According to Harvard Medical School, benzodiazepines are a class of medications primarily used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. They work by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter, or brain chemical, called GABA, which slows activity in the nervous system and produces a calming effect. These medications can be useful for treating anxiety and related issues, but with long-term use, people may become addicted to them and undergo withdrawal if they attempt to stop using benzodiazepines. It is critical to understand the risk of addiction and withdrawal that comes with benzodiazepine use in order to make informed choices about the best course of action for treating conditions like anxiety.
Before learning about benzodiazepine withdrawal, it is first important to understand why these drugs are addictive and lead to dependence. The reason for benzodiazepine dependence is that the brain and body adapt to the presence of these drugs, and they become accustomed to increased GABA activity. This means that over time, the body cannot produce enough GABA on its own, and it becomes dependent upon benzodiazepines to increase GABA activity and calm the body. Once the body becomes dependent on benzodiazepines, if a person stops using these drugs, there will not be enough GABA activity to maintain normal functioning. This causes the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepines.