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questionmarkWhat are tranquilisers?

There are two types of tranquillisers – ‘major’ (which are non-addictive antipsychotics) and ‘minor’ (which are relaxants that are addictive and liable to misuse).

Here we’re just talking about the ‘minor tranquillisers’. These tranquillisers can induce periods of calmness, relaxation and sleep and are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They are prescription only medicines that can normally only be prescribed following a consultation with a doctor.

There are many different types of minor tranquillisers, but the most common are the group of drugs called benzodiazepines. These include Rohypnol, Valium (also called diazepam), temazepam and phenazepam (although this latter drug is sometimes found in street drugs, it is not prescribed by doctors in the UK).

The key effects of tranquillisers include:

  • Sedation – depressing the nervous system and ‘slowing’ the brain and body down.
  • Relief of tension and anxiety – helping the user feel calm and relaxed.
  • Help with insomnia.
  • Dependence – with some people getting very reliant on their use and finding if they stop that they get nasty withdrawal symptoms, including decreased concentration, tremors, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, panics and depression.

In medicine, tranquillisers are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They come as tablets, capsules, injections or suppositories (tablets inserted up the bum); and come in a wide variety of colours. On average a 10mg diazepam pill costs £1. In the club scene, tranquillisers are often used as chill-out drugs. Some people use them to help come down off acid, cocaine, speed or ecstasy after a big night out.

What are the effects of tranquilisers?

Tranquillisers are prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia. Because of concerns about their addictiveness, they are mainly recommended only to be used in such cases for short-term use and when the problems are severe. They are also sometimes used to control epileptic fits and to treat alcohol withdrawals.

They have a number of effects:

  • They depress the nervous system, which slows the brain and body down.
  • They make the user feel calm and relaxed and can help people get to sleep.
  • They suppress fits.
  • Some cause short-term memory loss.
  • Big doses can make a user forgetful and make them overly sleepy.
What are the risks of tranquilisers?

Using tranquillisers can be risky, and especially dangerous if you mix them with other depressant drugs like heroin or alcohol.

Here’s what tranquillisers can do to you:

  • exclamationmarkSome have been shown to cause short-term memory loss and big doses can make a user forgetful and make them overly sleepy.
  • They can be highly addictive, and so are mainly recommended only for short-term use in medicine.
  • People who are addicted to tranquillisers can experience nasty withdrawal symptoms, which can include decreased concentration, tremors, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Very uncomfortable bodily sensations can also develop; and fits can occur, which in severe cases can be fatal.
  • Sudden withdrawal after big doses or from some specific drugs can cause panic attacks and fits.
  • Some people crush or melt tranquillisers that come as tablets or capsules, so that they can be injected. This is extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal. The chalk in the tablets is a major cause of collapsed veins which can lead to infection and abscess. Injecting gel capsules can also be fatal when the gel solidifies inside the blood vessels.
  • There are concerns that tranquillisers have been used in sex crimes, where a victim’s drink is spiked with a tranquilliser, for example Rohypnol, making them very drowsy or knocking them out so they're either unaware of or unable to prevent a sexual assault.

Most tranquillisers that are available on the street are either stolen from a hospital or pharmacy or from people who got them on a prescription. They might have also been imported from abroad. You cannot normally be sure of the purity unless you are certain that the drug you have is a genuine pharmacy medicine.

Can you get addicted to tranquillisers?

Tranquillisers can cause psychological and physical addiction and, because tolerance increases over time, users may have to keep increasing their dose either to get the same hit, or just to maintain the initial positive medical effect on their anxiety or insomnia. It is because of the risk of

Dependence that tranquillisers are recommended normally only to be used for short periods of time and only for severe cases.

Withdrawal can cause unpleasant symptoms like a pounding headache, nausea, anxiety and confusion. Some people report withdrawal symptoms after only four weeks' use. These can be

Dangerous and require medical help. If you, or a friend, has a problem with tranquillisers and want to stop using, you should talk to your GP for help and support.

The other type of tranquillisers, the ‘major’ tranquillisers (antipsychotics) are not addictive.

lawiconTranquillisers and the law
  • Tranquillisers are controlled under Class C of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
  • Unauthorised possession (i.e. without a prescription) could result in a prison sentence of up to 2 years and an unlimited fine.
  • Supplying, which includes giving some to your friends, could mean up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine
lightbulbDid you know?
  • A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.
  • Like drinking and driving, driving while impaired by drugs is illegal. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.  Because tranquillisers can impair judgement and reaction time it is recommended that people do not drive or operate heavy machinery were they are taking them.

Drugs & Alcohol

Legal Highs

Legal Highs’ are substances which produce the same, or similar effects, to drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, but are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

They are considered illegal to sell, supply or advertise for “human consumption” under current medicines legislation. To get round this sellers will refer to them as research chemicals, plant food, bath crystals or pond cleaner.

There are a large number of legal highs, but here are a few key facts:

  • Just because a drug is legal to possess, it doesn’t mean it’s safe.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that ‘legal highs’ are far from harmless and can have similar health risks to drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and speed.
  • Risks of ‘legal highs’ can include reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures, and death.
  • These risks are increased if used with alcohol or other drugs.
  • It is likely that drugs sold as a ‘legal high’ may actually contain one or more substances that are actually illegal to possess. What you may think is a legal high that you can’t get in trouble for having, could be something completely different, and in fact a class B drug.

Worried About Someone?

Not all drugs are addictive, and everybody that uses drugs doesn’t become dependent. When drug use becomes problematic it can lead to addiction and signs this has happen can include:

  • The need for regular use.
  • Constantly have drugs in their possession.
  • Strange and ‘out of character’ behavior
  • Mood Swings
  • Physical changes like Weight loss
  • Sometimes people don’t recognise their drug use has become a problem. They refuse to believe that they are addicted or dependent. If you think you think a friend has a problem and you want to help them, think about how you're going to approach it and what you’re going to say?

    It could be a sensitive subject for them and you don’t what to looking like you’re getting. They may not listen to you at first but don’t let this put you off. The best thing that you can do is to be there for them, to support and encourage them to change. You can also help by keeping your friend away from situations that can trigger or expose them to drug use.

    Some people are able to overcome their issues with drugs before any serious harm has been done to them, or their family and friends. Other users have to hit rock bottom before they can see the harm and damage they are doing and start addressing their drug use.