What are Benzodiazepines?
Benzodiazepines are also known as benzos, sleeping tablets, downers, or sleeping pills.
Benzodiazepines are medications that may be prescribed for problems such insomnia (being unable to sleep) or anxiety. They are usually prescribed in a tablet or capsule form and the most common is diazepam (Valium). Others include alprazolam (Xanax), and oxazepam (Serepax). If used as prescribed by doctors, benzodiazepines can work well. However, there are risks, particularly if they’re not used properly, or are used regularly (e.g. daily) for more than a few weeks.
Obtaining benzodiazepines without a prescription from a doctor is illegal.
What are the effects?
Once swallowed, benzodiazepines usually take about half an hour to start taking effect. The length of time the effects last for varies.
Effects of benzodiazepines vary, but may include:
- Decreased heart rate
- Drowsiness and sedation
- Shallow breathing
- A feeling of calmness
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Dependence (addiction)
- For dependent users, suddenly stopping use can cause fatal seizures.
This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information.
Page last reviewed: 8 May 2019.