Benzodiazepines are a group of sedative drugs. Some people may be prescribed a type of benzodiazepine, while other types are only available illicitly (sometimes called ‘street benzos’). Street benzos often contain several different drugs, which can increase the risk of overdose.

Also known as:

  • Benzos
  • Diazepam
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Rohypnol
  • Roofies
  • Blues

What do benzodiazepines look like?

  • Usually round pills which are blue, white or yellow

They may also look like:

  • Powders (crushed tablets)
  • Capsules

There are several different benzodiazepine drugs. These include:

  • Diazepam (also called  ‘Valium’, ‘blues and  ‘vallies’)
  • Alprazolam (also called ‘XanaxⓇ’)
  • Flunitrazepam (also called ‘rohypnol’)
  • Etizolam
  • Bromazolam
  • Flubromazolam
  • Flualprazolam

How are benzodiazepines taken?

  • Swallowing tablets, capsules, blotters or gel tabs 
  • Snorting the powder, which is made from crushing the tablets
  • Injecting*, after crushing and dissolving tablets in water

*Injecting is particularly dangerous and increases risks including infection with Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) like Hepatitis C or HIV. LINK HERE

How can benzodiazepines make me feel?

Benzodiazepines are often prescribed to treat insomnia, and when used illicitly, are taken to help people sleep after taking drugs like cocaine, ecstasy or LSD.

Benzodiazepines can also:

  • Affect how easily you can move
  • Cause extreme drowsiness
  • Result in loss of memory,
  • Slow down your heart and breathing rate (this is especially likely if benzodiazepines are mixed with alcohol or other depressant drugs)

How long do the effects of benzodiazepines last?

It depends on several factors, including your age, weight and metabolism, what you have already taken, the purity of the drug, and the dose.

Wait at least two hours between doses if you can.

What happens to my body if I use benzodiazepines frequently?

Using benzodiazepines frequently can:

  • Lead to memory loss and falls (especially if you use them for a prolonged period of time)
  • Cause your body to develop a tolerance, which can lead to increased use and dependence
  • Cause problems when you stop using or cut back. This is known as withdrawal and can be very dangerous, as it can cause seizures (fits).

How to reduce harm while using benzodiazepines

We recognise that some ways of using drugs carry less risk than others, and by providing information which supports people to make informed decisions, we can help people to minimise harm.

Before you start, check:

  • Is now the right time? How you’re feeling when you use benzodiazepine can impact the effects you may experience, so consider checking in with yourself and thinking about whether now is a good time for you.

  • Do I know what I’m taking? Researching what you’re planning to take, what the effects can be and how to reduce harm can help to keep you safe. 

  • Have I contacted a friend or family member? In case you need help while you’re taking benzodiazepine, consider telling someone your plans.

While you're using:

Start low, go slow

Strength can vary between batches, even if you take the drug regularly, starting with a small amount and waiting at least two hours before your next dose can help to reduce the risk of overdose.

Go at your own pace

Everyone responds differently to drugs - trying to keep up with others puts you at greater risk of overdosing. 

Try not to mix

Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs can increase your risk of overdose. Mixing with alcohol and depressant drugs (such as opioids) is particularly dangerous, as this can slow your breathing and heart rate.

Opt for methods that carry less risk 

It’s less risky to swallow or snort benzodiazepines than to inject.

Find a safe space

Where you are when you take cannabis can impact the effects you may experience, so try and find a space where you feel safe, comfortable, with people you trust.

Use your own equipment

Using your own equipment can help to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses (BBVS) like hep B, hep C and HIV.  You can get clean equipment from any substance misuse service and many pharmacies.

The recovery position

The recovery position helps to prevent someone unconscious from choking on vomit. If someone is unconscious, putting them in the recovery position, getting help if needed, and staying with them will help to reduce the risk of harm.

After using benzodiazepines:

  • Looking after and being kind to yourself is important - get plenty of sleep and rest, and try to avoid taking any other drugs to give your body time to recover

  • Refuelling will help your recovery - this includes drinking plenty of water and eating something nutritious which is soft on your stomach and not too rich

  • If you think you may be at risk of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) like Hep B, Hep C and HIV, you can access free testing from any drug and alcohol service, your GP, or a sexual health centre. You can catch a BBV even if you don’t inject a drug - through unprotected sex or sharing equipment

And always remember - if you’re feeling low and feel you can’t talk to a friend or family member, contact us for help through our webchat or find your local service.

What do I do if I think someone has overdosed on benzodiazepines?

If someone passes out or falls asleep and you can’t wake them up after using benzodiazepines, put them in the recovery position and get help fast by calling 999, telling emergency services what you know.

Symptoms of benzodiazepines overdose include:

  • Problems with breathing
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Feeling extremely dizzy (caused by low blood pressure)
  • Uncontrolled eye movements
  • Muscle weakness or tremor
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Altered mental state
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Falling into a coma

If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl. Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them. 

You can get a naloxone kit and training on how to use it from your local WithYou service. 

More information about naloxone, including how to use it.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal signs, symptoms, and what to do

If your body develops a tolerance to benzodiazepines, you may feel you need to take more to get the same effects. 

You can become dependent on benzodiazepines, and regular use can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or cut back.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be fatal. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, call 999.

If you’re dependent on benzodiazepines we can help you cut down safely, as stopping suddenly can lead to withdrawal complications. 

Find a local service

The law around benzodiazepines

If bought illicitly, benzodiazepines are a Class C drug, which means it's illegal to be found carrying or using. The legal term for this is possession. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class C drug is up to two years in prison, a fine or both. 

It’s also illegal to give away or sell benzodiazepines. This is known as supply, and is a more serious offence than possession.  It can be considered supply if you give your friend some or share some with them, and this could get you time in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Looking for support?

If you’re concerned about your benzodiazepine use, or if you’re worried about someone you know, we’re WithYou. We provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support and advice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out: