Because they reduce anxiety and produce pleasantly sedating or "tranquilizing" effects, these drugs are more subject to abuse than the neuroleptics.
Since antiquity, people of virtually every culture have used chemical substances to induce sleep, relieve stress, alleviate anxiety, and manage the crippling symptoms of severe mental illness.
As opposed to medications prescribed for sedation, the neuroleptics often produce signs of neurological dysfunction, such as extrapyrimidal effects (involuntary movements such as Parkinson-like tremors and other abnormal movements).
The term "antipsychotics" is sometimes used because these drugs are generally used to treat symptoms of paranoia, psychosis, or serious distortions in the perception of reality, such as hallucinations or delusions. The term "minor tranquilizer" (which has been replaced by the more precise terms "sedative-hypnotic" or "anxiolytic") refers to drugs used to treat conditions such as insomnia and anxiety.
The first sedative-hypnotic, or minor tranquilizer, bromide, originated in the 1860s.
Bromides are long-acting sedatives that were rarely used past the turn of the nineteenth century; however, bromide can still be found in Bromo Seltzer.
As a group, tranquilizers act mostly on the brain by affecting the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
However, these drugs are now more commonly—and more accurately—called neuroleptics or antipsychotics.
That is, in order to obtain the same level of intoxication, the tolerant abuser may raise his or her dose to a level that can produce coma and death.
The most frequently cited possible cause of mental illnesses is an abnormal hyperactivity of the dopamine neurotransmitter system in the brain.
The bromides are gastric irritants with a narrow safety margin and may cause a chronic toxicity known as bromism.
Barbiturates (a class of drugs with more effective sedative-hypnotic effects) replaced bromides in 1903.
In most developed countries, a large percentage of the people suffering, or in remission, from psychosis are treated in the community.