What are benzodiazepines?

Aka: benzos, tranquilisers, jellies, sleepers, moggies, roofies, downers, roche

Written by spunout


Remember: All drugs, including the misuse of prescribed medication, can pose serious health risks, up to and including possible death.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are depressants or ‘downers’. You can get them as a tablet, capsule, injection or suppository. They are prescribed to reduce anxiety or stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles.

What are the effects of Benzodiazepines?

  • They reduce tension and induce sleep
  • At low doses, benzodiazepines can affect mental and physical functioning, but less so than alcohol
  • At higher doses they produce ‘drunken’ and sometimes aggressive behaviour
  • Mixing benzos with other ‘downers’ such as barbiturates, alcohol or opiates produces a stimulant effect, which increases alertness and confidence
  • The effects of long-term use of benzodiazepines include mental confusion, memory loss, depression, aggressive behaviour and loss of physical co-ordination

What are the risks of taking Benzodiazepines?

  • Injecting with used needles can cause serious infections like Hepatitis B, blood poisoning and HIV infection. For more information on injecting more safely, check out Merchant Quay’s guide.

  • Injecting crushed tablets or jelly (from green capsules) can cause serious circulation problems and in some cases loss of limbs

  • Tolerance to the sedative effects (but not to the calming effects), develops rapidly and doses escalate
  • Dependence can also develop quickly and some people report withdrawal symptoms after only four weeks use at therapeutic (low) doses
  • Among long term and heavy users panic attacks, feelings of unreality, distortion of perceptions, sweating, restlessness and tremors are common
  • Sudden withdrawal from benzodiazepines is dangerous, as seizures can occur. Withdrawal from the drug should be gradual and conducted under medical supervision
  • It is easy to overdose on benzodiazepines especially if they are mixed with other ‘downers’ like heroin, barbiturates or alcohol

Harm reduction advice

If you choose to take drugs remember:

  • Start with a very small test dose and wait at least two hours before taking more
  • Stay with your friends and do not leave anybody who is intoxicated on their own
  • Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol. Every time you mix drugs, including alcohol and prescription medication, you increase the risks
  • Always hydrate with water but don’t drink over a pint an hour
  • If you are dancing, remember to take breaks from dancing and give yourself time to cool down
  • Don’t be afraid to get help if you or a friend become unwell or feel suicidal after using drugs. Call 112 or 999

Support services

  • Drugs.ie: Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
  • HSE Drugs, Alcohol, HIV and Sexual Health Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
  • The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centred specialist addiction service: Tel 016488600
  • Rialto Community Drug Team

Click here to watch a Drugs.ie video on the signs and symptoms of use of benzodiazepines.

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