sedative, any of a variety of drugs that relieve anxiety. Most sedatives act as mild depressants of the nervous system, lessening general nervous activity or reducing the irritability or activity of a specific organ. Sedatives taken in small quantities are useful in relieving coughing, nausea, or convulsions and in lessening anxiety. In increasing doses sedatives act as hypnotics (see hypnotic drugs), i.e., they induce sleep, and as anesthetics. Many sedatives, including barbiturates, meprobamate (Miltown), and benzodiazepines (Librium and Valium), are habit-forming and should be taken only under medical direction. Chloral hydrate, ethyl alcohol, bromide salts, and antihistamines can all be used as sedatives. Tranquilizers are compounds that calm without excessively reducing mental alertness.
Alan W. Cuthbert
Sedative is a general term used to describe a number of drugs that decrease activity, moderate excitement, and have a calming effect. The primary use for these drugs is to reduce Anxiety, but higher doses will usually cause sleep (a drug used primarily to cause sleep is called a hypnotic ). Although the term sedative is still used, the drugs usually prescribed to produce this calming effect are Benzodiazepines, which are more commonly known as antianxiety agents, or minor tranquilizers.
(See also: Barbiturates ; Drug Types ; Sedative-Hypnotic )
Scott E. Lukas
sed·a·tive / ˈsedətiv/ • adj. promoting calm or inducing sleep: the seeds have a sedative effect. • n. a drug taken for its calming or sleep-inducing effect.