Long-Acting Versus Short-Acting Benzos
Benzodiazepines are sedative medications that slow down the body and brain’s functions. Long and short-acting benzos treat different conditions with either long-acting effects, staying in the body for a longer period, or short-acting, which act quickly and remain in the body for a shorter term. Benzos increase the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that regulates reasoning, memory, emotions, and breathing. As a result, benzodiazepines reduce anxiety, relax muscles, and induce relaxation and sleepiness.
Therefore, benzodiazepines are treatment options for anxiety, panic, and sleep disorders like insomnia. Anxiety and panic disorders present with different levels and intensities. For this reason, other benzodiazepine medications may be of use depending on the long or short-acting need for effectiveness. Those with insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep, but once asleep, they can stay asleep. For these reasons, long and short-acting benzos are available for the different effects needed to solve the condition.
Types of Long-Acting Benzos and Short-Acting Benzos
Understanding the effectiveness of long and short-acting benzos begins with the definition of half-life. Half-life describes the length of effectiveness of the drug. Short-acting benzos have a shorter half-life, meaning they process and leave the body in a shorter time. Long-acting benzodiazepines have a longer half-life. Long-acting benzos process over a longer period, staying in the body to be effective against negative symptoms for a longer period.
Other differences between long and short-acting benzos are the withdrawal symptoms they produce when the drug wears off. Short-acting benzos have a higher risk of withdrawal symptoms because they leave the body quicker, which is more difficult for the body to adapt to. On the other hand, long-acting benzos produce withdrawal symptoms similar to a hangover because they take longer to leave the body. A healthcare provider must assess each patient to determine what type of benzodiazepine will be effective for the diagnosis.
Examples of short-acting benzos include the following medications:
- Alprazolam: Xanax
- Lorazepam: Ativan
- Lormetazepam: Dormagen
Examples of long-acting benzos include the following medications:
- Chlordiazepoxide: Librium or Tropium
- Clonazepam: Rivotril
- Diazepam: Diazemuls, Diazepam, Stesolid, Tensium
- Nitrazepam: Mogadon
Effects and Dangers of Long and Short-Acting Benzos
The typical side effects of long and short-acting benzos can vary in intensity and length of time. Each individual has a different metabolism, causing differences in how the body processes medications. Some side effects may diminish quickly, but others may linger and become detectable. Any side effects that become uncomfortable would require notification to the prescribing doctor.
Typical side effects of long and short-acting benzos can include any of the following symptoms:
- Drowsiness and light-headedness
- Confusion and memory problems
- Unsteadiness and muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Constipation and nausea
Less common side effects of long and short-acting benzos can include any of the following symptoms:
- Headaches and sight issues, sometimes double vision
- Low blood pressure
- Skin rash
- Increased saliva production
- Digestive disturbance and incontinence, some difficulty with urinating
- Shakiness or tremors
Infrequent side effects of long and short-acting benzos include any of the following symptoms:
- Blood disorder
The Effects of Long and Short-Acting Benzos on Memory
In certain cases, long and short-acting benzos can initiate problems with memory retention, namely, new memories formed while taking medication. Healthcare providers may not prescribe benzos to aid sleep when this side effect occurs. The brain processes memories when asleep; some benzos can disrupt the process.
Paradoxical effects can result in the benzodiazepines causing opposite effects in some people. This situation is more common in children and short-acting benzos. These oppositional side effects can be any of the following symptoms:
- Agitation and aggressive behaviors
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Depersonalization – feeling detached from surroundings
- Irritability and personality changes
- Angry rages
- Inappropriate behavior, loss of inhibitions
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Differences Between Long and Short-Acting Benzos
Potency is different in long and short-acting benzos. All benzodiazepines have different potency levels, connecting to the chemical reactions the drug produces in the body. How the body metabolizes benzos is an individual process. Diazepam, for example, has additional benzo chemicals when metabolizing. These chemicals cause the benzo to be long-acting benzo, staying in the body longer.
Another difference between long and short-acting benzos is their half-life difference. As already discussed, the half-life is when the drug stays and processes in the body. Short-acting benzos can be more difficult to withdraw from; however, a tapering-off process is what most doctors recommend. Lastly, long-acting benzo, with a prescription of a longer time, causes the possibility of misuse or abuse.
Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse
Unfortunately, the potential for benzodiazepine misuse and abuse can erupt after only taking long and short-acting benzos for a few months. Due to the drug’s potency, addiction can happen quickly unless the recognizable warning signs of abuse are known. The desirable effects benzos can produce, through increasing the GABA reception in the brain, may initiate misuse or abuse. Unfortunately, a euphoric high or an alcohol-like buzz is pleasurable but leads to dangerous levels of sedation.
The signs or symptoms recognizable to benzo misuse or abuse include any of the following physical and behavioral issues:
- Extreme sweating
- Shallow breathing
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Taking someone else’s medication for additional dosages
- Doctor shopping
- Purchasing benzos illegally on the streets
- Extreme cravings or withdrawal symptoms
- Impaired performance at school, home, or work
Detox and Treatment for Long and Short-Acting Benzos
Benzodiazepines affect the brain’s chemical system; therefore those who believe they can quit cold turkey are in grave danger. The intensity of the possible withdrawal symptoms can be extreme when a gradual tapering-off process is not part of detox. Medically monitored detox is the safest recommendation for withdrawal from benzos.
Those misusing or abusing benzos develop a tolerance to the drug, which is a major consideration in detox.
Symptoms Of Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines
Tolerance to benzos cause the withdrawal symptoms in detox to be physically and emotionally painful. Those who decide they want to quit cold turkey are in particular danger because the symptoms can be life-threatening. Typically, higher dosages over a long-term usage period have the most intense withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of symptoms fluctuates throughout detox and often begins 1 to 4 days after discontinuing the drug.
The following symptoms are common to withdrawal from benzodiazepines and can last up to 10 days:
- Increased tension and anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Sleep disturbances
- Difficulties with focus and concentration
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Muscular stiffness, discomfort, and hand tremors
- Mild to moderate changes in perceptions
- Extreme cravings
Less common and more severe symptoms in cases of long and severe addiction can include:
- Risk of suicidal ideation
Get Compassionate Care for Benzo Abuse in Tennessee
Addiction to benzodiazepines can become an unintentional problem in a short period. The Freeman Recovery Center, Tennessee, provides qualified professional detox programs to address benzodiazepine addiction. Medically monitored detox programs are essential to the safety of patients withdrawing from benzo abuse or addiction.
Contact our facility to explore your options for assessment and detox today.