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Effects of Depressants on the Central Nervous System

Central nervous system (CNS) depressants are drugs that reduce brain activity, making them effective for treating conditions like insomnia, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, sleep disorders, chronic pain, and seizures.

The effects of depressants on the central nervous system involve a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which plays a role in slowing brain activity. We’re expanding on depressants, how they affect the central nervous system, and why they’re dangerous.

Examples of Depressant Drugs and Their Effects

Different classes of CNS depressants work differently, but all can slow activity in the central nervous system and reduce levels of awareness. While some are considered safer than others, almost all depressants can be addictive and should only be taken if and as prescribed.

Some common examples of depressants include:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates (including Amytal, Butisol, and Nembutal)
  • Benzodiazepines (including Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin)
  • Most sleeping pills (including Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta)
  • Opioids (including Codeine, Fentanyl, and Hydrocodone)

Many people become addicted to depressants because they begin using them differently than directed or using them without a prescription. From sharing their prescription drugs with others to mixing them with alcohol, there are many ways a person can misuse medications that can lead to addiction. As time progresses, the tolerance they build will cause them to continuously repeat this pattern of behavior.

Because uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can occur, they may continue abusing these drugs until they’re no longer able to control their use at all. Our medically monitored detox at Faith in Recovery has helped many patients recover from addiction by helping them safely and slowly wean off of drugs. Detox is a crucial step in the recovery treatment process that offers patients 24-hour guidance and medical assistance, increasing their chances of completing withdrawal and moving forward in treatment.

The typical primary effects of central nervous system depressants include:

  • Relaxation
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Difficulties urinating
  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Slowed reflexes and reaction time
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired judgment
  • Blacking out

Long-term use of depressants can not only cause addiction but can also lead to a variety of adverse effects. As previously mentioned, chronic abusers of depressants develop tolerance and require increasing doses of the medication to maintain the same effects. Other potential long-term effects of depressants include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hypersomnia
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Physical dependence
  • Addiction

Another possible side effect of depressants on the CNS is overdose. Excessive use or consumption of these drugs can cause an overdose marked by symptoms like respiratory depression, seizures, and even death. CNS depressants should never be taken with other substances that can cause sedation, including painkillers, over-the-counter allergy medicines, and alcohol. Combinations like Xanax and Benadryl can cause adverse reactions like respiratory depression and increase the individual’s risk of death by overdose. This risk also increases if CNS depressants are mixed with stimulant drugs like cocaine or Adderall.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to CNS depressants or any other drugs, know that treatment options are available. Our rehab center offers prescription pill addiction treatment among a variety of different treatment options. To learn more about our facility or rehab programs, call us now at 888-280-4763.