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Exploring Alternatives: Cannabis vs. Benzodiazepines for Anxiety and Insomnia



Benzodiazepines, also known as “benzos,” are a class of drugs commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. They work by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps to calm the nervous system. While benzos can be effective in treating certain conditions, they also come with a number of potential negative side effects.


The Negative Side Effects of Benzos


One of the most significant negative effects of benzos is their potential for addiction. These drugs are highly addictive and can lead to physical and psychological dependence. Long-term use of benzos can also lead to tolerance, meaning that patients will need to take higher doses to achieve the same effects. This can increase the risk of overdose and other dangerous side effects. Many patients experience extreme withdrawal symptoms after prolonged use, including the return of their initial depression, anxiety and insomnia as well as new neurological problems causing the symptoms to be worse than before the medication.


Another negative effect of benzos is that they can impair cognitive function, making it difficult for users to think clearly or make decisions. They can also cause drowsiness, which can make it difficult to drive or operate heavy machinery. In some cases, benzos can even cause hallucinations or other psychological symptoms.


Additionally, benzos can have negative effects on physical health. They can cause respiratory depression, which can make it difficult to breathe, and can also lead to increased risk of falls and other accidents. This is particularly dangerous for older patients, as a fall can be life threatening. Benzos can also interact with other medications and can cause negative reactions when combined with alcohol or other substances.


Given the potential negative effects of benzos, many patients and healthcare providers are looking for alternative treatments. One option that has gained attention in recent years is cannabis.


The Benefits of Cannabis


Cannabis is a plant that contains compounds called cannabinoids. The two most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the compound responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is non-psychoactive and recommended for many of the same therapeutic uses as benzos.


There is growing evidence that cannabis, specifically CBD, can be an effective alternative treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Unlike benzos, which work by increasing GABA activity, CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is involved in regulating a number of physiological processes, including mood, sleep, and appetite.


One of the benefits of using CBD as an alternative treatment is that it is not addictive. Studies have shown that even long-term use of CBD does not lead to physical or psychological dependence. Additionally, CBD does not impair cognitive function or cause drowsiness, making it a safer option for patients who need to drive or operate heavy machinery.


CBD has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, which may be beneficial for patients with conditions such as chronic pain or arthritis. Furthermore, CBD has been shown to have anti-tumor effects and may be beneficial for cancer patients.


Though benzodiazepines are a commonly prescribed class of drugs for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions, they come with potential negative side effects, including addiction, cognitive impairment and serious withdrawals. As an alternative treatment, cannabis, specifically CBD, has been shown to be effective in treating these symptoms without the negative side effects. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.


Most Common Benzos


The most common benzodiazepines prescribed in the United States include:


  1. Alprazolam (Xanax)

  2. Diazepam (Valium)

  3. Lorazepam (Ativan)

  4. Clonazepam (Klonopin)

  5. Temazepam (Restoril)

  6. Clorazepate (Tranxene)

  7. Flurazepam (Dalmane)

  8. Quazepam (Doral)

  9. Triazolam (Halcion)

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