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Sedative and hypnotic agents form an important class of drugs that are widely used in modern medical practice. The names of many of the agents should be fairly familiar to you since these drugs are so widely used in hospitals and dispensed to patients on an outpatient basis. You probably know that most sedative-hypnotic agents are controlled because of their abuse/misuse potential. The barbiturates have been regarded as the prototypes of this class of drugs because of their extensive use over the past 80 years. Because of their potential for addiction, physical dependence, and side effects, the barbiturates have been replaced by the benzodiazepines (for example, Valium®). The benzodiazepines are currently the most important sedative hypnotics because of their efficacy and safety.

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