What is Depressant Drugs
Sometimes called “downers,” these drugs come in multicolored tablets and capsules or liquid form. Some drugs in this category, such as Zyprexa, Seroquel, and Haldol, are known as “major tranquilizers’ ‘ or “antipsychotics,” as they are supposed to reduce the symptoms of mental illness. Depressant drugs such as Xanax, Klonopin, Halcion, and Librium are often referred to as “benzos” (short for benzodiazepines. Other depressant drugs, such as Amytal, Numbutal, and Seconal, are classed as barbiturates—drugs that are used as sedatives and sleeping pills.
Short Term Effects
- Slurred speech
- Disorientation, lack of coordination
- Difficulty or inability to urinate
- Visual disturbances
- Slow brain function
- Slowed pulse and breathing
- Lowered blood pressure
- Poor concentration
- Dilated pupils
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Long- Term Effects
Tolerance to many depressants can develop rapidly, with larger doses needed to achieve the same effect. The user, trying to reach the same high, may raise the amount to a level that results in coma or death by overdose. Long-term use of depressant drugs can produce depression, chronic fatigue, breathing difficulties, sexual problems, and sleep problems. As a dependency on the drug increases, cravings, anxiety, or panic are expected if the user cannot get more.
Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, weakness, and nausea. In addition, agitation, high body temperature, delirium, hallucinations, and convulsions can occur for continual and high-dose users. Unlike withdrawal from most drugs, withdrawal from depressant drugs can be life-threatening.
Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants are medicines that include sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. These drugs can slow brain activity, making them helpful in treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders. However, CNS depressant drugs cause drowsiness; sedatives are often prescribed to treat sleep disorders like insomnia, and hypnotics can induce sleep, whereas tranquilizers treat anxiety or relieve muscle spasms.
Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants are medicines that include sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. These drugs can slow brain activity, making them helpful in treating anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep disorders. However, CNS depressants cause drowsiness; sedatives are often prescribed to treat sleep disorders like insomnia, and hypnotics can induce sleep, whereas tranquilizers treat anxiety or relieve muscle spasms. Some examples of CNS depressants grouped by their respective drug class are:
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Estazolam (Prosom)
Non-Benzodiazepine Sedative Hypnotics
- Zolpidem (Ambien)
- Eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- Zaleplon (Sonata)
- Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
- Phenobarbital (Luminal)
- Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)
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What are CNS depressant drugs?
CNS depressant drugs include sedatives, tranquilizers, and hypnotics. They slow brain activity by attaching to neurotransmitters. This slow down leads to side effects such as drowsiness, relaxation, and lower inhibitions.
Types of CNS Depressant Drugs
- Opioids: Primarily designed to address pain.
- Tranquilizers: Used to treat anxiety disorders or treat seizures.
- Sedatives (or hypnotics): Typically designed to assist with sleep or treat muscle spasms with muscle relaxation properties
How do people use and misuse prescription CNS depressant drugs?
Most prescription CNS depressants come in pill, capsule, or liquid form, which a person takes by mouth. Misuse of prescription CNS depressants means:
- Taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed
- Taking someone else’s medicine
- Taking medication for effect, it causes — to get high
When misusing a prescription CNS depressant, a person can swallow the medicine in its standard form or crush pills or open capsules.
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How do CNS depressants affect the brain?
Most CNS depressants act on the brain by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that inhibits brain activity. This action causes drowsy and calming effects that make the medicine effective for anxiety and sleep disorders. People who start taking CNS depressants usually feel sleepy and uncoordinated for the first few days until the body adjusts to these side effects. Other effects from use and misuse can include:
- Poor concentration
- Slurred speech
- Dry mouth
- Problems with movement and memory
- Lowered blood pressure
- Slowed breathing
If a person takes CNS depressants long-term, they might need larger doses to achieve therapeutic effects. Continued use can also lead to dependence and withdrawal when use is abruptly reduced or stopped. Suddenly stopping can also lead to harmful consequences like seizures.
Can a person overdose on CNS depressants?
Yes, a person can overdose on CNS depressants. An overdose occurs when the person uses enough of a drug to produce life-threatening symptoms or death. When people overdose on a CNS depressant, their breathing often slows or stops. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain; a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term mental effects and effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage.
How can a CNS depressant overdose be treated?
The most crucial step to take is to call 911 so a person who has overdosed can receive immediate medical attention. Flumazenil (Romazicon) is a medication that medical personnel can use to treat benzodiazepine overdose and has also been shown effective in treating overdose from sleep medicines. However, the drug might not wholly reverse slowed breathing and lead to seizures in some patients taking certain antidepressants. In addition, Flumazenil is short-acting, and the patient may need more of it every 20 minutes until they recover. For barbiturates and nonbenzodiazepines, body temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure should be monitored while waiting for the drug to be eliminated.
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Can prescription CNS depressant use lead to addiction and substance use disorder?
Yes, use or misuse of prescription CNS depressants can lead to problem use, known as a substance use disorder (SUD), which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Long-term use of prescription CNS depressants, even as prescribed by a doctor, can cause some people to develop a tolerance, which means they need higher and more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects. A SUD develops when continued use of the drug leads to negative consequences such as health problems or failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home, but despite all that, the drug use continues.
Those who have become addicted to a prescription CNS depressant and stop using the drug abruptly may experience a withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms-which can begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken—include:
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature with sweating
- Severe cravings
- Overactive reflexes
People addicted to prescription CNS depressants should not attempt to stop taking them on their own. Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs can be severe and—in the case of certain medications-potentially life-threatening.
How can people get treatment for prescription CNS depressant addiction?
There isn’t a lot of research on treating people for addiction to prescription CNS depressants. However, people addicted to these medications should undergo medically supervised detoxification because their dosage should be tapered gradually. Counseling can help people through this process. One type of counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, focuses on modifying the person’s thinking, expectations, and behaviors while improving ways to cope with life’s stresses. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy has helped people successfully adapt to stop using benzodiazepines. Often prescription CNS depressant misuse occurs along with the use of other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids. In those cases, the person should seek treatment that addresses the multiple addictions.
At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about depressant drugs and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
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 Drug Free World Org – https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/depressants.html#footnote1_lwd485t
 Drug Free World Org – https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/depressants.html
 NIDA– https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants