Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed minor tranquilisers, usually prescribed for daytime anxiety relief or to promote sleep.
Tranquillisers are sedative drugs which slow down people’s reactions and can make them feel drowsy, lethargic and forgetful. They relieve anxiety and tension and can make people feel more calm and relaxed. Effects begin after 10-15 minutes and can last up to 6 hours without repeating the dose.
The effect of slowing reactions and making people drowsy can make accidents more likely. It can be dangerous to drive while on tranquillisers. With regular use tolerance can develop quickly so increasing amounts are needed to get the same effect. Dependence can also quickly develop with regular use so that withdrawal can lead to intense anxiety, nausea, insomnia, irritability and headaches. Sudden withdrawl from very high doses can be very dangerous and result in confusion and serious convulsions. Many people find it very difficult to give up and may need a gradually reduced dosage to do so. Because of this, benzodiazepine detox is a lengthy process, with twenty eight days being the minimum amount of time required to complete one, however longer detoxes than this are not uncommon for those who have been taking high doses for an extended period.
Regular users often find that after a time tranquillisers become ineffective in giving the desired effect. Continual use may mean they become ineffective as sleeping pills after 2 weeks and ineffective to combat anxiety after 4 months. The temptation is then to increase the dosage. Tranquillisers are only really effective as short term medicines but many people are dependent and have been taking them for several years.
A lot of tranquillisers have to be taken to fatally overdose but there have been many cases where people have died when also drinking alcohol.
All benzodiazepines are Prescription Only medicines under the Medicines Act . This means they can only be legally supplied by a pharmacist in accordance with a doctors prescription. They are also controlled as a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This also makes it illegal to both possess or supply them to someone else, the maximum penalty for possesion being two years imprisonment and an unlimited fine or both; and for supply being fourteen years imprisonment and an unlimited fine or both. Until recently, possession was not an arrestable offence if you did not have a prescription, except for Rohypnol and Temazepam. Now police can arrest an individual in possession of any minor tranquilliser who cannot show a legitimate prescription for them.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act possession brings with it a maximum sentence of two years and an unlimited fine or both. Selling them on can bring fourteen years and/or fine for trafficking.