Brazoria County Sheriff's Department

Narcotic Division



What are sedatives?
Sedatives are drugs which depress the central nervous system. They are more appropriately called sedative-hypnotic because they include drugs which calm the nerves (the sedation effect) and produce sleep (the hypnotic effect). They are also known as tranquilizers and sleeping pills. These drugs will be referred to as sedatives in this section. There are three categories of sedative: barbiturates, nonbarbiturates, and benzodiazepines.
Can sedatives cause dependence?
Yes, definitely. Dependence potential is greatest with barbiturates, but all sedatives can be addictive. How much and how often these drugs are taken determine how fast users develop tolerance, and whether they develop physical withdrawal symptoms.
Barbiturate withdrawal is often more severe than heroin withdrawal.
Which sedatives are abused?
Of all the drugs in this class, the barbiturates ("barbs", "downers", "reds") have the highest rate of abuse and misuse. The most commonly abused barbiturates include pentobarbital (Nembutal), secobarbital (Seconal), and amobarbital (Amytal). These all have legitimate uses as sedatives or sleeping aids. Among the most commonly abused nonbarbiturate drugs are glutethimide (Doriden), meprobamate (Miltown), methyprylon (Noludar), ethchlorvynol (Placidyl), and methaqualone (Sopor, Quaalude). These are prescribed in help people sleep. Benzodiazepines, especially diazepam (Valium), prescribed to relieve anxiety, are commonly abused, and their rate of abuse and misuse is increasing.
Who abuses sedatives?
People who have difficulty dealing with stress or anxiety or who have trouble sleeping may overuse or become dependent on sedatives. Sometimes heroin users take them either to supplement their drug or to substitute for it. Stimulant users frequently take sedatives to offset the jittery feelings stimulants produce. Others take sedative recreationally to relax and forget their worries.
How dangerous are sedatives?
These drugs can kill. Barbiturate overdose is implicated in nearly one-third of all reported drug-induced deaths. Accidental deaths may occur when a user takes an unintended larger or repeated dose of sedative because of confusion or impairment in judgment caused by the initial intake of the drug. With lesser but still large doses, users can go into a coma.
Moderately large doses often produce an intoxicated stupor. Users' speech is often slurred, memory vague and judgment impaired.
Is it true that combining sedatives and alcohol is especially dangerous?
Yes, taken together, alcohol and sedatives can be fatal. Many accidental deaths have been blamed on this mix. The risks of one multiply the risks of the other.
How dangerous are tranquilizers?
Tranquilizers act somewhat differently from other sedatives and are considered relatively less hazardous. But, even by themselves or in combination with other drugs (especially alcohol and other sedatives) they can be quite dangerous. Users can become dependent on tranquilizers, as well as on other sedatives. As with any drug that produces dependence, uncomfortable physical symptoms have been associated with tranquilizer withdrawal.
How are abused sedatives usually obtained?
About 50 percent of all the people admitted to emergency rooms as a result of nonmedical use of sedatives have a legitimate prescription for their drug. Others get sedatives from friends who have bona fide prescriptions or by using faked prescriptions.


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