EFFECTS OF BENZODIAZEPINE ADDICTION ON THE BRAIN AND BODY
Benzodiazepines were initially introduced in the 1960s as a replacement for barbiturates, which medical researchers had recently shown to be highly addictive and potentially lethal. Both classes of drugs are intended to treat anxiety, insomnia and seizures, and work similarly in the brain though benzodiazepines are considered less toxic.
These drugs rely on a chemical communicator in the brain called GABA, a substance whose presence sends calming, inhibitory signals that decrease brain activity. In the healthy brain, GABA is helpful in processing fear reactions and regulating sleep patterns. Benzodiazepines increase the production of GABA, which is useful for treating mental health disorders brought on by brain overactivity — anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy or depression. However, when taken recreationally, they can produce a drowsy high. Someone who uses benzodiazepines may seem sleepy, uncoordinated, slow to react and less aware of their surroundings than usual.
Continued abuse of benzodiazepines can result in a dependence on the heightened levels of GABA in the brain. Without the drug, your brain may feel overactive; anxiety or sleep disorders may become worse, and your body may react with symptoms like an increased heart rate, hallucinations or tremors.