Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are powerful, addictive drugs that claim thousands of lives each year. Many people who develop an addiction to these drugs first receive them as prescriptions for a valid medical condition, but soon find their lives consumed by the drug.
What Is A Depressant?
What is a depressant exactly? CNS depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that “depress” or slow down the nervous system. Because they slow down cellular function, the effects of depressants result in sedation and calm.
The side effects of depressants also include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Reduction in heart rate and breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Poor coordination
What Is A Type Of Depressant?
CNS depressants are typically divided into two categories: benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
- Benzodiazepines are drugs that are typically used to treat anxiety and/or sleep disorders. Examples of benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), triazolam (Halcion), lorazepam (Ativan) and estazolam (Prosom).
- Barbiturates are also used to treat anxiety and sleep problems, but tend to have a greater risk of overdose than benzodiazepines. For this reason, barbiturates are not commonly prescribed and are usually only administered by doctors in surgical settings. Examples of barbiturates include mephobarbital (Mebaral), phenobarbital (Luminal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal).
Other depressants include alcohol and non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, including zolpidem (Ambien) and eszopiclone (Lunesta).
All CNS depressants work by increasing the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA, a chemical that inhibits the activity of other cells. Chronic inhibition of specific cells can fundamentally alter the brain and cause physical dependence, dangerous withdrawal symptoms and increased tolerance.
I’m Addicted To Depressants – What Should I Do?
Many individuals develop an addiction to depressants in part because depressants alter GABA concentrations, one of the more essential neurotransmitters in the brain. With proper therapy and/or medication management, it is possible to return GABA back to its normal levels.
The first step of recovery is to stop using the depressant. Unfortunately, both benzodiazepines and barbiturates result in painful – and even life-threatening – withdrawal symptoms.
Depressant withdrawal symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Memory problems
- Heart palpitations
The withdrawal symptoms associated with benzodiazepines and barbiturates can be highly uncomfortable and even deadly. For this reason, people who are taking or addicted to these classes of drugs should NEVER quit taking them “cold turkey.” Instead, they should request help from a trained medical professional so that they can obtain detoxification in a safe, medically supervised setting.
Medically supervised detox can also ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms, which can become so intense that they prevent individuals from successfully quitting. Medical professionals can administer medications and nutrients that reduce the painful withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol, another nervous system depressant, can also be deadly when quit cold turkey. People who are struggling with alcohol addiction should NEVER attempt to stop on their own. Medically supervised detox is a life-saving, essential step in achieving sobriety.
After the withdrawal process, people who are addicted to depressants can benefit from inpatient or outpatient treatment. Types of treatment for addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, support groups and stress management training. All of these treatment types can help you recover from an addiction to depressants, and each one has its own positives and negatives.
Remember: Recovery from depressant addiction is difficult, but far from impossible.
For more information about CNS drug depressants, effects of depressants and drug addiction treatment at Sovereign Health, please contact our 24/7 helpline.