Benzodiazepine: Mental effects

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 7:17 am

Benzodiazepines work to reduce inhibition and anxiety. They depress the central nervous system. This in turn reduces emotional reactions, mental alertness, attention span, and feelings of anxiety, bringing a sense of relaxation and well being. In addition, benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness and mental confusion. These effects are immediate and can last hours or days. When taken long-term, benzodiazepines can cause increased aggressiveness and severe depression.

Several studies have shown that impairment of a person’s cognitive or mental function can occur in people taking benzodiazepines. These effects can include problems such as lapses of memory, and confusion. For example, college students who take benzodiazepines before exams to help them relax or sleep may not remember some of what they have been studying.

Common side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, loss of coordination, unsteady gait, dizziness, lightheadedness, and slurred speech. Some of the less common side effects include changes in sexual desire or ability, constipation, a false sense of well being, nausea and vomiting, urinary problems, and fatigue. Euphoria, restlessness, hallucinations, and hypomanic behavior have been reported, as have uninhibited bizarre behaviors, hostility, rage, paranoia, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Serious side effects with these drugs are rare, but can include behavior problems such as outbursts of anger, depression, hallucinations, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, skin rash or itching, sore throat, fever and chills, sores in the throat or mouth, unusual bruising or bleeding, extreme fatigue, yellowish tinge to the eyes or skin, and difficulty concentrating. If any of these side effects occurs, a doctor should be contacted immediately.

In particular, individuals taking nitrazepam (Mogadon) often report an increase in the incidence of nightmares, especially during the first week of use. Flurazepam (Dalmane, Novoflupam, Somnol) also occasionally causes an increase in nightmares, as well as anxiety, irritability, tachycardia, sweating, and garrulousness.

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