Medical professionals often prescribe depressants to treat a number of conditions. If you’ve been prescribed a depressant, you may have an anxiety disorder. Perhaps you have trouble sleeping at night and a depressant medication is effective in treating your insomnia. While these drugs can help you manage different conditions, they are still highly addictive and can result in a depressant addiction for some users.
If you find yourself misusing depressant drugs—including alcohol—there are ways to overcome these behaviors. Even an active, long-term addiction can be conquered through addiction treatment for depressants. Here at North Jersey Rehabs, we have experience helping individuals recover from depressant abuse, addiction, and withdrawal.
What is a Depressant Drug?
Depressants are substances that depress the central nervous system (CNS). These drugs essentially slow down brain activity, which is helpful for treating many different conditions. Depressants may be used to treat anxiety, seizures, sleep disorders, or other health issues. In some cases, depressant medications are even prescribed for the treatment of pain.
These drugs work by affecting a particular neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works by slowing down the firing of neurons in your brain. Subsequently, this can lead to the calming of nerves or relaxing of muscles.
Many different medications and substances are considered to be depressants. When it comes to the major types of depressants that exist there are 3. Sedatives, hypnotics, and tranquilizers are all included in the category of depressants.
While the different types of depressants are used to treat different conditions, they all are highly addictive. Subsequently, this is why misuse is highly discouraged as it can be easy to form a depressant addiction.
Examples of Depressant Drugs
The different types of CNS depressant drugs work differently, yet each is able to reduce activity in the central nervous system. While they are all capable of lowering levels of awareness in the brain, there are still some key differences. These differences include whether they are prescribed for certain conditions, what they are used to treat, and how they affect the brain and body.
Some of the most common CNS depressants include:
- Some Sleeping Pills
While some of these CNS depressants are considered safer than others, they all have the potential to be misused. Equally, these drugs are all addictive. This is why misuse is so concerning as a depressant addiction can develop due to drug abuse.
Barbiturates are a type of depressant that falls into the category of sedative-hypnotics. These are often prescribed to decrease anxiety or induce sleep. While these drugs are highly effective at treating these conditions, they must be taken with care. Commonly prescribed barbiturates include:
Barbiturates, like other depressants, can be habit-forming. This is a major concern regarding barbiturates because these drugs are difficult to dose. Subsequently, overdose leading to coma or death can easily occur if these drugs are misused. Further, withdrawal from barbiturates can be life-threatening without medical intervention.
Many people may not realize this since alcohol is so commonly used, but this substance is a depressant. The use of alcohol is so common that many people do not consider drinking to be dangerous. However, alcohol is a CNS depressant, and it can be dangerous when misused. Drinking too much alcohol or drinking large amounts in a short period of time can have devastating effects on a person’s life, physical health, and mental well-being.
The relaxing effects of alcohol often make it a drug of choice for adults who want to reduce feelings of stress. When someone first drinks alcohol, this desired effect is usually achieved. As time goes on and the person drinks more, chemical changes in the brain occur. This can lead to negative emotional responses that produce the opposite effect the drinker was looking for.
Alcohol should never be consumed chronically. This is because alcohol addiction is a very serious condition. Depression and anxiety symptoms can be worsened by consuming too much alcohol too often. Unfortunately, alcohol is not a substance that is easy to stop using. Withdrawal from alcohol is one of the most dangerous types of withdrawal and requires specialized treatment.
Benzodiazepines, also referred to as “benzos,” are depressant drugs. These drugs work quickly once they are ingested. They are also usually prescribed for sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, convulsions, and acute stress responses. Benzodiazepine depressant drugs include the following medications:
Unfortunately, barbiturates have a high potential for misuse. Xanax in particular is a popular party drug and is featured in a lot of popular media. The commonality of Xanax as a recreational drug is highly concerning as people may mix them with other drugs or alcohol. Since the depressant effects of benzos are intensified by the depressant effects of other drugs, this is very dangerous. For example, mixing depressants such as Xanax with alcohol can increase the risk for overdose.
While opioid addiction requires its own type of treatment, these drugs are also considered to be depressants. These drugs have an incredibly high rate of misuse which has developed into an epidemic of sorts. It’s not uncommon to hear news of prescription opioid addiction as many people struggle with hydrocodone or codeine abuse. Not all opioids are legal prescription drugs, though. Some illicit street drugs like heroin are also considered opioids.
Sleeping pills are also considered to be CNS depressants. While their intended purpose is to help an individual fall asleep, depressants typically cause poor sleep quality. This is why sleeping pills are formulated to react differently than most CNS depressants. These pills can include the following sleep aids:
Sleeping pills can, unfortunately, be habit-forming. Concerningly, regular use of sleeping pills can result in an individual being unable to sleep without them.
The Side Effects of Depressants
A number of different effects can occur when someone takes a depressant. Due to how these drugs affect the central nervous system, slowed brain activity can produce effects such as:
- Memory loss
- Slowed pulse
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty urinating
- Impaired judgment
- Reduced inhibitions
- Loss of coordination
- Depressed breathing
- Slowed reaction time
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lowered blood pressure
- Relaxation and euphoria
- Disorientation or confusion
The Dangers of Depressants
Although depressant drugs may have a variety of uses, as with any drug, they have the potential to be misused. When a drug—even one that is prescribed—is used outside of a doctor’s recommendation, this is often classified as substance abuse. Unfortunately, substance abuse can lead to physical dependence. As someone develops physical dependence, they no longer function normally without the use of the drug. This is how a depressant addiction begins to form.
The previously mentioned effects usually result from short-term use and can be seen in individuals who are under the influence of a depressant. The long-term effects can be much more serious. The concerning long-term effects of depressants include the following:
- Weight gain
- Chronic fatigue
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sexual dysfunction
- Breathing and sleep difficulties
These side effects can vary, depending on the type of depressant being used and the amount being used. However, continued misuse of depressants leads to the development of a tolerance that requires more and more of the drug to be used to reach desired effects. Another concern of depressant misuse is the potential for overdose. Mixing depressants, in particular, is dangerous as these drugs can cause respiratory depression, seizures, and even death
Depressant Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline
Similar to many other drugs, depressants can cause withdrawal once someone stops taking them. Symptoms of withdrawal can be expected to occur within 12 to 24 hours of the last dose taken, and become most severe between 24 to 72 hours after the last dose. The longer one uses depressants, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms may be. These symptoms can be dangerous and include the following:
- Body tremors
- Panic attacks
- Memory issues
- Aches and pains
- Heart palpitations
- Excessive sweating
- Perception changes
- Muscular stiffness or pain
- Hypersensitivity to light and sound
- Increased blood pressure and pulse
As depressants suppress brain activity and function, withdrawal can cause serious psychological and physical problems. After a period of regular use, sudden cessation can even be life-threatening as symptoms such as seizures can be fatal. This is why detox should always take place in a medical setting as depressant addiction is best treated with medications that ease withdrawal.
Treatment for Depressant Abuse and Addiction
Treatment for depressant addiction usually starts with medical detox. Detox allows an individual to start a treatment program with no drugs in their system. After CNS depressants are eliminated from a patient’s body, they may enter a treatment program. This can either be an outpatient program or an inpatient addiction treatment program.
Outpatient addiction treatment programs usually involve attending a treatment session daily or every few days, depending on the program. Inpatient treatment is another option for individuals with a depressant addiction. Inpatient is similar to outpatient, with additional options such as housing and meals included. This option offers privacy and removes distractions that may interfere with treatment. Additionally, an inpatient treatment program can also be a great option for patients who lack a supportive and sober home environment.
Therapies Used in Depressant Addiction Treatment
During addiction therapy, a therapist will guide an individual through their drug addiction and help them understand how to live without depressants. In a clinical setting, various therapies will be offered to patients to work through the reasons they turned to drugs in the first place.
In group therapy, a patient will meet with others who are struggling with depressant addiction. They can discuss their experiences and encourage each other throughout the recovery process. Moreover, support groups are very common in all types of therapy. These group therapy sessions help people feel less isolated and build a sense of community around them that can lead them to stay clean.
In individual therapy, a patient meets with a therapist one-on-one to address the past traumas or emotional distress that led them to use depressants to cope. This therapy aims at helping addicts come to terms with their past so they can feel comfortable without depressant drugs in the future.
In family therapy, patients and their families work together to understand why depressants were such a big problem in the addict’s life. This therapy session focuses on helping the entire family deal with the addiction, rather than just having one person struggling alone. Additionally, family therapy can inform the patient of how their addiction affects those closest to them.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is sometimes used together with other depressant addiction treatment methods to teach patients how to replace negative thoughts that lead to drug use with positive and constructive thinking.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is another type of depressant addiction treatment method that helps patients to recognize the situations in which they are most likely to become depressed and/or struggle with drug use. Next, it teaches patients how to change their emotional reactions so that these situations do not have as much power over them.
Medications are also available for depressant addiction treatment. Patients may be prescribed antidepressants or mood stabilizers depending on how severe their symptoms are. Further, this can be especially helpful for patients who have a mental health disorder in conjunction with addiction.
Overcoming Depressant Addiction with North Jersey Rehabs
If you or a loved one is experiencing a depressant addiction, there is the hope of recovery. Fortunately, help is available through addiction treatment. Our treatment center in New Jersey offers addiction treatment programs that can be customized to meet your specific needs. To speak with a member of our compassionate team, contact us today.