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What are tranquillisers?

Tranquillisers also known as sedatives are man-made drugs, they are usually prescribed by doctors as short-term treatments for depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia (difficulty in sleeping). In the UK tranquillisers are prescribed to twice as many women as men.

The most commonly prescribed tranquillisers are from the class of drugs called benzodiazepines (benzos) and are known as minor tranquillisers. There are various benzos and they are usually known by their brand names, a few of the well-known products include:

  • Valium™ the generic name is diazepam.
  • Ativan the generic name is lorazepam.
  • Mogadon the generic name is nitrazepam. On the street they may be called moggies.
  • Normison the generic name is temazepam. On the street they may be called jellies or eggs.
  • Rohypnol™ the generic name is flunitrazepam. On the street they may be called roofies, rope or the forget-pill.

Why are tranquillisers used as drugs of abuse?

The easy availability of tranquillisers has made them common as drugs of abuse. Some drug abusers take tranquillisers to bring them down after using stimulants such as ecstasy or cocaine. Others take them to enhance the effect of alcohol.

Temazepam has become a street drug as a substitute for heroin and Rohypnol™ is the tranquilliser most associated with “date rape” as it has been known to be used to spike drinks. The victim is often unaware that they have been slipped a drug and while under the influence they are vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape.

We offer a test on this site which allows you to easily test your drink or urine for the presence of any benzos (Rohypnol). For more information on Rohypnol, date rape and the available test click here.

What do tranquillisers look like?

Tranquillisers usually come in the form of white tablets or capsules. They might come in different colours depending on their strength. Temazepam is also produced as a gel in a capsule and as a liquid.

How are tranquillisers taken?

For medical use tranquillisers are usually taken as tablets or capsules that are swallowed. They are usually used the same way as street drugs but sometimes tranquillisers can be prepared for injection. This can be carried out by either emptying the contents of the capsules or by crushing the tablets. Injecting is very dangerous and can be lethal.

What are the immediate effects of tranquillisers?

Tranquillisers calm the user down and reduce feelings of agitation and restlessness, they also slow down mental activity and produce drowsiness. Tranquillisers can have a relaxing effect on the muscles. High doses of tranquillisers can make users forgetful, dizzy and can induce sleep.

The effects of tranquillisers can begin after 10-40 minutes and can last for 3-6 hours but this depends greatly on the drug used and the strength prescribed.

There is a high risk of accidents when driving or operating machinery when on tranquillisers. Some tranquillisers can cause a temporary loss of short-term memory, and an increase in aggression.

If mixed with alcohol or other depressant drugs tranquillisers can be extremely dangerous and can cause a fatal overdose.

What are the long-term effects of taking tranquillisers?

A low dosage of tranquillisers prescribed for a short period of time is unlikely to pose any greater risk to health. However, if you take tranquillisers regularly a tolerance can develop, so you will need to take more to get the same effect and you may also find you become dependent on them. Therefore, it is recommended that tranquillisers are not used for long periods and should not be taken for more than a 2-4 week period. If you are taking them for insomnia a 2-3 night break from the tranquillisers each week is recommended.

After 2-3 weeks of continuous use tranquillisers may become ineffective as sleeping pills and after 4 months ineffective against anxiety.

Long term use of tranquillisers can cause depression, memory loss, mental confusion, stomach disorders and aggressive behaviour.

The withdrawal effects can be very unpleasant and include sickness, headaches, irritability, anxiety, nausea and in some cases panic attacks. If you have been on tranquillisers for some time you should come off them gradually over a period of time and with medical supervision. Never stop taking them suddenly and always ask your doctor for advice when taking tranquillisers or when trying to quit taking them.

What class drug are tranquillisers?

Possession of tranquillisers is not illegal without a doctor’s prescription (except for Rohypnol and temazepam) however, supply is against the law and class C penalties apply. If you are found in the possession of Rohypnol or temazepam without a doctor’s prescription it is an offence, with a maximum sentence of 2 years and an unlimited fine or both.