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Benzodiazepines are a depressant drug usually prescribed for sleep disorders or anxiety. Many people use them recreationally to get high.

This can help if:

  • you want to know what benzodiazepine drugs are
  • you’re curious about what benzodiazepine does to you
  • you want to know why people take benzodiazepines.

What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines (also known as ‘benzos’, Xanax, Valium, Ambien) are a type of prescription drug. They’re classified as a depressant, and doctors generally prescribe them in the short term as a sedative to assist people who can’t sleep. They can also be prescribed to treat anxiety issues, to relax the muscles and to treat epilepsy.

What do benzodiazepines do to you?

Taking benzodiazepines will affect everyone differently. Depending on your size, health, the amount you take, and whether they’re mixed with other drugs, benzodiazepines will make you feel:

  • sleepy
  • forgetful
  • calm and relaxed
  • euphoric
  • depressed.

They can also affect you physically by:

  • decreasing your memory and coordination
  • blurring your vision
  • making you feel dizzy
  • giving you the shakes.

In the long term, taking benzodiazepines regularly can cause:

  • sleeping problems and tiredness
  • reduced motivation
  • memory problems
  • mood swings or aggression
  • paranoia
  • emotional changes
  • weight gain
  • muscle shrinkage
  • irregular menstrual periods
  • sexual problems
  • skin rashes
  • an addiction to benzodiazepines.

Benzodiazepines and other drugs

Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs is extremely dangerous. If they're mixed with alcohol, heroin, methadone or another depressant, they can cause unconsciousness and prevent your brain controlling your breathing.

If you’re worried that someone has overdosed on a benzodiazepine, call an ambulance immediately. Don't worry about getting in trouble – the paramedics will only involve the police if they someone is in danger, if someone dies, or if there are non-drug crimes involved (such as violence or theft).

How do I know if I’m addicted to benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are addictive, and when you use them a lot you’ll build up a tolerance. ‘Tolerance’ means that you need to take increasingly higher doses to experience a noticeable effect.

Tolerance to benzodiazepines builds up quickly, and makes it hard to quit. The following symptoms are signs of tolerance:

  • headaches, faintness or dizziness
  • shaking, sweating, vomiting and cramps/pains
  • weird dreams and/or insomnia
  • tiredness
  • trouble concentrating
  • heightened senses.

If you’re worried that you’ve developed an addiction to benzodiazepines, even if you take them for medical reasons, talk to a doctor, a mental health worker or a drug counsellor. They’ll be able to help you safely reduce your usage over time.

What can I do now?

  • Talk to a doctor about your drug use.
  • Learn more about addiction.
  • Try the ReachOut NextStep tool to find help that’s right for you.