Valium, Librium, Serax, Tranxene, Dalmane and Azene are the minor tranquilizers -- technically, the benzodiazepines.Because Valium is far and away the most prescribed, it is often used in references as a kind of stand-in for the rest.

New discoveries about the human body, the brain and the central nervous system indicate that these drugs operate at special sites in the brain. Also operating at the same sites, studies indicate, are alcohol, barbiturates, and certain natural chemicals -- manufactured by the body itself -- which help the body cope with pain, depression, anxiety and control sleep.

If Valium or any of the other drugs occupy these sites in the brain, the body is fooled into ceasing manufacture of the natural substances. So when the drug is stopped, or a tolerance to it builds up, the body has nothing natural to fall back on, for a varying length of time depending on the individual.

Thus, as Dr. Nelson Hendler testified, Valium (and its ilk) actually can:

Increase depression

Increase anxiety

Worsen chronic pain..

Interfere with normal sleep: "Sure," says Dr. Hendler, "it will put you to sleep -- the way half a pint of whiskey will. . ."

On the other hand, Dr. Hendler says he couldn't practice medicine without Valium. It is appropriate, he says, intravenously or orally, for alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, acute and chronic anxiety attacks, and in some cases it is clearly the best thing available.