Depressants

The widespread prescribing of drugs for physical and mental health problems has led to a sharp increase in teenagers gaining access to various drugs, including depressants. Adolescents can easily procure drugs from the medicine cabinets at home, family members and friends. Online availability of drugs has also made it easier for youngsters to get different types of drugs. As the brain is still in the developing phase, drug abuse during teenage years can have long-term cognitive and behavioral effects. Additionally, teens who abuse drugs may have a greater risk of developing an addiction when they turn adults.

As per the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2016, approximately 2 million adolescents (aged 12 to 17) used illegal drugs and an estimated 389,000 misused psychotherapeutic drugs (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) at least once in the past month. Teens who abuse depressants may experience irritability, depression, exhaustion and confusion. These and other serious effects of depressants warrant caution around the use of these substances.

What is a depressant?

Looking at its side effects, it is important to find an answer to the question – What is a depressant? Depressants – also known as sedatives or tranquilizers – refer to substances and drugs that work by decreasing the activity in the brain and the central nervous system (CNS).

Depressants help put one to sleep, prevent seizures, and relieve anxiety and muscle spasms. Often abused for their relaxing and euphoria-causing effects, depressants come in the form of pills, syrups or injectable liquids. Even though they have therapeutic benefits, prolonged use of depressants can cause one to develop physical and psychological dependence and tolerance.

Types of depressants

Alcohol, opioids, tranquilizers, allergy medications, cough and cold remedies, downers, sedatives, and other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs come under the umbrella of depressants or “downer” drugs. CNS depressants primarily work by increasing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical that helps cells communicate. As GABA increases in the brain, people may feel tired or less anxious. For this reason, CNS depressants are commonly prescribed to treat problems like anxiety and sleep disorders.

Following are the most common types of CNS depressants.

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleep medications (nonbenzodiazepines)
  • Barbiturates

Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan are commonly prescribed for treating anxiety, insomnia and seizures. Although they have a low potential for abuse, benzodiazepines are habit-forming and can quickly induce tolerance. For this reason, benzodiazepines are not intended to be used longer than one or two months. Side effects of benzodiazepines include drowsiness, reduction in alertness and muscle coordination, and rare paradoxical effects like aggression or disinhibition. Benzodiazepines are particularly dangerous when combined with alcohol, a potentially lethal combination, and other drugs like opioids. Nonbenzodiazepine sleep medications or anxiolytics (anxiety-reducing drugs) like Buspirone, Ambien, and Lunesta have the same action as benzodiazepines, but might have a lower risk of dependence and cause fewer side effects.

Barbiturates are used for treating sleep, seizure and anxiety disorders. The use of barbiturates has declined with the popularity of benzodiazepines, which are considered to be safer and have a lower overdose risk. Highly addictive nature, associated withdrawal symptoms and overdoses caused by barbiturates are extremely dangerous and can result in coma and even death.

Alcohol is another type of depressant. Youth who drink are more susceptible to the damage brought about by alcohol abuse, not just on their minds and bodies, but also on their relationships with their families and loved ones. Alcohol is the most commonly abused depressant among teens and young adults. Due to its high toxicity and the potential to form a dependency, underage drinking accounts for more than 4,300 deaths in young adults under the age of 21 each year. Impairment from alcohol use increases the risk of injury and death from car accidents, suicides, falls, drowning, homicides, and alcohol poisoning itself. According to the annual monitoring the future (MTF) survey, though it is illegal for virtually all secondary school students and many college students to purchase alcoholic beverages, alcohol has been tried by 26 percent of eighth graders, 43 percent of tenth graders, 61 percent of twelfth graders, 81 percent of college students and 86 percent of young adults (aged 19 to 28).

CNS depressants: Side effects

Some of the initial effects of CNS depressants are drowsiness and feelings of relaxation and calmness. People who abuse CNS depressants take higher doses or take these drugs for longer periods of time than they are supposed to.

Following are some of the side effects of depressants:

  • Sleepiness or drowsiness
  • Feeling relaxed or calm
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Memory loss (amnesia or inability to remember what happened on the drug)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Depressed respiration
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowed heart rate and pulse
  • Decreased brain activity
  • Addiction

Sometimes, CNS depressants can lead to a rebound effect, in which they produce effects similar to what the drugs treat. CNS depressants have a high potential for abuse and can lead to physical dependence among people who misuse these drugs. For this reason, depressants are usually prescribed for short periods of time.

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CNS depressants: Withdrawal symptoms

Of all the effects of depressants, death is a rare occurrence. However, abusing these substances can lead to various physical and mental problems, including life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Following are some of the common CNS depressant withdrawal symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Weakness
  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature

 Depressant addiction treatment

Abuse of high doses of CNS depressants can lead to physical and psychological dependence and when stopped abruptly, can cause serious withdrawal symptoms. Due to their addictive nature and ability to cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, it is advisable to seek treatment for depressant addiction under supervised medical care.

A comprehensive treatment for depressant addiction involves medically supervised depressant detox treatment followed by behavioral and counseling sessions. While the detoxification treatment allows the drugs to exit the system and manage drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, counseling sessions help uncover any underlying mental or physical causes of drug addiction.

 Why choose Sovereign Health?

Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego offers various types of treatment for addiction to CNS depressants. A thorough evaluation during the admission process helps identify all the co-occurring issues and design a treatment plan as per the needs of the patient.

The adolescent treatment programs offered at Rancho San Diego utilize evidence-based treatment modalities under the guidance of behavioral health specialists. In addition to medically supervised detox program, adolescents receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in a safe and secure environment to treat addiction to CNS depressants and other substance use disorders. Teens also receive individual and group therapies, psychoeducation, and complementary and experiential treatments like yoga and meditation. Throughout the treatment process, families of troubled teenagers also receive education and support they need to encourage their loved ones tread the path to recovery.

To know more about our top-notch addiction treatment programs or to locate the finest depressant detox centers, near you, call our 24/7 helpline and speak to a member of our admissions team. You can even chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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