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Below are examples of available sedative drugs.


Ethylene glycols


Inhibitors of the adrenergic alpha-2 receptor can cause sedation.


Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonists

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.[2] Drugs that increase the effect of GABA are called GABAergic.

Many sedatives work by increasing receptiveness of GABAA receptors.


Barbituates are GABAergic by increasing receptiveness of the GABAA receptors. Barbituates do this by increasing the duration of openings of channels in the cell membrane.[2]

  • Phenobarbital


Benzodiazepines are non-selective agonists by increasing receptiveness of the GABAA receptors. Benzodiazepines do this by increasing the frequency of openings of channels in the cell membrane.[2]

Benzodiazepine receptors are BZ1 and BZ2.

BZ1 selective agonists

Serotonin (5-HT) agonists

Agonists of the 5-HT1A receptor can cause sedation.


Adverse effects

Sedatives taken for insomnia are associated with increased mortality with increasing mortality with increasing frequency of use of sedatives.[4][5]


  1. Pandharipande PP, Pun BT, Herr DL, et al (2007). "Effect of sedation with dexmedetomidine vs lorazepam on acute brain dysfunction in mechanically ventilated patients: the MENDS randomized controlled trial". JAMA 298 (22): 2644–53. DOI:10.1001/jama.298.22.2644. PMID 18073360. Research Blogging.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Katzung, Bertram G. (2006). Basic and clinical pharmacology. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing Division. ISBN 0-07-145153-6. 
  3. Miner JR et al. Randomized clinical trial of propofol versus ketamine for procedural sedation in the emergency department. Acad Emerg Med 2010 Jun; 17:604.
  4. Weich S, Pearce HL, Croft P, Singh S, Crome I, Bashford J et al. (2014). "Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study.". BMJ 348: g1996. DOI:10.1136/bmj.g1996. PMID 24647164. PMC PMC3959619. Research Blogging.
  5. Kripke DF, Langer RD, Kline LE (2012). "Hypnotics' association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study.". BMJ Open 2 (1): e000850. DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000850. PMID 22371848. PMC PMC3293137. Research Blogging.