Overuse of sedatives and tranquillizers

Visualization of narrower problems
Prescription drug abuse
Prescription drug addiction
Use of medical drugs for non medical purposes
Abuse of barbiturates and non-barbiturate hypnotics
Abuse of anti-anxiety agents
Abuse of anxiolytics
Abuse of hypnotics
Abuse of sleeping pills
Dependence on minor tranquillizers
Misuse of sedative drugs
Abuse of antidepressants
Recreational use of sedative-hypnotics
When used appropriately, as prescribed, pharmaceutical drugs are indispensable in relieving a wide variety of medical conditions. But they can be extremely dangerous if misused, and under certain circumstances they can be deadly. Particularly in western countries, the reports of increasing misuse of prescription drugs in some segments of the population - older adults, adolescents, and women - are of concern both because of their numbers and because those numbers appear to be increasing rapidly.

The the effects of prescription drug addiction vary according to the drug used, but the very nature of addiction means that it interferes with daily life and, therefore, has an impact on the home, family and workplace. The problem has to do both with the development of addiction itself and an array of medical consequences that are different for of the substances themselves. One of the most common problems is that patients often do not understand that certain medications are to be used on a short term basis, not a long-term basis. Addiction can arise as a consequence. Especially in the case of strong analgesics for managing chronic pain or sedatives for sleeping, some decide they can make money by selling their medication on the street or using it in other ways than prescribed. Abusers also try to dupe pharmacists by 'doctor shopping' for multiple prescribers for medications they want for nonmedical use.

Rauwolfia root was used as a tranquillizer in India as early as 1000 BC. Bromide, paraldehyde barbiturate sedatives were introduced for medical purposes between 1857 and 1903 AD.

Barbiturates, derivatives of barbituric acid, are now the most important of the group of depressants, hypnotics, sedatives and tranquillizers. Drugs of this kind "damp down" the activity of the brain so that the effect of naturally calming substances is increased and naturally arousing substances is stopped. Although they may be considered 'safe' if used as sleeping pills or sedatives in small doses or in large doses under medical supervision, as in anaesthesia, after regular and prolonged use there is great danger of dependence. In the long run the brain's own mechanisms for controlling anxiety and tension can no longer function. They are addictive to the extent that after using them for three months, there is a 50% probability of becoming dependent on them. It is claimed that withdrawal is then even more difficult as from hard drugs such as heroin. Distinct from the morphine-type withdrawal syndrome, these symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal reach maximum intensity a few days after the onset and subside slowly.

Barbiturates are commonly used in conjunction with other substances, the most widespread and dangerous use being with heroin, alcohol and stimulants. 'Street drugs' (for example, marijuana, mescaline) are sometimes doctored with animal tranquillizers (for example, PCP). Since large quantities are used for therapy it is much more difficult to evaluate the extent of abuse of barbiturates and other hypnotics and sedatives than that of narcotic drugs or other psychotropic substances. In a number of countries they account for about 10% of prescriptions. The general picture is complicated by the fact that the majority of people who are addicted to barbiturates are also dependent on other substances. 'Chasing the dragon' with a mixture of heroin barbiturate is fairly widespread in Asia. Barbiturates are the most commonly used group of addictive drugs.

Although the behavioural effects of tranquillizer intoxication closely resemble alcoholic intoxication, abuse is far more dangerous with a high possibility of unintentional overdose. With chronic abuse a rapid tolerance develops and both physical and psychic dependence occur. Abrupt withdrawal is dangerous and the convulsions which follow can be fatal. A period of mental confusion, delirium, hallucination and temporary psychotic, often paranoid reactions, may follow. Pharmacological dangers are increased by the character of those who use the drug. Social, emotional and personality deterioration are associated with chronic abuse. If the drugs are injected large ulcers develop at the site.

In the USA, an estimated 4 million people aged 12 and older used prescription drugs (sedatives, stimulants, tranquillizers or opioid painkillers) for nonmedical reasons in 1999; nearly half said it was their first time. Research suggests that more than 17% of adults over 60 may be affected by prescription drug abuse. Senior citizens use prescription medications three times as frequently as the general population and have been found to have the poorest rates of compliance with directions for taking a medication. The most dramatic increase in new users of prescription drugs is young people between the ages of 12-25 years old. A 1999 survey found 12-14 year olds named painkillers, sedatives and stimulants as some of their most frequently used drugs.

While men and women tend to abuse prescription drugs in equal numbers, women may be more likely to abuse narcotics and anti-anxiety drugs--in part because they are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

It was estimated in 1994 that some five million Americans and half a million Britons (11 million worldwide) have used the "new-style" anti-depressant drug Prozac. It is thoughthat one million people are addicted to tranquillisers in the UK.

1. More women than men are using tranquillizers or sleeping pills. When men and women report similar psychological or psychosomatic symptoms, men are more likely to be given physical and laboratory tests, and women are more likely to be given drugs. Women are also more likely to be given a repeat prescription once they have been prescribed a minor tranquillizer.

2. It is important for doctors to properly address and treat what is bothering their patients so they don't have to resort to self-treatment or abuse of prescription medications.

(E) Emanations of other problems