Major Tranquilizers Thorazine and Relatives

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Major tranquilizers revolutionized psychiatry when they were first introduced in the early 1950s. They provided a new and easy way to manage schizophrenia and other severe mental diseases, making patients calm and emotionally quiet. In some cases the major tranquilizers have enabled psychotic persons to lead reasonably normal lives and function outside hospitals. More often, they make them more manageable and docile rather than less crazy.

Tranquilizers The 1950s

When disturbed behavior complicates caring for the elderly...

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The most widely used drug in this group is chlorpromazine (Thorazine). Other common ones are haloperidol (Haldol), flu-phenazine (Prolixin), perphenazine (Trilafon), prochlorperazine (Compazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and trifluoperazine (Stela-zine).

In addition to their use in treating mental illness, the major tranquilizers can be used to end bad reactions to psychedelic drugs and other states of confusion. Some of them are also used to treat purely physical problems, such as itching, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and hiccups.

In normal people, small doses of these compounds cause drowsiness, lethargy, and boredom — hardly the kinds of effects that encourage recreational use. In addition, the major tranquilizers regularly produce uncomfortable physical effects, such as dryness of the mouth. In high doses and long-term use they can also cause

Example of an advertisement for a major tranquilizer. (Used with permission of and copyright by McNEILAB INC.)

more serious toxicity, such as liver and eye damage and permanent disorders of muscle movement and coordination.

Because the physical and mental effects of major tranquilizers are at best uninteresting and at worst very unpleasant, nonmedical use of them is extremely rare.

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