Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Benzos

What’s the deal with benzos?

Benzo is short for Benzodiazepine (say it with me: BEN-ZOH-DIE-AZ-A-PEEN) and is a prescribed medication used to relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety and difficulties sleeping. Benzos are classified as depressants. Effectively, these drugs slow down activity of the central nervous system and the messages travelling between the brain and the body.

Benzos are a mild tranquilliser and are often used illegally to help with the come down effects of amphetamines and/or cocaine.

TYPES OF BENZODIAZEPINES

There are three types of benzodiazepines: long, intermediate and short-acting. Short-acting benzodiazepines have stronger withdrawal effects and may be more addictive than long-acting forms.

PHARMACEUTICAL NAMES

Benzodiazepines are known by their brand name. Each drug is exactly the same. They’re just made by different companies. Benzodiazepines belong to the PAM family of prescription medication.

 

How does it work?

Benzodiazepines are taken orally. Sometimes though they may be ground into a powder and injected.

Effects

There is no such thing as a safe level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. Benzos may affect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs like prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed

Short Term Effects

When taken in high doses benzodiazepines may cause a person to experience the following:

  • Excessive sleep and sedation
  • Erratic mood swings
  • Slowed, shallow breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma and possibly even death (more likely when combined with alcohol) 

Long Term Effects

Using benzos on a prolonged or regular basis may result in chronic, long term health effects such as:

  • Impaired thinking and memory loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability, paranoia and/or aggression
  • Changes in personality
  • Lethargy and lack of motivation
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or changes to sleep patterns
  • Headaches and nausea
  • Drug Dependency
  • Reduced kidney and liver function

Safety

The safest thing you can do is to not do any drugs, m'kay? But let's be realistic, people use drugs. Some people really enjoy it, but for others it can become really problematic either for their health and wellbeing, their relationships, their jobs, their financial security or all of the above. Not only this, but some people can also develop a dependance and this can lead further problems if it isn't addressed early or easily managed.

If you are going to use drugs, it's best to be safe about it. It's your choice to determine what you put in your body, but whatever you do remember to be safe and responsible - with yourself and with others.

Safer Injecting

If you are injecting, it’s important to use clean injecting equipment and to avoid sharing needles or other injecting equipment. Blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B, C and HIV can be transmitted through sharing equipment.  So with that being said it’s important to be aware of where blood can end up. Blood may not only remain on or in needles and syringes but also on other equipment and surfaces such as your skin, on your hands or the top of a table. You can’t always see blood so don’t assume that just because you can’t see it that it isn’t there. Repeated injecting drug use and sharing injecting equipment with others increases your risk of:

  • Vein damage and permanent scarring
  • Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Tetanus and HIV transmission
  • Deep vein thrombosis and clots – this may result in the loss of limbs, damage to organs, stroke and possibly even death

Mixing with Other Drugs

The effect of benzodiazepines in combination with other drugs is unpredictable and dangerous.

Benzodiazepines + Alcohol or Opiates (heroin): may cause difficulties breathing, an increased risk of overdose and possibly even death.

Using benzos to aid a come down from stimulant drugs (such as amphetamines or ecstasy) may result in a cycle of dependency on both substances.

Living with HIV

All recreational drug use whether it's with a legalised substance or not is likely to interact and maybe even interfere with your ARV's. Those drug interactions are the very thing that can lead to ARV treatment failure. By all means go hard on the weekend - just make sure that you are checking in regularly with an experienced HIV medical practitioner.

Interactions with HIV Medications

We don't know of any negative interactions between benzos and HIV medication. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

We don't know of any negative interactions between benzos and hormones treatments. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.

Treatment

What do Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston have in common? Both babes we're pretty hard up for their daily dose of xanax and as it turned out - it all ended very badly. If your use of benzos has begun to have a negative impact on your overall health or your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you, for your family or friends if they need it.

Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop smokng, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available to people who use alcohol or other drugs, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, alcohol and other drugs treatment service or local community health service.

Contact QUIT or Find help and support services.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve your goals with your alcohol or other drug use. Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Peer support 

These programs are provided for people who use alcohol and other drugs, and their family members or support person/s. 

Withdrawal & Rehab

Giving up benzodiazepines after using them for prolonged periods is challenging. The body needs to adjust to a life of functioning without them. Please seek advice from a health professional. Withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to person and are different depending on the type of benzodiazepine taken. Symptoms can last from a few weeks to a year and may include:

  • Headaches
  • Aching, twitching muscles
  • Dizziness and tremors
  • Nausea, vomiting and stomach pain
  • Disturbance in sleep patterns and general fatigue
  • Reduced concentration
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Delusions, hallucination and paranoia
  • Seizure
Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Benzos should consult a health professional.