Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to benzodiazepine: benzodiazepine drugs


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.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


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 ?
There is uncertainty in the medical literature about using a long-acting benzodiazepine to taper off a short-acting benzodiazepine, although this practice is generally clinically accepted.
Summary: Washington (USA) Dec 17 (ANI): Turns out, a large number of people misuse benzodiazepines to get relieved from tension without consulting their physicians.
<B Concern is growing across the UK and Europe around the increase in benzodiazepine usage
Luber noted that the formal randomized trial evidence base for SSRIs as first-line pharmacotherapy and benzodiazepines as second-line is quite limited.
Benzodiazepines. Hepatotoxicity of psychotropic drugs and drugs of abuse.
Benzodiazepines are drugs typically prescribed for the treatment of neurological and/or psychological conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders.
We would like to share the experience of treating a high-dose zolpidem dependence patient successfully with benzodiazepine detoxification and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is frequently used in the alcohol dependence.
THE number of people being treated for problems with benzodiazepines in Kirklees has risen by nearly a fifth in a year.