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drug information

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepnes are often medically classified as sedatives/hypnotic (inducing sleep) or anxiolytics (relieving anxiety). Other medical uses include treatment of epilepsy, as a muscle relaxant, alcohol withdrawal, or as an anaesthetic before surgery. non-medical uses include becoming intoxicated, substituting/enhancing the effects of opiates, and counteracting the effects of other drugs.

  1. What they are

    Benzodiazepines are prescription medicines most commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. Doctors may also prescribe them as muscle relaxants, or to treat epilepsy, alcohol withdrawal or panic disorders. Some people use benzodiazepines illegally to experience their effects and become intoxicated.

  2. Health effects

    Short-term effects

    Medically, benzodiazepines are prescribed for between two weeks and one month. Benzodiazepines should be used for only a short time in order to avoid developing a tolerance to the drug and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped.

  3. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction

    Benzodiazepine use may lead to the development of psychological and physical dependence. People who use benzodiazepines for more than a month often find they need to substantially increase their dose in order to achieve the same results.

  4. Law and penalities

    Benzodiazepines are classified as Class C controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

  5. Drug trends

    Benzodiazepines have been widely misused in New Zealand, although only recently have use trends been documented.

  6. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  7. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact in strict confidence.

  8. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about benzodiazepines: