Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that have been used as anxiolytics (antianxiety agents), hypnotics (sleep-promoting drugs), anticonvulsants (in the treatment of epilepsy), muscle relaxants, and anesthetics. These medications were very popular from the 1960s to the 1980s, but their use then declined mainly because of their habit-forming properties. Benzodiazepines are still commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders and insomnia, with their long-term use eliciting controversies. The main advantages of benzodiazepines are consistent effectiveness against the core anxiety symptoms, rapid onset of action, and relatively good tolerability. Their most important adverse effects are sedation and impaired psychomotor performance. Their long-term use is associated with pharmacological dependence, which calls for efforts to prevent withdrawal symptoms that might occur on abrupt discontinuation.

History and Current Use

Benzodiazepines were introduced in ...

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