No More Panic > Tranquilisers


The general term ‘tranquillisers’ covers two major types of drugs. Tranquillisers and Barbiturates. They have two major effects …

General Info

The general term ‘tranquillisers’ covers two major types of drugs. Tranquillisers and Barbiturates. The have two major effects. These are sedative (which decrease anxiety) and hypnotic (which help sleep). Many drugs have both effects, often having a sedative effect at low doses and a hypnotic effect at high doses.


Barbiturate sleeping pills are most often misused for their intoxicating effect. Because of this, there are less barbiturates being prescribed. Non-medically available barbiturates bought on the street originate from medical sources and are usually imported or sold by users with prescriptions. Misusers will normally swallow the pills, often with alcohol although they are sometimes injected. To do this the capsules are opened and the powder is added to water. The small particles of undissolved substance can cause damage to veins.


This family of drugs are used, like barbiturates to help control anxiety and tension and to help sleep. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed of these drugs, which include the well known Vallium and Temazepam. Because they are seen to be much safer they have come to replace barbiturates for most medical purposes. These drugs are usually swallowed, although some misusers do inject, but this is usually only with Temazepam.

Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed drugs in Britain. About 1 in 7 British adults take them at some time during a course of a year, and about 1 in 10 take them throughout the year. Two times as many women take them as men and many people are dependent upon them. Any of these drugs which find their way onto the black market are usually taken with alcohol to produce a greater effect.

Tranquillisers act as depressants to the central nervous system and are used to calm, induce sleep, or decrease anxiety. This drug is injected or swallowed in a pill form. Tranquillisers depress the effectiveness of the central nervous system which in turn slows the body down. There are two types of Tranquillisers:

Major Tranquillisers

These tranquillisers are known as “anti-psychotics”, which are used for the treatment of mental illness.

Minor Tranquillisers

These tranquillisers decrease anxiety as well as induce sleep. They also act as a general anesthetic. Tranquillisers cause dependence and tolerance.

Immediate Effects

The effects may appear rapidly and may last from hours to days.

  • reduce emotional reactions
  • reduce mental alertness
  • reduce attention span
  • produce a sense of relaxation and well-being
  • produce a”floating” sensation
  • depress heartbeat
  • depress breathing
  • induce long periods of sleep
  • reduce feelings of anxiety
  • cause drowsiness
  • cause mental confusion
  • cause physical unsteadiness

Long Term Effects

  • increased aggressiveness
  • physical dependence
  • withdrawal reactions
  • increased tolerance
  • severe depression
  • tolerance and dependence

Toxic Effects

If tranquillisers are used in combination with other drugs, overdose or death could occur.

Side Effects

  • skin rashes
  • nausea
  • dizziness

Tranquillisers disrupt the psycho-motor, intellectual, and perceptual functions. This drug accumulates in the body tissue after prolonged use.

Tranquillisers and Pregnancy

Tranquillisers may cause congenital defects such as:

  • cleft lip
  • cleft palate

Infants may experience withdrawal symptoms such as: respiratory distress, feeding difficulties, disturbed sleeping patterns, decreased responsiveness, sweating irritability and fever. Some tranquillisers accumulate in higher concentrations in the bloodstream and organs of the infant than in the mother. Tranquillisers may accumulate in higher concentrations in the breast milk than in the bloodstream. Dependence may occur from prescribed dosages. Tolerance and dependence can occur within ten to fourteen weeks of use. Large doses of tranquillisers are required by the user to maintain the feeling of well-being. Dependence is visible if the user has a craving for the drug, tolerance increases, or experiences withdrawal symptoms. If tranquillisers are used for four to six weeks, then abruptly stopped, withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur.

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • tremors
  • agitation
  • stomach aches
  • sweating
  • disturbed sleep
  • irritability

These symptoms can last from two to four weeks.

Why Tranquillisers are prescribed

Tranquillisers are prescribed to treat anxiety caused by stressors in an individual’s environment. Tranquillisers can treat:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety

Tranquillisers are not a cure; they merely relieve the symptoms associated with certain problems. There may be over 4 million prescriptions written for Tranquillisers in one year. It is possible for Tranquillisers to be misused or abused.

Extent Of use

The 1993 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported that of those surveyed:

  • 4.6% of people (12 and older) used Tranquillisers
  • 1.2% used in the last year
  • .3% used in past month
  • 5.2% who ever used were white
  • 2.8% who ever used were hispanic
  • 2.3% who ever used were black
  • .9% of 8th graders had used in past month
  • 1.1% of 10th graders had used in past month
  • 1.2% of 12th graders had used in past month