Sedatives are typically a kind of prescription drug that slows down brain activity. They usually are used to induce you to feel calm. Doctors commonly prescribed sedatives for various medical conditions such as sleep disorders and anxiety. They are also often used as general anesthesia. In fact, sedatives work more like an anesthetic than they do as a stimulant (1).
Sedatives work on the central nervous system by altering certain nerve transmissions in the central nervous system (CNS). The amount of the sedative action is controlled by the concentration and/or the duration of the drug. Sedatives transmit effects through the synapses of the brain. This means that drugs that are absorbed into the central nervous system can have different effects at different times depending upon the concentrations delivered.
Some Common Side Effects
Sedatives, however, are not without their side effects. Some of the more common long-term side effects from taking sedatives include depression, dizziness, fainting, decreased blood pressure, and allergic reactions to the diazepam or other sedative medications (2). There are also some long-term side effects from taking certain drugs such as beta-blockers, anticoagulants, narcotics, and antihistamines.
Concerns About Oral Sedatives
The way the brain works makes it possible for some drugs to bypass the conscious mind entirely and travel directly to the spinal cord where they may then perform functions directly. While this bypassing of the brain offers some comfort in terms of bypassing the side effects, it is important to understand that there can be side effects when taking drugs directly to the spinal cord. The concern is especially true when taking oral sedatives. This is because, unlike the more superficial actions of sleeping, the effects of anesthetic drugs require the presence of both the tongue and the nose. This combination of two highly sensitive parts of the body requires more than one set of organs to break down and dilate the airway before delivering the drug into the airways.
Not only can oral sedatives produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when stopped, but they can also create problems with the actual physical process of breathing. Because the anesthetic chemicals affect the nerves in the body, the interruption of normal breathing can result in a number of physical symptoms including difficulty swallowing, nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness. While the most severe cases will probably result in death, even a temporary stoppage of breathing can cause life-threatening situations if they continue for too long. While the majority of people who experience these side effects will recover after a few hours, patients can develop phobias and extreme fear that could greatly increase the level of discomfort for them.
Can Sedatives Be Used as a Cure for Certain Conditions?
With that said, it is important to remember that sedatives can be highly effective in treating a number of sleep disorders and anxiety disorders, but should never be considered a cure. In some cases, they can even be more dangerous than alcohol and other prescription medicines. For example, sedatives can significantly amplify the effects of certain prescription medications. They have also been known to affect brain function in such a way as to make patients more receptive to things like hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
Despite their potential dangers, sedatives can still be used in certain situations to control anxiety and other symptoms effectively. The use of tranquilizers is one such example. While they are very effective in controlling symptoms of anxiety, they should not be seen as a cure since they tend to worsen anxiety in the long run. Additionally, they are quite addictive and can quickly lead to the patient becoming inactive and more of a couch potato, rather than getting proper restorative sleep. This is why it is often better to use sedatives and tranquilizers in conjunction with proper relaxation techniques and behavioral therapy to treat insomnia and anxiety.
Even though sedatives and alcohol can work wonders in relieving symptoms of insomnia and depression, their side effects are often too harsh for the situation. For this reason, it is important to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of taking these drugs with your doctor before deciding whether or not to take them. Remember that they are only one option and should never be seen as a cure. Instead, they should be used as a temporary way to combat the symptoms of an underlying problem. Before starting any treatment, patients should also be given accurate information about the drugs, including possible side effects and how they work.