Valium, Ativan, Temazepam, Barbiturates... what do they do and how do they differ? Get in the know about tranquillisers.

They are used medically to treat anxiety, epilepsy and sleeplessness

What are they?

Tranquillisers are manmade drugs. They are used medically to treat anxiety, epilepsy and sleeplessness, and are normally swallowed.

How do they make you feel?

Tranquillisers like Valium and Ativan make you slow down, relax and chill. You might yawn a lot and feel drowsy. Sleeping pills, like Temazepam, are a bit stronger but tend to wear off more quickly.

Barbiturates or barbs were popular in the 70s and 80s. They became known as downers as they were often used to ease down from tripping or speeding. Barbs were very easy to overdose on and are now rare. People use the milder modern tranquillisers in the same way.

What are the health effects?

Tranquillisers are addictive and as such are a difficult habit to break. If you take them regularly you will develop a tolerance to them so that you need more to get the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms are pretty nasty. People get anxious, sick, sleepless, restless, grouchy and develop banging headaches. Occasionally people have epileptic fits when they come off.

You can overdose on them, especially if you are using them with alcohol.

A number of people have died after injecting Temazepam. This is a really dangerous thing to do, as it's hard to get the dose right.

The law

Tranquillisers are prescription-only drugs, and without a prescription they are treated as illegal Class C drugs. The maximum penalty for possession is two years in prison and 14 for supply. You can get an unlimited fine for both.

Barbiturates are illegal Class B drugs. The maximum penalty for possession is five years in prison and 14 for supply. You can get an unlimited fine for both.

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