What is a depressant?
A depressant is a substance that decreases activity in the central nervous system. Body functions, including brain activity, slow down. Because of this, depressants are often called downers. Examples include opiates and opioids, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines.
If used improperly these drugs can be highly addictive. Depressant withdrawal symptoms may be extremely harmful and even life threatening. Those seeking to overcome depressant addiction should do so with professional help.
What is a type of depressant?
Different types of depressants include alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications.
Alcohol is the most commonly used depressant. According to The New York Times “people have been drinking alcoholic beverages since prehistoric times.” Alcohol abuse can cause serious health problems including liver disease, dementia and cardiac disease. People using alcohol may experience feelings of euphoria. Alcohol may also produce drowsiness and slurred speech. When ingested in extreme quantities it can cause a person to lapse into a coma. It can also cause respiratory failure and death. When under the influence of alcohol people are less able to perform complex tasks including driving an automobile. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 2003 and 2012, 8,476 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in the state of Florida.
Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are also depressants. They are commonly prescribed as short-term treatments for anxiety, panic attacks and sleep disorders. These drugs are highly addicitive. Withdrawal from benzodiazepine addiction may result in seizures and psychotic reactions and should not be attempted without proper medical supervision.
Benzodiazepines can be divided into three classes: short, medium and long acting.
- Serax and Xanax are examples of short-acting benzodiazepines. They have higher addiction potentials and can cause withdrawal seizures if, after taking for a long duration, they are stopped immediately.
- Medium-acting benzodiazepines include Ativan and Restoril.
- Long-acting benzodiazepines include Valium and Klonopin. Long-acting benzodiazepines have less addictive potential and are commonly used to wean individuals off of short-acting benzodiazepines and alcohol. Additionally, they can be used for the treatment of seizure disorders.