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Benzodiazepines (ben-zo-die-a-ze-peens) also known as Vallies, Jellies, Blues and Benzo’s are a group of drugs that share similar characteristics. They are usually prescribed by a doctor for a number of illnesses including sleep problems and anxiety but are also widely used on the recreational drug scene, often as a comedown drug for other drugs.
Benzodiazepines are depressant (downer) drugs which can cause drowsiness and long periods of sleep. They also slow down your heart rate and breathing. People using them can experience a ‘floating’ sensation as well as a warm, calm and relaxed feeling. Negative experiences can include short term memory loss, reduced mental alertness and anxiety.
They come as tablets or capsules in various sizes, shapes and colours and are usually swallowed. The most popular at present is diazepam which comes in small, round blue tablets (10mg) or yellow tablets (5mg). Higher doses are usually prescribed by a doctor when treating sleeplessness. These doses should not be taken as recommendations.
If you choose to take benzos:
- Keep a close eye on your drinks when you're out as some benzodiazepines have been used in attacks of a sexual nature where drinks have been spiked.
- Sleep on your side to avoid choking in your sleep if you throw up.
- Stay with friends in case you experience negative effects.
- Try a small test dose and wait at least 2 hours before re-dosing.
- Avoid mixing benzos with alcohol and other drugs.
- Withdrawal symptoms can happen even after short periods of use. Avoid taking for more than 4-6 weeks.
Some benzodiazepines are covered by The Psychoactive Substances Act. It was introduced in the UK on the 26th May 2016 and it makes it an offence to manufacture, export/import (i.e. buying from a non-UK website), supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance, if likely to be used for its psychoactive effects. Possession is not an offence, except in a ‘custodial institution’ (e.g. prison, young offenders centre).
Despite being psychoactive, alcohol, nicotine, tobacco and caffeine are exempt from the act. Medicinal products are also exempt and it is argued that etizolam may be exempt if it is sold as a 'medicinal product'.
Some are controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class C drugs (unless prescribed by a doctor). Penalties for possession without a prescription are up to 2 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Supply holds penalties of up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
Etizolam, and 15 other unlicensed benzodiazepines, will join the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class C drugs in 2017.