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How Benzos Affect the Brain

a doctor posing with a lot of graphs of the brain, understanding how benzos and the brain affect each other

Millions of Americans take medications classified as benzodiazepines or benzos. You may receive them as part of your treatment for various health conditions. While benzos are highly useful, they also have the potential to trigger addiction. Both the positive and negative effects of these medications stem from their impact on your brain. Awareness of this impact can help decrease your potential risks. It can also alert you to the need for a benzo rehab program.

Benzos and the Brain – Therapeutic Effects

Benzos belong to a medication category that includes all sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. They were developed as safer alternatives to other medicines in this category, known as barbiturates. How do benzos produce their intended therapeutic effects?

Your central nervous system, or your brain and spinal cord, contains massive amounts of access points known as receptor sites. These sites give various substances a way to reach your brain. A significant number of them act as benzo receptors. When you take a benzo, it enters your bloodstream, then passes into your brain through these receptors.

Once inside your brain, benzos trigger other receptors for an internally made chemical called GABA. GABA is your nervous system’s built-in slowdown signal. When it activates, your brain’s nerves start firing at a reduced pace. It is this slowing effect that accounts for benzos’ usefulness in treating conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Insomnia
  • PTSD
  • Seizures
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

In any given year, more than one out of every 10 Americans will take a benzo for legitimate, therapeutic reasons.

Addiction and the Effects of Benzos on the Brain

Over time, your brain can grow accustomed to the presence of benzos in your system. When this happens, you run the risk of becoming benzo-dependent. Benzo dependence can be physical. It may also have a psychological component. In addition, you may find yourself compelled to obtain more benzos to use. This compulsive behavior is the final, definitive sign that you’ve developed a benzo addiction.

The addictive effects of benzos on the brain are not always the same. Certain medications tend to trigger problems sooner than others. The most significant addiction risks are benzos that:

  • Have a highly potent impact on your brain
  • Don’t stay in your system for long

Medications that meet these two criteria include Ativan, Xanax, and Halcion. Your risks are especially significant when your prescription calls for the use of high medication doses.

What Are the Effects of Benzos on Memory Function?

All benzodiazepines have the potential to impair your memory. Specifically, they can trigger something called anterograde amnesia. While active, this form of amnesia interferes with your ability to form new memories.

The effects of benzos on memory functions can be managed for therapeutic purposes. However, they can also trigger blackouts in people who misuse benzos. You may not remember anything that happens during a benzo blackout. You may also have spotty memories that contain significant gaps. Risks for these problems go up when you combine benzos with alcohol. Even if you take a therapeutic benzo dose, some memory deficits can occur with long-term use.

Learn More About Benzos and the Brain at Evoke Wellness at Cohasset

Have more questions about benzos and the brain? Talk to the professionals at Evoke Wellness. We’re happy to help improve your understanding of benzos’ effects. We can also help you better understand your potential risks for problems.
Evoke features a comprehensive prescription drug treatment program. With help from this program, you can recover from benzo addiction. We also provide the support needed to recover from addiction to any other medication. Call us today at 866.931.6429 or fill out our online contact form to get started.