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Bottle of sodium amytal pulvules

Sodium amytal is a strong sedative drug that is sometimes used to treat severe insomnia in patients who are already taking barbiturates – often for mental health problems. It is a drug with a controversial history. It was used in the Second World War by some medics to send soldiers who were exhausted and traumatised by their experiences into a deep therapeutic sleep. However, it has also been described as a ‘truth serum’ and used during interrogations. Once a sedated, hypnotic state is induced, the subject is said to be more suggestible and less able to retain information they may wish to keep secret.

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Glossary: bottle

Vessels having a neck and mouth considerably narrower than the body, used for packaging and containing liquid and dry preparations

Glossary: controlled drug

Substances that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (UK). These drugs are classified according to the amount of harm they cause when misused.

Glossary: barbiturate

A group of drugs that reduce the activity of the central nervous system. They were used as sedatives or tranquillisers but have been replaced in clinical use now as they were found to be addictive.

Glossary: psychotropic drug

A term used to describe drugs that affect mood and the mind.

Glossary: insomnia

The inability to sleep. It may be caused by anxiety, pain or stimulants such as drugs.