Benzodiazepines: what are they?

Benzodiazepines (pronounced ben-zoh-die-az-a-pins) are depressant drugs.

This means that they slow down the activity of the central nervous system and the messages going between the brain and the body. They do not necessarily make a person feel depressed. Other depressants include alcohol, cannabis and heroin.

Benzodiazepines, also known as "minor tranquillisers", are most commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve stress and anxiety and to help people sleep.

Some people use benzodiazepines illegally to become intoxicated or to "come down" from the effects of stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine.

Other names

Some common chemical and brand names

Benzodiazepines are known by their chemical (generic) names or their brand names. In each case, these are exactly the same drug, usually made by different companies. Some common benzodiazepines include:

Generic nameBrand name
diazepamDucene® and Valium®
oxazepamAlepam®, Murelax® and Serepax®
nitrazepamAlodorm® and Mogadon®
temazepamEuhypnos® and Normison®

Slang names

"Benzos", "tranx", "sleepers", "downers", "pills", "serras" (Serepax®), "moggies" (Mogadon®), "normies" (Normison®)

What do benzodiazepines look like?

Benzodiazepines usually come in the form of tablets and capsules, in a range of colours and designs. They are generally stamped with their name and milligram quantity.

How are they used?

Benzodiazepines are usually swallowed. Some people also inject them; however this method carries significant risk of harms such as collapsed veins, damage to organs, stroke and even death.

Last Reviewed: 24 February 2012
Reproduced with kind permission from the Australian Drug Foundation.

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References

Australian Drug Foundation. Drug Info. Benzodiazepine facts. Last updated 24 February 2012. http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/benzodiazepines (accessed Jan 2013).
Australian Drug Foundation (ADF)

Australian Drug Foundation (ADF)

Vision: Healthy People, Strong Communities. Mission: Working together to prevent alcohol and other drug problems in communities.