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A selection of sedatives, 2000.

A selection of sedatives, 2000.
3 4 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 26cm


A selection of sedatives, 2000. Sedatives are drugs which have a calming effect. The oldest known sedative is probably alcohol, which has been in use for thousands of years; surgeons even used it as a general anaesthetic before the arrival of ether and chloroform. Barbiturates were synthesised in the 1890s and abused widely by the 1900s. The search for safer sedative and anxiety-reducing drugs began after the Second World War, eventually resulting in the discovery of a family of drugs known as benzodiazephines, which include Valium.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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