Benzodiazepines, or minor tranquillisers, are pharmaceutical drugs designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep. They are also prescribed to treat epilepsy, as muscle relaxants, and to help people withdrawing from alcohol. As with other pharmaceutical drugs, some people use benzodiazepines as recreational drugs and a black market has developed. Benzodiazepines come in tablet, capsule and injectable liquid forms.
There are several different benzodiazepines, which are often known by a variety of trade names. Some of the best known trade names are valium, serepax, mogadon and rohypnol. Benzodiazepines most commonly used as recreational drugs are temazepam (normison, euhypnos), diazepam (eg. valium), and flunitrazepam (eg. rohypnol).
Benzodiazepines depress the activity of the central nervous system, as alcohol does. They make the user feel calmer, relax the muscles and can cause drowsiness and lethargy. They may also cause a feeling of isolation from one's surroundings. In larger doses, benzodiazepines can cause confusion, slurring of speech, poor coordination and memory loss. They can lead to mood swings and impairment of judgement. Very high doses can cause unconsciousness or coma.
Long-term heavy users of benzodiazepines can become lethargic and lacking in motivation, though some become anxious and aggressive. They can suffer from nausea, headaches and insomnia and have trouble thinking clearly. Tolerance to benzodiazepines develops very quickly (within a week or two). Withdrawal from dependent use can lead to panic attacks, vomiting, depression and paranoia. Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol, or with painkillers or anti-histamines can cause unconsciousness or even respiratory failure.
Benzodiazepines are restricted substances that can be legally obtained only on a doctor's prescription. "Doctor shopping", that is, getting prescriptions from many different doctors, is one way that people obtain benzodiazepines excess to legitimate medical needs. Forging prescriptions is another common way of illegally obtaining large amounts of benzodiazepines. Illegally procuring or using benzodiazepines can attract fines or a prison sentence.
Common Street Names
Benzos, tranks or sleepers. Rohypnol is sometimes abbreviated to "rohies", temazepam to "temazzies", serapax to "serries".