Sedatives, also called CNS depressants or tranquilizers, are a type of medication that is used to treat a variety of health concerns, including anxiety, panic attacks and sleeping disorders. The drugs work on the body by producing a drowsy or calming effect. When used appropriately, sedatives can work wonders for patients in need. When abused, however, they can carry grave health risks. It’s important to understand the facts before someone begins taking sedatives.
Medical use of sedatives
There are three basic types of sedatives, each with their own specific functions and uses. Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Xanax and Halcion are used for short-term treatment of disorders such as panic attacks and sleep disorders. They are rarely prescribed over long periods because of the risk they carry for dependence and addiction. Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications such as Ambien have a similar effect as benzodiazepines, but with a reduced chance of abuse, so they can be prescribed for longer periods. Barbiturates have a high risk of addiction, so their use is typically limited to surgical procedures and seizure treatment.
While each type of sedative has a different chemical makeup, they all work on the body in a similar fashion. Sedatives interfere with certain neurotransmitters, which act like messengers in the brain. By slowing down these neural messages, the drugs slow down the brain’s activity, causing feelings of calm and relaxation. When a patient is suffering emotional distress or having difficulty calming down, such as during an anxiety attack, the drug’s effects can bring the patient down to a more normal level. However, some people abuse the drugs to experience the high without any medical need. This abuse can lead to serious health problems.
Using sedatives without the supervision of a doctor can be extremely dangerous. People who take the drug longer than they should will develop a tolerance, which will require them to take larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect. As the abuser’s body chemistry changes, they can quickly develop a chemical dependency on the drug. Taking it away will cause an imbalance in the abuser’s system, leading to an unpleasant rebound, which can cause seizures and other traumatic effects. Withdrawal from barbiturates is particularly severe and could have life-threatening consequences.
It is also unsafe to combine sedatives with certain other kinds of drugs, including alcohol, over-the-counter cough medicine and prescription pain medication. Combing these drugs will compound the effects and slow down body activity to dangerously low levels, potentially leading to death.
Sedatives are only safe when used under the supervision of a doctor, who can ensure that the patient is using the drug correctly to avoid dependence, addiction, withdrawal and drug interactions.
If you or someone you know has been using prescription sedatives without a prescription, it is vital to seek treatment to avoid further potential health risks. The Prescription Drug Addiction Helpline offers qualified advice about your options. Call us 24/7 at any time to get started.