Note: This module has not been updated since the original Addictionary (1992). Much of the information in it is probably obsolete.

The miracle prescription drugs of the 19605 were the “minor” tranquilizers, benzodiazepines (BZPS) like Valium and Librium. They were thought to be harmless. Pharmaceutical companies told physicians they were not addicting, and doctors were happy to have a safe drug to prescribe to patients who said they were struggling with anxiety. The Rolling Stones wrote a popular song that called them “Mother’s Little Helper.”

By 1975 Valium was the most prescribed drug in the United States. Though their addiction potential was well known among addiction treatment professionals, many doctors continued to tell patients they were safe, if taken as prescribed.


BZP drugs have an affinity for certain GABA receptors. Their action decreases some norepinephrine (NE) and other neurotransmitter activity involved in anxiety. They are particularly dangerous because a tolerance develops after just a few weeks, and because they are thought to be harmless, someone can become addicted to them with little conscious awareness.

Other Tranquilizers

There are newer tranquilizers that have different pharmacology, and it is not known how some of them work. For addicts, however, the important thought is that any attempt to “fool Mother Nature” has so far produced more varied types of addicts, and there are few legitimate psychiatric uses for these drugs, especially with people known to have addictive tendencies. For more detailed information, see the module on Drugs.

Tranquilizers, see also: Alcohol, Drugs, Energy levels, Fantasy, Fats, Marijuana, Moodifiers, Narcotics Anonymous, Nicotine, Relaxation, Serenity, Stress & strain, Sugar, Tolerance.

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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