Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium)

Other names: Xans, Xanies, Bars, Vallies

Benzodiazepines or Benzos are a type of tranquilliser used to treat anxiety and also used as a muscle relaxant.

Illicit benzos tend to be sold in tablet form. In many cases, this will have the appearance of legitimate medication (e.g. Xanax, may be sold as a white ‘bar’ shaped tablet; Diazepam or Valium, may be sold as a small, round white or pale blue tablet). Illicit Xanax is also sold in various other colours, such as green and red, which are generally used to indicate the strength of the tablet.

For those who use illicit benzos (drugs obtained without a prescription), the desired effects tend to be relaxation, reduction of anxiety and sleepiness. The unwanted effects include memory problems (‘black-outs’) and impaired movement.

Illicit benzos are generally sold in tablet form and swallowed.

  • Regular use of benzos can cause tolerance (needing more of the drug to get the same effect) and dependence (experiencing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when you stop). At their most serious, the withdrawal effects of benzos are potentially fatal.
  • In some people, benzos can increase the likelihood of low mood and depression.
  • Benzos can cause memory black-outs and out-of-character behaviour. This is particularly likely when mixed with alcohol.
  • Benzos impair concentration, reaction times and co-ordination. This is particularly noticeable when used with alcohol. People who are under the influence are at greater risk of having an accident and hurting themselves. Driving under the influence is particularly dangerous.
  • When someone buys benzos illegally, they have no way of knowing for sure what they are taking. Many illegal manufacturers intentionally mimic the appearance of the legitimate medication, which leads users to believe they are taking an official product. In reality, illicit benzos can vary massively in their composition and strength, which can lead to accidental overdose or an individual taking a substance they did not intend to.
  • If you choose to use illicit benzos, do so in a safe environment and in the company of someone you trust. Ideally, this person will not have used the substance themselves and will be in a position to get help if things go wrong.
  • Take small amounts first to test strength and effects; start low and go slow.
  • Be mindful of the strength of the drug you are taking (if known). For example, Xanax is a more potent drug than Diazepam and is likely to have a much more drastic effect.
  • Remember that mixing benzos with alcohol is extremely risky and will increase the effects of both. It will also greatly increase the likelihood of a memory black-out.