- Today, 10% of the population in developed countries consumes benzodiazepines. You might not be familiar with this name but... What about Alprazolam, Diazepam, Valium... Do you recognise these names? All these drugs belong to the group of benzodiazepines and are widely used to treat psychiatric disorders such as anxiety attacks and insomnia.
In many countries such as Spain, a doctor can currently prescribe benzodiazepines, a fact that has significantly increased the consumption of these substances. An everyday more common solution to the levels of stress to which we are socially subjected.
While benzodiazepines are "the daily bread", so to speak, of the Western lifestyle, CBD, a cannabinoid present in the composition of marijuana, also possesses anxiolytic effects. Several studies show that CBD could be a valuable asset for the treatment of certain mental disorders; however, it remains in the shade under the stigma of illegality.
Find here below a thorough review of these two substances. What are they? What are they for? What are their secondary effects? Can CBD become an anxiolytic replacing or supplementing therapy with benzodiazepines?
What are benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are psychotropic drugs which act on the central nervous system, partially depressing it, particularly the limbic system.
What effect do benzodiazepines have?
Benzodiazepines are drugs that are widely used in psychiatry for its powerful effects:
- muscle relaxant
- It can produce certain degrees of amnesia
This type of drugs usually produces a high level of tolerance in our organism and a strong withdrawal syndrome.
What is CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of the 545 compounds of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Among them, about 104 have been classified as cannabinoids because they present certain common structural features.
What is the effect of CBD?
CBD does not produce the typical psychoactivity cannabis does. However, it has been proved to be very effective in treating anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. (5, 6)
What side effects may benzodiazepines have?
While benzodiazepines are one of the most widely-consumed psychotropic drugs, there are several studies indicating that prolonged use can have serious consequences for the health of patients. These are the side effects of benzodiazepines consumption in the long term:
Generalised cognitive problems: several clinical studies suggest that prolonged use of benzodiazepines significantly impairs cognitive functions related to visual-spatial ability and sustained attention. (1.2)
Sleep-related problems: the long-term use of benzodiazepines is associated with various disorders in the sleep quality of patients such as induction or impaired breathing during sleep or eye movements during REM sleep. (3)
Danger to the elderly: it has been proven that benzodiazepines are the most common cause of induced dementia. (4)
Long-permanence in tissues: benzodiazepines can exceed 100 half-life hours.
Boomerang effect: paradoxically, dependence to benzodiazepines causes the permanence of anxiety disorders and social phobia and progressively worsens their symptoms. (7)
Aggressiveness: prolonged or chronic use of benzodiazepines can cause aggressive behaviour and promote irascibility and violent impulses in the patient. (8)
It acts as a vector of mental disorders: studies indicate that consumption of benzodiazepines can cause psychosis, delusions and hallucinations as well as depression and agoraphobia. (9)
Immune system: clinical studies suggest that the use of long-term benzodiazepine can create severe disturbances in the immune system. (10)
What side effects does the CBD have?
Since CBD has not been officially administered as a medicine until relatively recently, its side effects are difficult to measure. However, scientific research done on this subject, have not identified any side effects that could be considered serious or significant for the health. It seems that the benefits of this substance outweigh its possible adverse effects.
CBD in combination with other drugs: the interaction of cannabidiol with other medications can cause problems in some cases. CBD can interact with some drugs by inhibiting the activity of cytochrome P450, a family of liver enzymes. Put more simply, CBD can decrease the effect of the drug.
Baker MJ, Greenwood KM, Jackson M, Crowe SF. Cognitive effects on long‐term benzodiazepine use: a meta‐analysis. CNS Drugs 2004; 18:37‐48.
Barker MJ, Greenwood KM, Jackson M, Crowe SF (2004). «Cognitive effects of long-term benzodiazepine use: a meta-analysis». CNS Drugs 18 (1): 37-48.
Lee-chiong, Teofilo (24 de abril de 2008). Sleep Medicine: Essentials and Review. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 105. ISBN 0-195306597
Starr JM, Whalley LJ (November de 1994). «Drug-induced dementia. Incidence, management and prevention». Drug Saf 11 (5): 310-7.
Breuer A, Haj CG, Fogaça MV, Gomes FV, Silva NR, Pedrazzi JF, Del Bel EA, Hallak JC, Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Mechoulam R, Guimarães FS.
Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Oct;12(4):825-36. doi: 10.1007/s13311-015- 0387-1 . Review.
Mathew VM; Dursun SM, Reveley MA (February de 2000). «Increased Aggressive, Violent, and Impulsive Behaviour in Patients During Chronic-Prolonged Benzodiazepine Use». Can J Psychiatry (BCNC) 45 (1): 89-90. PMID 10696503.
Tien AY; Anthony JC (August de 1990). «Epidemiological analysis of alcohol and drug use as risk factors for psychotic experiences». J Nerv Ment Dis 178 (8): 473-80.
Lechin F; van der Dijs B, Vitelli-Flores G, Báez S, Lechin ME, Lechin AE, Orozco B, Rada I, León G, Jiménez V (February de 1994). «Peripheral blood immunological parameters in long-term