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Depressants: Tranquillisers

by Dr. Mariam Doreen Joseph, Australia

Posted: Friday, June 16, 2000 11:42 pm CST


Tranquillisers
(Tranx, Jellies, Temazepam, Vallium, Temazies, Barbs, Sekkies)

This family of drugs are used, like barbiturates to help control anxiety and tension and to help sleep. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed of these drugs, which include the well known Vallium and Temazepam. Because they are seen to be much safer they have come to replace barbiturates for most medical purposes. These drugs are usually swallowed, although some misuers do inject, but this is usually only with Temazepam.

History

In 1960 the Swiss multinational drugs company Hoffman-La Roche released Librium onto the market. This was supposed to pacify people and set them free from anxiety. This and many other similar drugs were released in following years and were dished out left, right and center by doctors. With so many tranquillisers available it wasn't long before they reached the street where they were taken with other substances (such as alcohol) for an increased effect or injected.

This caused many people to be dependent on tranquillisers, both prescribed and bought illegally on the street. In the early 1960s the American authorities were getting increasingly worried about the abuse of barbiturates. It was estimated that 9,000 million pills were being used or sold illegaly.

In 1988 due to pressure from both the medical profession and the public, tranquillisers were controlled unter the Misuse of Drugs Act for the first time. Recently there has been an increasing trend to inject tranquillisers, Temazepam being especially popular in some areas of Scotland. Although the pills were reformulated to jelly like capsules to try and stop injectors, this did little to change the habit, and only caused injectors to injure themselves more. However, the pills are now being changed again to try and prevent this damage.

Effects

The effect of these drugs on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, odt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects of low to moderate doses

  • relaxation and calmness
  • relief from anxiety and tension
  • drowsiness, dizziness, lethargy
  • blurred or double vission
  • slurred speech
  • emotional depression
  • mild impairement of thought processes and memory

Effects of higher doses

  • drowsiness
  • oversedation
  • sleep
  • judgment of distances and movement affected confusion
  • loss of short term memory
  • mood swings

Long term effects

  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • lack of motivation
  • disturbed dreams
  • impairment of sexual functioning
  • increased appetite
  • increased wieght
  • menstrual irregularities
  • withdrawal

Tolerance-means that a person has to take a higher dosage of the drug to produce the same effect or feeling as was initially experienced with the lower doses. Dependence-means that a person feels as though he/she cannot do without the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms occur in about 40 per cent of people who have been using a tranquiliser regularly for three months or more, either when their intake is reduced or when they stop taking the drug completely. Withdrawal symptoms can also occur in people using the medication for 3 weeks regularly.

SUDDEN WITHDRAWAL from these drugs is not advisable. People who have been using very high doses may experience seizures (fits). Other less sever symptoms are anxiety and phobias.

THE GRADUAL WITHDRAWAL TECHNIQUE entails the reduction of tranquilisers intake by one sixth to one eighth of the total intake (or approximately half a tablet) each week. This is normally done over two or three months in consultation with the prescribing doctor.

Withdrawals symptoms may include: panic attacks, disturbed sleep, nervousness, tension, confusion, depression, paranoia, feeling of depersonalisation and unreality, flu like illness, increased menstrual bleeding and breast pain in women and muscular cramps.


References CEIDA - health service/ NSW, Australia. Drugs information on web sites.

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