Home > Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Drugs > Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Drugs (Minor Tranquilizers, benzodiazepines or sedative hypnotics)

Side Effects of Anti-Anxiety Drugs (Minor Tranquilizers, benzodiazepines or sedative hypnotics)

 “1997: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that elderly people taking benzodiazepines for anxiety or insomnia are at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. Brenda Hemmelgarn, M.N., Samy Suissa, Ph.D., and colleagues from McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, studied 224,734 drivers, aged 67 to 84 years and determined a 45% increased rate of motor vehicle crashes involving injuries for elderly patients during the first seven days of taking a long-acting form of benzodiazepine.91”

The below information is taken from a report which overviews the side effects of common psychiatric drugs and includes information on drug regulatory agency warnings, studies and other reports that may not appear in the packaging information for the drugs themselves.

(Called Minor Tranquilizers, benzodiazepines or sedative hypnotics)




Acute hyperexcited states
Aggressive behavior
(condition affecting white blood cells causing susceptibility to infection)
Epileptic seizures and death have resulted from suddenly stopping
Extreme restlessness
Liver problems
Memory impairment
Muscle tremors
Severe depression
Sexual problems
Sleep disturbances
Slurred speech
Suicide attempt
Transient amnesia


Daily use of therapeutic doses of benzodiazepines is associated with physical dependence. Addiction can occur after 14 days of regular use.87 The withdrawal syndrome is similar to that of alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal “is more prolonged and often more difficult than [withdrawal from] heroin,” stated Dr. Conway Hunter, Jr.88

The typical consequences of withdrawal are anxiety, depression, sweating, cramps, nausea and even psychotic reactions and seizures.89

1990-1996: Benzodiazepines caused 1,810 deaths in Britain, making them more lethal than heroin, cocaine and methadone, which combined accounted for 1,623 deaths.90

1997: A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that elderly people taking benzodiazepines for anxiety or insomnia are at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. Brenda Hemmelgarn, M.N., Samy Suissa, Ph.D., and colleagues from McGill University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, studied 224,734 drivers, aged 67 to 84 years and determined a 45% increased rate of motor vehicle crashes involving injuries for elderly patients during the first seven days of taking a long-acting form of benzodiazepine.91

2001: A British study reported an “increase in hostility and aggression may be reported by patients taking benzodiazepines. The effects range from talkativeness and excitement to aggressive and antisocial acts.”92

February 2001: Cases of “baby-battering,” wife-beating and “grandmother-bashing” were attributed to benzodiazepines by a British professor, C. Heather Ashton.93

March 2005: The UK government House of Commons (Parliament) Health Committee released findings of its inquiry into benzodiazepines (minor tranquilizers) and reported, “The side-effects of benzodiazepine treatment are now known to include excessive sedation, decreased attention, amnesia and sometimes intractable dependence. Abrupt cessation can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including convulsions in some patients. Short-term treatment and a long tapering period is now recommended to limit these risks.”94



Note: The United States has not approved Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) for medical use. Consequently, it is smuggled into the United States from Mexico and South America.

A 2000 Swedish study regarding 47 juvenile delinquents found that 40% were acute abusers of a minor tranquilizer, Rohypnol—known as the “fear reducer” and “date rape” drug—that enabled them to commit extremely violent crimes. Abusers showed no guilt about their violent offenses: “When I stabbed him, it felt like putting a knife into butter,” states the report. “I didn’t feel any emotion when I stabbed him five times,” a teenager reported.95

It is also known as a “club drug,” a general term for a number of illicit drugs, primarily synthetic, that are most commonly encountered at nightclubs and “raves.” The drugs have gained popularity primarily due to the false perception that they are not as harmful, nor as addictive, as mainstream drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The drug chemically induces amnesia and often causes decreased blood pressure, drowsiness, visual disturbances, dizziness, confusion, gastrointestinal disturbances, and urinary retention.96


December 1990: Dr. John Steinberg, medical director of the Chemical Dependency Program at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and president of the Maryland Society of Addiction Medicine, confirmed that patients taking one Xanax tablet each day for several weeks can become addicted. After a patient stops taking the Xanax, according to Steinberg, it takes the brain six to eighteen months to recover. Xanax patients should be warned, he said, that it can take a long time to get over painful withdrawal symptoms.97
Drug experts say Xanax is more addictive than most illegal drugs, including cocaine or heroin, and once someone is hooked, getting off it can be a tortuous and even deadly experience.98

According to a 1984 study of Xanax, “Extreme anger and hostile behavior emerged from eight of the first 80 patients we treated with alprazolam [Xanax]. The responses consisted of physical assaults by two patients, behavior potentially dangerous to others by two more, and verbal outbursts by the remaining four.” The study reported that a woman who had no history of violence before taking Xanax “erupted with screams on the fourth day of taking alprazolam treatment, and held a steak knife to her mother’s throat for a few minutes.”99

In a later study, more than half of the Xanax study group experienced “dyscontrol,” meaning violence or loss of control of aggressive behavior. The violence included “deep neck cuts…wrist cuts…tried to break own arm…threw chair at child…arm and head banging…jumped in front of a car.”100

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights. It works shoulder-to-shoulder with like-minded groups and individuals who share a common purpose to clean up the field of mental health. It shall continue to do so until psychiatry’s abusive and coercive practices cease and human rights and dignity are returned to all.

For further information consult the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which can be found at http://www.pdrhealth.com. It could be dangerous to immediately cease taking psychiatric drugs because of significant and dangerous withdrawal side effects. No one should stop taking any psychiatric drug without the advice and assistance of a competent, medical doctor. This report and CCHR does not offer medical advice or recommendations.

  1. Juliana
    November 27, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    The descriptions given are mere shadows of what actually can happen. The body may produce extraordinarily unusual and painful conditions as a result of irresponsible prescribing. In this helpless state, the patient is ignored and dismissed with no help. Worse yet are the detox businesses and MD’s who promise a cure for thousands of dollars and three days. This is fraud. Why doesn’t the FTC charge these people with their crimes?

    Partial seizures are not uncommon producing auditory hallucinations. This is important. This condition doesn’t resolve itself in weeks or months. The agony may last for years. We think that this can’t happen. It does. Lives are lost and never counted.

    The doctors who so cavalierly prescribe these drugs will abandon the patient when this starts to go wrong. What doctor will then take over? That’s right. People are left with no doctor. How does one taper under medical supervision when no medical practitioner will super vise?

    The fact is that medical supervision is no more than watching as the patient is tortured. Yes, this can be physical torture . It is a fact that not one doctor knows how to taper a patient properly. Therefore no medical treatment exists.

    Here is the question: Can these irresponsible prescribers be stopped by state government? I know that the report of a single tragedy will be ignored by The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. This body routinely allows law violators to practice without any investigation. This leaves the reporting victim vulnerable to retaliation. This has happened.

    I have moderated an anti-benzo forum or two. I am sick of seeing the devastation for profit. I am sick of seeing additional dangerous drugs heaped on the patient as feigned treatment.

    Do you have any ideas about how to expose doctors who enslave patients by means of beznzodiazepine prescribing? Total recovery doesn’t seem to be common. Some victims are disabled for life.

  2. February 29, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Do the antipsychotic medicine & anti depressants & sedatives have some affect on sexual life before marriage & after marriage, what are its affects on an adolscent in sex terms. I mean he will want to have more sex like raping a street driven lady….???

  3. December 21, 2008 at 4:49 am

    how ironic, the side effect for some anti anxiety drug is anxiety.

  4. Chris
    June 12, 2009 at 3:29 am

    “how ironic, the side effect for some anti anxiety drug is anxiety.”

    You know what really ironic? Scientologists talking about mental health!

  5. Julie
    June 27, 2009 at 9:35 am

    My husband of 5 years started having stress induced nervous break downs shortly after our daughter was born. He was stressed about not having enough time, money, sleep etc.. He sometimes got enraged if I asked him to help me with the baby and he in a state of overwhelmed panic started breaking things. That is when we decided that he need to get help. He went to a psychiatrist one his mother recommended who had been giving her xanax for her anxiety for many years. The psychiatrist then gave my husband xanax but it did nothing. So, he prescribed my husband Klonopin (clonazepam). The first time he took this he felt good and sleepy. But the more he took them the more I saw his personality slip into a psychosis even the look in his eyes seemed unsympathetic and cold. He started getting the most violent rages when he would take this drug then he would cry for hours he went through this for two weeks before going off the drug.

  6. September 8, 2009 at 4:19 am

    I suffered severe form of anxiety nuerosis in the year 1963.It started worsening Spreading tomore areas like fear of snakes, of bus travel ,ofheat strokes Every activity which may threaten life. Life became miserable.my profession totally broken. then On prescripion of a doctor I started using Valium [5mg]I was using it only when I hadto face anxiety situations. It did not cure my problem but made my life tolerable For 30 years I was using the drug once in 2 days. Then I reduced the dose to o.25mg. I use now alprozolam I conqured my anxiety with my will power and am much better.I use 0.25mg. I never felt any side effects Now at 79 there is loss of memory Iam not dependant on the drug. But I can cope with life much better. I feel minor tranqulisers if used sparingly as I do may not result in severe damage

  7. Shaid
    April 22, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Are there any drugs out there that can help with anxiety that are not as dangerous as Xanax? I have been on Xanax for almost 7 years now and recently went through a traumatizing 5 day withdrawal because of a lack of prescription due to travel date complications. I now am taking 1/8 of the dose I use to take and am seeking an alternative therapy.

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