Benzodiazepines have GABA-potentiating actions in the CNS (spinal cord, hippocampus, cerebellum, cerebrum) thereby reducing neuronal activity

Onset of action: 5 minutes SL; 10-15 minutes PO
Time to peak: 1-1.5 h SL/SC, 1-6 h PO
Duration of action: 6-72 h
Plasma ½ life: 12-15 h


  • Insomnia: 0.5 to 2 mg HS
  • Anxiety: 1 mg bid SL/PO, increasing to 6 mg/24h in divided doses
  • Agitation: 0.5-2 mg bid + q1h prn PO/SC/IV/PR
  • Status epilepticus: 2-4 mg SL, SC or IV. Repeat after 15 and 30 minutes if needed
  • 25-50 mcg/kg (max 1 mg) as single dose PO/SL


  • Sedation
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased co-ordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory impairment
  • Hypotension
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia


  • Benzodiazepines used alone in delirium will likely exacerbate the condition
  • There are some drug-drug interactions with benzodiazepines
  • Abrupt cessation of long-term benzodiazepine therapy can cause withdrawal symptoms
  • May cause hypotension
  • Use with caution in severe hepatic disease


This information is drawn from a number of sources (see below). The reader is encouraged to access these and other relevant literature for more detail. As always, sound clinical judgment should be used in individual clinical cases. In particular, it should be remembered that there may be significant variation in the pharmokinetics of a drug resulting from a number of factors, including the individual patient’s metabolism/disease status and how the medication has been formulated.


  1. Brunton LL, Lazo JS, Parker KL, editors. Goodman and Gilman’s: the pharmacological basis of therapeutics. 11th ed. McGraw-Hill Professional; 2006.
  2. Twycross R, Wilcock A. Palliative care formulary. 3rd ed. Radcliffe Medical Press Ltd; 2008.
  3. Repchinsky C, editor. Compendium of pharmaceuticals and specialties (CPS): the Canadian drug reference for health professionals. 44th ed. Canadian Pharmacists Association; 2009.
  4. Goldman A, Hain R, Liben S. Oxford textbook of palliative care for children. 1st ed. Oxford University Press; 2006.

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