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THE TEMAZEPAM TRAP: ANXIETY PILL
BECAME A HEROIN SUBSTITUTE
May 12, 1995
Temazepam belongs to a group of drugs known as the benzodiazepines or minor tranquillisers, writes Liz Hunt.
They are the drugs most commonly used to relieve anxiety and as sleeping pills, although their use is declining because of concerns about physical and psychological dependency, withdrawal problems and their potential for abuse.
When the benzodiazepines became available in the 1960s, they appeared to offer attractive benefits over the barbiturate drugs then used to treat anxiety. They had fewer side-effects, were far less dangerous in overdose, and did not interact with other drugs.
Benzodiazepines depress activity in the part of the brain that controls emotion. They promote the action of a chemical, gamma-aminobutyric acid, which blocks the transmission of messages between brain cells, and reduces the excess brain activity associated with anxiety and insomnia. Brand names include Valium (diazepam), Mogadon (nitrazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Dalmane (flurazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam), and Normison (temazepam.) Concern about dependency and withdrawal syndrome surfaced in the late 1970s. Symptoms included insomnia, anxiety, weight loss, forgetfulness and nightmares. During the mid-1980s, the non-medical use of temazepam was identified in parts of Scotland when there was a shortage of heroin. Now temazepam and diazepam are among the most common street drugs in Britain.
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