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Addiction to Depressants Explained

Depressants are a type of prescription drug that slow brain activity and can relax the muscles. Alcohol is also considered a depressant.

While depressants are a common prescription, they are highly addictive and dangerous. Depressants aren’t meant to prescribed for long periods as the chances of developing an addiction grow over time.

Opioids are a type of depressant. The UK Department of Health has announced that the UK is experiencing an opioid crisis. More than 14 million prescriptions for opioids and similar depressants were written in 2008. As of 2018, that number has almost doubled, with more than 23 million prescriptions per year and opioid deaths doubling.

What Are Depressants?

A depressant drug, also known as a central nervous system depressant drug, reduces arousal or stimulation in various areas of the brain by lowering neurotransmission levels. Depressants are any drug that depresses the central nervous system of the body (the brain and spinal cord), slowing brain activity. Clinically, depressants treat conditions such as insomnia or anxiety. In small quantities, depressants can make an individual feel relaxed. However, depressants are often used recreationally for their psychoactive effects.
In pop culture, these drugs are often called ‘downers’ for the effect they have on people. They come in tablets, liquid form or capsules.

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Types of Depressants

The most commonly used form of depressant is alcohol. Other examples include benzodiazepines, cannabis, barbiturates, heroin, ketamine, inhalants and GHB.

Until the 1990s, barbiturates were considered a safe depressant. They make individuals feel drowsy or sleepy, so they can be a solution for people struggling with insomnia or anxiety. However, barbiturates have been known to reduce REM sleep, which has negative consequences.

Another common variety of depressants is benzodiazepines. These depressants are used to treat conditions such as insomnia, seizures, anxiety and panic disorders, as benzodiazepines are sedatives that relax muscles.

Are Depressants Addictive?

Both barbiturates and benzodiazepines are highly addictive. They are typically medically necessary but heavily encouraged to take only for short periods.

Tolerance for depressants can develop rapidly. As a result, the individual may need to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same results. This can not only lead to addiction but is also very dangerous. Depressants are a strong medication and are incredibly dangerous when mixed with other medications or alcohol.

In the UK, and most of the world, the most popular benzodiazepine prescribed is Xanax. In fact, the UK accounts for 22% of all global sales of Xanax on the dark web. Stressed-out university students frequently use the drug.

Signs and Symptoms of Depressant Overdose

Addiction to depressants often leads to people experiencing feelings of depression, sexual problems, sleeping problems, breathing difficulties and chronic fatigue without the drug.

The clearest sign that an addiction has developed is if the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms after a few hours or a day of not taking the drug. The withdrawal symptoms will differ for each individual but typically manifest as severe cravings, overactive reflexes, shakiness, agitation, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating and high temperature.

Withdrawals from depressants can be life-threatening. Depressants have been linked to deaths caused by liver failure, choking, heart problems and suicide.

Ultimately, individuals using depressants can be at a high risk of addiction, overdose and death from overdose or withdrawal.

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