Commonly Abused Prescription and OTC Drugs: Depressants


Depressants are drugs that slow the brain’s function, and are normally prescribed to relieve anxiety or encourage sleep. From a clinical standpoint, depressants can be very helpful to the people who need them; these drugs become a way for these patients to somehow get their lives back and lead healthier, happier lives. Unfortunately, depressants are among the drugs that are subject to abuse. These drugs are sometimes used by people who do not need them – or needed them once, but do not need them anymore.

pillsWhat depressants are usually being abused? A feature on WebMD also shows us photos of these drugs.

Barbiturates. Examples of barbiturates include Phenobarbital, Mebaral, Seconal and Nembutal. While these drugs are helpful when taken as prescribed, they can be addictive. If they are taken in conjunction with certain drugs or with alcohol, it can bring about a slowing of the heart and of breathing, which can be fatal. Common slang words for barbiturates are “barbs,” “reds,” red birds,” “phennies,” “tooies,” “yellows,” and “yellow jackets.”

Benzodiazepines. Valium and Xanax both fall under this type of depressant; these are drugs that are normally prescribed to treat anxiety, acute stress reactions, panic attacks, convulsions, and sleep disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) noted that withdrawal from benzodiazepines is potentially “problematic,” but not usually life-threatening.

Sleep medicines. Newer sleep medicines called nonbenzodiazepines include the drugs Ambien, Sonata and Lunesta. According to NIDA, sleep medicines are not as addictive as other depressants; we realize, however, that based on the various news reports that we encounter on a daily basis, these drugs are among the more commonly abused medicines.

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