What Are CNS Depressants

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CNS (Central Nervous System) depression usually happens if an individual abuses a substance that causes a slowdown of the brain’s activity. Such substances are referred to as CNS depressants. Sedatives, hypnotics, and tranquilizers are some examples of CNS depressants.

Recently, opioid painkillers have been prescribed by doctors for certain conditions. However, opioid painkillers are sometimes overused by patients. This overuse of opioid painkillers can lead to complications.

CNS depressants are also sometimes used as recreational drugs. Recreational use of CNS depressants is usually hazardous and is often illegal. The greatest danger lies in individuals not understanding the risks involved in the misuse of CNS depressants.

Some individuals combine various CNS depressants. For example, they may take alcohol and painkillers at the same time. This often leads to a life-threatening situation.

Hazards of using CNS depressants include long-term adverse effects, overdose, withdrawal symptoms (when their use is ended), and dependency.

Misuse of CNS depressants may also occur if an individual takes drugs that have not been prescribed by a doctor. Also, if an individual intakes more than the prescribed dosage, or if an individual consumes medication that was prescribed for someone else, this is also considered misuse.

“There are many effective treatments for depression that are available to you when you make the decision to get help for your depression.” –Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC

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Opioids And Opiates

Opioids and opiates are potent drugs used to relieve pain. They are derived from opium. Opium is derived from poppy seeds.

The active ingredients of codeine, morphine, heroin, and opium are opiates. Opioids come from opiates like heroin, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.

Opioids and opiates that are commonly prescribed by doctors are hydromorphone (Dilaudid), methadone, fentanyl (Duragesic), codeine, morphine (Avinza, Kadian), hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin).

Opioids and opiates are commonly prescribed by doctors to relieve pain. But because they are addictive and very strong, they are only prescribed to individuals who suffer from severe pain.

Some opioids and opiates, such as codeine, can be found in medications for diarrhea and cough. Doctors will sometimes prescribe these medications but only for short-term use.

Opiates and opioids, like heroin, are also used as recreational drugs by many individuals. They are frequently referred to as China white, oxy, smack, and H.


Sleep Medications

Sleep medications are chemically different. However, they work in the same manner as other CNS depressants. They stimulate the inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA.

Sleep medications that are commonly prescribed by doctors are eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien).

Sleep medications are frequently referred to as tictacs, sleep easy, and zombie pills.

“Patients who experience continued insomnia are less likely to respond to medication and psychotherapy treatment than those without sleep problems.” –Staci Lee Schnell, MS, CS, LMFT


Benzodiazepines are used to treat convulsions, sleep disorders, panic attacks, and stress reactions.

Benzodiazepines that doctors may prescribe are estazolam (ProSom), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax).

Some individuals abuse benzodiazepines. They are frequently referred to as chill pills, downers, and benzos.


Barbiturates are used to treat anxiety and seizure disorders. However, they are rarely prescribed by doctors nowadays. They may also be used to promote relaxation and sleep before surgery.

Barbiturates that doctors may prescribe are sodium phenobarbital (Nembutal) and mephobarbital (Mebaral).

Barbiturates are also used as recreational drugs. They are frequently referred to as phennies, downers, and barbs.


CNS depressants are also used by certain individuals during the commission of violent and sexual crimes. Xyrem is a sedative that is often used in sexual assaults. It is very easy to hide in drinks because it is tasteless, colorless, and odorless.

“A stressful change in life patterns can trigger a depressive episode. Such stressful events may include a serious loss, a difficult relationship, trauma, or financial problems.” Ben Martin, Psy.D.

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