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Benzodiazepines


Benzodiazepines are depressants that produce sedation and hypnosis, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and reduce seizures.

Origin

Benzodiazepines are only legally available through prescription. Many users maintain their drug supply by getting prescriptions from several doctors, forging prescriptions, or buying them illicitly. Alprazolam and diazepam are the two most frequently encountered benzodiazepines on the illicit market.

Street names

Benzos and Downers.

Appearance

The most common benzodiazepines are the prescription drugs Valium, Xanax, Halcion, Ativan, and Klonopin. Tolerance can develop, although at variable rates and to different degrees. Shorter-acting benzodiazepines used to manage insomnia include estazolam (ProSom), flurazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril), and triazolam (Halcion). Midazolam (Versed), a short-acting benzodiazepine, is utilized for sedation, anxiety, and amnesia in critical care settings and prior to anesthesia. It is available in the United States as an injectable preparation and as a syrup (primarily for pediatric patients).

Benzodiazepines with a longer duration of action are utilized to treat insomnia in patients with daytime anxiety. These benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), halazepam (Paxipam), lorzepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Serax), prazepam (Centrax), and quazepam (Doral). Clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam, and clorazepate are also used as anticonvulsants.

Methods of abuse

Abuse is frequently associated with adolescents and young adults who take the drug orally or crush it up and snort it to get high. Abuse is particularly high among heroin and cocaine users.

Mental effects

Benzodiazepines are associated with amnesia, hostility, irritability, and vivid or disturbing dreams.

Physical effects

Benzodiazepines slow down the central nervous system and may cause sleepiness.

Overdose effects

  • Shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and possible death

Drugs with similar effects

  • Alcohol, barbiturates, sleeping pills, and GHB

Legal status in the United States

Benzodiazepines are controlled in Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act.

Source: DEA Drug Fact Sheet - Benzodiazepines
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