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EDITIONS
Tranquillisers Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Definitions
DEFINITIONS


Dependence
Physical dependence or 'pharmacological dependence' is a pathological state caused by repeated administration of the drug. A patient is pharmacologically dependent if the patient must continue the drug to avoid pain and withdrawal symptoms.

'Psychological dependence' is no less real than physical dependence. It means a compulsion that requires periodic or continuous administration of a drug to satisfy a craving.


Withdrawal symptoms
Benzodiazepine withdrawal can induce anxiety, insomnia, tremors, agitation, convulsions, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, vomiting and mental impairment and, in abrupt withdrawal from long term use, psychosis and seizures.

Unsupervised withdrawal is very dangerous. Contact your GP if you wish to cease or decrease your medication.


Side effects
All drugs have side effects. Benzodiazepines can cause serious side effects.

While risks of side-effects are drug specific and vary from user to user, the most frequently reported side effects of benzodiazepines include short-term memory impairment, confusion, dizziness and co-ordination difficulties.

Other side effects are wide ranging: Depression, agitation, euphoria, lethargy, anxiety, agitation, depression, irritability, euphoria, lethargy and stupor are all psychiatric adverse effects reported with benzodiazepines.

Dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, palpitations, change in libido and incontinence are also known side effects.

Due to the length of time the drugs stay in the system, "hang-over" effects can be experienced after use.

Over sedation is dose related effect of benzodiazepines. Symptoms include drowsiness, poor concentration, mental confusion, muscle weakness and impaired balance and co-ordination.

Data Sheets
Pharmaceutical companies produce data sheets every year to keep doctors up to date on side effects and doseage.

Panorama: Special report on tranquillisers


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