Understanding Xanax, Valium and Other Sedative Addictions


Sedatives, including tranquilizers and hypnotics such as Xanax®, Valium®, Lunesta® and Ambien®, are substances that can slow brain activity. They are often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, however they can also cause slurred speech, poor concentration, confusion, dizziness, problems with movement and memory, lowered blood pressure, and slowed breathing. Long-term use can lead to tolerance and dependence.

What is a sedative?

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants, a category that includes tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics, are substances that can slow brain activity. They are prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

How are they used?

Commonly prescribed sedatives include:

  • Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium®), clonazepam (Klonopin®), and alprazolam (Xanax®), known as “benzos”, are sometimes prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. Usually, benzodiazepines are not prescribed for long-term use because of the high risk for developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

  • Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien®), eszopiclone (Lunesta®), and zaleplon (Sonata®), known as “z-drugs”, have a different chemical structure but act on the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazepines. They are thought to have fewer side effects and less risk of dependence than