Depressant Drug Addiction

Depressant drugs are prescription medications that slow the central nervous system. The central nervous system or CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord. Because these drugs are sedatives, they “depress” brain activity they often relieve anxiety and sleep problems. Subsequently, the long-term effects of depressants prescription use often lead to depressants addiction.

Depressant drugs include:

There are three major classes of CNS depressant drugs: hypnotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers. They all work differently, but they all reduce CNS activity and awareness in the brain. Furthermore, there are significant differences in the drugs within the different classes. 

depressant drugs

In particular, some are prescribed more because they are safer. However, it’s crucial to understand that almost all depressant drugs can potentially lead to depressants addiction. Although many people refer to depressant drugs as sedatives, that term better describes the class of drugs. 


One of the most commonly used drugs is alcohol. How this drug affects the brain depends on how much and how fast a person drinks. Many people don’t realize alcohol is a depressant because it has uplifting effects in the beginning. 

For example, when a person starts to drink, they feel less reserved and more relaxed. However, the more they drink, the more effects the brain feels, leading to negative emotions. Alcohol typically increases stress and anxiety rather than reducing it. It can also cause depression, aggression, and angry outbursts. The long-term effects of chronic alcohol use are dependence, depressants addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. 


Barbiturates or “downers” are depressant drugs used in treating anxiety, sleep disorders, and tension. Commonly used barbiturates include Amytal, Luminal, Mebaral, Nembutal, and Seconal. Although these depressants are less dangerous than stimulants, the long-term effects of depressant prescription barbiturates include addiction and overdose. 

Because barbiturates create a sense of euphoria and relaxation, they are often misused even in small doses. Because of the high risk of overdose, barbiturates are not used to treat anxiety and sleep issues any longer. They have been replaced with benzodiazepines which are less addictive and have a lower risk of overdose. 


Benzodiazepines or benzos are prescription depressant drugs that treat anxiety, sleep disorders, seizures, and other stress reactions. Commonly used benzos include Valium, Xanax, and Ativan. Because benzos have sedative, sleep-inducing effects, they are useful in treating anxiety and insomnia. They are considered safe for short-term use. However, long-term use may lead to tolerance, depressants addiction, and withdrawal symptoms. 


In the United States and most of the world, opioids are the most commonly used pain medication. Furthermore, opioids such as methadone are beneficial in opioid addiction treatment. While there are several prescription depressant drugs, it is also an illicit drug known as heroin. 

Opioids vary significantly in strength, the potential for depressants addiction, and other features. However, their chemical properties are similar and typically have similar effects. Even though opioids are incredibly useful in treating pain, they are also highly addictive and dangerous. To illustrate, in 2019, almost 50,000 Americans died from opioid-involved overdoses. 

depressants vs stimulants

Sleeping Pills

Depressant drugs in this catagory include non-benzodiazepine sleep aids such as Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta. They are specifically designed to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. Sleeping pills are chemically different than other depressant drugs. As a result, they stimulate the GABA neurotransmitter differently. Compared to benzos, sleeping pills have fewer side effects and a lower risk of depressants addiction. However, long-term effects of depressants prescription use can still cause dependence and depressants addiction.

What Are the Effects of Depressant Drugs?

Central nervous system depressant drugs increase the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter. As a result, depressant drugs slow brain activity causing the following effects.

Severe Long-Term Effects of Depressant Prescription Use

The long-term effects of depressants prescription use depend on the type of depressant drugs used and the severity of the misuse. The chronic misuse of depressant drugs can lead to developing a tolerance that requires more of the drug to achieve the same effects. Other long-term effects of depressants prescription use include:

addiction to depressants

Overdose is another severe risk of sedative depressant drugs. By consuming excessive amounts, it can cause respiratory depression, seizures, and potentially death. Depressant drugs should not be combined with any other sedative medications, including over-the-counter allergy medication and alcohol. 

If combined, it can cause slowed breathing and heart rate, which can be fatal. Above all, this risk is amplified when sedative depressant drugs are used with stimulants such as Adderall and cocaine. However, combining multiple depressant drugs dramatically heightens the risk of a fatal overdose. 

Signs of Depressants Addiction

The first sign of depressants addiction is taking depressant drugs without a prescription or other than prescribed. For instance, taking someone else’s medication and taking higher doses to intensify the effects. Other signs of depressants addiction include:

Mixing depressant drugs with other drugs, such as opioids and alcohol, is another sign of depressants addiction. This behavior can have life-threatening consequences, including fatal overdose. 

Withdrawal: Long-Term Effects of Depressants Prescription Use

depressants and addiction

Withdrawal can happen when stopping the use of depressant drugs—because of how these drugs affect the central nervous system, suddenly stopping can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Typically symptoms of withdrawal begin 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. At the same time, the most severe symptoms occur between 24 and 72 hours after the last dose. Consequently, for some, post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) may last up to 24 months. 

Those taking barbiturates or benzos may also experience a rebound effect. This happens when the original condition being treated with depressant drugs comes back stronger. For example, an individual taking Xanax for anxiety often has worse anxiety after the start of their recovery. 

Common withdrawal symptoms from depressant drugs include:

Because the withdrawal symptoms from depressants addiction are intense and potentially life-threatening, it’s essential to seek a medical detox program. Medical detox is the safest way to withdrawal from depressant drugs. With supervision from medical personnel, an individual may be given medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. 

Depressants Are Less Dangerous Than Stimulants

Depressants and stimulants are both two different classes of drugs that affect behavior, emotions, and thoughts. These two drugs are complete opposites even though they both affect the central nervous system. Furthermore, the risk of depressants addiction is generally as high as stimulant addiction. While at the same time, both drug addictions benefit from a comprehensive treatment program.

How Does Depressants Addiction Begin?

An addiction to depressant drugs can begin for many reasons. They may be prescribed the medication to treat sleep issues or anxiety. Or, they may buy them illegally from a friend or off the street—furthermore, some people doctor shop to obtain multiple prescriptions because they are dependant on the depressant drug. 

The more an individual uses and the longer they take it, their tolerance builds. As their tolerance increases, so does the amount of drug needed to achieve the same effects. As this vicious circle continues, the deeper the individual falls into depressants addiction. At that point, they only use to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment for CNS Depressants Addiction

Treating an addiction to depressants typically starts with a medical detox program. This step in recovery allows the body to rid itself of drugs and toxins. Afterward, the individual and a therapist decide if inpatient or outpatient treatment is right for them. 

Because many individuals with depressants addiction also struggle with anxiety and other stress-related disorders, inpatient treatment is generally the best choice. Although outpatient treatment is extremely beneficial, managing recovery and learning to cope with worsen anxiety can lead to a recurrence of use.

Therapy for the Long-Term Effects of Depressants Prescription Use

Each member in treatment receives an individualized treatment plan. This plan includes the different therapies needed to achieve Recovery for Life. A common and essential treatment for depressants addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. This therapy type focuses on building the skills required to maintain recovery while modifying behaviors, thoughts, and expectations. 

Also part of a comprehensive treatment plan, members attend holistic therapies. Through yoga, mindfulness, and meditation, individuals learn to slow the mind while relaxing the body. Holistic therapy is beneficial during moments of cravings and mental challenges. 

Get Help for Depressants Addiction at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center

If you or a loved one is struggling with sedative and depressants addiction, you are not alone. The long-term effects of depressants prescription use can leave you feeling helpless. Contact us today and start your life free from depressant drugs.