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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); Office of the Surgeon General (US). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016 Nov.

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Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health [Internet].

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Prescription Sedatives (Tranquilizers, Depressants)

Medications that slow brain activity, which makes them useful for treating anxiety and sleep problems.i
Common Commercial NamesStreet NamesCommon FormsCommon Ways TakenDEA Schedule / Legal Status
Barbiturates: pentobarbital (Nembutal®), phenobarbital (Luminal®)Barbs, Phennies, Red Birds, Reds, Tooies, Yellow Jackets, YellowsPill, capsule, liquidIngested, injectedSchedule II, III, IV / Legal by prescription only
Benzodiazepines: alprazolam (Xanax®), chlorodiazepoxide (Limbitrol®), diazepam (Valium®), lorazepam (Ativan®), triazolam (Halicon®)Candy, Downers, Sleeping Pills, TranksPill, capsule, liquidIngested, snortedSchedule IV / Legal by prescription only
Sleep Medications: eszopiclone (Lunesta®), zaleplon (Sonata®), zolpidem (Ambien®)Forget-me Pill, Mexican Valium, R2, Roche, Roofies, Roofinol, Rope, RophiesPill, capsule, liquidIngested, snortedSchedule IV / Legal by prescription only
Uses & Possible Health Effectsii
Short-term Symptoms of UseDrowsiness, sedation; slurred speech; poor concentration, confusion, dizziness; clammy skin; impaired judgment, coordination and memory; reduced anxiety; lowered blood pressure; slowed breathing and central nervous system; coma, and death.
Long-term Consequences of Use and Health EffectsIncreased risk of respiratory distress.
Other Health-related IssuesSleep medications are sometimes used as date rape drugs.
Risk of HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases from shared needles.
In Combination with AlcoholDangerous slowdown of heart rate and breathing, coma, and death.
Withdrawal SymptomsMust be discussed with a health care professional; barbiturate withdrawal can cause a serious abstinence syndrome that may even include seizures.
Medical UseiiiFor tranquilization, sedation, and sleep.
Treatment Optionsiv
MedicationsThere are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to prescription sedatives; lowering the dose over time must be done with the help of a health care professional.
Behavioral TherapiesMore research is needed to determine if behavioral therapies can be used to treat addiction to prescription sedatives.
Statistics as of 2015v
PrevalenceLifetime: Data not collected.
Past Year:
  • 1.5 million persons (0.6%) aged 12 or older have misused sedatives in the past year.
  • 6.1 million persons (2.3%) aged 12 or older have misused tranquilizers in the past year.
Average Age of InitiationSedatives: 28.3
Tranquilizers: 25.9
i

Source: NIDA, (2016).

ii

Sources: NIDA, (2016) & DEA, (2015).

iii

Source: SAMHSA, (2004).

iv

Source: NIDA, (2016).

v

Source: CBHSQ, (2016).

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