Drug A - Z

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (sometimes called ‘benzos’) are depressants that work by slowing down the messages going to and from the brain to the body, including physical, mental and emotional responses.

Benzodiazepines are intended for oral use only. The drug is absorbed into the bloodstream and circulates through the body.


Immediate effects from taking Benzodiazepine may include;

  • relaxation, calmness, relief from tension and anxiety
  • drowsiness, tiredness, lethargy
  • dizziness, vertigo, blurred or double vision
  • slurred speech, stuttering
  • mild impairment of thought processes and memory
  • feelings of isolation and emotional depression

In greater quantities:

  • drowsiness, over-sedation, sleep
  • confused, slurred speech
  • poor co-ordination
  • impaired judgement, difficulty thinking clearly
  • loss of memory, blurred or double vision and/or dizziness
  • mood swings and aggressive outbursts

Benzodiazepines can help to relieve anxiety in the short term. However, they do not solve the problem that caused the anxiety in the first place. The use of benzodiazepines over a period of more than two to three weeks is not medically recommended.

Long-term use of benzodiazepines may cause:

  • drowsiness, lack of motivation
  • difficulty thinking clearly, memory loss
  • personality change, changes in emotional responses
  • anxiety, irritability
  • difficulty sleeping, disturbing dreams
  • headaches, nausea
  • skin rash
  • menstrual problems
  • sexual problems
  • greater appetite, weight gain
  • increased risk of accidents, including falling over (older people)

People who are physically dependent on benzodiazepines usually develop tolerance to the drug. That is, they need to take more and more to get the same effect. This can happen very quickly with benzodiazepines. The effectiveness of benzodiazepines used as sleeping pills can wear off after three nights.

People who are psychologically dependent feel as though they can’t cope without benzodiazepines. They crave the drug and find it very difficult to stop using it.

Binging on Benzodiazepine is when a person takes a whole pack in one session, rather than on a daily basis. There is a strong possibility that a high level of benzodiazepine will remain in the bloodstream the day after a binge.

Very high doses of benzodiazepines can cause unconsciousness or coma. Death rarely occurs from overdose of benzodiazepines alone, but some deaths have occurred when large doses were combined with alcohol or other drugs. Deaths have occurred due to the inhalation of mucus or vomit while the person has been unconscious.

If a dependent person suddenly stops taking the benzodiazepines (or severely cuts down their dose), they may have physical withdrawal symptoms.  Withdrawal effects can be quiet severe, therefore it  is recommended that people undergo a slow reduction in dose in consultation with a doctor or health worker.

Like all drugs, benzodiazepines may have the potential to cause harm to the unborn child and also harm to the baby whilst breastfeeding. Due to this, it is recommended to not use any level of benzodiazepines during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.

Benzodiazepines are a Class C drug. The maximum penalty for importation/ manufacture/supply is 8 years imprisonment on indictment or 1 year jail and/or $1,000 fine summarily, and for possession 3 months jail and/or a $500 fine.

It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug, including benzodiazepines. Breaking this law carries heavy penalties including disqualification from driving, fines and even imprisonment.