How Can Benzodiazepines Affect Criminal Cases?

Courtesy of Godoy Medical Forensics


Did you Know?

Anxiety disorders develop from risk factors such as genetics, brain chemistry life events and personality. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. Approximately 40 million adults age 18 and older, are affected each year. This equates to about 18.1% of the United States population. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Yet only about 37% of those suffering an anxiety disorder receive treatment.

Treatment with Benzo’s

The class of drugs that is primarily used for treating anxiety are benzodiazepines.  Scientists believe that excessive activity of nerves in the brain may be the cause of anxiety and other psychological disorders. It is thought that benzodiazepines reduce the activity of these nerves in the brain and the spinal cord. In addition to anxiety, benzodiazepines are also used to treat panic attacks, seizures, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal and depression. Common benzodiazepines include: Ativan, Librium, Restoril, Valium and Xanax.

Side effects: The unwanted symptoms of Benzodiazepines

Whether prescription, over-the-counter, complementary or herbal treatments, medications are not only designed to help keep us well, but they can also cause unwanted side effects. Benzodiazepines are no different. Common side effects associated with benzodiazepines are:

  • Drowsiness and sedation.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weakness.
  • Unsteadiness.
  • Confusion and loss of orientation.
  • Aggression.
  • Excitement.

Xanax is a common benzodiazepine prescribed for anxiety disorders. In addition to the above side effects, Xanax, can also exhibit side effects such as:

  • Ataxia (stumbling, incoordination).
  • Cognitive dysfunction.
  • Dysarthria (slurred or slow speech).
  • Blurred vision.

What does this have to do with criminal cases?

The prevalence of anxiety disorders is high, with almost 40% of people affected receiving treatment with benzodiazepines. While most side effects of this class of drugs can be managed, there are people who continue to take benzodiazepines to manage their anxiety disorder; despite the unwanted symptoms or side effects that may affect their cognition, memory and physical coordination. Being aware of the medications a person is on, and the side effects of those medications, may be crucial in any case. In addition, side effects of medications dissipate after prolonged use, but also may return due to a change in medication regimen or an illness. Therefore, it is important for a medical expert to review records to determine if there is an underlying medical condition that may have contributed to the behavior or actions of a defendant.

See our previous post on Benzo’s for more information.


  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2018). ADAA. Retrieved July 20, 2019, from Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Facts & Statistics:
  • (2019, January 12).; Xanax Side Effects. ( Retrieved July 20, 2019, from
  • Ogbru, A. (2018, February 6). Benzodiazepines. (J. M. MD, Editor, & RxList) Retrieved July 20, 2019, from RxList: