From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A tranquilizer[1] is a drug that is designed for the treatment of anxiety, fear, tension, agitation, and disturbances of the mind,[2] specifically to reduce states of anxiety and tension.[3]


Tranquilizer, as a term, was first used by F.F. Yonkman (1953),[4][5] from the conclusions of investigative studies using the drug reserpine, which showed the drug had a calming effect on all animals to which it was administered. Reserpine is a centrally acting Rauwolfia alkaloid.[6] The word directly refers to the state of tranquillity in a person and other animals.[7]

The term is considered popular or common, meaning it is not generally in use in the field of medicine. Specifically, it is used in reference to antipsychotic or neuroleptic medications.[8]

The term is generally used as a synonym for sedative. When used by health care professionals, it is usually qualified or replaced with more precise terms:

Mood stabilizers might also be considered to belong to the classification of tranquilizing agents.[10]

Use on non-human animals[edit]

Tranquilizers are administered to animals via dart gun. If the animal only needs to be safely approached, the dart will contain a minor tranquilizer. Minor tranquilizers relieve tension and anxiety without affecting consciousness. If the animal needs to be completely still and unable to feel pain, a major tranquilizer will be used.[11]

Police use[edit]

Tranquilizer darts are not generally included in police less-than-lethal arsenals because a human can easily be wrestled to the ground,[12] the pain induced by the dart may cause a suspect to pull out a weapon or panic and run until they are far away resulting in the officer having to track down the unconscious suspect,[13] a human can have a deadly allergic reaction to a tranquilizer,[14] and because effective use requires an estimate of the target's weight —- too little tranquilizer will have no effect, and too much tranquilizer will result in death, which can lead to being convicted of second-degree unintentional murder if the target is a human. "If you shot somebody that was small, it could kill them. If you shot somebody who was big or had drugs in their system, it might not do anything." says Newett, of the Justice Department.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ also spelled tranquillizer (Oxford spelling) and tranquilliser (alternative British spelling); see spelling differences
  2. ^ Britannica article - tranquilizerEncyclopædia Britannica Accessed 12 October 2017
  3. ^ D. Coon, J.O. Mitterer - Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior page 207 Cengage Learning, 29 December 2008 ISBN 0495599115 Accessed 12 October 2017
  4. ^ D. Healy - The Creation of Psychopharmacology page 99 Harvard University Press, 2009 ISBN 0674038452 page 99 Accessed 14 October 2017
  5. ^ D. Healy - Medicating Modern America: Prescription Drugs in History page 54 NYU Press, 8 January 2007 ISBN 0814783473 Accessed 14 October 2017
  6. ^ H.J. Bein - Psychotropic Agents: Part I: Antipsychotics and Antidepressants Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology page 46 Springer Science & Business Media, 6 December 2012 ISBN 3642675387 Accessed 14 October 2017
  7. ^ "tranquilizer" at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  8. ^ J. Scott Werry (29 June 2013) - Practitioner’s Guide to Psychoactive Drugs for Children and Adolescents Springer Science & Business Media ISBN 1489900861 Accessed 12 October 2017
  9. ^ "WordNet Search - 3.0". Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  10. ^ Tranquilizing+Agents at the U.S. National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
  11. ^ Mayer, Melissa (3 April 2020). "How do sleeping darts work?". Dr Universe. Archived from the original on 4 October 2022. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  12. ^ H. Garner, Joel. "Use of Force by Police: An Overview of National and Local Data" (PDF). National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
  13. ^ "Report on the Attorney General's Conference on Less Than Lethal Weapons" (PDF). 30 June 1988. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  14. ^ E. Hollister, Leo (1 July 1958). "Allergic Reactions to Tranquilizing Drugs". Annals of Internal Medicine. Annals of Internal Medicin. 49: 17. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-49-1-17. PMID 13545730. Retrieved 28 February 2022.
  15. ^ Cabrera, Luis (30 July 2000). "Shooting Not to Kill: Police Are Turning to Nonlethal Weapons". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 February 2022.