Drugs A to Z

Benzodiazepines: Factsheet

Benzodiazepine medication
Targeted Drugs:

This resource has undergone expert review.

Year 9–10, Year 11–12
Time Allocated

Partial lesson (under 45mins)





What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are also known as benzos, downers, sleeping tablets or sleeping pills.

Benzodiazepines are medications that may be prescribed for problems such as 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 be effective medications. However, there are risks, particularly if they’re not used properly, or are used regularly (e.g. daily) for more than a few weeks. 

What are the effects of Benzodiazepines?

Once swallowed, benzodiazepines usually take about half an hour to start taking effect. The length of time the effects last for varies. 

The effects of benzodiazepines can be immediate or long-term, as listed in the table below.

Immediate Long-term
Decreased heart rate Dependence (see glossary)
Drowsiness and sedation For people who are dependent on this drug, suddenly stopping use can cause fatal seizures. People wishing to stop should seek advice from their GP
Shallow breathing  
A feeling of calmness  
Loss of balance and coordination  
Slurred speech  
Blurred vision  

Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney, the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.

Download attachment for more information on Benzodiazepines and a list of sources.
Download 'Benzodiazepines: What you need to know about sleeping pills'


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