Major depressive disorder or depression is a mental health disorder characterized by a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities. Depression can interfere with a person’s life, specifically their ability to perform at work or school, socialize, and maintain interpersonal relationships. This condition has a variety of causes, ranging from family history to chemical imbalance. However, another common cause of depression is drug abuse. Benzodiazepines are tranquilizers or central nervous system depressants that have been linked to depression. But can benzodiazepines cause depression?
Benzodiazepines or benzos are a class of medications used to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, seizures, in addition to being used as a sedative before surgery. These psychoactive drugs work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain, one of them being gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces or suppresses nerve activity in the CNS. Many researchers believe that excessive nerve activity contributes to anxiety and other psychological disorders. Benzos are used to treat anxiety and other similar conditions because they inhibit nerve activity by stimulating GABA.
When benzos are abused, they can produce a sedative and euphoric high. Because of their ability to relax you, they’re also highly addictive. Long-term benzo abuse is believed to not only cause addiction but also contribute to mental illnesses like depression. Otherwise referred to as a co-occurring disorder, individuals with addiction and mental illness usually require dual diagnosis treatment to physically and psychologically recover.
Although they’re not meant to be used in this way, patients have recently been prescribed benzos for depression. When examining the relationship between benzodiazepines and depression, a specific correlation between benzo abuse and depression hasn’t been identified. However, anhedonia – or loss of pleasure – is a common side effect of benzodiazepine addiction, which may worsen depression symptoms. So, this begs the question: can benzodiazepines cause depression? Benzos can cause depression in people with a predisposition to or a history of depression and can also cause depressive episodes or worsen symptoms in people with this condition.
If you’ve ever wondered, “Can Xanax make depression worse?” you may have heard of post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Physical dependence on benzos can occur due to short periods of use. Physical dependence becomes evident when you experience withdrawal symptoms after cutting back on or stopping benzo use. Whether this medication is taken as prescribed or abused, withdrawal is still a likely risk. Additionally, some people may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome when withdrawing from benzos. This can last for several months after discontinued use.
Benzo withdrawal syndrome is characterized by sleep disturbance, irritability, tension, anxiety, and sometimes depression. In instances where the individual used high doses of benzos, seizures and psychosis have also occurred. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is one of the several reasons why people associate benzos with depression. Although this isn’t a direct cause, this syndrome can be distressing, nonetheless. That’s why medically monitored detox is recommended to individuals who want to detox from drugs and alcohol safely.
To sum it up, benzos do not cause depression, but they can contribute to the development of depression and worsen symptoms in people who have depression. You can think of benzos as more of a catalyst to depression rather than a direct cause. With that said, it’s also essential to realize the dangers of benzodiazepine abuse. While Xanax may not cause depression, abusing it and other substances in the benzo family can lead to addiction and other long-term repercussions.
If you or a loved one needs dual diagnosis or mental health treatment, connect with our team today at Banyan Mental Health by calling 888-280-4763. Our inpatient mental health rehab in Florida is led by a team of experts that can provide you with the resources needed to achieve recovery.