Sedatives are not really anaesthetics but they are often used with local anaesthetics or epidurals to help you feel calm and relaxed during an operation in which you are awake. Sedatives can also be used on their own for patients who become anxious when they have an MRI scan, an endoscopy or colonoscopy. 

Several drugs can be used as sedatives and these can be given by injection, as an oral preparation, either a tablet or syrup, or can be inhaled. Gas and air is commonly used and this helps to relieve pain as well as making you more relaxed. 

What effects does a sedative have?

A sedative takes a few minutes to start working and you may not notice its effects. You will be calmed by the sedative drug and you may be less aware of what is happening. If you are having surgery and have had a local anaesthetic, you may drift off into a light sleep during the procedure. 

Many sedative drugs inhibit short-term memory formation. This is particularly useful for patients who are having a procedure where anxiety can make it more uncomfortable, such as an endoscopy or a colonoscopy. 

Recovering from a sedative

Sedatives can make you drowsy for a few hours afterwards and you should not drive, operate machinery or make any significant decisions until you have recovered and for at least 24 hours.