7-5. CLINICAL USES OF SEDATIVE-HYPNOTIC AGENTS
Sedative-hypnotic agents are used to treat a variety of conditions. These include:
a. Relief of Anxiety. Sedative-hypnotics are effectively used to temporarily
relieve anxiety associated with threatening or fearful situations (for example, anxiety
that typically occurs before a surgical procedure).
b. Treatment of Depression. Depression is the most common manifestation of
anxiety. Treatment of depression with sedative-hypnotic agents may be effective. It
should be noted that major (psychotic) depressions might be intensified with sedative-
c. Induction of Sleep (Hypnosis). Short-acting sedative-hypnotics are
generally used because of less hangover or persistent effects. When used to produce
sleep, sedative-hypnotics should not be administered continuously and should only be
part of an overall plan of management and counseling.
d. Anticonvulsant Therapy. Some sedative-hypnotics (for example,
phenobarbital) have been successfully used in the treatment of various types of
e. Skeletal Muscle Relaxation. Some sedative-hypnotics have been used to
produce muscle relaxation in patients. However, the effectiveness of sedative-
hypnotics for this use may be related more to their sedative properties than to their
ability to produce true muscle relaxation.
f. Anesthesia. The ultra short-acting barbiturates (for example, thiopental) are
used for surgical procedures of short duration.
7-6. ADVERSE EFFECTS OF SEDATIVE HYPNOTICS
Sedative-hypnotics, although safe when taken as directed, are not without their
side effects. You should be familiar with the side effects produced by these agents:
a. Drowsiness. As you might anticipate, all of the sedative-hypnotic agents will
cause drowsiness if a large enough dose is given to the patient. Furthermore, because
of individual reactions to drugs, some patients will be made drowsy even by small doses
of these agents. Patients who are prescribed sedative-hypnotics should be told not to
drink alcoholic beverages while taking the drug since the alcohol could intensify the
b. Impaired Performance and Judgment. These agents interfere with a
person 5 ability to think and to perform certain "hands-on" tasks. Sedative-hypnotic
agents are equivalent to alcohol in their effects on distorting judgment and minor motor