Tranquilizer drugs help promote calm and alleviate anxiety. They are typically split into two groups of medications called minor and major tranquilizers. Drugs called anxiolytics belong to the minor group, while medications called antipsychotics are classed as major tranquilizers. Also, some herbal remedies and other substances outside of these two groups have noted tranquilizing effects.
The largest collection of minor tranquilizers is the benzodiazepines. Medications like alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam, and clonazepam are commonly used as anti-anxiety medications. They act on GABA receptors in the brain and help promote calm.
Most of these drugs are relatively short-acting and clear the body within a day or two. This makes them appropriate for occasional use in small doses. They also may be used over the long term for certain conditions like bipolar disorder or unrelenting anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepines can create dependence and may require careful withdrawal strategies if a patient uses them consistently for over a month.
Other minor tranquilizer drugs that are also anxiolytics include some antidepressants. While these aren’t short-acting, they may provide better relief for anxiety disorders over the long term. Unlike the benzodiazepines, they are considered less likely to cause dependence or ongoing feelings of sedation, though some are now linked to antidepressant withdrawal syndrome. Additional minor tranquilizer drugs include antihistamines, which may have short-acting benefits like the benzodiazepines.
Major tranquilizers are the antipsychotics, which comprise a long list. Some common ones used today belong to a selected group of medicines called second generation or atypical antipsychotics. These include aripiprazole, quetiapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone. Typical antipsychotics that are often used are haloperidol, thioridazine, and chlorpromazine.
The major tranquilizer drugs are very strong and have a high potential for side effects. They are usually only used when minor tranquilizers are judged ineffective, such as in situations where a person’s behavior is psychotic. Antipsychotic drugs are part of long-term therapy for many schizophrenics, and they also may be necessary in treating manic phases of bipolar disorder. Usually, atypical antipsychotics are selected first because they may have slightly fewer side effects than typical ones.
Some other herbs or substances also seem to have sedating properties. One of these substances is alcohol, when used in small amounts. Alcohol consumed in larger amounts often has a paradoxical effect and produces greater anxiety levels. It’s not a first choice for anxiety treatment, and many times alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders occur together.
Herbal medicines like valerian, chamomile, and kava kava have been celebrated for their calming effects. Some herbalists also suggest St. John’s Wort, which has properties similar to monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) antidepressants. Another anxiety-alleviating drug, which is not available in all areas, is marijuana. Like alcohol, too much marijuana can result in paranoia and even hallucinations. Doses should be very small, and the drug should only be used if it can be legally obtained.