Prescription Sedatives & Tranquilizers

Know the facts, connect with resources, and get one-on-one support to help you address known or suspected medicine abuse with your child.

What are some slang terms?
Quaaludes, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Benzos, Downers
See table below for a more complete list.

What are sedatives?
Prescription medications that act as central nervous system depressants. Barbiturates are prescription sedatives or “sleeping pills” and benzodiazepines are prescription tranquilizers.1

What do they look like?
Multi-colored tablets and capsules; some can be in liquid form.

signs of use:
  • Slurred speech
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sluggishness
  • Fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Impaired memory, judgement and coordination
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Thoughts of suicide
Recommended Reading:
related drugs:

How are sedatives used?
Medically, barbiturates are prescribed for acute anxiety, tension and sleep disorders. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks. When misused, they are swallowed or injected.2

What do young people hear about it?
Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers can cause euphoria.

What are the risks of prescription sedatives?
These drugs slow normal brain function, which may result in slurred speech, shallow breathing, sluggishness, fatigue, disorientation and lack of coordination or dilated pupils. Higher doses cause impaired memory, judgment and coordination; irritability; paranoia; and thoughts of suicide. Some people can become agitated or aggressive. Using prescription sedatives and tranquilizers with other substances — particularly alcohol — can slow breathing, or slow both the heart and respiration, and possibly lead to death.

Continued use can lead to physical dependence and — when use is reduced or stopped abruptly — withdrawal symptoms may occur. Because all prescription sedatives and tranquilizers work by slowing the brain’s activity, when a person stops taking them, there can be a rebound effect, possibly leading to seizures and other harmful consequences. Tolerance to the drug’s effects can also occur, meaning that larger doses are needed to achieve similar effects as those experienced initially. This may lead users to take higher doses and risk the occurrence of an overdose. Prescription sedatives and tranquilizers can become addictive, meaning a person continues to take these drugs despite their harmful consequences.1

Sleep medications are sometimes used as date rape drugs.

List of Brand Names & Slang Terms

 Generic Drug Composition Brand Name
Acetaminophen/Butalbital Phrenilin, Tencon, Bupap
Acetaminophen/Butalbital/Caffeine Fioricet, Esgic, Orbivan, Esgic-Plus, Capacet, Zebutal, Margesic
Aspirin/Butalbital/Caffeine Fiorinal
Secobarbital Seconal
Pentobarbital Nembutal
Amitriptyline/Chlordiazepoxide Limbitrol
Diazepam Valium, Diastat
Temazepam Restoril
Alprazolam Niravam, Xanax
Lorazepam Ativan
Triazolam Halcion
Clobazam Onfi
Clonazepam Klonopin
1National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Research Suggests Benzodiazepine Use Is High While Use Disorder Rates Are Low.” NIDA, 18 Oct. 2018,
2DEA. “Prescription for Disaster: How Teens Abuse Medcine.” Drug Enforcement Agency.
Additional Sources:
Get Smart About Drugs: A DEA Resource for Parents, Educators & Caregivers
Drug Enforcement Agency
U.S. National Library of Medicine

Next Steps

Talk with Your Kids

Take action by having frequent conversations with the teens and young adults in your life about the dangers of medicine abuse. Learn how.