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A sedative or tranquilliser[1] is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability[2] or excitement.[3] They are central nervous depressants and interact with brain activity causing its deceleration. Various kinds of sedatives can be distinguished, but the majority of them affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are brain chemicals performing communication between brain cells. In spite of the fact that each sedative acts in its own way, they produce beneficial relaxing effect by increasing GABA activity.[4]

At higher doses it may result in slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment, and slow, uncertain reflexes. Doses of sedatives such as benzodiazepines, when used as a hypnotic to induce sleep, tend to be higher than amounts used to relieve anxiety, whereas only low doses are needed to provide a peaceful effect.[5]

Sedatives can be misused to produce an overly-calming effect (alcohol being the classic and most common sedating drug). In the event of an overdose or if combined with another sedative, many of these drugs can cause unconsciousness (see hypnotic) and even death.


There is some overlap between the terms "sedative" and "hypnotic".

Advances in pharmacology have permitted more specific targeting of receptors, and greater selectivity of agents, which necessitates greater precision when describing these agents and their effects:

The term "chemical cosh"

The term "chemical cosh" (a club) is sometimes used popularly for a strong sedative, particularly for:

Types of sedatives

Other Languages
العربية: مهدئ
беларуская: Седатыўныя сродкі
bosanski: Sedativ
català: Sedant
čeština: Sedativum
Deutsch: Tranquilizer
español: Sedante
فارسی: آرام‌بخش
français: Sédatif
Gaeilge: Suaimhneasán
한국어: 진정제
hrvatski: Sedativi
Nederlands: Sedativum
日本語: 鎮静薬
norsk: Sedativ
português: Sedativo
shqip: Sedativët
Simple English: Sedative
slovenčina: Sedatívum
slovenščina: Pomirjevalo
српски / srpski: Седативи
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sedativ
suomi: Sedatiivit
Türkçe: Sakinleştirici
Tiếng Việt: Thuốc an thần
žemaitėška: Ospakajuoncā
中文: 鎮靜劑