What Are Tranquilizers? | Types, Effects, Abuse

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Tranquilizers are a group of prescription drugs used to treat anxiety, psychosis, and sleep problems. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and can lead to physical dependence and substance use disorder. Examples of tranquilizers include chlorpromazine, pentobarbital, lorazepam, and triazolam.

Tranquilizers are central nervous system depressants used to treat anxiety, psychosis, muscle spasms, and sleep issues

There are two types of tranquilizers: antipsychotic agents that work by changing chemicals in the brain and anti-anxiety agents that alter brain activity and affect nerves and receptors in the brain’s messaging system. 

Most tranquilizers are controlled substances and prescription drugs, but some are available over the counter. Most have a high potential for abuse and can be addictive.

What Are Tranquilizers?

The term tranquilizer is used for a wide variety of drugs, but these medications all have a calming effect and depress the central nervous system. The effects of tranquilizers include:

  • anxiety relief
  • sedation 
  • drowsiness or sleepiness
  • preventing or stopping seizures
  • relaxing muscles

While there are different kinds of tranquilizers, they are generally sorted into two different categories: major and minor tranquilizers.

Types Of Tranquilizers

Major tranquilizers (neuroleptic) primarily consist of antipsychotic medications that treat disorders like schizophrenia while minor tranquilizers (anxiolytic) are made up of sedatives and depressant medications that treat anxiety and less severe mental illnesses.

Minor tranquilizers can also include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antidepressants, and sleeping pills and they often have the highest potential for abuse and addiction. 

Major Tranquilizers

Some of the common major tranquilizers include:

  • butyrophenones
  • phenothiazines
  • piperazine compounds
  • piperidine compounds
  • thioxanthenes
  • chlorpromazine
  • rauwolfia alkaloids

Minor Tranquilizers

Some of the most common minor tranquilizers include:

Side Effects Of Tranquilizers

Tranquilizers come with a number of side effects, and they range in intensity from mild to severe. The side effects can become more intense if you abuse the drug or take it in a manner not prescribed.

Some of the common side effects of tranquilizers include:

  • drowsiness
  • blurred vision
  • weakness
  • slurred speech
  • lack of coordination
  • confusion
  • irregular sleep patterns
  • restlessness
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • lack of appetite
  • irregular heart rate

Commonly Abused Tranquilizers

Most tranquilizers have at least some potential for abuse, but some are more commonly abused than others. The tranquilizers that are frequently abused include:

  • pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Limbitrol)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • triazolam (Halcion)
  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • zolpidem (Ambien)

Signs Of Tranquilizer Abuse

Tranquilizers are both controlled and non-controlled substances, but most are classified by the FDA as Schedule II, Schedule III, or Schedule IV controlled substances. This means they have at least some potential for substance abuse which can lead to both dependence and addiction.

If you’re worried that a loved one may be abusing tranquilizers, there are some signs you can look out for:

  • taking or buying prescriptions from a friend, family member, or stranger
  • taking a prescription in a way other than how it is prescribed
  • self-medicating with prescription tranquilizers
  • taking higher than the recommended dosage
  • combining the prescription with other drugs
  • taking the prescription more frequently than recommended
  • doctor shopping
  • spending most of your time buying, using, or recovering from tranquilizers
  • using pills despite financial consequences or concerns
  • isolating from friends and family
  • neglecting work, home, or school responsibilities

Tranquilizers have also become an additive used in street drugs as well. In Ohio in 2022, opioids were mixed with the animal sedative/tranquilizer xylazine which does not respond to naloxone (Narcan). This drug can lead to an irreversible overdose and, ultimately, be fatal.

Withdrawal & Detox

If you abuse tranquilizers and your body becomes dependent, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using. The symptoms you may experience include:

  • seizures
  • psychotic episodes
  • chills
  • hot flashes
  • loss of appetite
  • night sweats
  • rapid breathing
  • confusion
  • muscle aches
  • irritability

Because of how serious these withdrawal symptoms can be, it’s recommended that you go through the detoxification process with the help of your healthcare provider or by going to a detox center. 

The medical professionals at a detox center or treatment center can help ease your symptoms and ensure you’re as comfortable as possible before beginning addiction treatment.

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer a variety of addiction treatment options including detox, inpatient drug rehab, medication-assisted treatment, and aftercare

To find out if our treatment program is right for you or a loved one, please call our helpline today.

  1. Drug and Alcohol Dependence — Non-medical use, abuse and dependence on sedatives and tranquilizers among U.S. adults: Psychiatric and socio-demographic correlates https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3745028/
  2. Drug Bank — Tranquilizing Agents https://go.drugbank.com/categories/DBCAT000398
  3. ScienceDirect — Tranquilizer https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/tranquilizer
  4. WCPO Cincinnati — Bad batch alert issued for 'Tranq Dope', new drug mix that includes Xylazine, a sedative used on animals https://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/bad-batch-alert-issued-for-tranq-dope-new-drug-mix-that-includes-xylazine-a-sedative-used-on-animals

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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