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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Benzodiazepines I: Upping the Care on Downers: The Evidence of Risks, Benefits and Alternatives

Jeffrey Guina, Brian Merrill
Journal of Clinical Medicine 2018 January 30, 7 (2)
29385731
Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in the world. These sedative-hypnotics can provide rapid relief for symptoms like anxiety and insomnia, but are also linked to a variety of adverse effects (whether used long-term, short-term, or as needed). Many patients take benzodiazepines long-term without ever receiving evidence-based first-line treatments (e.g., psychotherapy, relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene education, serotonergic agents). This review discusses the risks and benefits of, and alternatives to benzodiazepines. We discuss evidence-based indications and contraindications, and the theoretical biopsychosocial bases for effectiveness, ineffectiveness and harm. Potential adverse effects and drug-drug interactions are summarized. Finally, both fast-acting/acute and delayed-action/chronic alternative treatments for anxiety and/or insomnia are discussed. Response to treatment-whether benzodiazepines, other pharmacological agents, or psychotherapy-should be determined based on functional recovery and not merely sedation.

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