Skip Navigation

Benzodiazapines: Signs and symptoms of problematic use; and treatment options available

Help with Benzodiazepines

If you are concerned about your own use of Benzodiazepines, or Benzodiazepine use of a friend or family member, the following video will provide you with some useful information when looking to deal with this issue. For services in your area, visit
Loading the player...



Benzodiazepines (benzos) are a sedative (downer). They are psychoactive drugs available as a tablet, capsule, injection or suppository. Benzodiazepines enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which results in sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant and amnesic action, and as a result they are generally prescribed to reduce anxiety or stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles. Recently a new group of non-benzodiapines hypnotics have been developed, which have similar effects to benzos (z-hypnotics).

Benzodiazapines have been available since the 1960’s as a replacement for barbiturates, which were the previous tranquilisers available. By the mid 1970, Valium (one of the better known Benzodiazepines) was the most frequently prescribed drug in the world. They were marketed at the time as a less dependency creating and milder form of Anxiolytic, however, time has show that these substances can have serious side effects, like creating dependency in certain individuals. Users can maintain very high tolerance levels of use. 

For this feature, Dr. Brion Sweeney, Consultant Psychiatrist in Substance Use, outlines the common signs and symptoms of problematic use of benzodiazapines; and also provides information on a range of treatment options available to those looking to come off the drug. In referring to the wider use of benzos within our society, Dr. Sweeney also discusses the issue of prescribing, and how non-pharmacological alternatives need to be made available. 


While these drugs are normally available on prescription from GP, psychiatrist, ortapaedic surgeon, or in hospital setting where they are prescribed for night sedation, benzos are also commonly used by opiate (heroin) users, although they are seldom the primary drug of misuse. They are also available on the black market.


A study by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD Drug Prevalance Survey, 2003) provides some interesting evidence about the use of benzos, in relation to gender and age, in the Irish context. The study found that lifetime prevalence for Sedatives, Tranquillisers and Anti-Depressants was 15.1% for Females as compared with 9.3% for Males. The prescribing of this category of drug was also found to increases with age. In addition, socio-economic factors were also an influence; with prescribing rates increasing with increasing deprivation. 


More information on Benzodiazepines on

Benzodiazepines-whose little helper? The role of Benzodiazepines in the development of substance misuse problems in Ballymun

Chains of addiction and links of support. Responding to benzodiazepine use in Ballymun; a GP-community partnership addiction project. 

Posted by Andy on 07/27 at 09:02 AM in
Share this:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn
  • E-mail
(1) Comments


#1. Posted by Bubbi on November 15, 2011

You get a lot of respect from me for wriintg these helpful articles.





Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter this word:


The HSE and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) ask students to think about drug safety measures when using club drugs
Harm reduction messages from the #SaferStudentNights campaign.
Poll Poll

Have you ever been impacted negatively by someone else's drug taking?