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In the event of an overdose or if combined with another sedative, many of these drugs can cause unconsciousness (see hypnotic) and even death.There is some overlap between the terms "sedative" and "hypnotic".
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.
Interactions with other drugs are more common with first-generation antihistamines compared with second-generation antihistamines.
Second generation antihistamines were developed in the 1980s and are much less sedating than first-generation antihistamines.
They are central nervous depressants and interact with brain activity causing its deceleration.
Various kinds of sedatives can be distinguished, but the majority of them affect the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are brain chemicals performing communication between brain cells.
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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.