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Benzodiazepines (Benzos)

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are a type of medication that "depresses" or slows down your brain activity. Since benzos decrease activity in the central nervous system, they can affect the way you think, feel and move.

Benzos are typically used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Benzodiazepines are only legally available by prescription and usually in pill form, such as diazepam (brand name Valium) and lorazepam (brand name Ativan).

VCH drug checking services have identified samples of street drugs sold as opioids, containing fentanyl and illicitly made benzos such as flualprazolam and flubromazolam, as well as benzodiazepine analogs such as etizolam.

When someone takes benzodiazepines and opioids together, it increases the risk of overdose and death. Naloxone has no effect on benzos.  If someone is overdosing, naloxone should be given to reverse any opioids contributing to the overdose. 9-1-1 should also be called so that paramedics can help manage the overdose.

Symptoms of benzodiazepine toxicity/overdose may last for hours:

  • drowsiness and sedation, feeling very sleepy
  • impaired balance and movement control
  • slurred speech

Benzodiazepines may also lower one's inhibitions and put people at risk of sexual violence. Following a benzodiazepine overdose people may experience blackouts and memory loss.

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