Side effects of treatment with benzodiazepines

Psychiatr Danub. 2010 Mar;22(1):90-3.


Background: The use of benzodiazepine anxiolytics and hypnotics continues to excite controversy. Views differ from expert to expert and from country to country as to the extent of the problem, or even whether long-term benzodiazepine use actually constitutes a problem. Although as a class benzodiazepines act rapidly and are well tolerated, their use presents clinical issues such as dependence, rebound anxiety, memory impairment, and discontinuation syndrome. The aim of this article is to review literature regarding different side effects associated with treatment with benzodiazepines - effects on cognition, treatment with benzodiazepines during pregnancy, dependence on benzodiazepines and risk of falling.

Content analysis of literature: Literature research included structured searches of Medline and other publications on the subject of treatment with benzodiazepines, particularly effects on cognition, risk of falls, benzodiazepine dependence and treatment with benzodiazepines during pregnancy.

Conclusion: Results of investigations have revealed different side effects associated with treatment with benzodiazepines. Previous investigations showed that treatment with benzodiazepines may induce anterograde amnesia. Also, previous studies confirmed occurrence of physical dependence in high percentage of patients in long term treatment with benzodiazepines at therapeutic dosages. Some investigation suggested higher risk of oral cleft, the floppy infant syndrome, or marked neonatal withdrawal symptoms when using benzodiazepines during pregnany. Investigations have shown increased risk of falling in elderly persons taking benzodiazepines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / etiology
  • Accidental Falls
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / adverse effects*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Long-Term Care
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Benzodiazepines