Depressants are sedative-hypnotics, which depress or slow down the body’s functions.  Often these drugs are referred to as tranquilizers, sleeping pills or sedatives.  Most often, depressants are legally used by prescription in controlled amounts.  The effects range from calming down anxious people, relieving tension and muscle spasms, to promoting sleep.  Both tranquilizers and sleeping pills can have any of these effects, depending on how much is taken.  At high doses or when abused, many of these drugs can also cause unconsciousness and death.


Text Box: Symptoms of Use:

·	Slurred speech
·	Depression
·	Apathy
·	Impaired judgment
·	Loss of motor coordination

The overall effect is similar to alcohol intoxication with:

·	Drowsiness
·	Confusion
·	Tremors Weak and rapid pulse
·	Slow or rapid, but shallow breathing
·	Cold and clammy skin
·	Coma

Symptoms of

·	Vomiting
·	Nausea
·	Loss of appetite
·	Abdominal cramps
·	Rapid heart rate
·	Excessive sweating
·	Delirium
·	Convulsions
·	Restlessness
·	Insomnia
·	Anxiety
·	Death

Withdrawal symptoms from a depressant can become extreme and fatal.  Symptoms such as those listed above can appear after the user has gone 24 hours without the drug.  The withdrawal
Will peak between 2-8 days depending on the potency of the drug.  Depressant withdrawal patients need to be medically supervised to prevent death.

Text Box: Common

Tranquilizers prescribed for eliminating anxiety are:
·	Librium ®
·	Valium ®
·	Equanil ®
·	Tranxene ®

Some well-known
Barbiturates are:
·	Nembutal ®
·	Seconal ®
·	Amytal ®

·	Quaalude ®
·	Placidyl ®
·	Noctec ®
·	Miltown ®

All of these drugs can be dangerous when they are not taken according to a physician’s instructions.

How does the addiction begin?

A tolerance to depressants develops rapidly and overdosing is common due to the user increasing the doses.  Often the users can become confused.  Because of the effects of the drug they forget how much they have taken.  Depressants are used by heroin, addicts to reduce the pain of withdrawal, to relieve the anxiety of ‘flashback’ hallucinations, and to soothe the nervous condition of withdrawal.  A major problem with depressants is the availability of these drugs through a written prescription.  The safe range of depressants is very narrow.

     ● 1 pill might induce sleep.

     ● 5 pills, can result in a coma.

     ● 10 pills, can cause death.


It cannot be stressed enough that these are strong drugs to be prescribed by a doctor in very controlled amounts and only in extreme cases where relief of pain and anxiety is necessary.  Depressants can cause both physical and psychological dependence.  Regular use over a long period of time may result in tolerance, which means people have to take larger and larger doses to get the same effect.  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.  A depressant user should never attempt to quit without a physician’s supervision, nor should a user quit abruptly.  A severe reduction of depressants should be treated as a medical emergency.  When users become psychologically dependent, they feel as if they need the drug to function.  Finding and using the drug becomes the main focus in life.  Depressants come in pill and capsule form and are now illegally obtained by theft, illegal prescriptions, and the illicit market.  People who are using depressants exactly as the doctor prescribes can also become addicted.  Prescriptions usually are taken over a period of time, thus creating a tolerance.

Text Box: Misused depressants:

Of all the drugs in this class, the barbiturates (“barbs,” “downers,” “reds”) have the highest rate of abuse and misuse.  The most commonly abused barbiturates include:
·	Pentobarbital (Nembutal ®)
·	Secobarbital (Seconal  ®)
·	Amobarbital (Amytal ®)

These all have legitimate use as sedatives or sleeping aids and are sold in capsules, tablets, liquid form, and suppositories.

Among the most commonly abused non-barbiturate drugs are:
·	Glutethimide (Doriden ®)
·	Meprobamate (Miltown ®)
·	Methyprylon (Noludar ®)
·	Ethchlorvynol (Placidyl ®)
·	Methaqualone (Spoor, ® Quaalude ®)

These are prescribed to help people sleep.

Benzodiazepines, especially diazepam (Valium ®), prescribed to relieve anxiety and every other emotional complaint, are commonly abused, and their rate of abuse and misuse is increasing.


Is combining depressants with alcohol dangerous?

Yes.  Taken together, alcohol and depressants can kill.  The use of barbiturates and other sedative-hypnotics with other drugs that slow down the body, such as alcohol, multiplies their effects and greatly increases the risk of death.  Overdoes deaths can occur when barbiturates and alcohol are used together, either deliberately or accidentally.




 What are the effects of barbiturates when they are abused?

The effects of barbiturates are similar to the effects of alcohol.  Small amounts produce calmness and relax muscles.  Somewhat larger doses can cause slurred speech, staggering gait, poor judgment, and slow, uncertain reflexes.  These effects make it dangerous to drive a car or operate machinery.  Large doses can cause unconsciousness and death.








What is a “downer?”

The word “downer” is slang for a large group of drugs called depressants.  Downers, in general, fall into two main categories: tranquilizers and sedative-hypnotics.  The term “tranquilizer” needs little explanation.  “Sedative-hypnotics,” though, refer to the sedative or calming effect of all downers as well as hypnotic or sleep-inducing effect.  This sedative-hypnotic property of downers is a result of their ability to slow or depress the central nervous system (CNS).  In general, the effects of CNS depressants are similar to the effects of alcohol: each produces relaxation and decreased inhibition, slowed motor coordination, and lethargy.

What is methaqualone?

Methaqualone or Quaaludes ® (“Sopors ®, “ “ludes”) were originally prescribed to reduce anxiety during the day and as a sleeping aid.  It is one of the most commonly abused drugs and can cause both physical and psychological dependence.  Methaqualone is highly addictive.  Withdrawal is a difficult and painful process.  In fact, withdrawal following long-term use should only be attempted under medical supervision as convulsions and other complications are possible.  The dangers from abusing methaqualone include:





Reference Material: National Drug & Safety League (A non-profit charitable organization).