views updated May 09 2018

sedative Technically, a drug causing sedation. Useful for the treatment of patients with anxiety, and who are restless and agitated such that normal function is impaired. Sedatives are more properly called anxiolytic drugs. Anxiolytics should not be confused with hypnotics, which cause sleep — although sedation may often allow those with troubling anxieties to be able to sleep. Sedative drugs taken at higher doses can often act as hypnotics in those suffering from insomnia. Until twenty years ago the main group of sedative drugs were the barbiturates, now almost entirely replaced by the benzodiazepines. Miscellaneous other modern drugs, such as glutethimide and meprobamate, are also used as sedatives, as are some very old ones, such as chloral hydrate. The latter mixed with an alcoholic drink is known as a Mickey Finn, used, in detective literature at least, to knock out the ‘goodies’.

Alan W. Cuthbert


views updated May 14 2018


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 )


Hobbs, W. R., Rall, T. W., & Verdoorn, T. A. (1996) Hypnotics and sedatives. In J. G. Hardman et al. (Eds.), The pharmacological basis of therapeutics, 9th ed. (361-396). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott E. Lukas


views updated May 23 2018

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.


views updated May 18 2018

sedative Drug used for its calming effect, to reduce anxiety and tension; at high doses it induces sleep. Sedative drugs include narcotics, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.


views updated May 21 2018

sedative (sed-ă-tiv) n. a drug that has a calming effect, relieving anxiety and tension. See also anxiolytic.