Drugs that suppress the activity of the central nervous system are categorized as sedative-hypnotics. Medications falling under this category are often termed as tranquilizers. They are prescribed to help people suffering with anxiety attacks or sleep disorders. Tranquilizers are prescription drugs, mostly available in capsular or tablet form. Tranquilizers are recommended in therapeutic doses to relieve stress related symptoms. These chemicals seem to have similar effect as sedatives such as barbiturates. However, certain classes of tranquilizers make people sleepy. High dosage can affect physical coordination and impair mental acuity. Tranquilizers can be dangerous if taken with other sedatives or alcohols. They can cause “paradoxical effects” which might aggravate angst instead of alleviating it.
In early 1950s, scientists discovered phenothiazine, an organic compound. It worked well as a sedative. Besides, it had calming effect on restless patients. In 1952, a phenothiazine derivative termed as "chlorpromazine" was formulated to help agitated people calm down without loss of consciousness. This new drug was commercially introduced with the trade name “thorazine.” It was extensively prescribed during the sixties. Later, a different compound “Reserpine” gained popularity as a major tranquilizer. This drug was known to decrease hallucinations and delusions, common to schizophrenics. Since then, different types of tranquilizing compounds have been discovered.
Tranquilizers were considered as “miraculous medicine” for their ability to treat severe mental illnesses. They became extremely popular with those individuals working under severe stressful conditions. Tranquilizers are divided into two classes:
Minor tranquilizers have mild effects on central nervous system. Some of the popular brand includes Valium, Xanax, Librium and Ativan. One of the major differences between major and minor tranquilizer is that major drug classes are prescribed for severe mental illnesses whereas minor drugs are liberally recommended for common emotional ailments like depression, anxiety, and sleep apnea. Minor drugs do not have heavy sedation impact on the patients unlike major versions. Minor tranquilizers relax tightened brain muscles without causing drowsiness or periods of wakefulness.
Minor tranquilizers should be taken based on doctors’ prescription. If not advised, prolonged administration can be harmful. However, many patients continue minor tranquilizers based on personal preference. It can lead to drug dependency. Many minor tranquilizers cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly. In United States, minor tranquilizers are the most abused drugs and regarded culprit for inducing suicide attempts and accidental overdoses. In downtown streets, drug peddlers sell them as “downers.” Drug addicts consume them for experiencing a "floating sensation". Abuse of downers can cause aggressiveness and hostile nature.
Prolonged usage or overdose can lead to problems like blurred vision, memory loss, headaches, depression, and disorganized thinking. Besides, tranquilizers can decrease heart rate, and cause muscle spasms. In extreme cases, tranquilizers can result in coma or death.