DepressantsDepressant drugs slow down the central nervous system as well suppress the neural brain activity. Medicinally they are used to treat sleep disorders, relieve anxiety and muscle spasms as well as prevent seizures. Depressants come in the form of pills, syrups and injectable liquids. Unfortunately they can cause some unpleasant side effects such as; amnesia, leaving no memory of events that occur while under the influence, reduction in reaction time, impaired mental functioning and judgment and cause confusion. Long-term use of depressants produces psychological dependence and can lead to physical dependence even at doses recommended for medicinal treatment.

Barbiturates are a class of depressant drugs that include butalbital (Fiorina®), Phenobarbital, Pentothal®, Seconal® and Nembutal®. Individuals can rapidly develop dependence on and tolerance to barbiturates, meaning they need larger and larger amounts of them to feel and function normally. This makes depressants highly addictive and unsafe since the likelihood of coma or death is highly increased.

Benzodiazepines were developed as a safer alternative to and were expected to replace barbiturates; unfortunately they still share many of the same undesirable side effects. The commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are Valium®, Xanax®, Halcion®, Ativan®, Klonopin® and Restoril®. Rohypnol® is a benzodiazepine that is not legally manufactured or marketed in the United States but it is frequently abused. Ambien® and Sonata® are sedative-hypnotic medications approved for the short-term treatment of insomnia that share many of the same properties of barbiturates. Unlike barbiturates, large doses of benzodiazepines are rarely fatal unless combined with other drugs or alcohol.

Individuals abuse depressants to experience the euphoric effect they provide. Depressants are also used in combination with other drugs to intensify the initial high or to deal with the unwanted side effects from uppers. Individuals who abuse depressants take higher doses than people taking the drugs under a doctor’s supervision for therapeutic purposes. Depressants can be obtained from the family medicine cabinet, friends, family members, the Internet, doctors and the hospital. Depressants like GHB and Rohypnol® are also misused to facilitate sexual assault. Other regularly abused depressants include meprobamate and methaqualone (Quaalude®).

Unwanted physical effects of depressant abuse include slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, weakness, headache, lightheadedness, blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, low blood pressure and slowed breathing. Unlike the withdrawal symptoms seen with most other drug abuse, withdrawal from depressants can be life threatening.

Street names of depressants include: Barbs, Benzos, Downers, Georgia Home Boy, GHB, Grievous Bodily Harm, Liquid X, Nerve Pills, Phennies, R2, Reds, Roofies, Rophies, Tranks and Yellows.

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