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Dependent users may get withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness and insomnia to convulsions and death.
A second study noted that a total of 70,982 sedative exposures were reported to U. poison control centers in 1998, of which 2310 (3.2%) resulted in major toxicity and 89 (0.1%) resulted in death.
Malcolm Lader at the Institute of Psychiatry in London estimates the incidence of these adverse reactions at about 5%, even in short-term use of the drugs.
The paradoxical reactions may consist of depression, with or without suicidal tendencies, phobias, aggressiveness, violent behavior and symptoms sometimes misdiagnosed as psychosis.
Advances in pharmacology have permitted more specific targeting of receptors, and greater selectivity of agents, which necessitates greater precision when describing these agents and their effects: Doctors often administer sedatives to patients in order to dull the patient's anxiety related to painful or anxiety-provoking procedures.
Although sedatives do not relieve pain in themselves, they can be a useful adjunct to analgesics in preparing patients for surgery, and are commonly given to patients before they are anaesthetized, or before other highly uncomfortable and invasive procedures like cardiac catheterization, colonoscopy or MRI.
Doses of sedatives such as benzodiazepines, when used as a hypnotic to induce sleep, tend to be higher than amounts used to relieve anxiety, whereas only low doses are needed to provide a peaceful effect.