Depressant Abuse

Depressant abuse occurs among nearly 8 percent of 12th graders, with Xanax as the most popular depressant drug among teens. Regular use of depressants leads to tolerance, meaning the user must take more of the drug in order to feel the effects. This can lead to depressant addiction.

What Is Depressant Abuse?

Depressants, sometimes referred to as sedatives and tranquilizers, are substances that slow down (or “depress”) activity in the brain and central nervous system (CNS). Consequently, they are often prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Depressant abuse entails misusing these prescription medications by taking them without a prescription to get high, or combining them with stimulants, opioids, or alcohol.

There are three main categories of depressants: barbiturates, such as Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, and phenobarbital; benzodiazepines, including Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, Xanax, and Rohypnol); and non-benzodiazepine sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zalepon (Sonata), which act on some of the same brain receptors as benzodiazepines. Symptoms of depressant use include slurred speech, shallow breathing, fatigue, disorientation, lack of coordination, and seizures during withdrawal from chronic use.

Alcohol is also a depressant. However, since alcohol abuse is common, experts typically classify alcohol abuse separately from depressant abuse.

Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationHarvard Health Publishing

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