What are the Effects of Depressants?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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A depressant is any chemical substance that inhibits nervous system functioning. There are many different types of depressants, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and anticholinergics. Depressants are often used in clinical settings to relieve a host of health problems, though they are also commonly abused as recreational drugs. The short-term effects of depressants include a loss of inhibition, a sense of euphoria, difficulties concentrating, impaired motor functioning, and slurred speech. Long-term abuse can lead to addiction, heart problems, reduced organ functioning, and death.

Doctors and psychiatrists commonly prescribe depressant medications to help patients cope with pain, epilepsy, and psychotic disorders. Clinical use of depressants can relax muscles, slow heart rate, and reduce the risk of seizures. Medications can also provide relief for anxiety, stress, and insomnia. Doctors are usually very cautious about prescribing certain drugs, however, and warn patients of the risks of addiction and other potentially negative effects of depressants.

People who use alcohol or other depressants in recreational settings experience a number of short-term effects. Depressants slow the function of the central nervous system, which results in impaired cognitive and physical functioning. Most people experience some degree of motor movement impairment and concentration problems, resulting in slowed reflexes and poor judgment. In high enough doses, a person can experience blurry vision, balance problems, and slurred speech.


Overdosing on depressants can pose serious health risks. The central nervous system controls involuntary muscle movement and reflexes, such as breathing and heart activity. With enough alcohol or other depressant chemicals in the bloodstream, involuntary functions can be compromised. A person can stop breathing or slip into a coma. Permanent brain damage, liver failure, and kidney problems can be immediate effects of taking depressants in large doses.

In addition to short-term impairments and dangers, there are many long-term effects of depressants. Over time, a person can become physically and psychologically addicted to substances. An individual who is dependent on alcohol or other depressants usually experiences severe withdrawal symptoms when the substance is not available. Tremors, dehydration, pain, and chronic insomnia are common. Years of depressant abuse can permanent damage the liver, heart, brain, and other internal organs.

A person who is addicted to depressants has many options to obtain help. He or she can speak with a doctor to learn more about the effects of depressants and find out about different treatment strategies. In emergency situations, medical detoxification procedures may be necessary to remove chemicals from the body. An individual can investigate drug rehabilitation programs, counseling, and group therapy that may be able to help him or her relearn how to live without relying on drugs. Many long-term effects of depressants can be avoided by abstaining from chemicals and seeking help as soon as possible.


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Post 5

Could someone explain why the effects of stimulants and depressants do not necessarily counteract each other? --Johanna

Post 4

So how do the effects of depressants compare to the effects of stimulants? Is it pretty much just the opposite, like increased heart rate, getting the jitters, feeling anxious, etc, or are there really some big differenced in the effects.

I'd also like to know about the effects of taking stimulants and depressants together. For instance, how would your normal drinking effects be affected by drinking it together with uppers?

Would they just cancel each other out, or would it work differently?


Post 3

One thing that's really important to remember is that although chemical depressants are very similar to the effects of alcohol in some cases, the biological effect can be very different, and can lead to really serious side effects if you use them or abuse them regularly.

Addiction aside, putting that much of any one chemical in your brain is just not smart. Eventually, you're going to end up re-wiring your neurons, and you'll end up with impaired judgment, you'll be a little slow on the uptake, and you'll probably forget things really easily.

And that doesn't even go into all the things that long-term depressant abuse can do to the rest of your body. We all know that one guy who went crazy in the 60s and 70s and now can't remember his last name -- don't be that guy. Use your depressants responsibly, if at all, and under the supervision of a doctor.

Post 2

Isn't it so crazy to think about how many depressants doctors used to prescribe to patients even less than 50 years ago? I mean, up through the 30s opium was still being used as a medicine, and nowadays everybody knows about the effects of opium on the body.

And that's not even mentioning things like morphine, which was (and sometimes still is) prescribed to people in extreme pain, or heroin, which you could buy in a bottle from the pharmacy in the 1800s.

It just kind of makes me wonder, especially after reading about all the side effects of depressants, what our descendants will be thinking about the drugs we take today as depressants, say, 50 years down

the road.

Will they be looking at us and thinking "Wow, they were handing out Prozac like it was candy, and now it's not even available," or do you think that we've hit our peak when it comes to prescribing dangerous meds to people?

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