Benzodiazepines are depressants that are used for sedation, to induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms and prevent seizures. They are controlled in schedule IV of the Controlled Substance Act, meaning they are only legally available through prescription. The most common benzodiazepines are Valium®, Xanax®, Halcion®, Ativan® and Klonopin®. Many abusers maintain their drug supply by getting prescriptions from several doctors, forging prescriptions or buying them illicitly. Alprazolam and diazepam are the two most readily available benzodiazepines on the illicit market.
There are two categories of Benzodiazepines, shorter-acting and longer-acting. Shorter-acting benzodiazepines that are used to manage insomnia include estazolam (ProSom®), flurazepam (Dalmane®), temazepam (Restoril®), and triazolam (Halcion®). Midazolam (Versed®) is utilized for sedation, anxiety and amnesia in critical care settings and prior to anesthesia. It is available in the United States as an injectable preparation and in syrup form (primarily for pediatric patients). Benzodiazepines with a longer duration of action are utilized to treat insomnia, but also patients with daytime anxiety. These benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax®), chlordiazepoxide (Librium®), clorazepate (Tranxene®), diazepam (Valium®), halazepam (Paxipam®), lorzepam (Ativan®), oxazepam (Serax®), prazepam (Centrax®), and quazepam (Doral®). Additionally, Clonazepam (Klonopin®), diazepam and clorazepate are also used as anticonvulsants.
The typical abuser of benzodiazepines is the adolescent or young adults who take the drug orally or crush it up and snort it to get high. Abuse is particularly high among heroin and cocaine abusers. The benzodiazepines intensify the effects of opiates exponentially. Cocaine abusers like the sedating effect that they provide to counter the upper feeling of the cocaine. Since they slow down the central nervous system they usually cause sleepiness. Benzodiazepine abuse is associated with amnesia, hostility, irritability and vivid or disturbing dreams. Tolerance can develop, although at variable rates and to different degrees. Effects of overdose include shallow respiration, clammy skin, dilated pupils, weak and rapid pulse, coma and possible death.
Street names of bath salts include: Benzos, downers and zannies. Drugs that cause similar effects include: alcohol, barbiturates, sleeping pills, and GHB.
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