A licensed health provider should not write prescriptions for tranquilizers or sedatives without weighing the potential advances and disadvantages. If he or she thinks you could benefit from them, they have valid reasons. But it’s vital to know that many of these medications aren’t inherently risk-free and may be habit-forming, so patients are encouraged to talk to their doctor about any questions or concerns they have.
Even when a person uses a tranquilizer or sedative drug as prescribed, they can develop tolerance, meaning they will need more of the medication to achieve the desired effects. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or dramatically cut back.
Some people take more of their prescription medication than suggested. Others abuse drugs without having a legitimate prescription. These risk factors can increase a person’s chance of developing an addiction.
What Are Tranquilizers and Sedatives?
Sedative: Causes mental and physiological slowing. Reduces a person’s drive or desire to act and makes them behave “sedately.” Benadryl and Tylenol PM are examples of sedatives that are not tranquilizers.
Tranquilizer: Stabilizes a person’s mental state. Reduces anxiety or psychosis to make a person “tranquil.” Many antidepressants are tranquilizers but not sedatives.
Almost all sedatives are at least mildly tranquilizing, and vice versa. The goal of a sedative is to take an average person and slow them down or put them to sleep. At the same time, the purpose of a tranquilizer is to take an abnormal person (anxious or psychotic) and get their mental function back to normal.
Hypnotic: Causes sleep or sleepiness. Most sedatives turn into hypnotics at higher doses. Most medical books do not distinguish sedatives from hypnotics and group them all as together Sedative-Hypnotics.
Like sedatives, tranquilizers can address anxiety and sleep-related symptoms, but they also act to stabilize mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. A doctor might also prescribe a tranquilizer to help someone cope with a short-term crisis or trauma, such as bereavement or experiencing a sexual or physical assault.
Sedatives act on the central nervous system and work to slow down brain activity and help people feel calm and relaxed. Doctors also prescribe sedatives to treat sleep disorders and anxiety, and they are frequently used for general anesthesia. In some instances, these drugs can cause euphoria. They also tend to cause other side effects, including impaired judgment, memory, and coordination.
Severe side effects may include the following:
- Suicidal ideation
There are several types of tranquilizers and sedatives:
Antipsychotic agents: These medications include Abilify, Haldol, Seroquel, and Risperdal. They work by altering chemical levels in the brain. Although they can be helpful, these medications can also cause side effects like sedation, weight gain, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It’s imperative to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions with antipsychotics. Unfortunately, research shows that about 17 percent of people who take them also use other powerful substances, such as alcohol, cocaine, meth, or opioids.
Barbiturates: These drugs have been prescribed to treat headaches, insomnia, and seizures. Although popular in the 1950s and 1960s, they are not commonly prescribed today due to their higher potential for overdose. Barbiturates include substances such as Amytal, Nembutal, and Seconal. Health providers now tend to prescribe benzodiazepines instead of barbiturates to treat the same things.
Benzodiazepines/anxiolytics: Benzodiazepines (benzos) are used to treat numerous conditions, including anxiety and panic disorders, insomnia, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal.
These drugs include Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax. Today, benzo prescriptions are widespread. Studies have shown that shows they are prescribed at around 66 million doctors’ visits each year.
When appropriately used for short periods, benzos may help relieve symptoms related to anxiety and panic disorders. However, the longer they are taken, the higher the risk of tolerance and dependence. Some long-term users abuse their medication and become addicted.
Z-drugs: Z-drugs are sedative/hypnotics that are typically prescribed for insomnia and sleep disturbances. These drugs include Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata.
Symptoms of Tranquilizer/Sedative Addiction?
Addiction isn’t always straightforward. Many individuals struggle with just one or two symptoms, and they may not be aware of the severity of their problem. Likewise, they may believe worried loved ones are overreacting. Over time, however, the issues can progress.
Signs and symptoms of addiction may include the following:
- Taking doses higher or more often than prescribed by a doctor
- Visiting multiple health providers or pharmacies attempting to obtain more pills
- Buying prescription drugs illicit street dealers
- Spending a significant amount of time buying and using sedatives or tranquilizers and recovering from their effects
- Being deceptive or downplaying your substance use
- Using the medication despite legal, financial, or familial consequences
- Using the medicine in risky or dangerous situations such as caring for a child or driving
Getting Help for Tranquilizer/Sedative Abuse
If you struggle with an addiction, it’s essential to reach out for help and support. Detox is typically the first step. During detox, the body flushes out toxins and begins the withdrawal process. Withdrawal occurs as the body adjusts to the absence of a drug when a person is dependent. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s relatively brief and lasts for about 5-7 days. Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, insomnia, elevated heart rate, shakiness, and sweating.
Medical detox is always recommended for quitting tranquilizer or sedative use because it may not be safe to discontinue these substances abruptly or “cold-turkey.” Doing so can provoke life-threatening seizures.
Detox provides around-the-clock medical supervision by a detox team assigned to the individual. Health professionals may put you on a tapering schedule, which means you’ll be weaned off the drug until you can stop altogether without fear of severe symptoms or seizures.
Detox lets you stabilize medical and psychological symptoms, but it doesn’t mean that the dependence on sedatives or tranquilizers has been completely overcome. After detox, patients will also receive referrals for inpatient treatment and aftercare. These options are vital because detox alone is rarely sufficient to sustain long-term recovery.
When a person enters a rehab program for sedative or tranquilizer abuse, they will receive therapy that can help them to capitalize on their strengths, identify triggers, and learn to manage cravings. They also learn how to garner emotional support from peers and professionals and resolve conflicts that have been caused by drug abuse or separate familial issues.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer an array of evidence-based therapies and activities intended to address each individual holistically and comprehensively. Services we offer include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and family counseling
- Relapse prevention
- Support groups
- Substance abuse education
- Mental health education
- Health and wellness education
- Art and music therapy
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events and activities