Recent Blog Articles
Genes protective during the Black Death may now be increasing autoimmune disorders
Does weight loss surgery relieve pain?
Have you done your crossword puzzle today?
Concerned about your child’s development?
Why all the buzz about inflammation — and just how bad is...
What’s the right way to brush your teeth?
Want to stay healthy over the holidays?
How to help your preschooler sleep alone
21 spices for healthy holiday foods
New guidelines on opioids for pain relief: What you need to know
Mind & Mood
Benzodiazepines (and the alternatives)
With the introduction of benzodiazepines such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) in the early 1960s, a new era in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety began. The benzodiazepines were more effective and far safer than the older drugs — barbiturates, meprobamate, and glutethimide — that had been prescribed for these purposes. For many years, benzodiazepines continued to be the most popular prescription tranquilizers and sedatives. Since the mid-1980s, new alternatives have been assuming some of these roles, but benzodiazepines are not about to leave the stage.
More than a dozen benzodiazepines are available by prescription. Benzodiazepines have a common basic chemical structure, and they all increase activity at receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This transmitter inhibits the activity of neurons, slowing down the brain and nervous system. Benzodiazepines differ mainly in how quickly they are absorbed, how long their effects last, and how long they take to leave the body.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!