Benzodiazepines rapidly help control certain manic symptoms -- such as restlessness, agitation, or insomnia -- in bipolar disorder until mood-stabilizing drugs can take effect. They are usually taken for a brief time, up to two weeks or so, with other mood-stabilizing drugs.
Benzodiazepines slow the activity of the brain. In doing so, they can help treat mania, anxiety, panic disorder, and seizures.
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Benzodiazepines act quickly and bring on a sense of calmness. They can sometimes cause lightheadedness, slurred speech, or unsteadiness.
Possible benzodiazepine side effects include:
Drowsiness or dizziness
Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming and addictive. It is also dangerous to combine them with alcohol or certain other medications.
If you have been taking the benzodiazepines in high doses or for a long time, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms if you stop the drug suddenly. Talk with your doctor about whether you still need the medication and, if not, how to taper off the drug.
WebMD Medical Reference:: "Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder)."
WebMD Assess Plus: Bipolar Disorder Assessment. National Institute for Mental Health: "Step-BD Womens Studies."
Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic & Research Program.
MedicineNet.com: "Bipolar Disorder (Mania)." WebMD Medical Reference: "Effects of Untreated Depression." American Psychiatric Association: "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder."