Tranquillisers are those sedatives people use on animals right? Yes, but no. Nowadays, tranqs aren’t just reserved for our four-legged friends, we use them as well. Confused? Don’t worry we’ll explain all you need to know.

A young man and young woman are standing on a pavement. They are looking at an image of tranquillizers and smiling. This is a wide-angle image.

What are tranquillizers?  

Tranquillizers are prescription drugs usually doled out by doctors to treat anxiety (generally severe cases), sleeping problems, or muscle tension issues. Some common ones include Diazepam and Temazepam (what did Pam ever do to them?). They belong to a group of chemicals called benzodiazepines (benzos) that relax the muscles and make you sleepy. Street names you might hear are chill pill or downers, because of their effects. 

Lots of people take them illegally and without a doctor’s prescription. Using tranqs in this way can easily lead to a drug addiction, commonly a Diazepam addiction, and can sometimes be fatal.  

How do you take them?  

They mostly come in tablets or capsules that people swallow. Some people inject them, but this is very dangerous and thankfully rare since they banned gel-filled capsules.

Why do people take them? 

  • All your worries just… stop. The world seems almost perfect. Perfect and a little bit fuzzy…
  • Your muscles just give over and flop, like all your bones have been removed.
  • You’ll sleep like a baby. In fact, you’ll probably sleep better than a baby, no crying involved.
  • Lots of people take them when coming down from stimulant drugs like MDMA.

What are the bad side effects? 

We’re not gonna lie, the side-effects of tranqs can be pretty bad. Here are a few of them: 

  • They are really, really addictive. (More on this below.)
  • The effects can come on much quicker than you expect, and leave you much more whacked than you thought.
  • It can cause short-term memory loss, so you essentially forget the whole experience.
  • If you’ve taken loads, the comedown may make you have panic attacks, or even fits. To find out more about comedowns, click here

How long do the effects last?

It depends on the strength of the dose, but effects usually last between three and six hours.

Will I get addicted? 

Probably. So much so that even doctors prescribing them legitimately won’t give them to you for more than a month – tops.

This is because you quickly develop a tolerance and have to take more to get the same effect. They’re also psychologically addictive, as people enjoy the calm, serene feeling you get and want to hold onto it. If you or anyone you know is struggling to find addiction treatment, read our article to find some resources and advice.

What’s withdrawal like? 

Once you’ve come down with a tranq habit, coming off them is about as much fun as getting a root canal done by a toddler. If you’ve been prescribed them, do NOT come off them without talking it through with your doctor, as they’ll probably want you to decrease your dose over time. Suddenly coming off them cold turkey can cause seizures, psychosis, and death.

During withdrawal, common, not so pleasant, side effects include:

  • Mild to severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Insomnia
  • Sinking into a REALLY bad mood

Valium/Diazepam addiction 

Valium is one of the most common tranqs to be used outside of prescription. It can be extremely dangerous because it’s easy to get ahold of and stays in your system for ages. A Valium user can experience Valium withdrawal symptoms if they choose to stop taking it. These can be even more intense than normal symptoms and include cardiovascular as well as neurological symptoms. As with most drugs, usually the first 48 hours will be the worst. 

Keep in mind, someone can develop a physical dependence a.k.a., an addiction to valium from prescription medication as well, so it’s important to have open communication with your doctor every step of the way. Having an appointment every few months to review your prescription and condition is a really good way to stay on top of things and avoid a further health problem. 

Common questions 

Can you drink on tranquillizers? It’s not a good idea. Both of them slow your body down, so combining the two can be dangerous.

Can you mix tranquillizers with other drugs? Although they’re commonly used to take the edge off comedowns, we can’t recommend this as a good idea. It’s particularly dangerous to mix benzos with other depressants like heroin or alcohol.To find out more, click here

Can you overdose? Yes, you can easily OD on tranqs – even a small extra amount can have a huge effect on you. You increase the risk significantly if you’re doing it on your own. Be sure to have sober friends around who can call for help if needed. Remember, if you see anyone in danger – you need to act quickly, it could save their life. To find out more about ODing, read our article

How to reduce the risks when taking tranquillizers 

  • If you’re using them recreationally, start with the absolute lowest dose of whatever you’re taking. The tablets may have the dosage printed on the packaging. Be aware that the capsules are stronger. And remember, always tell someone exactly what you’re taking so that they’re prepared in the event of an emergency. 
  • If you’ve taken some and don’t feel anything instantly, don’t take anymore straight away. It can take some people longer to feel the effects and you don’t want to OD.
  • Don’t drive or operate any heavy machinery when on them… yes, even the pick-up truck.

Is it illegal to take tranquillizers? 

If you’ve been prescribed them by a doctor, then it’s perfectly legal to take them.

On the other hand, if you’ve prescribed them to yourself (even if you’re a doctor) they instantly become a Class C drug. At that point, possession could get you a maximum of two years in jail, and if you’re supplying them to others it only gets worse. For more information about being caught with drugs, read our article here.

Next Steps

  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
  • Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


drugs a-z

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 31-Aug-2021