Tranquilizers are divided into a Major Tranquilizer and Minor Tranquilizer group.

Major Tranquilizers include phenothiazines, indoles, thioxanthenes, butyrophenones, piperazine compounds, and piperidine compounds. Trade names include drugs such as Thorazine, Haldol, Clozaril and Risperdal. These drugs are referred to as Neuroleptics and are most commonly prescribed as anti-psychotics. This type of tranquilizer is not widely abused.

Minor Tranquiliers are the more common of the tranquilizers. These include the Benzodiazepines, known by trade names such as Valium, Xanax, Serax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium and Tranxene. There are also combination drugs such as Librax. These drugs are very commonly prescribed as anti-anxiety drugs, or anxiolytics. They are often referred to as Sedative/Hypnotics. They are central nervous system depressants with specific sites of action. Slang references to these drugs include Libs, Tranks, Benzos, and Vees.

The primary route of administration for these medications is oral, swallowed as a tablet, capsule, or liquid. They are also available in solution form for intravenous use.


The minor tranquilizers induce a feeling of calm and relaxation. Depending on the medication and dosage this can range from feelings of mild euphoria to states of drowsiness, confusion, and lightheadedness. Effects can include hostility, blurred vision, hallucinations, lethargy, headaches, memory loss, disorganized thinking, and irritability. Other common effects include impaired motor function, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Certain Benzodiazepines, including Valium, can produce toxic reactions when combined with alcohol.

The Benzodiazepines (Minor Tranquilizers) can be addictive even at prescribed dosages if the medication is administered for long periods of time. The withdrawal process can be painful and even life-threatening with some of the Benzodiazepines. Physical withdrawal symptoms can include general pain, stomach cramps, diarrhea, flu-like symptoms, and heart palpitations. There is also the possibility of seizure with certain medications. The withdrawal can also produce psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and depression.

Are You Dependent?

  • Do you find it hard to cope without a pill?
  • Is your work or school performance affected by your drug use?
  • Are you having problems with family and friends?
  • Do you use a variety of drugs?

Fact: Tranquilizers are the most widely prescribed psychotherapeutic agents in the world, and are most involved in suicide attempts and accidental overdoses.

Other Resources

National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information