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Dr. Vijayakumar D.R MBBS, DPM, DNB (NIMHANS), CCST (UK)
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Sleeping Pills



What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepine are a group of drugs which are commonly used as sleeping pills. This group contains about 20 specific drugs which vary in how long they work, how much sedation it provides and how much it helps to reduce anxiety symptoms.

What are they used for?

Benzodiazepines are classified as sedatives or anxiolytics (for relieving anxiety).

They are commonly used to reduce anxiety and for sedation. Sometimes they can also be used to treat seizures, alcohol withdrawal, aggression, and to relax the muscles.


Are benzodiazepines addictive?

Yes, benzodiazepine medications can cause dependence and hence should not be used for long term except under certain special circumstances and only by a specialist doctor.

It should never be used without prescription or as self medication.

Normally it is used up to 2-3 weeks and gradually tapered and stopped.

It is to be noted it is one of the most common prescription medications abused by patients.

What are the long term side effects of benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness, lack of motivation, memory impairment, and changes in emotional response, paradoxical anxiety, irritability, headaches, and aggression, increased risks of fall and accidents, confusion, lack of coordination, depression and slurred speech.

Benzodiazepine must always be taken under medical supervision.

What are the commonly used benzodiazepines in India?

Chemical name Brand names
Alprazolam Anxit,restyl,trika,alprax
Diazepam Calmpose,valium
Lorazepam Ativan,Lopez,Trapex
Oxazepam Serepax
Chlordiazepoxide Libirium
Clobozam Lobozam,frisium
Clonazepam Petril


What are the withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepine?

If a person dependent on benzodiazepines or if they cut the dose drastically they will experience withdrawal symptoms as the body has to readjust to functioning without the drug. 

Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. It can last for weeks to months.

Withdrawal symptoms can include headache, sweating, tension, anxiety, confusion, dizziness, nausea, poor appetite, disturbed sleep, depression, delirium and at times seizures. Hence benzodiazepines must gradually withdrawn and not stopped or reduced suddenly.

Effects of benzodiazepines on pregnancy?

Benzodiazepines taken during pregnancy can cross the placental barrier and can affect the growth and development of the foetus. If taking a prescription of benzodiazepines check with your doctor before altering the dosage.

Points to remember when on benzodiazepines.

  • If concerned about the dosage, it is best to talk first with your prescribing doctor. Remember, there is no one set dosage suitable for everyone.
  • If you haven’t seen your doctor for a while make an appointment to have the medication reviewed and to discuss alternatives.
  • Consider if the medication is needed and discuss alternatives with your doctor.
  • Consult a psychiatrist if you are  dependent on benzodiazepines.