Drugs A to Z

Benzodiazepines: Factsheet

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

Resource Overview

Time Allocated

Partial lesson (under 45mins)

Origin

Australian Resource

Cost

Freely available

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 anxiety or insomnia. 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, 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?

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:

Immediate

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

Long-term

  • 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 NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information.