Central nervous system depressants are a group of prescription medications that when taken reduce brain stimulation and create feelings of relaxation. Depressants may put users to sleep, relieve muscle spasms and anxiety and also prevent seizures. Some of the commonly used central nervous system depressants include alcohol, benzos (tranquilizers), barbiturates and marijuana.
Many opioids like heroin and oxycodone also function similarly to depressants. When opioids and other depressants are combined, it can slow the central nervous system to a point where it becomes dangerous or deadly.
How Do Central Nervous System Depressants Work?
Prescriptions for CNS Depressants like Xanax and Amytal and others are written by medical professionals for patients suffering from conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. They usually come in powder form, liquid form and pill form.
The brain makes neurotransmitters that function differently. While dopamine transmitters are responsible for processing pleasure, the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitters help to relax the brain activities. When CNS depressants are taken they bind with the GABA neurotransmitter and subsequently produce a sedative feeling or a sense of calm. While the actions of many CNS depressants on the brain may differ slightly, the effect on the brain is always the same.
Aside from marijuana, taking barbiturates and other CNS depressants increases the likelihood of developing tolerance and dependency which implies that you have to take more and more of them to get the same feeling. Barbiturates and benzos are very dangerous even for people who abuse them for a short period of time.
The CNS depressants slow breathing which increases the chances of dying due to overdose. Some other effects include cognitive problems, slurred speech, coordination problems, short-term memory loss and low blood pressure.
It is not very easy to quit using CNS depressants, and the assistance of medical professionals is usually required.
Central Nervous System Depressant Abuse
- Millions of Americans use CNS depressants due to the euphoric high they create
- Many people combine these depressants with alcohol.
- People who abuse depressants take higher doses compared to those who stick with their doctor’s prescription.
- The sale of a called Rohypnol has since been banned in the US due to the fact that it was used in a high number of rape cases.
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health from SAMHSA revealed that over 1 million non-medical depressant users were 12 years and above.
- Cordovilla-Guardia S et., al in 2017 studied the effect of the central nervous system depressant, stimulant and hallucinogenic drugs on injury severity in patients admitted for trauma and discovered that CNS depressant were associated with increased injury severity in patients who also took alcohol.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of CNS depressant abuse vary depending on some factors like the type of depressant abused, the size of the individual, the dosage taken, the time period of abuse, medical history, etc.
Some mild symptoms of CNS depression include:
- Blurred or altered vision
- Dry mouth
- Impaired spatial sense
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Slurred speech or stutter
- Slight shortness of breath or shallow breathing
- Slightly reduced heart rate
Some severe CNS depression symptoms include:
- Blue lips or fingertips
- cold skin
- Extreme confusion or memory loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irritability and aggressiveness
- Poor judgment
- Reduced heart rate
- Reduced breathing rate
- Sudden and intense mood swings
- Slowed reflexes
Severe symptoms of CNS depressant abuse can result in delirium, coma and ultimately death. The Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPDA), also revealed that opioids are the major culprit in most overdose deaths.
Signs of CNS Depressant Dependence
Here is a list of some of the common withdrawal symptoms CNS depressant users might experience:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Hallucinations or confusion