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Benzodiazepines for Restless Legs Syndrome


Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
alprazolamXanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan
clonazepamXanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan
diazepamXanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan
lorazepamXanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan

How It Works

Benzodiazepines are sedative medicines. They affect chemicals in the nervous system and brain to reduce communication between nerve cells. This process improves sleep, relieves anxiety, and relaxes muscles for some people.

Why It Is Used

These drugs generally are used to treat anxiety, nervousness, muscular spasms, and seizures. Benzodiazepines may be used alone, usually for people who only have sleep problems or only have periodic limb movements. Low doses of benzodiazepines may also be used alone for the first attempts to relieve mild symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Benzodiazepines may be used with other drugs, such as dopamine, opioid, or anticonvulsant medicine, that have failed to improve symptoms when used alone. They are especially helpful in improving sleeplessness that has not been helped by other drugs.

How Well It Works

These medicines often help improve sleep quality and may reduce leg movements.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Confusion.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Memory loss.
  • Tolerance (your body keeps needing more of the medicine to get the same effect).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about clonazepam (Klonopin) and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using this medicine. Instead, people who take clonazepam should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take clonazepam and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerColin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last RevisedMarch 22, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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