Last updated : March 26, 2017
Benzodiazepines (pronounced ben-zoh-die-AZ-a-peens) are depressant drugs. This means that they slow down the activity of the central nervous system and the messages travelling between the brain and the body. They do not necessarily make a person feel depressed. Other depressants include alcohol, cannabis and heroin.
Benzodiazepines, also known as minor tranquilizers, are most commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve stress and anxiety and to help people sleep. However, there is increasing concern among medical professionals about the risks of using these drugs, particularly when they are used for a long time.
Some people use benzodiazepines illegally to get high or to help with the ‘come down’ effects of stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine.
There are three types of benzodiazepines: long, intermediate and short acting. Short-acting benzodiazepines have stronger withdrawal or ‘come down’ effects and can be more addictive than long-acting ones.1
Benzodiazepines are known by their chemical (generic) name or their brand name. In each case the drug is exactly the same – it’s just made by a different company. Some common benzodiazepines are:
|Generic name||Brand name||Type|
|oxazepam||Alepam®, Murelax®, Serepax®||Short-acting|
|alprazolam||Xanax®, Kalma®, Alprax®||Short-acting|
Adapted from: Brands B, Sproule B & Marshman J. (eds) (1998) Drugs & Drug Abuse (3rd ed.) Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
Benzos, tranx, sleepers, downers, pills, xannies, serras (Serepax®), moggies (Mogadon®), normies (Normison®)
Benzodiazepines are usually swallowed. Some people also inject them.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Benzodiazepines affect everyone differently, but the effects may include:
Injecting benzodiazepines may also cause:
Injecting drugs repeatedly and sharing injecting equipment with other people increases the risk of experiencing these effects.2
If you take a large amount, you could overdose. If you have any of the symptoms below, call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police.
Regular use of benzodiazepines may cause:
The effects of taking benzodiazepines with other drugs can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Giving up benzodiazepines after using them for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without them. This is why it’s important to seek advice from a health professional when planning to stop taking benzodiazepines.
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and are different depending on the type of benzodiazepine being taken. Symptoms can last from a few weeks to a year and can include:
aggression, blurred vision, coma, confusion, constipation, death, depression, diarrhoea, double vision, dry mouth, excitability, headache, help sleeping, jitteriness, memory loss, minor tranquilliser, mood swings, nausea, over sedation, shallow breathing, sleep, slurred speech, unconsciousness.