Many sedative drugs such as Trazodone, Ativan, Xanax are prescribed as tranquilizer drugs depending on the condition of the patient.
Not all tranquilizers are bad. There are some conditions where prescribing a tranquilizer becomes a necessity. Let’s find out more about these sedative drugs and their uses.
In this article, we will cover the following topics:
- What are tranquilizer drugs?
- Types of tranquilizers/sedative drugs
- What drugs are most likely to be prescribed as tranquilizers?
- When do doctors prescribe tranquilizers?
- Informed use of tranquilizers/sedative drugs
What are Tranquilizer Drugs?
Tranquilizers are drugs prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, depression, fear, tension and for any condition that leads to the disturbance of your mind.
The term “tranquilizer” is a somewhat misleading one. The word was typically used in popular culture to describe sedatives, or substances used to cause sedation. Therefore, the term “tranquilizer” is not commonly used in the field of medicine today. When prescribing sedative drugs, the healthcare professionals usually replace it with more precise terms like anxiolytics (minor tranquilizers) and antipsychotics (major tranquilizers).
Types of Tranquilizers
Tranquilizers can be divided into two groups:
- Minor Tranquilizers
- Major Tranquilizers
Some mood stabilizers are also included in the class of tranquilizer drugs.
Also referred to as anxiolytics or anti-anxiety drugs, these are used to reduce and prevent anxiety disorders. Some are also used as sedatives before anesthesia for medical procedures. These drugs help alleviate the symptoms of stress, calm nerves and can also assist with sleeping problems like insomnia.
Also referred to as antipsychotic drugs, these are used to treat psychosis principally in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They are now also being used in the management of non-psychotic disorders. Some examples of major tranquilizers include Haloperidol (Haldol), Fluphenazine (Prolixin), Loxapine, Thiothixene (Navane)
What Drugs Are Most Likely to Be Prescribed as Tranquilizers?
Drugs that are most likely to be prescribed as tranquilizers are the minor tranquilizers. They can be further broken down into five classes:
Barbiturates are central nervous depressants. They work by reducing the activity of our nerves letting our muscles relax. They were once widely prescribed for treating headaches, insomnia, and seizures but due to the high risk of drug abuse and addiction, they are rarely used nowadays.
Benzodiazepines are prescribed for treating a range of psychological and neurological disorders including anxiety, seizures, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, panic attacks, and muscles spasms. Here are a few benzodiazepines approved for use in the United States: Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), and Xanax (alprazolam).
Opioids are usually prescribed as pain relievers, but the most recent research shows that some varieties are effective in treating severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Since they have the highest addiction rates for all drugs, prescribing opioids for mental disorders is usually not recommended within the medical community. Hydrocodone and Fentanyl are some of the commonly prescribed opioids.
Antidepressants can treat anxiety and various anxiety disorders by regulating serotonin in the body which is considered a natural mood stabilizer. Antidepressants are especially beneficial because anxiety and depression often occur together. Some of the examples include Venlafaxine (Effexor), Imipramine, (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), Phenelzine (Nardil, Nardelzine) and Mirtazapine (Remeron)
Sympatholytics are a group of anti-hypertensive drugs that inhibit the activity of the body’s sympathetic nervous system. Several medications within this group are effective in treating PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) such as Prazosin and Clonidine.
When Do Doctors Prescribe Tranquilizers?
Tranquilizers or sedative drugs suppress the central nervous system and slow down normal brain function. For that reason, they are often referred to as depressants.
These kinds of medications work by affecting the neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that help in regulating the communication between brain cells. The higher the level of GABA activity in the brain, the greater the calming effect produced.
Sedative drugs are only prescribed to patients diagnosed with anxiety, depression, insomnia, uncontrollable feelings of fear and panic attacks.
Tranquilizers are not a cure for any of the conditions they treat. Doctors prescribe these drugs to alleviate the symptoms that are associated with these conditions.
Informed Use of Tranquilizers / Sedative Drugs
When used under the proper supervision of a qualified physician, tranquilizers can be both effective and beneficial. Just like other drugs, you have to follow the dosage and instructions provided by your doctor. Otherwise, any misuse may lead to dependence and addiction.
Minor tranquilizers are useful when taken for a short period of time. Overusing sedative drugs like Oxycontin (oxycodone) or Vicodin (hydrocodone) may lead to serious issues including addition. Side effects of drug overuse include:
- Memory loss
- Suicidal thoughts
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
Also, keep in mind that neither of these drugs should be taken with alcohol as both are depressants and can, therefore, compound or exaggerate the effect of the other.
Since tranquilizers affect the functioning of the brain, therefore the person taking the pills should not drive a car or operate anything mechanical for several hours after the dosage.
Excessive use of any drug is harmful and can lead to consequences. Same is with tranquilizer drugs. Listen to your doctor and follow the prescribed dosage. In case, you or your loved ones are experiencing symptoms of addiction, speak with your doctor about treatment options. It is not advisable to go “cold turkey” as withdrawal symptoms are severe and may make the condition even worse. The advent of modern medicine has led us to invent non-opioid drugs like Loxefidine that can help you in your drug withdrawal.