These are substances that slow down or depress the Central Nervous System. Depressant drugs include alcohol, barbiturates and tranquillisers.
It’s worth remembering that, although alcohol is a legal drug and can be purchased by any person over 18 years old, it can be a dangerous drug, particularly when abused.
Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are the two major categories of depressant drugs used as medicines. Often these drugs are referred to as sleeping pills and tranquillisers or sometimes just as sedatives. Some well-known barbiturates are secobarbital (Seconal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal). Benzodiazepines commonly in use are Diazepam (Vallium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium) Nitrazepam (Mogodon) and Temazepam.
Which depressants are abused?
Alcohol is by far the most commonly abused drug in the
Abuse generally takes the form of under-age drinking, drinking in
situations, or drinking in excess. Its easy availability and social
acceptability may have enhanced this state of affairs. Although it is
perceived as a pleasant social drug (and for some drinkers this is the
many people become either psychologically or physically dependent upon
Alcohol abuse is directly or indirectly responsible for many deaths through drunken driving, accidents and illness. It is also a major contributing factor in most incidents of domestic and other violence.
Barbiturates used to be common drugs of abuse in the 1950’s and 1960’s but because of their addictive properties and association with suicides and accidental deaths, their use as medicines has been reduced significantly since the 1970’s. The illicit market in these drugs has become smaller because of their reduced availability.
Unfortunately, benzodiazepines - which were originally developed to provide a safe alternative to barbiturates for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia - have now become a major category of abused drugs. Vallium, Librium and Temazepam are the most commonly abused tranquillisers and are often taken with alcohol as these two types of drug amplify each others effect.
What do they look like?
Depressants are usually manufactured as tablets or capsules, but some of these drugs are also available in liquid form. Alcohol is legally available in a multitude of forms.
What are the effects of depressants?
Their effects range from calming down anxious people to promoting sleep. Alcohol, tranquillisers and sleeping pills can have either effect, depending on how much is taken. At high doses or when they are abused, these types of drugs can cause unconsciousness and death.
Regular use of all depressants over a long period of time can result in tolerance, which means a person has to take larger and larger doses to get the same effects. This includes alcohol. When regular users stop using large doses of these drugs suddenly, they may develop physical withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness, insomnia and anxiety, to convulsions and death.