Several H histamine antagonists (e.g., diphenhydramine, promethazine, and hydroxyzine) have been used as sedative-hypnotics, since they produce some degree of sedation. While this sedation is usually considered a side effect of their antihistaminic activity, in some cases the sedation is sufficient to allow the drugs to be used in the treatment of anxiety and sleep disturbances. For these drugs, the anxiolytic properties are thought to be a direct consequence of their ability to produce sedation.
Hydroxyzine hydrochloride (Atarax, Vistaril) is the antihistamine with the greatest use in the treatment of anxiety. It is often used to reduce the anxiety that is associated with anesthesia and surgery. It also produces sedation, dries mucous membranes (via an anticholiner-gic mechanism), and has antiemetic activity. A more extensive discussion of the pharmacology of the Hr receptor antagonists is found in Chapter 38.
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