Tranxene is the brand name for a benzodiazepine medication, clorazepate. The drug is prescribed most often to treat insomnia and anxiety disorders, although it is also sometimes used as a muscle relaxant, to ease alcohol withdrawal, or to treat seizure disorders. Like many benzodiazepines, Tranxene works by adjusting the GABA receptors’ uptake of neurotransmitters, so signals between neurons slow down. This helps the individual relax, and it can stop panic attacks or seizures. This relaxing property is also addictive for some people.
How Is Tranxene Prescribed, and Why Is It Addictive?
This medication, like other benzodiazepines, can have many side effects if not taken as prescribed. Typically, Tranxene is not prescribed for more than two weeks, due to the potential for addiction and dependence. Because benzodiazepines change brain chemistry, the body can become dependent on the substance to feel normal or to reach equilibrium. This dependence can cause withdrawal symptoms when the person goes without the substance. While dependence can occur even if the person takes Tranxene as prescribed by their doctor, it is more likely to occur among people who abuse Tranxene for recreational purposes or those who struggle with an addiction to this substance for a long time.
Because Tranxene leads to a strong reaction in brain chemistry, the effects can feel intoxicating at first, even when taken as directed. People who take this medication for short-term relief of anxiety or insomnia are typically instructed not to drive cars or operate heavy machinery due to the residual sleepiness or lightheadedness that can occur. It is also very important that people taking Tranxene not drink alcohol, because mixing central nervous system (CNS) depressants can be dangerous. However, people who abuse Tranxene often do so by mixing it with other drugs, which can be physically dangerous.
Tranxene’s Effects on the Mind and Body
- Sleepiness, fatigue, or drowsiness
- Dizziness or loss of coordination
- Appetite changes and abdominal upset
- Dry mouth
Tranxene changes brain chemistry, which can lead to other physical effects, especially if taken at large doses or abused for a long time.
The Brain and Tranxene
Tranxene and other benzodiazepines have strong effects on the brain, which can include changes to mood, emotions, or behavior. Here are a few mental state changes:
- Oversedation: This can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, the individual may be taking too much Tranxene in order to experience a “high,” or they may intentionally avoid going to sleep after taking the medication. Sometimes, oversedation is accidental, such as if the prescribed dose is too large, or the individual did not get enough sleep during the night for the medication to completely wear off. This effect is the result of benzodiazepines’ sedative/hypnotic qualities, which reduce anxiety or lead to sleep, but it can also cause poor coordination and concentration, confusion, and, in very high doses, delirium.
- Memory problems: Tranxene can cause amnesia or blackouts. For some people, this is an accidental result, which improves when they end their prescription; for others, however, amnesia or the inability to form memories for a specific period of time gets worse as they continue to abuse this medication or struggle with an addiction.
- Depression or anhedonia: People who take too many sedatives like Tranxene can experience consistent low moods. When people become addicted to a substance, part of that illness involves triggering the brain’s reward system, which releases dopamine. As dopamine leaves the brain, or as the person becomes tolerant to Tranxene flooding the brain with the happy neurotransmitter, this can trigger low moods, depression, or the inability to feel pleasure.
- Return of anxiety or insomnia: Sometimes, benzodiazepines like Tranxene can excite the neurons, which is called paradoxical excitement. This can lead to a return of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hyperactivity, aggression, nightmares, hallucinations, and even seizures.
People who have taken Tranxene for a long period of time, especially due to addiction or substance abuse issues, are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A comprehensive study found that people who took benzodiazepines for 3-6 months had increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 32 percent, while people who took these substances for longer than six months increased their risk by 84 percent.
Tranxene and the Body
The primary effects of Tranxene are changes to the brain, but body systems can be negatively impacted by these medications too. Here are a few complications that can occur when taking large doses of Tranxene or abusing Tranxene for a long time:
- Abdominal problems: Some of the early side effects of Tranxene, and other benzodiazepines, are digestive problems. Abdominal cramping can occur, as well as nausea or vomiting. People who struggle with Tranxene addiction can experience diarrhea. When a person abuses Tranxene for a long period of time, abdominal problems can become a more chronic issue, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, or hiatus hernia.
- Liver failure: Benzodiazepines, including Tranxene, are typically not toxic to the liver; however, in large doses or when used by people who already struggle with alcohol use disorder, these medications can be very damaging. Alcohol damages the liver, and benzodiazepines like Tranxene are sometimes prescribed off-label to treat withdrawal symptoms from alcohol detox. Benzodiazepines can be very addictive to people who already struggle with other substance abuse issues, and they can increase liver toxicity among people who have some damage to their livers.
- Endocrine system: Tranxene has been linked in some cases to effects on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which can lead to changes in hormone balance. These changes can affect mood and lead to male breast growth, changes in the menstrual cycle, weight gain or loss, and more.
Withdrawal symptoms can also lead to cardiac problems, such as irregular heartbeat, and seizures. If a person attempts to stop taking Tranxene without medical oversight, they could experience protracted withdrawal. People suffering this condition experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks or months, and they can experience cravings and some psychological symptoms for years after detoxing from the medication. Rebound anxiety and insomnia are common withdrawal symptoms, but seizures and motor coordination problems are physical symptoms of protracted withdrawal. As with all benzodiazepines, medical detox is required to withdraw from Tranxene.
Symptoms of Tranxene Addiction
A person who becomes dependent on Tranxene may or may not also be addicted to this medication. Dependence can be used as a metric for determining addiction, but it is not the only sign. Addiction is a chronic disease of the mind involving compulsive consumption of an intoxicating substance, such as Tranxene, alcohol, or oxycodone. Other symptoms of addiction include:
- Inability to stop taking Tranxene despite desire to do so
- Lying about taking Tranxene
- Doctor-shopping to get multiple prescriptions
- Hiding Tranxene consumption from friends, family, and coworkers
- Neglecting work, school, or personal activities or responsibilities
- Becoming aggressive or irritated when asked about Tranxene consumption
- Stealing the medication or money to purchase the medication
- Engaging in risky behaviors to acquire Tranxene
- Becoming obsessed with when the next dose will come
Getting Help for Tranxene Addiction
The first step to overcoming an addiction is to contact a medical professional or addiction rehabilitation program. A doctor will work with a client to come up with a safe program to withdraw from Tranxene, which most often includes tapering off the medication. Although tapering can take weeks or months, it is the best way to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help the body rid itself of dependence on the medication.
After that, a rehabilitation program is very helpful to overcoming the chronic illness that is addiction. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs work better for different individuals and situations. If a person has a strong support system at home and responsibilities that can’t be shifted, outpatient treatment may be preferable. For intense and chronic cases of addiction, inpatient care may be required. There are various factors, such as age, gender, medical needs, geographical location, and insurance coverage, that will also guide the decision regarding treatment.