Definition: Benzodiazepines are a class of psychoactive drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. Because death from from benzodiazepine overdose is relatively uncommon, these are the CNS depressants most prescribed and have largely replaced barbiturates for use as hypnotics, anesthetics and sedatives.
The first benzodiazepine was chlordiazepoxide (Librium), which was created for medical uses during the 1960s. Shortly after, the drug Valium was developed and it quickly became the highest-selling prescription drug from 1972 until 1978.
Because of their tendency to create dependence, benzodiazepines are classified as a Schedule IV drug. Drugs placed in this category have a lower potential for abuse and are accepted as a medical treatment, but they can still lead to limited physical or psychological dependence. Learn more about benzodiazepines.
More About Psychoactive Drugs: