Benzodiazepines, sometimes referred to as “benzos,” are classified as short-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting—in reference to their duration of action.
Long-acting benzodiazepines include:
- klonopin (clonazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
- clorazepate (Tranxene)
- flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
Long-acting benzodiazepines may be prescribed by a doctor for a number of uses. They have a low to moderate abuse potential and can become addictive with chronic use or misuse.
What Does It Mean For A Benzodiazepine To Be Long-Acting?
Drugs are classified as long-acting if they have a long duration of action. Essentially, this means they stay in the body longer and can work in phases over the course of one or more days.
Onset Of Effects
While some long-acting drugs (e.g. Valium) can go into effect fairly quickly, some effects of long-acting drugs may take longer to set in.
Duration Of Effects
Long-acting agents have effects that can last longer than those of short-acting agents.
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Long-acting drugs have a longer half-life, meaning it takes longer for the body to process them. They’ll also remain detectable in the body for longer.
Drug dependence typically develops at a slower pace with the use of long-acting drugs compared to short-acting agents.
Frequency Of Use
Because their effects last longer, long-acting drugs may not need to be taken as often to continue experiencing the desired effect.
Not all long-acting benzodiazepines work the same way. Diazepam, for instance, has a fast onset of effects, while some other long-acting benzos may take longer to go into effect.
What Are Long-Acting Benzodiazepines Used For?
Long-acting benzodiazepines can be prescribed by a doctor or administered in a clinical setting for a variety of reasons.
Long-acting benzodiazepine drugs may be used to treat:
- anxiety disorders
- panic disorder
- seizure disorders
- muscle spasms
- alcohol withdrawal
These drugs work in the body by slowing activity in the central nervous system, made up of the brain and spinal cord.
They specifically target the brain chemical GABA, which can block or inhibit nerve signals in the brain associated with anxiety and the excitability of the nerves.
How Are Long-Acting Benzodiazepines Abused?
Chronic use of long-acting benzodiazepines can result in drug tolerance and physical dependence. Moreover, they can also be misused and may become addictive over time.
Long-acting benzodiazepines may be misused by:
- crushing and snorting tablets
- taking high doses
- combining them with other drugs (e.g. opioids)
- taking pills from someone else’s prescription
- using them to incapacitate another person (e.g. Rohypnol, a “date rape” drug)
Chronic benzodiazepine abuse carries a number of short-term and long-term health consequences, including an acute risk for overdose and long-lasting cognitive effects.
While long-acting benzodiazepines can be safe and effective when taken as prescribed, millions of Americans still report misusing drugs like Valium and Klonopin each year.
Call Today To Find Benzodiazepine Abuse And Addiction Treatment
Overcoming an addiction to benzodiazepines can be very difficult without medical support and behavioral health treatment.
If you or a loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine abuse or addiction, one of our specialists may be able to help.
Call our helpline today to learn more about benzodiazepine abuse and to find addiction treatment options near you.
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- American Family Physician — Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines—Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Diazepam
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI Bookshelf — Benzodiazepines in Older Adults: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness, Cost-Effectiveness, and Guidelines
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: NCBI Bookshelf — GABA Receptor StatPearls