Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are used to help curb insomnia and anxiety.

These are widely prescribed drugs, but are usually only recommended for short-term use as long-term use can lead to dependence and resistance.

Where it fits in

Benzodiazepines are useful for treating insomnia and anxiety, which bipolar people often experience.

They are highly addictive, and their uses is normally limited to the short term and carefully restricted.

Common benzodiazepines include:
   • Xanax (alprazolam)
   • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
   • Valium (diazepam)
   • Ativan (lorazepam)

HOW DO THEY WORK

Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for short-term use in bipolar people because they slow the nervous system down, helping to ease feelings of anxiousness and nervousness. These drugs have the advantage of taking effect quickly.

Benzodiazepines affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA). By increasing it in the brain, it has a relaxing, sedative effect that is helpful against anxiety.

WHAT THE EXPERT SAYS

Dr. Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist practicing in Los Angeles, said she will not prescribe benzodiazepines for more than a few weeks.

There is at least some indication that lithium, when taken by pregnant women, is associated with Ebstein's Anomaly, which is a malformation in the heart. It has also been linked with muscle weakness, and abnormal thyroid and kidney function in newborns.

“These drugs are addictive and because of tolerance always (precipitate)
bipolar events, not to mention drugs like these can easily be overdosed in a suicidal depressed episode of (bipolar disorder) and be lethal. Sadly I see this too often.”

SIDE EFFECTS

Benzodiazepines can be very addictive, and their use must be carefully regulated to avoid addiction and the potential of withdrawal. Their use is usually limited to short periods of time.

Other side effects include:

• adverse affect on coordination

• sleepiness

• amnesia.

hostility and aggressive behavior (rare)

They should not be combined with alcohol or other substances that inhibit the central nervous system.