Get help today 888-341-7785 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Meet the New Benzo Causing Deadly Consequences

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs prescribed to treat legitimate medical conditions like anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS), and alcohol withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines are some of the most commonly prescribed (and misused) medications in the nation. The most common benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and triazolam (Halcion). A less common benzodiazpine is phenazepam.

An Introduction to Phenazepam

Phenazepam is a long-acting benzodiazepine that pulls double duty; it is an anti-anxiety medication that also serves as a muscle relaxant, making it twice as dangerous when misused. This drug was initially developed in the former Soviet Union during the 1970s.

What is alarming about phenazepam is that it’s not a scheduled drug in the United States or most of Western Europe. That means we have no oversight or federal controls that establish guidelines for safe use or prescription. Without any kind of oversight, it comes as no surprise to learn that phenazepam has been responsible for a number of deaths.

Things have gotten so bad in Georgia that lawmakers have taken action to ban phenazepam outright. Last week, a bill to ban the drug was introduced; it passed in the Georgia State Senate with a sweeping vote of 52-0. When Gov. Nathan Deal signs the bill into law, it will go into effect that same day.

Recreational Use

As a recreational drug, phenazepam is available in capsule, pill, and powder forms. The product has historically been sold in flashy packaging that appeals to teenagers and “less experienced” drug users, but it is increasingly available online. Research also indicates that many users take this dangerous benzo in combination with synthetic marijuana products and opioid painkillers.

Side Effects of Phenazepam

Phenazepam should be a major drug of concern for parents of teenagers. This drug is potent at one-tenth of the recommended dose for diazepam and is responsible for a number of hospitalizations and fatalities following overdose. The most concerning side effects of phenazepam include dizziness, drowsiness, rapid loss of coordination, a strong urge to re-dose, loss of inhibitions, and a prolonged sense of amnesia.

What You Need to Know About Phenazepam

Some of the most alarming facts we’ve uncovered about this benzodiazepine are:

  • Phenazepam is five times as potent as Valium.
  • The drug commonly causes amnesia and is being increasingly used as a date rape drug.
  • Once addicted, withdrawal symptoms are severe. These can include seizures, convulsions, and death.
  • The effects of the drug can last over 60 hours, dramatically increasing the chances of overdose.
  • Georgia teenager Kevin Lewis passed away from an overdose of the drug in 2010.
  • A death in Arkansas was reported in 2012 after a user smoked a joint laced with phenazepam.

Take Our “Am I Addicted?” Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute “Am I Addicted?” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might need addiction treatment for benzodiazepines. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is confidential and free, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.

Legally Speaking

Phenazepam sellers have largely been able to push their products by following the same marketing plan that has worked for synthetic drug dealers.

Although it’s not currently classified as a “controlled substance” in the U.S., the sale of phenazepam for human use is illegal. However, sellers have been able to skirt the issue by placing “not for human consumption” disclaimers on the product’s packaging.

In addition to Georgia, two other states have formally banned the drug. Louisiana classified phenazepam as a controlled dangerous substance in 2012, while Arkansas Department of Health Paul Halverson approved a similar ban that May.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.