Posted on Monday, May 1st, 2023 at 7:00 am    

Studies show that up to 25% of children, 35% of adolescents, and 45% of young adults suffer from insomnia symptoms. Many people turn to prescription drugs to restore normal sleep patterns. For young people with insomnia, prescription medication, such as benzodiazepines, can relieve sleepless nights. Unfortunately, new research indicates that teens and young adults who treat insomnia with benzodiazepines may be more likely to suffer unintended consequences.

What are the risks associated with treating sleep disorders with benzodiazepine? Are these other sleep solutions available to those suffering from restless nights and fatigue-filled days?

What Are Benzodiazepines and How Do They Treat Sleep Disorders?

Benzodiazepines are classified as depressants. These drugs slow down the messages that travel between the brain and body and produce a sedative-like effect. Doctors typically prescribe benzodiazepines to help a patient with stress or anxiety or to manage insomnia symptoms. Some of the most prescribed benzodiazepines include the following:

  • Valium
  • Ducene
  • Xanax
  • Alprax
  • Kalma
  • Euhpnos
  • Alodorm
  • Murelax
  • Serepax

Many of these drugs also come in generic formulations under the names diazepam, oxazepam, alprazolam, and temazepam.

Most benzodiazepines can be categorized as mild tranquilizers and come in long-acting and short-acting formats. By slowing down the messages between the brain and body, they make the nervous system less active. The decrease in nervous system activity can sedate an individual and help them fall asleep.

Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

While benzodiazepines can help people who are struggling to rest fall asleep fast, these drugs also produce side effects like:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Loss of coordination
  • Tremors
  • Double vision
  • Impaired thinking
  • Memory loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea 

Drinking alcohol can intensify these side effects. Unfortunately, benzodiazepines can also be habit-forming, and there is a significant risk of overdose, primarily when used with alcohol or other drugs.

Benzodiazepine Treatment and Drug Overdose Risk Among Young People

Benzodiazepines can be an effective treatment option for insomnia. However, new studies indicate benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of overdose in young people. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that benzodiazepines were involved in 12,290 overdose deaths in 2020 alone. That is a staggering increase from the 6,872 overdose deaths recorded in 2011.

Researchers are finding that young people using benzodiazepines to treat sleep disorders have an increased risk of overdoses, especially within the first six months of starting treatment. Although the relationship between overdoses and young people is still unclear, it may be because of the frequent co-use of benzodiazepines with other substances like alcohol.

Examining Different Sleep Treatments

Benzodiazepines are not the only course of treatment for those suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Several other treatment options on the market can alleviate insomnia and help you sleep better. CPAP machines and oral appliances can help solve some of the most common sleep issues plaguing Americans today, like obstructive sleep apnea.

Contact the compassionate team at Silent Night Therapy if you want a more restful sleep. Our New York sleep experts can help diagnose your sleep issues and offer solutions that address your physical and mental well-being. Your road to better sleep starts today. Contact our office at 631-983-2463 for a complimentary sleep consultation.