Prescription depressants can be called downers and these come in multi-coloured tablets and capsules or in liquid form. Depressants have categories and these are given because of the effects of the drug after intake.
Barbiturates, these are used as sedatives and sleeping pills, Amytal, Nambutal and Seconal fall into this category.
Major tranquillisers or antipsychotics, these are supposed to reduce the symptoms of mental illness, the likes of Haldol, Seroquel and Zyprexa.
Benzodiazepines, commonly called “benzos”, relaxes the muscles and calm mental excitement.
Depressants have short term and long term effects, higher doses can cause impairment of memory, judgement and co-ordination, irritability, paranoia (suspicion or fear of other people) and suicidal thoughts. Some people experience the opposite such as agitation or aggression. Using sedatives (drugs used to calm or soothe) and tranquillisers with other substances, particularly alcohol, can cause slow breathing, low heart rate and can lead to death.
Tolerance to many depressants can develop rapidly with many depressants needed to achieve the same effect, the user trying to get the effect may increase the dose to a level that results in a coma or death by overdose.
Long term use of depressants can produce depression, chronic fatigue, breathing difficulties, sexual problems and sleeping problems. As dependency on the drug increases, cravings, anxiety or panic are common if the user is unable to get more.
Withdrawal effects include insomnia, weakness and nausea, for continued high dose use, agitation, high body temperature, delirium hallucinations and convulsions can occur.
Unlike withdrawals from other drugs, withdrawal from depressants can be life threatening.
Opioids and morphine derivatives are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain.
Continued use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, their short term effects include drowsiness, slowed breathing, constipation, unconsciousness, nausea and coma.
Continued use or abuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and addiction. The body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal effects occur if use is stopped or reduced.
These include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhoea, vomiting, tolerance may occur leading to increased doses.
These long and short term effects are the ones that keep a person hooked and professional help is needed to help one come off these substances.
Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist. For more information and help call or whatsapp +263772399734 or email [email protected] and join the Rechabites in creating a drug-free society.