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.

Barbiturates are prescription sedatives or “sleeping pills” and benzodiazepines are prescription tranquilizers. Both act as central nervous system depressants.[1]

Medically, sedatives are prescribed for acute anxiety, tension and sleep disorders, and used to induce and maintain anesthesia. Tranquilizers are prescribed for anxiety, acute stress reactions, and panic attacks.[2]

Commonly known medications include Xanax, Valium, Klonopin and Ativan. See the table below for a more complete list of prescription sedatives and tranquilizers.

Understand the risks

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]

Prevent misuse

Take steps to protect your family and prevent medicine abuse.

Identify & address problem use

If you suspect your child or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, explore the following resources to learn where to start.

Table of commonly prescribed sedatives & tranquilizers

Generic Drug Composition Brand Name
Barbituates (sedatives):
Acetaminophen/Butalbital Phrenilin, Tencon, Bupap
Acetaminophen/Butalbital/Caffeine Fioricet, Esgic, Orbivan, Esgic-Plus, Capacet, Zebutal, Margesic
Aspirin/Butalbital/Caffeine Fiorinal
Secobarbital Seconal
Pentobarbital Nembutal
Propofol Diprivan
Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers):
Amitriptyline/Chlordiazepoxide Limbitrol
Diazepam Valium, Diastat
Temazepam Restoril
Alprazolam Niravam, Xanax
Lorazepam Ativan
Triazolam Halcion
Clobazam Onfi
Clonazepam Klonopin