Prazepam is a pharmaceutical agent in the benzodiazepine class of medications. These drugs have a sedating effect on the body and are used to treat anxiety, insomnia and agitation. Most often, prazepam is used to treat symptoms of anxiety. Side effects of the medication can include sleepiness, dizziness, confusion and memory loss. Older patients and those who have liver dysfunction should take the medication with caution, because they could experience more significant side effects from the drug.
The mechanism of action of prazepam is to alter the brain chemistry and change how signals are transmitted within the central nervous system. Medications in this class of drugs increase the activity of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) within the brain. As a result, patients experience effects such as sedation, decreased risk for having seizures, lessened anxiety, decreased muscle tension and increased ability to sleep.
Most often, prazepam is given as a pill. It is taken one to three times a day and is available under several brand names. As of early 2012, it was legal in many countries but not in others, including the United States.
One of the most common reasons that prazepam is used is to treat anxiety. The medication can be taken as frequently as three times a day to calm patients and help them control their symptoms. It is preferred over some of the other benzodiazepine medications because it has a sustained effect in the body.
Common side effects of prazepam can include sleepiness, dizziness, poor coordination, memory loss and confusion. Some patients could have psychiatric side effects, including having a depressed mood and feeling emotionally distant from the world. Prazepam should not be combined with other sedating medications, alcohol, barbiturates or anti-histamines.
Patients who are taking prazepam should be careful not to abruptly discontinue taking this medication. They can experience significant symptoms, including fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, anxiety, agitation and hallucinations. The dosage of the medication should be tapered slowly over time.
Although this drug typically is fairly well tolerated by patients, its use should be avoided by certain patients. Elderly people can be more susceptible to the side effects of the medication and could become very confused after taking the drug. Patients who have liver dysfunction should take the medication with caution because the drug is metabolized by the liver, and they could experience significant side effects at low doses of the drug.