Drug Overview

Important information regarding BENZODIAZEPINES drug use

Historically, people of almost every culture have used chemical agents to induce sleep, relieve stress, and allay anxiety. While alcohol is one of the oldest and most universal agents used for these purposes, hundreds of substances have been developed that produce central nervous system (CNS) depression. These drugs have been referred to as “downers,” sedatives, hypnotics, minor tranquilizers, anxiolytics, and anti anxiety medications. Unlike most other classes of drugs of abuse, depressants, except for methaqualone, are rarely produced in clandestine laboratories. Generally, legitimate pharmaceutical products are diverted to the illicit market.

The benzodiazepine family of depressants are used therapeutically to produce sedation, induce sleep, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms, and to prevent seizures. In general, benzodiazepines act as hypnotics in high doses, as anxiolytics in moderate doses, and as sedatives in low doses. Of the drugs marketed in the United States that affect CNS function, benzodiazepines are among the most widely prescribed medications and, unfortunately, are frequently abused. Fifteen members of this group are presently marketed in the United States and an additional 20 are marketed in other countries.

Like the barbiturates, benzodiazepines differ from one another in how fast they take effect and how long the effects last. Shorter-acting benzodiazepines, used to manage insomnia, include estazolam (ProSom), flurazepam (Dalmane), quazepam (Doral), temazepam (Restoril) and triazolam (Halcion).

Benzodiazepines with longer durations of action include alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clorazepate (Tranxene), diazepam (Valium), halazepam (Paxipam), lorazepam (Ativan), oxazepam (Serax) and prazepam (Centrax). These longer acting drugs are primarily used for the treatment of general anxiety. Midazolam (Versed) is available in the United States only in an injectable form for an adjunct to anesthesia. Clonazepam (Klonopin) is recommended for use in the treatment of seizure disorders.

Benzodiazepines are classified in the CSA as Schedule IV depressants. Repeated use of large doses or, in some cases, daily use of therapeutic doses of benzodiazepines is associated with physical dependence. The withdrawal syndrome is similar to that of alcohol withdrawal and is generally more unpleasant and longer lasting than narcotic withdrawal and frequently requires hospitalization. Abrupt cessation of benzodiazepines is not recommended, and tapering-down the dose eliminates many of the unpleasant symptoms.

Given the number of people who are prescribed benzodiapines, relatively few patients increase their dosage or engage in drug-seeking behavior. However, those individuals who do abuse benzodiazepines often maintain their drug supply by getting prescriptions from several doctors, forging prescriptions or buying diverted pharmaceutical products on the illicit market. Abuse is frequently associated with adolescents and young adults who take benzodiazepines to obtain a “high.” This intoxicated state results in reduced inhibition and impaired judgment. Concurrent use of alcohol or other depressants with benzodiazepines can be life-threatening. Abuse of benzodiazepines is particularly high among heroin and cocaine abusers. Approximately 50 percent of people entering treatment for narcotic or cocaine addiction also report abusing benzodiazepines.

[Abstracted from D.E.A. website q.v.]

Drug Effects

Marked sedation, reduced anxiety, addiction and tachyphylaxis. Long term users REQUIRE HOSPITALIZATION FOR WITHDRAWL
Incidence of Abuse
Extremely prevalent! For the past several years, Alprazolam addiction has been one of the top hospital admitting diagnoses!
PDiazepam, Des-methyl Diazepam, Oxazepam, Alpha-hydroxy Alprazolam, and Temazepam . . . but not to Klonipin, Rohypnol, or several others.
Forms and Street Names
Benzo’s, Downers, and many other names. Although Rohypnol is not currently in the test panels, it is fashionable to know that it is known as the “date rape drug” and has the street names, Roofies, Roche, and has been dubbed the “Quaalude of the 90’s.”
Preferred Routes of Administration
For the most part, traffic is in pill form. Many users dissolve and use I.V.
Length of time detectable after user
Varies with the substance. Valium is detectable for at least 7-10 days! The others listed above have shorter half-lives!
Confounding drugs (or factors):
Dilantin and H2 antagonists compete w/these drugs for CytochromeP-450 degradation enzyme …thus PROLONG half life. Alcohol is synergistic and also prolongs half-life!
Screening Cut-off:
300 ng/ml
Confirmation GC/MS Cut-of
300 ng/ml
Facts for Verifying M.R.O
Often straightforward. Many positive donors will have prescriptions. These are the most common cause of claiming to use “a friend’s prescription!” Savvy abusers will procure a prescription to cover the contingency of getting caught!