In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For benzodiazepines, the following should be considered:
Allergies—Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to benzodiazepines. Also tell your health care professional if you are allergic to any other substances, such as foods, preservatives, or dyes. Certain benzodiazepine products may contain lactose, parabens, or soybean oil.
Pregnancy—Chlordiazepoxide and diazepam have been reported to increase the chance of birth defects when used during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Although similar problems have not been reported with the other benzodiazepines, the chance always exists since all of the benzodiazepines are related.
Studies in animals have shown that clonazepam, lorazepam, and temazepam cause birth defects or other problems, including death of the animal fetus.
Too much use of a benzodiazepine during pregnancy may cause the baby to become dependent on the medicine. This may lead to withdrawal side effects after birth. Also, use of benzodiazepines during pregnancy, especially during the last weeks, may cause body temperature problems, breathing problems, difficulty in feeding, drowsiness, or muscle weakness in the newborn infant.
Benzodiazepines given just before or during labor may cause weakness in the newborn infant. When diazepam is given in high doses (especially by injection) within 15 hours before delivery, it may cause breathing problems, muscle weakness, difficulty in feeding, and body temperature problems in the newborn infant.
Breast-feeding—Benzodiazepines may pass into the breast milk and cause drowsiness, difficulty in feeding, and weight loss in nursing babies of mothers taking these medicines.
Children—Most of the side effects of these medicines are more likely to occur in children, especially the very young. These patients are usually more sensitive than adults to the effects of benzodiazepines.
It is possible that using clonazepam for long periods of time may cause unwanted effects on physical and mental growth in children. If such effects do occur, they may not be noticed until many years later. Before this medicine is given to children for long periods of time, you should discuss its use with your child's doctor.
Older adults—Most of the side effects of these medicines are more likely to occur in the elderly, who are usually more sensitive to the effects of benzodiazepines.
Taking benzodiazepines for trouble in sleeping may cause more daytime drowsiness in elderly patients than in younger adults. In addition, falls and related injuries are more likely to occur in elderly patients taking benzodiazepines.
Other medicines—Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are taking or receiving benzodiazepines it is especially important that your health care professional know if you are taking any of the following:
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants (medicines that cause drowsiness)—The CNS depressant effects of either these medicines or benzodiazepines may be increased; your doctor may want to change the dose of either or both medicines
Fluvoxamine (e.g., Luvox) or
Nefazodone (e.g., Serzone)—Higher blood levels of benzodiazepines may occur, increasing the chance that side effects will occur; your doctor may want to change the dose of either or both medicines, or give you a different medicine
Itraconazole (e.g., Sporanox) or
Ketoconazole (e.g., Nizoral)—These medicines should NOT be used if you are taking a benzodiazepine.
Other medical problems—The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of benzodiazepines. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:
Alcohol abuse (or history of) or
Drug abuse or dependence (or history of)—Dependence on benzodiazepines may be more likely to develop
Brain disease—CNS depression and other side effects of benzodiazepines may be more likely to occur
Difficulty in swallowing (in children) or
Emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, or other chronic lung disease or
Mental depression or
Mental illness (severe) or
Myasthenia gravis or
Sleep apnea (temporary stopping of breathing during sleep)—Benzodiazepines may make these conditions worse
Epilepsy or history of seizures—Although some benzodiazepines are used in treating epilepsy, starting or suddenly stopping treatment with these medicines may increase seizures
Glaucoma, acute narrow angle—Benzodiazepines should NOT be used if you have this condition.
Glaucoma, open angle—Benzodiazepines can be used but your doctor should be monitoring your condition carefully.
Kidney or liver disease—Higher blood levels of benzodiazepines may result, increasing the chance that side effects will occur