English: Xanax 0.25, 0.5 and 1 mg scored tablets

English: Xanax 0.25, 0.5 and 1 mg scored tablets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Benzodiazepines (“Benzos”) are drugs that were first marketed in the 1960’s for the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, seizures, convulsions and as muscle relaxants.  Today these drugs account for about one out of every five prescriptions for controlled substances.  

Benzos like ProSom, Dalmane, Doral, Restoril and Halcion are often prescribed for insomnia. Klonopin is often prescribed for the treatment of seizure disorders.  Ativan, Centrax, Librium, Paxipam, Serax, Valium, and Xanax are often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety.

HOW ARE BENZOS METABOLIZED?

Benzos are metabolized, for the most part, through the P450 pathway in the liver and primarily by the CYP3A enzyme.  Because so many drugs and other substances are metabolized primarily by the CYP3A enzyme, there is a high likelihood that there will be interference either with the metabolism of Benzos or with the metabolism of other drugs and substances by Benzos.

HOW DO BENZOS WORK?

A benzodiazepine, like alcohol, is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant.  Anything that depresses the CNS will seem to relax a person. Benzos increase the effect of GABA on the cell and this allows more than the usual number of chloride ions to reach the cell receptor and further reduce the activity of the cell.  For many, the feeling created by Benzos is similar to the feeling many of us experience if we are drinking alcohol.  
However, Benzos are not a harmless drug.  Government studies show that a large percentage of drug-related emergency room visits involve Benzos. Like alcohol, using Benzos impairs mental alertness and physical coordination and can dangerously compromise mechanical performance, such as automobile driving.  
Combining the use of Benzos and alcohol or other drugs can have fatal consequences.