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What Is the Difference between Temazepam and Diazepam?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Temazepam and diazepam are pharmaceutical drug compounds that have a similar chemical structure and classification, but they differ primarily in terms of what conditions they treat and how they interact with other drugs. In some cases the side effects can be different, too, particularly as concerns pregnancy and unborn children. In most cases people use temazepam to treat insomnia and physical sleep disorders, whereas diazepam is more commonly used for anxiety and other more deeply rooted psychological issues. Both are considered benzodiazepines and they can sometimes be used interchangeably with acceptable results. Their specifications are different enough, though, that people are usually best served by taking the medication most closely linked to their particular condition.

Where They Come From

Both drugs are benzodiazepines, which means that they come from the same family of medications synthesized from chemical benzene and diazepene. All members of this family are psychoactive drugs with a range of effects, which can include muscle relaxation, sedation, anti-convulsion, and anti-anxiety. In addition, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms are sometimes treated with these types of drugs, and they are often used in the treatment for alcohol withdrawal. In different concentrations they can be used as pre-operative sedatives for minor medical procedures as well as for dental procedures.

To some degree both temazepam and diazepam have these characteristics. They are both considered to be highly effective and safe for short-term use, but the biggest difference is what they’re most effective at treating. The drugs are manufactured slightly differently and as a result can and do tend to interact with different parts of a person’s brain chemistry.

Conditions Treated

Temazepam is prescribed mainly to patients who suffer from insomnia. This means it can usually only be safely taken just before an extended period of sleep. In many cases it will also serve as a muscle relaxant, which can help people drift off to sleep and remain tired. It is known as a hypnotic, which means that it can lull people into sleep but may also interfere with their sleep pattern in the process.

Diazepam, on the other hand, may help people relax which can cause sleep — but it isn’t usually prescribed for this purpose. It is usually considered an anti-anxiety medication, and can be taken by people to control a range of different stress-related and societal mood disorders. In less concentrated doses it may help relieve muscle spasms the medical condition known as “restless leg syndrome”; it can also be used to treat an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease.

Drug Interactions

Another of the most important differences between these drugs is the number and variety of medications with which each interacts. Temazepam has been shown to interact with several types of antifungal medication, for instance, as well as with a small number of antidepressants. Diazepam, on the other hand, can interact with a much wider range of medications, including most other anti-anxiety drugs, most sedatives, and many pain killers, both prescription and over-the-counter. Health experts don’t usually recommend that patients take either drug with alcohol since alcohol can amplify the effects and may create a hazardous health situation. When taking any medication, it is important for patients to understand the types of drug interactions possible since these can increase or reduce the efficacy of the drugs, as well as potentially exacerbate their side effects

Side Effects

Benzodiazepines in general are known to have potentially serious effects on unborn children, but temazepam and diazepam do not always cause the same symptoms. In the case of temazepam, evidence suggests that taking this medication during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects, though there are only a small number of cases reported. Diazepam use during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, can cause breathing difficulties in the newborn and in most cases is only given after careful analysis of the risks to both mother and unborn child.

Both drugs are also widely considered to be addictive. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and harmful psychological effects. Most of the time, doctors and other health care providers will only prescribe these and related drugs in limited quantities, usually just enough to treat the condition for the immediate future. Patients often have to make recurring appointments for regular check-ups, and will generally only continue receiving prescriptions so long as the drugs remain medically necessary.

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Discussion Comments

By anon989285 — On Feb 28, 2015

For god's sake. Some people are so misguided. They know a little of everything and a lot of nothing. They need to see a medical professional -- they will always find the answer they want on the Internet, much to their own detriment.

By anon989036 — On Feb 16, 2015

I am currently trying to withdraw from Temazepam 30 mg after taking it for four years. I realized that I am addicted and need to stop using it because the only time I feel well is when I am taking it. My doctor gave me 15 mg temazepam with 7.5 Diazepam the first week, then on the second week 15 mg diazepam and finally going down 1 mg every other week. Hopefully it will work and I will be soon done with both medications.

By anon954135 — On May 30, 2014

Thanks for this article. It's very clear and concise.

By anon338529 — On Jun 14, 2013

I have taken both these medications for short periods of time to treat back spasm and insomnia. I have had no side effects and no addiction problems used correctly they offer great short term relief from symptoms.

By anon337896 — On Jun 08, 2013

They are both bad. If you haven't started on them, don't ever! The side effects are real and extremely common. They are extremely addictive and hard to stop.

By anon296919 — On Oct 13, 2012

I was taking diazepam and it left me tired and groggy the next day for work, so I've been switched to temazepam. The main difference being temazepam is short acting. It helps you sleep but doesn't leave you feeling groggy the next day.

By wander — On Oct 22, 2011

@drtroubles - I don't blame you for not wanting to take diazepam for your insomnia. I am actually surprised you were prescribed it. Valium is a serious narcotic and should only be taken in extreme cases, and under the guidance of your doctor. If you are not comfortable with this prescription you should talk to your doctor about it and try an alternative.

My mother took diazepam for her anxiety and it made her depressed and she actually suffered from hallucinations. It was so dangerous for her that she had to be switched to another medication. Remember, there are always alternatives out there, just ask your doctor.

By MrSmirnov — On Oct 22, 2011

My doctor has recently prescribed me diazepam (Valium) for my insomnia and I am wondering if it is the best option? I have heard that temazepam is much more focused on treating insomnia, whereas diazepam is used for numerous problems.

I am worried because I know that diazepam can be addicting and I don't want to struggle with stopping it once I start. On top of that the list of side effects is a mile long and rather frightening. Even the side effects they consider mild include things like dizziness, muscle weakness, feeling irritable and slurred speech. While I know I am only taking it before bed it does worry me a lot.

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