Drugs A to Z

This resource has undergone expert review.

Resource Overview

Time Allocated

Partial lesson (under 45mins)





Benzodiazepines: Factsheet

Benzodiazepine medication
Year: Year 9–10, Year 11–12
Targeted Drugs:

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 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 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. 

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.


  • Decreased heart rate
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Shallow breathing
  • A feeling of calmness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Blackouts
  • Overdose.


  • Dependence (addiction)
  • For dependent users, suddenly stopping use can cause fatal seizures.

Evidence Base

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: 1 November 2019.