Benzodiazepines can be very effective for anxiety disorders, panic disorder, insomnia, alcohol use disorder, and seizures, however, they also come with many side effects, especially in those with chronic liver disease or alcohol abuse disorder. Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium have a high-risk potential for drug abuse and dependence. Long-term benzo abuse can lead to higher liver enzyme levels, hepatic injury, and liver damage.
What are Benzodiazepines (Benzos)?
Benzodiazepines are prescription central nervous system (CNS) depressants used mainly for treating anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and insomnia. They work with a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA which helps induce calmness and relaxation. Most people who take Benzos are to help with a medical conditions like anxiety disorders and panic disorder, however, there are thousands more who use it recreationally which can lead to drug addiction and dependency. Many use benzos along with alcohol abuse which can lead to drug-induced liver injury.
How Do Benzodiazepines Affect the Liver? Are Some Worse Than Others?
Liver damage from benzodiazepine treatment or abuse is rare, but it can happen. These medications are metabolized by the liver and anytime the liver has to work harder, there is a risk of increased liver enzyme levels and liver injury. Some benzodiazepines, like Xanax, cause liver damage more easily than others. Because benzos are not intended for long-term use, benzo abuse can lead to drug-induced liver damage which usually starts as inflammation in the liver. Drug-Induced liver damage from benzos is much more likely to happen in people who use benzos with alcohol abuse or have a preexisting liver disease such as chronic hepatitis or another chronic liver disease.
Which Benzodiazepines Are Not Metabolized by the Liver?
All benzodiazepines are metabolized by the liver, some are just metabolized by different pathways that are less dependent on liver active metabolites which can be safer to use for patients with liver disease. These drugs are:
These medications can also be used to treat people with alcohol abuse disorder who need to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms but cannot metabolize other benzos safely or have liver disease due to their drinking.
Other Potentially Dangerous Side Effects of Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines may not cause drug-induced liver damage as much as alcohol abuse does, however, benzodiazepine abuse can still cause serious harm to the body. The most serious potential risk of abusing benzos is brain damage, especially dementia. Also, the brain becomes dependent on benzos to manage GABA levels, which causes withdrawal symptoms when you stop using. Benzo abuse at high doses for months or years can increase the risk of seizures, which can be deadly. Some short-term side effects of benzodiazepines include:
- Mental confusion
- Short-term memory loss
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Slow breathing
- Lack of motor control
- Muscle weakness
What are the Signs of Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction?
Benzodiazepine addiction can creep up on anyone and the signs of Benzo addiction may not be so clear at first. However, some signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Memory problems
- Withdrawal symptoms when stopping usage
- Tolerance, meaning you need more of the prescription drug to get the same effect as before
- Social isolation in order to use the drug
- Engaging in risky behavior, such as driving while under the influence
- Shifts in mood or personality
- Mixing benzos with other substances, such as alcohol, to get a greater high
- Going to different doctors or pharmacies for multiple prescriptions
Find Help for Benzodiazepine Addiction with TruPath Today
Benzodiazepine addiction can happen to anyone, even when taking the medication as prescribed. It is highly important you get medical drug detox help when wanting to stop use because of the potential of deadly withdrawal symptoms, like seizures. Prescription drug rehab at TruPath can help you recover from benzodiazepine abuse and anxiety disorders through several forms of addiction treatment and individual therapy of anxiety which are tailored to your personal needs. If you or someone you love is struggling with benzodiazepine use, please do not hesitate to give us a call to learn more about our successful recovery programs.