Tranquilizer Addiction and Abuse, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What are Tranquilizers?

Tranquilizers are a class of drugs that are capable of inducing a state of relaxation, or creating the feel of “tranquility”. Tranquilizers are typically used to help calm individuals who have severe mental health issues or who are prone to high anxiety levels. Other uses for tranquilizers include preparation for surgery, to induce sleep, or to alleviate withdrawal symptoms for people who are undergoing medical detoxification from alcoholism. Tranquilizers function in the body by depressing the central nervous system, inducing a sedation-like state. Tranquilizers can also be referred to as hypnotics, downers, anxiolytics, hypnotics, relaxants, antipsychotics, or sleeping pills. Street names for tranquilizers include, “tranx”, “benzos”, “moggies”, or “bennies”. Many tranquilizers can be highly addictive and have an increased potential for being abused and can lead to a Tranquilizer Addiction.

Tranquilizers can be broken into two different categories: major and minor tranquilizers. Major tranquilizers are also referred to as antipsychotics since they are primarily used to treat mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. Brand names for major tranquilizers include the following:

  • Mellaril
  • Haldol
  • Navane
  • Thorazine
  • Prolixin

The category of minor tranquilizers is classified as benzodiazepines. These drugs are used for the therapeutic treatment of anxiety disorders, alcohol withdrawal, seizures, insomnia, and muscle spasms. One of the main differences between these two categories is that minor tranquilizers have the ability to produce a sense of euphoria and have a calming effect, unlike the major tranquilizers. Brand name minor tranquilizers include the following:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Librium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin

Because of the frequency which tranquilizers are prescribed, it is not uncommon for abuse of these drugs to develop or occur. One of the most dangerous practices in the recreational use of tranquilizers is the combination of these drugs with other depressants, such as heroin. Using a combination of depressants can dramatically increase the risk of death. Tranquilizers can be both physically and psychologically addictive, and the abuse of these drugs should not be taken lightly. If you or a loved one is trapped in the vicious cycle of tranquilizer addiction, it is highly recommend that you seek professional help.

Tranquilizers Use Statistics

Men and women from across the age groups can be vulnerable to developing an addiction to tranquilizers. Studies have revealed the danger associated with the abuse of these drugs. The following are some statistics pertinent to tranquilizer abuse:

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, barbiturates, a type of tranquilizer, are a factor in approximately one third of all reported drug-related deaths [1].
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that over 60 million people are prescribed a type of tranquilizer every year [2].
  • Studies from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America reveal that 1 in 5 teenagers have indicated that they abuse prescription stimulants and tranquilizers [3].
  • Also from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, a national household survey demonstrated that early non-medical users of prescription sedatives, tranquilizers, and opioids were generally more likely to become non-medical users of other prescription drug classes than to develop sedative, tranquilizer or opioid use disorders [3].

Causes of a Tranquilizer Addiction

Several factors can contribute to the addiction of tranquilizers, as they cause dependency in several ways. Since tranquilizers have the capacity to produce a calming effect, the person using the drug typically desires more once the effect has subsided. When increased dosages of tranquilizers are consumed, a person will build a tolerance to the substance. This will leave the user not only desiring tranquilizers more frequently but also wanting increased quantities of them. Other causes are that individuals may become dependent on using the drug, both physically and psychologically. For example, if a tranquilizer is prescribed to relieve anxiety, a person may become dependent on the drug as it is used repeatedly to ease anxiety on a daily basis. Users may become dependent on feeling the “high” that is achieved when taking a tranquilizer and this can rapidly develop into an addiction. Tranquilizers may be sought as a temporary method of escaping pain, physically and emotionally, and individuals may find themselves trapped in the deadly cycle of addiction due to the fine line between medical use and recreational abuse. It is necessary to obtain professional help in order to prevent the consequences associated with a tranquilizers addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tranquilizer Addiction

You may be concerned that your use of tranquilizers has developed into abuse or addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to tranquilizers, certain signs and symptoms will be evident of this. Look for the following if you are suspecting that addiction to tranquilizers is present:

  • Increased sleepiness
  • Shaky hands
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid heartbeat, irregular heart rate
  • Irregular respiratory rates or depressed breathing
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Dulled emotional responses
  • Dizziness, Nausea
  • In cases of overdose, death

Tranquilizer Effects

Unfortunately, an addiction to tranquilizers will be costly to you or your loved one. While the physical signs of addiction may be the most evident, the ramification of tranquilizer abuse does not stop there. An addiction to tranquilizers can impact your life in the following ways:

Physically: The recreational use of tranquilizers can harm your body physically as it interferes with the normal mechanisms. In severe cases, death can occur, especially in the instance of overdose. These are possible physical effects that may result from a tranquilizer addiction:

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to relax
  • Respiratory distress or arrest
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Unconsciousness or sedation

Psychologically: A tranquilizer addiction can confuse an abuser’s perception of reality as well as disturb their mental and emotional well being. The following are some psychological effects that may result from the abuse of tranquilizers:

  • Risk of anxiety or paranoia attacks
  • Mood disorders, personality shifts
  • Feelings of rage or aggressiveness
  • Dulled emotional responses
  • Delusions or Hallucinations

Social Impact: The prolonged use of tranquilizers will have a negative impact on an individual’s social life. If you or a loved one is abusing tranquilizers, you may observe these social effects:

  • Estranged relationships with family and friends
  • Difficulty engaging in social functions
  • Isolation and increased seclusion from loved ones
  • Seclusion from loved ones

Men and women abusing tranquilizers will incur damage to the other facets of their lives as well, such as in their financial responsibilities, career, and work and familial duties. For the duration of time that tranquilizers are abused, addicts will continually experience these consequences until professional help is sought and appropriate treatment is received.

Tranquilizer Withdrawal

The withdrawal from tranquilizers can be a dangerous process as the body has become dependent on the drug and a variety of unpleasant symptoms can be induced once the drug is no longer in the body’s systems. Symptoms can vary from person to person depending on how long tranquilizers have been abused. Because of the severity of the symptoms that can result, it is important that the withdrawal process take place under medical supervision. Withdrawal symptoms will usually begin anywhere from 6-36 hours after the last use of the drug and can include the follow:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confusion, altered reality
  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability, Rage

It is usually expected that symptoms worsen and reach the peak of discomfort around the first to second day of the withdrawal process. In certain situations, physicians may be able to prescribe a medication to help ease the discomfort that is experienced while withdrawing from tranquilizers. Treatment programs tailored specifically for tranquilizer addictions will have the necessary resources to help individuals safely withdraw from these substances, and having this support is invaluable during the recover process.

Tranquilizer Addiction Treatment and Help

With adequate support and with the proper resources, you can be well on your way towards recovery from a tranquilizer addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a tranquilizer addiction, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There is nothing more valuable than your life, wellness, and peace and you are deserving of the freedom that is experienced apart from dependence on a drug. Though it might feel painfully difficult or impossible to break your addiction, take hope in knowing that recovery is always an achievable option. You should find treatment centers that work with a tranquilizers addiction. You will ultimately have the ability to overcome this addiction by receiving the help you need.


[1]: National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Commonly abused drugs”.

[2]: U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

[3]: Partnership for a Drug-Free America

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Addiction Help