Adverse Psychiatric Reactions Information Link
Promoting awareness of medicines that can harm mental health

Benzodiazepine & Z drugs


Benzodiazepines, Z drugs & Sleeping pills also called Anxiolytics,

Anti-anxiety drugs, Tranquillisers



Benzodiazepine Dependence, Adverse Reactions and Withdrawal Symptoms

Advertising and promotion of this group of drugs has led to years of suffering for some people. Without warning these were addictive medicines, leading to dependence that meant reducing or stopping suddenly would be difficult and with little support from doctors. An example of misleading commercial promotion was the term for Valium as "Mother's Little Helper".

It was recognised by scientists as early as 1961 Benzoidiazepine medicines had the same withdrawal issues as barbiturates.

This link is to carefully measured Time Line from 1959 showing Benzo dependence was known about for many years, using the information from a book by a respected researcher in this area Charles Medawar - Benzodiazepine Time Line


Benzodiazepine drug group includes:

Generic Names:

Chlordiazepoxide, Nitrazepam, Oxazepam, Medazepam, Lorazepam, Loprazolam, Clorazepate Dipotassium, Clonazepam,Diazepam, Clobazam, Midazolam, Fluazepam, Triazolam, Lometazepam, Flunitrazepam, Bromazepam, Prazepam, Alprazolam, Ketazolam, Halazepam, Chloral Hydrate, Temazepam.

Some UK Trade Names:

Librium, Valium, Mogadon, Ativan, Hypnovel, Dalmane, Halcion, Xanax, Tranxene, Klonopin.

USA list

Here is a list of examples of brand and generic names of benzodiazepines available in the US.

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • clobazam (Onfi)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • estazolam (Prosom)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)

Drugs that have benzo type similar effects with addictive properties:

Zopiclone (Zimovane), Zolpidem (Ambien),  Buspirone (Buspar) and Sonata.

There are many other trade names, for example, everyone seems to use the generic name for Temazepam yet some of the trade names are Euhypnos, Restoril, Normison, Sonapam. The names and spellings of drugs may vary in different countries.

Psychiatric Adverse Effects to many medicines may include:

Interactions with other drugs, depression, memory impairment, over sedation, anxiety, nightmares, hallucinations, insomnia, tolerance, dependence and aggressive behaviour. Depression and agoraphobia on withdrawal can be overcome with help.

Benzos have long term problems due to withdrawal effects, for some people and should NEVER be stopped suddenly.


In the UK many people obtain drugs in this group with repeat prescriptions and some patients may not be re-assessed, or warned about the addictive and damaging side effects. As dependence increases, doses may be increased.

In spite of government directives to doctors in the UK, many years ago, that drugs in this group should not be prescribed for more than one month. We hear from many people who have been taking them for over 10 years. Some people have been taking these drugs for 30 to 40years.

Manufacturers now recommend no more than two weeks supply should be prescribed and in all cases withdrawal should be complete within 4 weeks.

The physical and mental damage to some people is tragic. Yet with more information about the dangers of addiction and warnings when first prescribed sleeping tablets, or tranquillisers, patients may have been able to avoid the long term damaging effects.

Some people have been helped, short term by this medication, while others are disabled by it. The problem of overprescribing and benzo involuntary addiction is widespread . It seems only government intervention will prevent continuous over prescribing and misuse of this group of drugs. They were once used for pre med prior to operations and given to new mothers in hospital, as the thinking was to take baby away from mother and the sleeping pill would enable a good night's sleep. Sad to think a breast feeding mother may well pass this on to her baby.


Some people do manage to reduce and eventually stop all the unnecessary medication that they may have been taking for years. Others have to accept they may only reduce the doseage.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal should be supervised by experts who understand the safe method of switching from short acting to longer acting medication, then slow, slow reductions of medication over a period of months or even years.

Some of the fantastic people, who now help others with counselling during withdrawal, have done this themselves – it may have taken years but many people are now ‘drug free’. However finding support and help to withdraw is not easy.


BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES WITH MEDICATION OBTAIN PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. Sometimes we may be mistaken in thinking a problem is due to the medication, so it is important to check with your doctor. It may help if you take along information to show your doctor, for example Professor Heather Ashton's withdrawal protol.

However some people have thyroid problems causing mental disturbance. An Endocrinologist can do tests to investigate hormonal, kidney and other problems that adversely affect our mental stability. In these cases drugs should not be prescribed, until the cause of mood changes is identified.

If a reduction in medication is advised please note that:


Benzodiazepine withdrawal should be supervised by experts who understand safe methods for switching from short acting to longer acting medication, then slow, slow reductions of medication over a period of months or even years.

Users, not receiving the correct level of support, have been known to start taking the drug again to alleviate the withdrawal suffering.

Coming off these drugs, we have been told, can be worse than stopping heroin.

SLOW WITHDRAWAL means SLOW with VERY GRADUAL REDUCTION over a long period of time.

The Ashton Manual kindly produced and provided free, courtesy of PROFESSOR HEATHER ASHTON, gives information about drug replacement and tables for dose reduction of each different drug during withdrawal.


Most people should try to obtain the support of their medical practitioner. We keep hearing from people who have to change to a different doctor to obtain this support.

You will probably benefit from joining with others in a self-help[ or email support group.


BENZODIAZEPINE WEB SITES – we cannot vouch for how good the support for withdrawal is but advise you do your own investigation via chat rooms etc.

Withdrawal support - 

CALL UKAT 0808 250 3801 / Local 0203 553 0749
Free Callback

If you can obtain or download FREE Professor Heather Ashton’s manual, or a similar guide,  your medical practitioner, hopefully will read and may appreciate the information it contains.

FREE on 

Professor Heather Ashton’s Manual – Protocol For The Treatment of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

BENZODIAZEPINES How They Work & How to Withdraw

Medical research information from a benzodiazepine withdrawal clinic
Protocol for the Treatment of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

By Professor C Heather Ashton, DM, FRCP


TV programme 2001

The never ending problem of prescribed drug dependency

The BBC Panorama Programme May 13th 2001

The programme about tranquilliser addiction, brought in 3,400 calls to the BBC Audience Line by the following morning. All help and information services were inundated with calls.

Following this programme we have heard about the following experiences:

We were contacted by many people who have successfully withdrawn from all benzodiazepines and other medication. It has taken years in some cases. Some people have been taking these drugs for 40 years.

We heard how stopping the drugs suddenly can make you very ill – so qualified medical support is vital.

We were told about Autogenic training (a method of relaxation) which helped one man recover after years of distress and being under section.

We have been told how good nutrition and supplements can help the body recover. Most people need help with psychological support, and help with balancing the chemicals, minerals and vitamins in the body.

Some people are finding difficulty in obtaining help from health professionals with  enough experience or knowledge of the safe way to withdraw or reduce medication.

Many of those who are under medical supervision for the correct way to reduce, replace and eventually stop taking this medication.

We have heard of a lady on valium for 15 years being stopped ‘cold turkey’ by a doctor and becoming so physically and mentally ill she suffered for years.

We were informed by a young woman, who having withdrawn from heroin in a 14 day detox programme, relapsed and started taking illegal drugs again due to the ill effects of hurried withdrawal from benzos. The BBC programme gave them understanding of why they had relapsed.

We were told about parents in nursing homes, at an age when they should be active seniors enjoying family life, by their children,who, after seeing the TV programme, felt convinced that what they had long suspected about the manic behaviour, physical deterioration and severe loss of mental capacity in their parent probably was due to Iatrogenic disease (disease resulting from treatment).

We were told that a family had fears that mental illness was hereditary in their family, until they began to suspect the benzos had caused their mother’s and aunt’s serious brain damage.

We heard of people who become mentally unbalanced after taking or withdrawing from a benzodiazepine, having been sectioned under the mental health act and treated as mentally ill, instead of being treated for adverse drug reactions or withdrawal effects.

Concerned patients informed us that they were threatened with ‘section’ under the mental health act if they even thought about coming off their medication. This informaton was many years ago, so hopefully no psychiatrist would dare to say this today.

We have heard Valium was purchased ‘over the counter’ in India and sold to one traveller to treat a headache!

We were informed of young people who thought it was cool to pop a Valium to help relax when travelling on long journeys. So today, another benzo, Xanax, is the drug of choice and becoming a real problem among the young in the USA

Some patients are obtaining prescriptions by mail and have not seen a doctor for years. The original circumstances for which the medication was prescribed may have been long forgotten.

The Cost to the Nation in Health Care and Benefit Payments is Not Quantifiable.

Emergency admission to hospital and the use of costly bed space, cost the Health Department vast amount of money. One nurse assessed even a decade ago, the beds cost approximately £1500 a week for each patient. Plus the cost of tests to find out the cause of the patient’s suffering. Benzodiazepine dependence may not be identified by some physicians.

Years ago the clinic started by Professor Heather Ashton and later run as part of NECA in Newcastle upon Tyne, received about 2,500 referrals of ordinary people, not addicts by choice, who had become dependent and needed help to reduce or withdraw from drugs they no longer needed or wanted..

Specialist units in the UK have closed due to lack of funding and without these units, many people are admitted to hospital as an emergency. In Camden, London, a project called REST is about to lose the funding, which is devastating for the community.

What Needs to Be Done

Better Education is needed for Health Professionals – More Time and Importance should be given to the subject of adverse drug reactions, interactions, dependence and withdrawal.

A limitation on new prescribing and increased warnings by the manufacturers for the doctors and the patients, should be mandatory.

If you have a relative suffering physical and mental breakdown, with brain damage or shrinkage (atrophy) please try to find out which drugs they have been taking. If you suspect any prescribed medicine has led to problems please report to the relevant authority.

Some people can tell when they first take a tablet that they ‘don’t feel right’, any sign of an adverse reaction with any medication should lead you to question whether you should be taking it. Always go back to your medical practitioner, if possible, with documented information to help them understand.

Manufacturer’s detailed UK drug data sheets (SmPCs) can be viewed at  Post licensing adverse reactions may not be included.

Useful Web sites for information on Benzodiazepine adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and withdrawal effects.

UK  includes the Ashton Manual  FREE


read about their attempts to increase warnings by the FDA



and withdrawal/dependence adverse effects to


USA FDA -American Food and Drug Administration 


BENZODIAZEPINE WEB SITES – we cannot vouch for how good the support for withdrawal is but advise you do your own investigation via chat rooms etc.

Withdrawal support -


An active campaign includes World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day (not to be confused with a music station of this name!)

This UK web site has massive content of past and current activities in the area of awareness. Also has link to the Ashton Withdrawal protocol.

The Heather Ashton Manual on How to Withdraw From Benzodiazepines.

Benzos linked to falls in the elderly


THE past BENZODIAZEPINE AWARENESS NETWORK and people we have to thank for their untiring efforts to create awareness of the Benzo and Z drug issues.

Charles Medawar, author of Medicines out of control and a great campaigner

Dr Reg Peart

An International network of linked organisations with great ideals. Was organised by the late Dr Reg Peart (UK ) who was President as well as chairman of VOT)

Joan Gadsby

Geraldine Burns

 Geraldine has worked tirelessly over the years and taken up the Benzo issues in her home state of Philadelphia, she has a useful podcast with information






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