Benzodiazepines are a group of tranquilliser drugs, with sedative (calming) effects, legal when prescribed
Benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness and long periods of sleep. They slow down your heart rate and breathing. People taking them can experience a ‘floating’ sensation as well as a warm, calm and relaxed feeling. Other effects can include lack of coordination, slowed speech, blackouts, short-term memory loss, reduced mental alertness and anxiety.
Benzodiazepines can also reduce anxiety and therefore impair your judgement of danger. This makes people care less, and can result in risky behaviour.
However, some people taking benzodiazepines, particularly at higher doses, can experience increased anxiety, seizures or ‘fitting’, aggression and other negative symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can happen even after short periods of use. Avoid taking for more than 4 weeks. With prolonged use, withdrawal effects can be severe and may include headaches, seizures (fits) nausea, extreme anxiety, depression, paranoia and delusions (very strong beliefs that other people don’t share). The severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the amount of drug used but symptoms will ease with time. During this time, to help the body recover, a healthy diet, fresh air, light exercise can help. Try to resist taking more of the drug, or other drugs (including alcohol) to deal with the withdrawal symptoms.
Stopping after longer term use requires a steady reduction of dose (tapering) and support: stopping suddenly and completely can be fatal. Your GP or local drug service can help with this.