What is benzodiazepine?

Benzodiazepines are amongst the most widely prescribed medications on today’s market. Used mainly as a sedative, muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant, this psychoactive drug was first synthesized in 1955. Today there are over two dozen different types of brand-name benzodiazepines marketed throughout the United States alone.

What are some types of marketed medications that contain benzodiazepine?

Some short-acting benzodiazepines currently on the market include Restoril (temazepam), Halcion (triazolam), Dalmane (flurazepam), ProSom (estazolam) and Versed (midazolam). Long-acting benzodiazepines found on today’s market include Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), Centrax (prazepam), Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) and Klonopin (clorazepate, diazepam and clonazepam). Most of these medications are used to treat such problems as insomnia and convulsions in varying severities, but they are also one of the most widely used drugs of abuse.

What else are benzodiazepines prescribed for?

Benzodiazepines work to depress the central nervous system, leaving the user sedated and, in some cases, under hypnosis. Benzodiazepines can be prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, agitation, seizures, convulsions, muscle spasms, alcohol withdrawal or as a pre-operative sedative.

Why are benzodiazepines abused?

Benzodiazepines are widely used on the illicit market mainly due to its ability to increase aggressiveness, cause uninhibited behaviour and perhaps most notably, sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting users. Rohypnol (flunitrazapam) is trafficked illegally throughout North America as “roofies,” “the party drug” or “date rape drug.” Its tasteless, colourless properties allow them to be placed in alcoholic drinks undetected, leading to countless cases of sexual assault and abuse. Apart from flunitrazapam, the two most frequently, illegally trafficked benzodiazepines are alprazolam and diazepam.

What are some other examples of street names used for benzodiazepines?

  • Benzies
  • Ruffies
  • Roches
  • R-2
  • Valium

    What are the short-term side effects of benzodiazepines?

    Short-term side effects include drowsiness, aggression, headaches, dizziness and uninhibited behaviour. Benzodiazepines can also lead to the loss of memory, consciousness and motor control.

    What are the long-term side effects of benzodiazepines?

    Long-term benzodiazepine use can possibly lead to psychological and/or physical side effects, tolerance and dependence. If used in conjunction with alcohol, heroin or cocaine, benzodiazepine use can be particularly life-threatening.

    Are there withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine use?

    Yes. Withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepine use are very similar to that of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms can include gastrointestinal problems, extreme aches and pains, aggressive behaviours, various phobias, anxiety, emotional problems, depersonalization, urinary tract problems, vision problems, perceptional disturbances, respiratory problems, balance problems, lack of appetite, depression, hallucinations, memory problems, cognitive problems, reduced energy, blood pressure fluctuations, sleep disorders and hearing problems.
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