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Abusing Tranquilizers an unwitting dependency

For years, tranquilizers have been the go-to treatment for any person struggling with anxiety. Doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists prescribe them to just about anyone displaying the general set of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, namely:

  • Problems sleeping;
  • Muscle tension or nausea;
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.

Tranquilizer abuse - substance abuse

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Due to the over diagnosis of anxiety disorders and the frequency at which tranquilizers are prescribed, it is not uncommon for them to be abused.

Tranquilizers are extremely addictive and when used for longer than a few months, it is easy to unintentionally become addicted to them. Dependence can occur after 3 months of use.

This means that even if you were to follow your doctor’s orders and never abuse your tranquilizer prescription, you would still experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stopped taking them.

Tranquilizer list

Below is a list of the most commonly used tranquilizers and sleeping pills, and their generic names:


  • Rohypnol (flunitrazepam);
  • Dalmane (flurazepam);
  • Imovane (zopiclone);
  • Ambien (zoldipem);
  • Lunesta (eszopiclone);
  • Valium (diazepam);
  • Ativan (lorazepam);
  • Xanax (alprazolam);
  • Klonopin or Rivotril (clonazepam);
  • Restoril (temazepam).


Tranquilizer irony

In the beginning, sedative drugs may help you to relax and stay calm, they may also help you sleep better and relieve muscle tension.

However, after a few months of use they may begin to have adverse effects, actually making you more anxious than you were before.

This creates a need to continue taking them and the need to take more at a time, thus creating a cycle of abuse and dependency.

Physical effects of long-term use

The prolonged use of tranquilizers causes physical harm to your body as they interfere with your normal bodily processes.


  • Irregular sleep patterns or insomnia;
  • Disorientation;
  • Restlessness – unable to sit and focus on a task;
  • Inability to relax even when there is nothing to be stressed about;
  • Trouble breathing;
  • Cardiac distress or arrest;
  • Gastrointestinal distress – digestion difficulties and stomach pain;
  • Unconsciousness or sedation.


Psychological effects of long-term use

A tranquilizer addiction has the ability to create an obscure perception of reality as well as upset an abuser’s mental and emotional well-being.


  • Increases anxiety;
  • Increases risk of paranoia attacks and panic attacks;
  • Triggers mood disorders and possible personality shifts;
  • Produces feelings of rage or aggressiveness;
  • Causes emotional responses that are dulled;
  • Depersonalisation (feeling not quite real, outer body experiences);
  • Misconceptions of reality and hallucinations.


Social impact of long-term use

The continued use of tranquilizers will negatively impact a user’s social life.


  • Distanced relationships with friends and family;
  • Trouble engaging in social environments (usually a substance such as alcohol is used to ease the discomforting situation);
  • Isolation from friends and family.


Tranquilizer detoxification and withdrawal symptoms

Just like with any withdrawal, the withdrawal from tranquiliser use can be dangerous as your body has become dependent on them. Therefore, the withdrawal process must take place under medical supervision.

Tranquilizer withdrawal symptoms usually start showing anywhere from 6-36 hours after the last use of the drug and can include the following:


  • Convulsions and seizures;
  • Psychotic episodes and confusion (altered reality);
  • Chills and hot flushes;
  • Loss of appetite and nausea;
  • Night sweats and insomnia;
  • Rapid breathing;
  • Muscle aches and tension;
  • Irritability, rage or aggression.


Withdrawal symptoms typically worsen and peak around the first or second day of the withdrawal process.

It is for this reason that physical withdrawal should be assisted by a medical detox team.

Step Away Substance Abuse Treatment Centre South Africa

The Step Away rehabilitation and detoxification programme is equipped with all of the resources necessary to help you safely withdraw from tranquilisers, offering a support system that is invaluable during the recovery process.

Often when tranquilisers are taken for a prolonged length of time and then are suddenly stopped, it may appear as though feelings of anxiety and unease have returned.

However, these are common indications of post-acute withdrawal.

It’s important to be patient with yourself and to start looking at the possible reasons for your anxiety.

Often socioeconomic conditions that people are experiencing are overlooked and a psychiatric diagnosis is immediately assumed, this prevents people from addressing the real issues behind their anxiety.

Our everyday lives are stressful and therefore feelings of anxiety and unease are not unusual. These feelings may indicate a lack of coping skills, and do not necessarily indicate a mental disorder or anxiety disorder.

If you have decided that you have a problem and would like to seek help, this is your opportunity to change your life and discover the real you.

For more information, please contact us.

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