For things like anxiety people are told to do progressive muscle relaxation which is based on the theory that your mind can’t be under stress if your body is relaxed, so people try to relax their muscles in the hopes that this relaxes their minds too.
Do benzodiazepines work by the same method, relaxing the muscles so the mind gets relaxed too or do they work via some other method?
They do relax muscles via benzodiazepine receptors and by directly inhibiting contraction, and by blocking the effects of chemicals that facilitate contraction. i.e., they have a general relaxant effect. I’m not sure how intimately that is linked with their anxiolytic properties, other than that such an affect is not absolutely required, but is generally a result of ingesting the drugs.
I’m guessing that both methods cause(ultimately) similar reactions in the body.
Benzodiazepines relieve stress basically the same way that alcohol does. Benzodiazepines work via GABA receptors which are located in most areas of the brain. GABA receptors are the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. This means that it slows neuron firing in many different brain areas. Alcohol works works on GABA A subtype 1 brain receptors while benzodiazepines have a lower affinity for several type of GABA receptors.
Benzodiazepine addiction can lead to some of the most painful potentially life-threatining withdrawal symptoms of all drugs. It is rivaled only by alcohol. My grandfather died a sudden death from benzodiazepine withdrawal at age 55.
So no, they do not relieve stress the same way. While many things activate GABA receptors including muscle relaxation, benzodiazepines are doing it artificially troughout the brain and muscle relaxation is selectively targeting muscles in the way that the brain is designed to work.
How regular must one’s use be for physical addiction to occur? My doctor had me take xanax for about a month. To be honest, I didn’t take the script as often as prescribed, but I did take it fairly regularly during that month. I didn’t know at the time about the perils of withdrawal, so I quit ‘cold-turkey’ (without any ill effects mentally or physically).
Addiction to benzodiazepines is a complicated thing just like most addictions so there is no good way to answer that question. As a general rule however, the type of addiction that I described is based on years of abuse with a greatly increased tolerance to the drug. That creates a physical dependence in your body and brain that makes it uncomfortable and dangerous to function without it physically.