Nonbenzodiazepine Depressants: Sedative Hypnotics & Antianxiety Medications

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  • 0:01 Benzodiazepines
  • 0:31 Sedatives & Hypnotics
  • 1:38 Examples of Drugs
  • 3:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Benzodiazepines are known for their potential for abuse and that's precisely why alternatives to their various uses exist in medicine, ones this lessons points out.


Benzodiazepines are a famous group of medications that include the likes of diazepam, more famously known by its brand name of Valium. Benzodiazepines are known to produce many effects on the body. They can act as muscle relaxants, hypnotics, sedatives, anticonvulsants, and anxiolytics. Anxiolytics are drugs that relieve anxiety. But benzodiazepines aren't the only class of medication that reduces anxiety or causes sedation or hypnosis. Let's go over some other ones that do the same.

Sedatives & Hypnotics

I hope you're not falling asleep on me now, because we've got two important distinctions to make. Anxiolytics are an easy definition -- an anxiolytic is an antianxiety drug. But the difference between a sedative and a hypnotic is often blurred. So let's make the distinction between the two clear. A sedative is a drug that depresses the central nervous system, produces calm and suppresses bodily reactions, but does not directly induce sleep. A bit different than this is a hypnotic, a drug that is intended to induce sleep by depressing the central nervous system. The distinction is often subtle.

Sedatives have calming effects that may cause a patient to fall asleep because they are so relaxed. However, unlike a hypnotic, a sedative's primary goal is not to produce sleep directly. Many drugs that are sedatives or hypnotics are actually just called 'sedative-hypnotics' because the line between the two definitions is often blurred in practice and because a single drug can produce either sedation or hypnosis, depending on the amount and concentration of the drug being administered to any given patient.

You still awake over there? I hope so.

Examples of Drugs

Now that we've got the definitions down pat, let's go over some nonbenzodiazepine sedative-hypnotics and anxiolytics.

Anxiety can be managed by many different classes of medications, drugs traditionally and characteristically considered to be antihistamines, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics have all been used to control anxiety.

Antihistamines are drugs that stop the action of histamine, a compound involved in the immune system's response to things like infection, but also one prevalent in allergies.

Anticonvulsants are drugs that help control or stop seizures.

Beta-blockers are famous heart medications.

Antidepressants help combat depression. And antipsychotics are drugs used to treat many mental disorders, like bipolar disorder.

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