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24 hours rehab
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24 hours rehab

Call Now for Immediate Confidential Help and Advice 02038 115 619 

24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice
02038 115 619

Sedative Drugs and Addiction Explained

Sedatives (also referred to as tranquilisers) are a type of drug or medication that is often used to reduce irritability or excitement. Most commonly, sedatives are prescribed to people with anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks, although seizures are also sometimes treated with sedatives. However, not all sedatives are legal controlled medications, as opioid drugs such as heroin are also examples of sedatives.

Sedatives induce calmness and euphoria and therefore are extremely beneficial to those with panic disorders. However, despite most sedatives being controlled legal substances, due to the effect that they have on the brain, sedative misuse and abuse is common.

What Are Sedatives?

Sedatives are central nervous system depressants that cause the deceleration of brain activity to create a calming and relaxing effect. Most sedatives affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is responsible for slowing down brain processes. Sedatives, therefore, work to increase the activity of GABA neurotransmitters to help patients maintain a relaxed mood.

Most sedatives are produced in tablet or capsule form and can be prescribed to patients to treat a variety of conditions. Sedatives are also sometimes used in hospital environments as general anaesthetics.

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Types of Sedatives

There are many types of sedatives, although all sedatives are broken down into two main types; benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Barbiturates are not prescribed so frequently as benzodiazepines due to their stronger effects, although doctors do prescribe these medications to treat acute anxiety or severe sleep disorders.

Some well-known sedative medications include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam) and Ativan (lorazepam). These are all examples of benzodiazepines. Examples of barbiturates include Nembutal (pentobarbital sodium) and Luminal (phenobarbital).

Many opioids are also considered sedatives such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Dolophine (methadone).

Are Sedatives Addictive?

Any prescription sedative carries a risk of being habit-forming, and some sedatives, such as narcotic sedatives, carry a very high risk of addiction. Even at therapeutic doses, some sedatives can cause substance dependence. Dependent users are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking these types of medications. This, combined with the physically addictive qualities of some sedatives, can lead to sedative addiction.

Opiate-based sedatives such as oxycodone and fentanyl are considered to be particularly addictive as they bind to opioid receptors in the brain and trigger the release of endorphins and dopamine. This artificially intense level of dopamine and endorphins numbs pain and increases pleasure to such an extent that the body begins to crave that feeling of well-being.

It is also common for patients to become addicted to benzodiazepine and barbiturate sedatives. These sedatives are used to treat anxiety disorders and create a sense of calmness. People who struggle with stress, anxiety and sleep may begin abusing these medications if they build up a tolerance to the substance or their symptoms become worse.

Signs and Symptoms of Sedative Overdose

Sedatives are potentially fatal if an individual takes a higher dose than recommended or takes street sedatives. If a person takes too many sedatives, an overdose is likely to occur. The symptoms of a sedative overdose include dizziness, confusion, chest pain, blurred vision, sweating and changes in heart rate.

Additionally, opioid sedatives can cause respiratory depression. Therefore, common symptoms of an opioid sedative overdose are slowed or absent breathing, slowed heart rate and extreme fatigue, alongside other symptoms of central nervous system depression.

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