Benzodiazepines are depressants that produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms and prevent seizures. Street names include Benzos, Downers and Zannies. 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 in syrup form (primarily for pediatric patients).
Benzodiazepines with a longer duration of action are utilized to treat insomnia, and 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.
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 abusers. Benzodiazepines are associated with amnesia, hostility, irritability and vivid or disturbing dreams. Benzodiazepines slow down the central nervous system and may cause sleepiness.
Drugs causing similar effects include alcohol, barbiturates, sleeping pills and GHB. Effects of overdose include shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma and possible death. Benzodiazepines are controlled in schedule IV of the Controlled Substance Act. Benzodiazepines are only legally available through prescription. Many abusers 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.
(SOURCE: DEA www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com)