Signs and Symptoms of Sedative Use

Sedatives are prescription drugs that promote sleep or calmness. They are classed as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Alcohol, tranquilizers, opioids such as heroin and OxyContin and benzodiazepines are also types of CNS depressants.

The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. When CNS depressant agents are used, the breathing and heart slow down. If these slow down far enough, the person loses consciousness and can go into a coma or die. Despite this fact, there are many CNS depressants on the list of commonly abused illicit or prescription drugs.

When a person uses a CNS depressant, they do not feel as anxious and they are more able to sleep. The two main types of sedatives that are currently used are barbiturates and sleep medications.


  • Butalbital, brand name Firoina
  • Phenobarbital, brand name Luminal
  • Pentothal, brand name Nembutal
  • Secobarbital, brand name Seconal
  • Amobarbital, brand name Amytal

Sleep aids:

  • Eszopiclone, brand name Lunesta
  • Zolpidem, brand name Ambien
  • Zopoclone, brand names Imovane and Zimovane
  • Zaleplon, brand name Sonata

Chloral hydrate is occasionally used as a sedative, in certain circumstances.

Barbiturates have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines, which have a similar action.

Signs to Look For

A person abusing sedatives such as these will look sedated or drowsy. They will talk slowly and may slur their speech. They will not be able to concentrate and their coordination and memory are likely to be off. They may feel dizzy. They are likely to have poor concentration. Along with slow breathing and heart rate, their blood pressure will be lower. As sedatives also lower inhibitions, they may exhibit poor control of their actions and may take risks they would not normally take.

If they take too much or take a second or further dose too quickly, they may lower their breathing and heart rate to the point of unconsciousness. If this happens, they must be taken to the ER immediately where it might be possible to administer antidotal drugs.

Sedatives come in a number of shapes and sizes, pills and capsules. Favored barbiturates of abuse are Amytal and Seconal. Seconal are red-orange capsules.

Amytal is a white powder or may be a clear liquid. A person abusing Amytal may reveal information they would otherwise keep secret. An Amytal abuser may stagger, be irritable and have trouble breathing or sleep apnea.

A person abusing a sleep aid like Lunesta or Ambien would of course be drowsy, but might also perform acts like driving, cooking, talking on the phone or having sex without any memory of the event.

All these drugs have the potential to be addictive. If these drugs are combined with alcohol, they can be life-threatening at lower dosages. Those who abuse them like the euphoric feeling they can impart. A person may also abuse these medications as a way of dealing with the side effects suffered from some other drug that is being abused.

High School Students Greatly Increased Sedative Abuse After 1992

The annual Monitoring the Future survey of drug use by teens has showed that abuse of sedatives more than doubled in the 15 years between 1992 and 2006. As of 2006, 7.2 percent of twelfth graders had abused a sedative.

Recovering from Sedative Abuse and Addiction

Recovery from addiction doesn’t happen overnight. There are both physical and psychological dependencies that must be overcome. Most people require longer than the 28 days of short-term drug rehabs to recover.

The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program has an excellent track record of helping people who have been abusing sedatives. To help with cravings for these addictive drugs, the Narconon program offers a thorough detoxification phase called the Narconon New Life Detoxification. This sauna-based program combines time in a low-heat sauna with a strict nutritional regimen and moderate daily exercise to activate the body’s innate ability to flush out toxins. As the lodged toxins of prior drug use are eliminated, people talk about having more energy and clearer thinking. Most say their cravings are reduced or gone.

After this, each person works on recovering their interest in living drug-free and the life skills needed to make the right decisions.

There are Narconon centers located around the world. Contact Narconon to find out how you can help someone who is addicted to sedatives.


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