All drugs affect the brain differently. Different types of depressants affect the brain differently. While depressants slow the brain’s activity, stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin speed up the brain. Psychoactive drugs as well as narcotics affect the brain in different ways. Because of the medicinal benefits from depressants, they are among the most widely used drugs in the world.
While the benefits of depressants are boundless, it is very easy for someone to abuse these drugs. When the body’s central nervous system is being altered, it can become difficult to function without such heightened benefits. As a result, depressant addiction leads to an overwhelming amount of deaths. Depressant detox can help.
A depressant is classified as any drug that slows down the heart. Also called downers, depressants alter the brain’s chemistry to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which in turn creates the chemical in the brain that induces relaxation.
In medicinal form, central nervous system depressant drugs can be tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics. Many medical conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, stress, pain and seizures can all be effectively treated with depressants by slowing brain activity.
Depressants affect the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is the part of the brain that affects neuronal excitability in the nervous system. The brain communicates with itself with neurotransmitters. Think of neurotransmitters as the postal service of the brain.
Anything a body does — a sneeze, an impulse, a jump, a shout — is but a command from the brain. If a spider bites you, your brain will order you to move. These messages are sent across a vast sea of neurons, which is nothing more than a communication network in our central nervous system.
Separating these neurons is a gap called a synapse. In order to properly relay the message to the next neuron, right on the other side of that perilous synapse, the neuron uses its neurotransmitter. This transports the message over that synapse.
When a patient takes depressants, neurons are inhibited from sending messages by binding to receptor molecules. By reducing the transmission of neurons, a calming effect is created.
The enormous tree of central nervous system depressant drugs is immense. In medical circles, these types of depressants are classified into five different drugs.
Alcohol is arguably the most abused drug on the planet. The potency of a drink of alcohol varies, depending on several factors including the alcohol consumer’s height, weight, race, sex, genes, how much food they ate, and much more. In addition, the amount of alcohol consumed as well as the amount of time taken to consume this alcohol will affect the potency.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, when a police officer pulls a suspected drunk driver over and they breathe into the breathalyzer, if they have consumed only one beer or one shot per hour, they will pass the test with flying colors. However, if this person drank several drinks of alcohol in an hour, they will be spending the night in jail.
Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics used to treat insomnia, seizures and headaches. They can reduce someone’s heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Once upon a time, barbiturates were the most widely prescribed substance for anxiety. After World War II, countless soldiers used barbiturates to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As a result, barbiturate abuse became prevalent.
People who use barbiturates can become physically addicted very easily. Withdrawal from barbiturates can be fatal. Because barbiturates are so dangerous, they have been replaced by other substances such as benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines are referred to as tranquilizers. While more than 2,000 “benzos” have been created, only 15 of them are FDA-approved in the United States. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat severe anxiety or severe insomnia. Essentially, these drugs can be very potent and are also widely available, making them a common drug of choice for addicts. Benzodiazepine usage rarely leads to death; however, mixing the drug with alcohol or other substances can be fatal.
Opioids are prescribed to treat pain. There are three different kinds of opioids:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 191 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed to American patients in 2017 alone. 1 in 4 patients who were prescribed long-term opioid therapy, experienced addiction.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid pain reliever that is 50 to 100 times more potent than opium. Although fentanyl is a prescription drug, more commonly it is being manufactured illegally with deadly consequences. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, in 2017 59% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl, compared to 14.3% in 2010. As a result, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are the most common causes of drug overdoses.
An illegal opioid, heroin is made from morphine, a natural substance acquired from poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico and Colombia. Heroin can be smoked, injected or snorted.
Sleeping pills are prescribed specifically to treat sleep disorders. According to the CDC, nearly 9 million Americans use sleeping medications. Medications like Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien bind to the same receptors in the brain as do benzodiazepines. These sleeping medications are less likely than benzos to be habit-forming, but if used long enough they can produce physical dependence.
Not all sleeping medications are habit-forming. Some sleeping medications, such as Rozerem, affect a different brain hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is released into the body several times a day by the pineal gland, which slows production when it’s light outside.
If you suspect a friend or family member to be addicted to depressants, some of the signs to look out for could be:
Withdrawal from depressant addiction can be particularly brutal because depressant drugs directly affect our sleep patterns. After consuming a pill that causes drowsiness and sleepiness every night for a month, someone will find it difficult to sleep without the medication.
Because depressant drugs directly affect our central nervous system, addiction to barbiturates and alcohol are so overwhelming to the body that withdrawal can be fatal. As a result, the National Institute of Drug Abuse recommends that anyone attempting withdrawal from depressant drugs seeks out medical supervision during the process.
Some symptoms of depressant withdrawal include:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019 more than 14 million opioid overdoses occurred in America. In addition, in 2019, there were almost 10 million benzodiazepine overdoses. Depending on the types of depressant, the amount of overdoses vary.
Like benzodiazepines, alcohol consumption induces a state of relaxation. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 1 million people died from alcohol related causes between the years of 1999 and 2017.
Alone, the towering numbers are catastrophic. However, when we pool all of these numbers, the toll that depressant addiction has on our society becomes devastating.
Every recovering addict faces the same rocky terrain. Unless the addict truly wants to rid themselves of their addiction, eventually they will hop back on the saddle. Depressant addiction is significantly intense. Depressant drugs slow down the brain. Thus, when an addict suddenly stops taking depressants, the brain speeds up, potentially causing seizures. As a result, experts recommend medically assisted treatment for depressant addiction.
First, the addict must physically rid their body of the drug. This is accomplished through detox. During this process, the addict is carefully supervised and provided with a nutritious diet, medications to assist cravings and medical monitoring.
After detox, the addict progresses to inpatient rehab. During this stage of recovery, the patient is able to reflect on their addiction and focus on recovery. The rehab will provide fitness programs as well as life skills education. The patient will learn how to manage their cravings. Such an ambitious task is carried out with therapy sessions and 12-step programs.
Once the 30- or 60-day rehab program is up, the real recovery begins. The patient will suddenly find themselves back in their old hunting grounds. Surrounded by family and friends will reignite the cravings and memories associated with the patient’s depressant addiction. Most likely, the recovering addict will require lifelong treatment.
Removing themselves from those familiar social circles is important. However, sometimes such an escape is not possible. Sobriety classes are vital to a successful recovery. Bottling our cravings can be dangerous. By talking about them and listening to how others deal with depressant addiction, patients learn how to manage their cravings.
Effects of depressant drugs have destroyed people and families. Depressant addiction is difficult to vanquish. Unless medically supervised, withdrawal from depressant addiction can be fatal. The first thing a recovering addict needs to do is to truly want to become sober. Once this conviction is professed, the patient needs to seek medical treatment.
If you know someone who is suffering from depressant addiction, Intrepid Detox can help. We have helped thousands of people find their way to sobriety. Contact us today.