs. Do not take if you must drive a vehicle or operate machinery. Benzodiazepines should not be taken in combination with certain oral antifungal medications or by people with certain types of glaucoma.

Possible side effects of benzodiazepines include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Respiratory depression (decreasing breathing)

These drugs should not be used more than prescribed since they may cause or worsen problems with memory, a symptom experienced by most people with Alzheimer’s disease. These drugs should also not be stopped abruptly since serious side effects, such as seizures, may result.

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