Prescription Sedative and Tranquilizer
Sedatives and tranquilizers are prescription medications. Your doctor might suggest them if you're living with an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, or some other form of mental illness that makes your mind race.
Doctors don’t hand out prescription drugs like candy. If your practitioner thinks you need them, there are probably good reasons. But these medications aren’t risk-free.
Even if you use these drugs as prescribed, you can develop tolerance. You’ll need to take more to get the same effect. You may also get sick if you try to quit.
If you take more than suggested, or you never have a prescription in the first place, you could develop an addiction. You may need help to kick the habit for good. You may need assistance to get started, and you may need more help to stay in control for good.
Types of Sedatives
Sedative drugs work on your central nervous system. When they’re active, they alter chemical levels within your brain. You feel relaxed and calm, and some people even feel a little giddy and silly.
There are three main types of sedatives, and each works slightly differently.
- Barbiturates: Drugs in this class include Nembutal, Seconal, and phenobarbital. In the 1950s and 1960s, doctors used them liberally, experts say. If you were nervous, upset, or unable to sleep, you could get a prescription with few questions asked.Soon, experts realized that people abused these drugs, and doctors were encouraged to use alternate solutions. Now, it’s a little rare for a doctor to choose barbiturates over other available medications.
- Benzodiazepines: Xanax, Ativan, Valium, and Klonopin are all benzodiazepines. They are widely prescribed, and unfortunately, they are also often abused.The Drug Enforcement Administration says that these drugs can produce euphoria at high doses. They can also mitigate withdrawal symptoms, so heroin users also appreciate the power in these pills.
When used properly for short time periods, they may help ease symptoms of anxiety. But the longer you take them, the higher the risk of tolerance. Some long-term users abuse their pills.
- Z-drugs: Sonata, Lunesta, and other prescription sleep aids are known as z-drugs. They work by slowing brain activity, but the Food and Drug Administration warns they can spark unusual activity in some people. You might eat, drive, or shop while sleeping.Researchers say these medications can also cause brain changes that lead to addiction. Users can grow physically dependent on the drug, and they can experience withdrawal when they try to stop.
Types of Tranquilizers
Just like sedatives, tranquilizers are used to address anxiety and tension. Your doctor might suggest them to help you get through a short-term crisis. If you’re feeling as though suicide is an option, for example, medications could help you to feel calm and capable of making good decisions.
But these drugs can also offer relief over the long term if you’re dealing with a chronic mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder.
There are two main types of tranquilizers.
- Antipsychotic agents: These drugs, also known as neuroleptics, include Abilify, Seroquel, and Risperdal. They work by altering chemical levels within the brain.While that can be helpful, these medications can also cause a host of nasty side effects, including weight gain, sedation, and an enhanced risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers say some people also develop life-threatening neurological complications with these drugs.
Some people choose to abuse other drugs in combination with their antipsychotic agents. Researchers say about 17 percent of people who use them also dabble with use of cocaine, alcohol, or opioids.
- Anti-anxiety agents: These drugs are also known as anxiolytics, and they work by altering the brain’s messaging system. Benzodiazepines are included in this class. As we mentioned, those drugs are associated with both dangerous withdrawal symptoms and addiction.
What Does Addiction Look Like?
If you’re living with an anxiety disorder, sedatives and tranquilizers could be an important part of your treatment program. With the help of these medications, you might gain control of your symptoms and begin living your best life.
But these drugs are strong. Researchers say some can change your brain cells permanently.
Many sedatives and tranquilizers work by changing the brain’s signal system. Some chemicals build up, and others are quickly removed. Sometimes, those alterations trigger addiction pathways.
Consider benzodiazepines. Researchers with the National Institute on Drug Abuse say that benzos inhibit a chemical called GABA to deliver relaxation. But that shift can trigger the release of a substance called dopamine.
Dopamine release is part of heroin’s addictive nature. Every hit sparks a dopamine dump. Benzodiazepines work indirectly on the same pathway. It’s reasonable to assume that both substances can cause an addiction to form.
Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite severe consequences. If you’re addicted to your prescription pills, you might:
- Take bigger doses than your doctor recommends.
- Stop following your doctor’s recommended dosing schedule.
- Visit multiple providers to get more pills.
- Buy drugs from street dealers.
- Feel obsessed with getting your prescription.
- Spend most of your time buying, using, or recovering from substance use.
Why Help Is Required
Few people want to continue life as a person with an addiction. It can be a sad and lonely experience.
But it can be hard, or even impossible, for you to kick this habit without help. The same changes that caused your addiction may result in life-threatening complications when you try to quit.
These medications work by slowing down electrical and chemical activity in the brain. When you’re not taking them, your brain ramps up to normal speed. Sometimes, it moves right into hyper-speed.
In the first few moments of sobriety, you may feel:
Within about three days, researchers say, you can develop seizures. About 75 percent of people who attempt cold-turkey withdrawal from barbiturates develop seizures. Some have more than one.
Without prompt treatment from medical professionals, you can lose your life due to these episodes. Your body temperature rises, and your organs may fail.
Teams may develop a tapering dose of your drugs to help you get sober. Rather than shocking your brain into sudden sobriety, you give it time to adjust to a smaller and smaller amount of drugs. In time, the dose is so tiny that you can stop it altogether.
Treatment teams can also provide you with therapy. That can help you to:
- Uncover your strength. You may need to draw on hidden reserves to help you avoid the urge to return to your pills. Your team may help you find that strength through talking, skill-building, and community.
- Find your peers. Addictions can be isolating, and you may only feel you connect with people who also use drugs. In therapy, you may find other people who are hoping to quit, just like you are.
- Resolve conflicts. Maybe you made decisions during your addiction that you’re not proud of. Maybe some family members stepped away from you due to those decisions. Your therapist can help you to repair that damage.
- Heal your spirit. You may have a mental illness in addition to your addiction. That could leave you at risk for relapse. Your team can help you to get control of that issue.
Your recovery plan may not look like anyone else’s does. You may need things others don’t, or you may not need solutions they do. Your treatment team can help you to find the program that works best for you.