What are some human tranquilizers

Sedatives

Psychotropic drugs (page 6/8)

Areas of application and mode of action

Sedatives (tranquilizers, anxiolytics) have anti-anxiety, calming and, in some cases, muscle-relaxing and sleep-promoting effects. They are therefore used for anxiety and tension. In practice, benzodiazepines are by far the most commonly prescribed.

In addition to the drugs mentioned below, low-potency neuroleptics in low doses and certain antidepressants as sedatives are also used for various disorders.

The most important group of sedatives are the benzodiazepines. They develop their effect on the GABA-A receptor and thus strengthen the calming, dampening effects of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

Types of sedatives

a. Benzodiazepines

It is characteristic of the benzodiazepines that their anti-anxiety and relaxing effect occurs very quickly. However, long-term use can easily lead to a development of dependency. Benzodiazepines are among the drugs with the highest rate of abuse worldwide.

The use of a benzodiazepine can be useful if it takes place in low doses and for a limited period of time, for example in acute or relatively short-term crises. In practice, benzodiazepines are also often used for moderate and severe depression at the beginning of therapy, in order to bridge the time until the antidepressant starts to work.

A distinction is made between benzodiazepines with long, medium and short half-lives as well as with and without active metabolites. Both of these factors determine how long a substance will last. The half-life refers to the length of time in which the substance is broken down again in the body. Active metabolites are the breakdown products of the original substance, which also have an effect on the body. This is mostly similar to that of the original substance, but often less pronounced.

There is a risk of addiction if benzodiazepines are taken for more than four weeks. In addition, when taking it, tolerance may develop, i.e. the effect of the substance is weaker and more of it has to be taken in order to achieve the same effect. Withdrawal symptoms are common when stopping medication, especially if stopped suddenly. In many patients, a so-called low-dose dependency can also be observed - that is, those affected only take the prescribed low dose, but it is very difficult for them to do without it. Low-dose dependencies are most common in the elderly.

Possible side effects when taking benzodiazepines are tiredness, dizziness, drowsiness and impaired reactions. This should be taken into account when participating in road traffic and when operating machines. Particularly with drugs with a long half-life, hang-over effects can occur, i.e. fatigue and exhaustion occur beyond the desired duration of action. In the event of an overdose or the simultaneous use of alcohol, drugs or certain medications, unpredictable and sometimes life-threatening interactions can occur.

If the drug is stopped abruptly or the dose is greatly reduced, undesirable effects can occur. A distinction is made between rebound symptoms, that is, the original symptoms - such as B. Anxiety, restlessness or insomnia - occur more often after stopping. On the other hand, withdrawal symptoms can also occur that were not present before, e.g. B. Anxiety and restlessness, tremors, sweating, sleep disorders or headaches. Severe withdrawal symptoms that may occur after suddenly stopping a high dose may include confusion, muscle tremors, distorted perception, and seizures.

Because of these possible dangers and side effects, benzodiazepines should be taken for a maximum of four weeks and only in the dosage prescribed by the doctor. It is also important to stop taking the medication slowly and in several steps.

b. Beta-blockers

Beta blockers inhibit the effects of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. Above all, this leads to a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure. Therefore, they are primarily used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias.

Because of their calming effect, beta-receptor blockers can also be prescribed for anxiety disorders and anxiety states. While they do not have a direct effect on anxiety, they can help reduce the physical effects of anxiety or high arousal, such as feeling anxious. B. to reduce an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, tremors or sweating.

Beta blockers are usually well tolerated and do not lead to dependence. Side effects can include tiredness, drowsiness, a slow heartbeat, headache and depression. Beta blockers should not be used for asthma and certain heart conditions.

c. Non-benzodiazepine tranquilizers: buspirone

Buspirone is an anxiety-relieving, but not calming, drug and, according to the current state of research, does not create any addiction. Buspirone is primarily used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. In contrast to the benzodiazepines, the effect is not immediate, but only after two or more weeks of regular use.

Common side effects of buspirone are dizziness, tiredness, nausea, and headache. Nervousness, palpitations, insomnia and diarrhea can also occur. In addition, there may be interactions with drugs that act on the system of the neurotransmitter serotonin (e.g. SSRI, St. John's wort). It should therefore be taken exactly according to the doctor's instructions.

d. Antihistamines

Antihistamines are primarily used to treat allergy symptoms, but often also have an effect on the central nervous system. First-generation antihistamines in particular, which block the so-called H1 receptor, also have a calming effect. They are therefore also used as sedatives and sleeping pills. Antihistamines develop their effect by blocking the histamine receptors in the body and thus counteracting the effects of the messenger substance histamine.

Antihistamines do not cause addiction. Side effects can include dizziness, headache, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Hang-over effects can occur with some substances. A habituation effect to the substance can also often be observed.

e. Herbal tranquilizers

As a light herbal sedative z. B. hops, valerian, lemon balm or passion flower are used. They usually have fewer side effects than the classic psychotropic drugs, but their effect is also rather weak.