Phenazepam: the drug that came in from the cold

J Forensic Leg Med. 2012 Apr;19(3):122-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2011.12.014. Epub 2012 Jan 15.


In the past few years there has been concern in Western Europe and in the US about the rise in abuse of phenazepam, a benzodiazepine that was originally developed in the USSR in the mid- to late 1970s.(1-4) Although phenazepam is one of the most widely prescribed benzodiazepines in Russia and other commonwealth of independent state (CIS) countries, it has not been licensed elsewhere in the world. Due to very limited licensed geographical distribution, there is very little peer-reviewed literature that is not written in Russian. In this article, we review the current state of what is currently known about phenazepam. This information on phenazepam and how it can be detected in biological specimens should assist the forensic community in identifying phenazepam in routine toxicology screening and interpreting any phenazepam concentrations that are obtained.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ataxia / chemically induced
  • Benzodiazepines / adverse effects*
  • Benzodiazepines / blood*
  • Benzodiazepines / chemistry
  • Benzodiazepines / pharmacokinetics
  • Biological Availability
  • Bradycardia / chemically induced
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Chromatography
  • Confusion / chemically induced
  • Drug Overdose
  • Forensic Toxicology
  • GABA Agents / adverse effects*
  • GABA Agents / blood*
  • GABA Agents / chemistry
  • GABA Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Half-Life
  • Hallucinations / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced
  • Molecular Structure
  • Muscle Hypertonia / chemically induced
  • Postural Balance / drug effects
  • Speech / drug effects
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Substance-Related Disorders / blood
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Tachycardia / chemically induced


  • GABA Agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • phenazepam