Benzodiazepine is a class of therapeutic agents capable of producing a calming, sedative effect and used in the treatment of fear, anxiety, tension, agitation, and related states of mental disturbance. [1] Benzodiazepines are generally used only on a short-term basis to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and muscle spasms. Because they can be habit-forming, these medications aren’t a good choice if you’ve had problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

The Encyclopedia Britannica1explains that benzodiazepines ease anxiety by impacting chemical messengers – neurotransmitters – used to communicate between brain cells. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the action of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits anxiety by reducing certain nerve-impulse transmissions within the brain. These drugs act as sedatives by slowing down the central nervous system.

Examples include (brand name italicized):

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Librax)
  • Clobazam (Onfi)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • Diazepam (Diastat, Valium)
  • Estazolam
  • Flurazepam
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Oxazepam
  • Quazepam Doral
  • Temazepam (Restoril)
  • Triazolam (Halcion)

Side Effects[2]:


  • Exaggerated response to alcohol
  • Slowed down thoughts and psychical movement
  • Memory problems while on the drug
  • Loss of appetite
  • Physical dependency on the drug
  • Difficulty breathing while on opiates

Less Common:

  • Paradoxical disinhibition (acute excitability)
  • Depression

[1] The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Benzodiazepine.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 July 2017,

[2] Longo, Lance P, and Brian Johnson. “Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines–Side Effects, Abuse Risk and Alternatives.” American Family Physician, vol. 61, no. 7, Apr. 2000, pp. 2121–2128.