As opposed to medications prescribed for sedation, the neuroleptics often produce signs of neurological dysfunction, such as extrapyrimidal effects (involuntary movements such as Parkinson-like tremors and other abnormal movements).

The term "antipsychotics" is sometimes used because these drugs are generally used to treat symptoms of paranoia, psychosis, or serious distortions in the perception of reality, such as hallucinations or delusions. The term "minor tranquilizer" (which has been replaced by the more precise terms "sedative-hypnotic" or "anxiolytic") refers to drugs used to treat conditions such as insomnia and anxiety.

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Reserpine was used in the treatment of snake bites, high blood pressure, and anxiety. physician named Wilkins demonstrated the positive effects of reserpine in 1952, the drug gained instant notoriety.

Rauwolfia was long used in India for the treatment of mental illness (especially paranoia and schizophrenia) and known to medicine men and locals as the "insanity herb." And although the plant was well known in India—Ghandi sometimes sipped tea made from its leaves—Westerners paid little attention to it until an Indian physician wrote an article about it in 1943. Reserpine rapidly replaced induced insulin shock therapy (injecting patients with insulin until their blood sugar levels fall so low that the they become comatose), electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy (inducing seizures by passing an electric current through the brain), and lobotomy (making an incision in the lobe of the brain) as treatments for certain types of mental illness.

Because they reduce anxiety and produce pleasantly sedating or "tranquilizing" effects, these drugs are more subject to abuse than the neuroleptics.

Since antiquity, people of virtually every culture have used chemical substances to induce sleep, relieve stress, alleviate anxiety, and manage the crippling symptoms of severe mental illness.

OFFICIAL NAMES: Major tranquilizers (neuroleptics/antipsychotics): Chlorpromazine (Thorazine); chlorprothixene (Taractan); clozaril (Clozapine); fluphenazine (Permitil, Prolixin); haloperidol (Haldol); loxapine (Daxolin, Loxitane); mesoridazine (Serentil); molindone (Lidone, Moban); olanzapine (Zyprexa); perphenazine (Trilafon); pimozide (Orap); quetiapine (Seroquel); risperidone (Risperdal); thioridazine (Mellaril); thiothixene (Navane); trifluoperazine (Stelazine); trifuluopromazine (Vesprin); ziprasidone (Geodon).

STREET NAMES: Major tranquilizers: antipsychotics, neuroleptics. DRUG CLASSIFICATIONS: Major tranquilizers: Not scheduled OFFICIAL NAMES: Minor tranquilizers (sedative-hypnotics/anxiolytics)/Benzodiazepines: Alprazolam (Xanax); chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Novopoxide); clonazepam (Klonopin); clorazepate (Azene, Tranxene); diazepam (Valium); estazolam (Pro Som); flunitrazepam (Rohypnol/illegal in the United States); flurazepam (Dalmane); halazepam (Paxipam); lorazepam (Ativan); midazolam (Versed); oxazepam (Serax); prazepam (Centrax); quazepam (Doral); temazepam (Restoril); triazolam (Halcion)STREET NAMES: Minor tranquilizers: (benzodiazepines: BZDs, tranks, downers, benzos, goofballs, happy pills, sedative-hypnotics, anxiolytics); (barbiturates: Amys, barbs, blues, downers, yellow jackets, rainbows, red devils); (nonbarbiturate sedative-hypnotics: ludes, Sopors)DRUG CLASSIFICATIONS: Benzodiazepines: Schedule IV, depressants OFFICIAL NAMES: Minor tranquilizers (sedative-hypnotics/anxiolytics)/Nonbenzodiazepines: Zaleplon (Sonata); zolpidem (Ambien); Buspirone (Bu Spar)DRUG CLASSIFICATIONS: Nonbenzodiadepine hypnotics: Zaleplon (Sonata); zolpidem (Ambien), Schedule IV, depressants; Buspirone (Buspar): Not scheduled OFFICIAL NAMES: Minor tranquilizers (sedative-hypnotics/anxiolytics)/ Barbiturates: Amobarbital (Amytal); butabarbital (Butisol); butalbital (Fiorinal, Sedapap); mepho-barbital (Mebaral); methohexital (Brevital); pentobarbital (Nembutal); phenobarbital (Luminal); secobarbital (Seconal)DRUG CLASSIFICATIONS: Barbiturates: Amobarbital (Amytal); butabarbital (Butisol); pentobarbital (Nembutal); secobarbital (Seconal), Schedule II, narcotic analgesics; mepho-barbital (Mebaral); methohexital (Brevital); phenobarbital (Luminal), Schedule IV, narcotic analgesics OFFICIAL NAMES: Minor tranquilizers/Nonbarbiturate sedative-hypnotics: Chloral hydrate (Aquachloral Supprettes, Noctec, Somnos); ethchlorvynol (Placidyl); glutethimide (Doriden); meprobamate (Miltown, Equanil); methaqualone (Quaalude); methyprylon (Noludar)DRUG CLASSIFICATIONS: Nonbarbiturate sedative-hypnotics: Chloral hydrate (Noctec, Somnos), ethchlorvynol (Placidyl), Schedule IV, depressants; glutethimide (Doriden), Schedule II, depressant; meprobamate (Miltown, Equanil), Schedule IV, depressant; methaqualone (Quaalude); methyprylon (Noludar), Schedule I, depressant Tranquilizers are agents that suppress or inhibit some aspects of central nervous system (CNS) activity—the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves from both—and are thus referred to as CNS depressants.

In most developed countries, a large percentage of the people suffering, or in remission, from psychosis are treated in the community.

This community-based treatment depends almost entirely on dosing with neuroleptics.

This term, however, arose from the inaccurate belief that the major positive action of the earliest drugs used to treat this illness was sedating and that these drugs were on a continuum with other, less powerful, antianxiety drugs.