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Drug Information



What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are sedative drugs that are prescribed by doctors to reduce anxiety, promote sleep or to act as a muscle relaxant. They usually come in tablet or capsule form and are available in different strengths. For example, diazepam is available in 2mg, 5mg and 10mg tablets.

Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK. There are various benzodiazepines including diazepam (valium), temazepam and nitrazepam (mogadon).

How are they used?

Benzodiazepines (benzos) can be taken orally or injected. Injecting benzos is extremely dangerous, as it is difficult to prepare a tablet for injection. Injecting temazepam capsules (jellies) is particularly problematic as they can re-solidify in the vein and can cause blockages that could lead to loss of limbs. Injecting increases the risk of overdose and hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV (through sharing injecting equipment).

What are the effects?

Benzos can cause users to feel drowsy, confused and forgetful. Users sometimes report feeling faint, relaxed, lightheaded and unsteady.

Often users are unable to recall their actions when the effectsof benzos wear off, sometimes being unable to recall longperiods of time. Diazepam can cause some individuals to experience a mild euphoria.

Tolerance rapidly develops, after two weeks of regular use benzos become ineffective as sleeping tablets, and after four months ineffective against anxiety. It is recommended that users take benzos for no more than two to four weeks. People should never stop using suddenly – even though some people may experience no problems, it is safer to seek medical advice.

Withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, irritability, nausea and vomiting; at higher doses withdrawal symptoms can include confusion and even life-threatening convulsions.

Legal status

Benzodiazepines are Class C drugs.

  • It is illegal to possess benzos without a prescription.
  • The maximum penalty for the unauthorised possession of benzos is two years in prison and/or unlimited fine.
  • The maximum penalty for the unauthorised supply of benzos is 14 years in prison and/or unlimited fine.


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