Benzodiazepines and alcohol are two widely used substances that affect the central nervous system and have similar effects on the brain. While they are both known for their anxiolytic and sedative properties, they differ in their chemical composition, mode of action, and potential side effects.
In this article, we will explore the differences and similarities between benzodiazepines and alcohol, including their effects on the body and brain, their uses, risks, and potential for addiction. We will also discuss the potential side effects of each substance, and the risks associated with their misuse or abuse.
Understanding the similarities and differences between benzodiazepines and alcohol can help individuals make informed decisions about their substance use and reduce their risk of harm.
What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that are commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions that affect the central nervous system. They are also sometimes used to treat seizures, muscle spasms, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
Chemical Composition of Benzodiazepines
The chemical structure of benzodiazepines is characterized by a diazepine ring, which consists of seven carbon atoms, and a fused benzene ring. The specific chemical composition of each benzodiazepine varies depending on the specific drug, but they all share a similar structure.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is a psychoactive substance that is commonly consumed in various forms, including beer, wine, and spirits. It is produced by the fermentation of sugars and grains by yeast or bacteria. Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system, leading to feelings of relaxation, decreased inhibitions, and impaired coordination.
Chemical Composition of Alcohol
The chemical composition of alcohol (C2H6O) is relatively simple, consisting of a two-carbon molecule with an attached hydroxyl group (-OH). This chemical structure allows alcohol to dissolve easily in water and other liquids, making it readily absorbed by the body.
Benzodiazepines vs. Alcohol: Fact Sheet
|Drug Type||Sedative||CNS Depressant|
|Active Ingredients||Benzene ring and Diazepine ring||Ethanol|
|Used as treatment for:||Anxiety and Panic Disorders||Killing germs|
|Available Form(s)||Tablets, Capsules, and Injections||Liquid|
|Is it a controlled substance?||Yes, Schedule IV drugs||No|
|Legal Status||Can only be prescribed medically||Unscheduled|
|Risk of Withdrawal Effects||Yes||Yes|
|Risk of Addiction||Yes||Yes|
Alcohol Dosage and Side Effects:
Alcohol dosage can have a significant impact on the body and mind, with the potential for both short-term and long-term side effects. In small doses, alcohol can produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria, but as the dosage increases, so do the risks of negative consequences.
Too much alcohol can lead to impaired judgment, slurred speech, and difficulty with coordination. Excessive drinking can also result in more serious side effects, such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and increased risk of certain types of cancer.
It’s important to understand the potential dangers of alcohol and to always consume it in moderation, if at all. This means, one drink a day for men and 2 drinks per day for men, as per CDC. By doing so, you can enjoy the benefits of alcohol without risking your health or safety.
Benzodiazepines Dosage and Side Effects:
The recommended dosage for benzodiazepines can vary depending on the specific medication, the condition being treated, and the individual’s medical history. In general, benzodiazepines are prescribed at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration.
The recommended starting dose for most benzodiazepines is typically low as 0.5 mg and may be adjusted gradually upto 5 mg based on the individual’s response and tolerance. It’s important to note that benzodiazepines should be taken exactly as prescribed by a healthcare provider, and individuals should not increase the dose or frequency of use without medical supervision.
Abruptly stopping benzodiazepines after prolonged use can also result in withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and require medical attention. Too much benzodiazepines can lead to drowsiness, confusion, and difficulty with coordination. Excessive use can also result in more serious side effects, such as memory problems, addiction, and even respiratory depression.
Alcohol vs. Benzodiazepines: Can You Withdrawal for Either?
Yes, both alcohol and benzodiazepines can cause withdrawal symptoms if used for a prolonged period of time and then abruptly stopped or if the dosage is rapidly reduced.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and include tremors, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and even seizures. In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to delirium tremens (DTs), a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause hallucinations, seizures, and fever.
Similarly, benzodiazepine withdrawal can also range from mild to severe and typically includes symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, muscle tension, and sweating. In some cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal can also cause more severe symptoms such as seizures, psychosis, and delirium.
It’s important to note that withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can be dangerous and should be done under medical supervision. In some cases, medication-assisted treatment and/or behavioral therapy may be recommended to help manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse.
Benzodiazepines vs Alcohol: Prevalence in the United States
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2019, an estimated 14.5 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), representing 5.8% of this age group. Additionally, an estimated 2.0 million adults aged 18 or older had a prescription tranquilizer use disorder (which includes benzodiazepines), representing 0.8% of this age group.
Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that in 2020, an estimated 53.3% of adults aged 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol in the past month, and 23.3% reported binge drinking (defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion).
In terms of benzodiazepine use, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry estimated that in 2018, approximately 5.6% of adults aged 18 or older reported benzodiazepine use in the past 12 months, and 1.2% reported misuse (i.e., using a benzodiazepine in a way that was not prescribed).
Overall, while both alcohol and benzodiazepines are commonly used in the United States, alcohol use and alcohol use disorders are more prevalent than benzodiazepine.
Bottom Line: Benzodiazepines versus Alcohol
In conclusion, while both benzodiazepines and alcohol can be harmful if misused, alcohol is more widely used and associated with more negative health consequences overall, while benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for specific conditions and can be effective when used as directed. It’s important to use both substances responsibly and to seek medical help if experiencing any negative effects or withdrawal symptoms.
FAQs on Alcohol and Benzodiazepines
Alcohol vs Benzodiazepines: Which is more addicting?
Both alcohol and benzodiazepines have the potential to be highly addictive when misused. Both substances have the ability to cause physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction when used regularly and over a prolonged period of time.
Can you mix alcohol with Benzodiazepines?
No, it’s not recommended to mix alcohol with benzodiazepines as they can have additive effects and increase the risk of overdose and other negative consequences. Both substances depress the central nervous system, and when used together, they can cause extreme drowsiness, impaired coordination, and slowed breathing, which can be life-threatening.
Can Benzodiazepines be used to treat alcohol use disorder?
Benzodiazepines are not typically used to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) as they also have a potential for abuse and dependence. However, sometimes doctors might prescribe them to help with the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or depression associated with alcohol or meth.