Labeled as Schedule IV drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, benzodiazepines are highly regulated by the U.S. government and are generally prescribed for short-term use only, as they have high potential to cause dependency. Commonly referred to as “benzos” or by street names including “tranks,” “downers” and “bars,” there’s also a black market for the drugs, which are typically used to treat mental disorders and ailments.
Common benzodiazepines include:
How Do Benzos Affect the Brain?
Benzodiazepines work by binding with neurons called GABA receptors in order to slow overactive brain function, which relieves severe mental stress. When taken as prescribed, they provide enough relief from stress and anxiety to get needed sleep and focus on the root cause of mental distress. When misused, benzodiazepines can produce a euphoria or buzz, followed by a relieving sedation. While the drug itself can quickly create a physical dependency, the euphoric relief from the initial stress can create an emotional and mental dependency.
Benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for short-term use because the body can quickly build up a tolerance to them, requiring higher and/or more frequent dosing to produce the desired effects. While typically consumed in tablet form, some users crush and snort benzodiazepines to increase the desired high, which often leads to overdose symptoms, including seizures and coma. If taken with alcohol, the combination can suppress the central nervous system so dramatically that it can dangerously slow respiration and cause accidental overdose and death.