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Types of Drugs - Barbiturates/Sedative-hypnotics/Downers

What are sedative-hypnotics?
     Sedative-hypnotics are drugs which depress or slow down the body's functions. Often these drugs are referred to as tranquilizers and sleeping pills or sometimes just as sedatives. Their effects range from calming down anxious people to promoting sleep. Both tranquilizers and sleeping pills can have either effect, depending on how much is taken. At high doses or when they are abused, many of these drugs can even cause unconsciousness and death.

What are some of the sedative-hypnotics?
     Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are the two major categories of sedative-hypnotics. The drugs in each of these groups are similar in chemical structure. Some well-known barbiturates are secobarbital (Seconal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal). Diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and chlorazepate (Tranxene) are examples of benzodiazepines. A few sedative-hypnotics do not fit in either category. They include methaqualone (Quaalude), ethchlorvynol (Placidyl), chloral hydrate (Noctec), and mebrobamate (Miltown). All of these drugs can be dangerous when they are not taken according to a physician's instructions.

Symptoms and Addiction:
     Sedative-hypnotics are addictive. They can cause both physical and psychological dependence. Regular use over a long period of time may result in tolerance, which means people have to take larger and larger doses to get the same effects. When regular users stop using large doses of these drugs suddenly, they may develop physical withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness, insomnia and anxiety, to convulsions and death. When users become psychologically dependent, they feel as if they need the drug to function. Finding and using the drug becomes the main focus in life.

What are barbiturates?
     Barbiturates are often called "barbs" and "downers." Barbiturates that are commonly abused include amobarbital (Amytal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), and secobarbital (Seconal). These drugs are sold in capsules and tablets or sometimes in a liquid form or suppositories.

Symptoms and dangers:
     The effects of barbiturates are, in many ways, similar to the effects of alcohol. Small amounts produce calmness and relax muscles. Somewhat larger doses can cause slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment, and slow, uncertain reflexes. These effects make it dangerous to drive a car or operate machinery. Large doses can cause unconsciousness and death.

     Barbiturate overdose is a factor in nearly one-third of all reported drug-related deaths. These include suicides and accidental drug poisonings. Accidental deaths sometimes occur when a user takes one dose, becomes confused and unintentionally takes additional or larger doses. With barbiturates there is less difference between the amount that produces sleep and the amount that kills. Furthermore, barbiturate withdrawal can be more serious than heroin withdrawal.

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