Please also check out the general mental health resources.

Please note: Listings and descriptions on these pages are provided for educational & informational purposes only. Listing here is not intended as a specific recommendation for or against a particular treatment, provider, or program. Please consult with your physician and/or therapist about which one(s) may be best suited for your particular situation.

Benzodiazepines are a set of medications usually prescribed for anxiety, sleep, or sometimes to treat and prevent seizures. They act primarily as depressants, by enhancing the effects in the brain of a neurotransmitter called GABA (γ-amino-butyric acid). They can interact with alcohol, barbiturates (an older class of depressant, now mostly used for treating seizures), and other medications that cause drowsiness or suppress the breathing reflex. They are very commonly prescribed because of their efficacy in short-term use, but can cause many problems with regular or long-term use.

Several related medications have been used for sleep since the 1990s. These are sometimes called the “Z-drugs” because their generic names begin with Z: zolpidem (Ambien®), zopiclone (Imovane®, Zimovane®), eszopiclone (S-zopiclone; Lunesta®), and zaleplon (Sonata®). The FDA has recently recommended reducing the doses for zolpidem and may make recommendations regarding others. While still appearing somewhat safer than regular benzodiazepines, the Z-drugs are looking more and more similar to benzodiazepines in many respects as we gain more experience with them.

A good resource for information on benzodiazepines is the Ashton Manual.

Withdrawal from benzodiazepines, like withdrawal from alcohol and barbiturates, can be life-threatening. Consult your physician before stopping them cold turkey, as medically supervised detox may be needed.

This site was created on 21 Sep 1996. All original textual and photographic material on these pages is copyrighted 1996-2012 by Timothy M. Hall unless otherwise noted.