What Is a Relaxant?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
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A relaxant is a substance used to produce a calming effect and relieve tension. Some medications, such as those for muscle tension or treatment of anxiety, are relaxants. Many herbal remedies have relaxing qualities as well.

Some relaxants are intended to produce a calmer, less anxious mental and emotional state. For example, people with anxiety disorders and phobias may benefit from the use of this type of relaxant. Among the medications commonly prescribed for reducing anxiety are diazepam and lorazepam. Antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, may be used as well. In fact, some doctors recommend antihistamines, medications normally used to treat allergies, to help in the treatment of anxiety.

Muscle relaxers are medications used to relax a person’s muscles and temporarily stop spasms. They can be helpful for treating muscle-related pain. There are different types of muscle-relaxing drugs, however. Some of them, called neuromuscular blockers, actually paralyze the muscles and may be used to keep the muscles still during surgical procedures. They can relax not only skeletal muscles, but also the muscles crucial for breathing. For this reason, artificial respiration devices may be used in conjunction with neuromuscular blockers.

There are many muscle relaxers that don’t paralyze a person’s muscles, but instead simply relax them. They are not as strong as neuromuscular blockers. Instead, they help to relieve pain caused by muscle injuries and stress, reducing muscle spasms. These medications may even prove helpful in controlling seizure activity. They do not usually cause breathing difficulties.

Though most muscle relaxers are generally considered safe, there are some side effects associated with their use. Some of these medications can interfere with a person’s normal level of coordination or balance. They may cause a user to feel drowsy as well. For this reason, people are often warned to avoid operating heavy machinery while under the influence of a prescription relaxant. Some people may even become addicted to muscle relaxers after long-term use.

An individual may use a natural substance as a relaxant. For example, there are herbs that are said to relax both a person’s mind and body. Among the herbs a person may use to soothe and calm are valerian, passionflower, and kava. Some people take relaxing herbs in supplement or pill form while others use them to brew teas. Despite the fact that herbs are natural, some of them may cause side effects; it’s wise to consult a doctor before using them.

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