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benzodiazepine (bĕnˌzōdīăzˈəpēnˌ), any of a class of drugs prescribed for their tranquilizing, antianxiety, sedative, and muscle-relaxing effects. Benzodiazepines are also prescribed for epilepsy and alcohol withdrawal. Introduced in the early 1960s with chlordiazepoxide (Librium), benzodiazepines were heralded as a safer alternative to barbiturates and meprobamate because they were relatively non–habit forming and were less lethal in overdose.

There has been considerable debate over their side effects, addictiveness, and abuse, beginning with negative media attention given to diazepam (Valium) in the late 1960s and continuing with debate over triazolam (Halcion), which culminated in its withdrawal from the market in Britain and several other countries. All benzodiazepines appear to have amnesic side effects. Triazolam has been associated with depression, increased daytime anxiety in poor sleepers, and some cases of psychosis. Physical dependence on benzodiazepines is seen predominantly in patients who have taken the medications over long periods. Upon withdrawal the original symptoms often recur, and patients may experience anxiety, insomnia, perceptual changes, hallucinations, and seizures. These symptoms can be lessened by slowly tapering off the dose.

Abuse of benzodiazepines occurs most often in young white males who also abuse other substances. In this group benzodiazepines, especially diazepam and alprazolam (Xanax), are used, sometimes nasally, to ameliorate the unwanted effects of street drugs, such as cocaine. Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), a prescription benzodiazepine sedative not approved in the United States, is increasingly being abused by teen-agers in some areas of the country. While many doctors feel benzodiazepines are safe and effective, especially for short-term relief of anxiety and insomnia, others feel that they mask underlying problems and invite dependence. There are 12 benzodiazepines now on the market, including clonazepam (Clonopin) and temazepam (Restoril).

See also antianxiety drug.

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A group of tranquilizers that are used to combat anxiety and convulsions.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Bennie brings over 19 years of construction and senior management experience to his new role, both in the private and public sector with projects valued up to $125 million.
Three of Beyonce's personal makeup artists also got in touch with Bennie after seeing his remarkable talent.
Asked why they would devote time to promoting new companies when they are brand owners themselves, the hosts opined that today's new companies face a tough challenge entering the pet industry: "It's harder than ever to get noticed because of the saturation effect," said Bennie, "so we cooked up Bark Your Biz to give back to our industry and level the playing field a bit."
Bennie was the first and only son in a family of four children, he cried.
Bennie is a Navy veteran and regularly practices target shooting at a local shooting range.
1st Dana & Dustin Whiteley, Julie & Phil Dixon (55.4 nett), 2nd Shk Rashid Al Khalifa, Sebastian Woodrow & Ronan Smith (60.5), 3rd Todd Gillespie, Gordon Bennie, Ronan Armstrong & Sam Hobday (61.4).
Mr Bennie added that savers could be set for "at least a further year of dismally low interest rates".
Bennie, who sold the giant Digbeth venue to son Lucan last year, prompted an angry response from his offspring.
Bennie se kollega, kaptein Vaughn Cupido, lewer byvoorbeeld die volgende kommentaar na aanleiding van die moordtoneel aan die begin van Kobra: "En wat is dit die?
While this winter did take a little bite out of the Beltway, Jeremy Bennie sure was glad he was there instead of weathering the stormy hits up here.
For one thing, after chapter 1, we leave Sasha for Bennie Salazar, a music producer and her former boss for twelve years; his point of view governs chapter 2.
Bennie has an upscale diet and gets plenty of exercise, but he persists in digging in the yard--it's fenced all around.