Depressants are psychoactive drugs that slow down the central nervous system, reducing brain activity, causing a person to be less alert. This results in a slowed heart rate and breathing.
In many cases, depressants are also barbiturates. Commonly known as downers, barbiturates are drugs that cause relaxation or euphoria. Recently, it was thought that barbiturates were relatively safe to use but has now been found that barbiturates come with risks and side effects.
They make a person feel drowsy and/or sleepy, but they reduce the amount of time you are in REM sleep. Because REM sleep is so important to your body, using barbiturates can begin to be a problem for a person. Additionally, they can become addictive and cause abuse, so it is important to be aware of this before taking it.
Not all depressants are prescriptions from a doctor or MD, including alcohol which is the most widely used depressant in the United States. Despite it being legal, the effects of alcohol can be harmful to your mental and physical health.
Alcohol causes the nervous system to become depressed which is why you may not realize you are cold or hot while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol is also extremely addictive and habit forming, and an increased use can cause people to become dependent on it.
Another group of depressants are benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are sedatives that are used to treat certain mental disorders such as anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and panic disorders. Benzodiazepines cause people to feel relaxed and calmer.
Many times, benzodiazepines are a medically necessary drug. However, there is still the potential for drug abuse and addiction. Along with the addictive properties, it can also be harmful to mix benzos with other drugs such as an opioid.
Prescription Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants are medications prescribed by a doctor or MD that include hypnotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers. They are a great treatment for panic disorders, sleep problems, acute stress reactions and anxiety disorders because they slow down brain activity in a person.
Often, prescription CNS depressants will cause drowsiness in a person, making them a good option for treating insomnia or other sleep disorders; other depressants such as tranquilizers are better for treating anxiety because they relieve muscle spasms.
There are both short-term effects and long-term mental and physical side effects that can occur when taking depressants. Some of the most common short-term effects include:
Along with these short-term symptoms, using depressants can also cause long-term physical and mental health concerns. Long-term use of depressants can cause chronic fatigue, depression, sexual problems, breathing difficulties and a sleep disorder. As dependency to the drug increases, cravings, anxiety, or panic are common if the user is unable to get more.
All depressants, including from prescription, will affect people in a different way. The way that depressants will make you feel depends on the following factors:
Addiction and drug abuse are a severe problem that affects many million people in the United States, often resulting in health consequences. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017.
People who abuse substances will crave drugs or alcohol to the point that it negatively impacts their life. They no longer care about the things that they used to and will typically only engage in activities that involve drugs or alcohol. Even people who are using a prescription drug such as depressants, can suffer from abuse.
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Depressants work in the central nervous system (CNS) to by affecting the neurons, leading to symptoms such as relaxation, drowsiness, anesthesia, decreased inhibition, coma, sleep and even death. Although, some are prescribed by a doctor, many depressants have the potential to become addictive.
Most depressants work by increasing the neurotransmitter referred to as the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which carries messages from cell to another. When GABA activity is increased, brain activity is reduced, causing relaxation.
Drugs that are classed as depressants include ethyl alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines. The major categories of prescription drugs in this classification include opioids, tranquilizers, and sedatives (or hypnotics). Different types of CNS depressants work in different ways, but all can reduce activity in the central nervous system and lower levels of awareness in the brain. Some of the most common brands of Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium and Halcion.
It can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal to mix alcohol with certain depressants and it should always be avoided. Combining alcohol use with depressants can cause certain short-term and long-term health effects including seizures, low blood pressure, fatigue, slowed heart rate, nausea and vomiting, unconsciousness and impaired coordination or motor skills. Along with these side effects, there could be more life-threatening results such as overdose or severe intoxication.
Amphetamine is classified as a stimulant. Although, depressants and stimulants both have an altering affect on the body, they are quite different in how they make you feel. While depressants work to calm down the central nervous system (CNS), stimulants do the opposite affect and activate it. Therefore, depressants are known as “downers” and stimulants are known as “uppers.”
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