What Is an Analeptic?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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An analeptic is a medication that stimulates the central nervous system to increase activity. Such drugs have a number of uses, but they must be applied with care because some have a narrow therapeutic range. If a patient receives an excessive dose, it could cause seizures and other complications. Guidelines on the use of analeptics provide specific advice to help medical providers determine when and how to use them appropriately to protect patients and achieve the desired effect.

One use of such drugs is in postoperative recovery. Anesthesia used in surgery is used to induce a state of unconsciousness or deep sedation, but once the procedure is done, the anesthesiologist wants the patient to wake up quickly. Providing an analeptic can allow the patient to wake up more quickly, entering the next stage of recovery. Drugs to reverse anesthetics may be administered as soon as possible after surgery to reduce the amount of time spent under anesthesia.

These drugs are also useful in cases of barbiturate overdose and excessive doses of other medications with a depressive effect on the central nervous system. Patients who overdose can develop dangerously slow respiration and heart rate, which may eventually lead to coma and death. Administering an analeptic can stimulate the patient to restore central nervous system function. This allows medical providers to start stabilizing the patient and addressing other complications or side effects of the overdose.


Some medications are also used in the management of neurological, cognitive, or psychiatric conditions. Attention deficit disorder, for example, can be treated with an analeptic. The drug can help the patient focus and complete cognitive tasks by stimulating the central nervous system. While it may appear to have a sedating effect because the patient appears calmer, this effect is actually the result of helping the patient concentrate and apply skills to specific activities.

For those interested in etymology, this term is derived from an Ancient Greek word for “restorative.” It entered English around the 16th century as a reference to any drug designed to act in a restorative or stimulating way; for example, a patient sluggish and faint with illness might be given an analeptic. The ingredients in such preparations varied and were sometimes proprietary to the creator, who wanted to maintain a monopoly to ensure that patients had to keep coming to him. In modern medicine, the term refers specifically to medications that act on the central nervous system, not generally to stimulating tonics.


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