Chlordiazepoxide - a benzodiazepine

Taking chlordiazepoxide will make you feel sleepy. It will also increase the time it takes for you to react, so it may impair your judgement. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines.

Do not drink alcohol while you are on chlordiazepoxide.

You will be prescribed it for a short period of time only - a maximum of four weeks.

About chlordiazepoxide

Type of medicine Benzodiazepine
Used for Anxiety
Alcohol withdrawal
Also called Librium®
Available as Capsules and tablets

Benzodiazepines like chlordiazepoxide are prescribed to ease symptoms of anxiety, but only for a short period of time. Chlordiazepoxide works by affecting the way some chemicals in your brain (neurotransmitters) pass messages to certain brain cells. It has a calming effect on various functions of your brain. It also has a muscle-relaxing effect.

Chlordiazepoxide is also used to help relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. When you are alcohol-dependent, your body becomes used to lots of alcohol. This means that your body starts to develop withdrawal symptoms 3-8 hours after your last drink, as the effect of the alcohol wears off. So, even if you want to stop drinking, it is often difficult because of the withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification, or 'detox', involves taking a short course of a medicine which helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol. The most commonly used medicine for this, is chlordiazepoxide.

Before taking chlordiazepoxide

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking chlordiazepoxide it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have any breathing problems or sleep apnoea (a problem where you stop breathing for short periods at night).
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have a mental health problem, such as a personality disorder.
  • If you have ever had a drug or alcohol addiction and you are not being prescribed it for this reason.
  • If you have severe muscle weakness, such as in a condition called myasthenia gravis.
  • If you have porphyria (a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.

How to take chlordiazepoxide

  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about chlordiazepoxide and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Your doctor will tell you what dose of chlordiazepoxide to take, and when to take it. Your dose will also be on the label of the pack to remind you. Take it exactly as your doctor tells you to. As a guide:
    • If you are taking chlordiazepoxide for anxiety, you will probably be prescribed one tablet/capsule to take three times a day.
    • If you are taking it to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it is usual to take four doses a day. You will be prescribed a high dose on the first day you stop drinking, then your dose will gradually reduce over the next 5-10 days.
  • You can take chlordiazepoxide before or after food.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it when you remember. If it is almost time to take your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose when it is due. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • Remember to keep your regular appointments with your doctor or clinic. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Taking chlordiazepoxide will increase the time it takes for you to react and may impair your judgement. Because of this, your ability to drive could be affected. You may also still feel sleepy the following day. Do not drive or use tools or machines if this happens to you.
  • Chlordiazepoxide is taken for short periods of time only, often for just a few days. It will not be for longer than four weeks, as this may lead to your feeling dependent on it. Also, your body gets used to it quickly, and after this time it is unlikely to have the same effect.
  • If you are going through detox, you will have agreed not to drink any alcohol. Even if you are not taking chlordiazepoxide for this reason, you should still not drink alcohol with this medicine. It will increase the risk of you experiencing unwanted effects.
  • Your doctor will recommend that you reduce your dose gradually when it is time to stop. Follow carefully any instructions your doctor gives to you.
  • If you are having any medical treatment, such as an operation, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking chlordiazepoxide. This is because it increases the effects of some anaesthetics.
  • If you need to buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with chlordiazepoxide.
  • After detox, it is thought that you are less likely to go back to drinking heavily if you have counselling to help you to stay off alcohol. Your doctor, practice nurse, or local drug and alcohol unit may provide ongoing support when you are trying to stay off alcohol. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous have also helped many people.

Can chlordiazepoxide cause problems?

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common chlordiazepoxide side-effects
What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sleepy, weak, or light-headed (this may continue into the following day) Do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol
Forgetfulness, feeling confused or unsteady If these become troublesome, speak with your doctor
Feeling (or being) aggressive This can happen in some people - let your doctor know about it as soon as possible

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

How to store chlordiazepoxide

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.