Substance Abuse


Jerrad Christopher Baker College Online

What is a depressant?

A depressant is a substance that when ingested slows down the central nervous system (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). This leads to relaxation, decreased concentration, altered cognition and judgment (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Depressants include alcohol and prescription medications such as Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates. Over ingestion of these substances can lead to depression of the central nervous system and death (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Abuse of Depressants

Substance abuse is the use or over use of a substance that results in negative consequences despite social and legal implications. A person who has a substance abuse problem over time will increase the amount and frequency of substance ingestion (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Despite the craving for the substance, they may have feelings of wanting to decrease the quantity or frequency of taking the medication or alcohol (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). The abuser may spend a significant amount of time and resources to obtain the substance (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

The Center for Disease Control describes alcohol abuse as a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one’s health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work (CDC, 2015). Symptoms of alcohol intoxication include unstable mood, inappropriate behavior such as aggression and impaired cognition (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Frequent use of alcohol can lead to a physical dependence and withdraw when alcohol consumption is abruptly stopped. Symptoms of alcohol withdraw include diaphoresis, increased heart rate, tremors and more seriously delirium tremens (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Symptoms of intoxication from Benzodiazepines and Barbiturates include a feeling of euphoria, sleepiness, uncoordinated movements, unsteady gait and slurred speech (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). These medications also affect the central nervous system and overdose can lead to serious complications such as decreased respirations, heart rate and blood pressure (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). These complications can be potentially fatal causing respiratory and/or cardiac arrest (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Risk Factors for Developing Substance Abuse

Many causes can contribute to the development of a substance abuse disorder. Psychiatric factors include depression, anxiety and low self-esteem (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012). Behavioral risk factors that have been linked to substance abuse are maladaptive interpersonal relationships, aggression in childhood and legal troubles (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012). Using a substance prior to the age of 15 also increases the risk for developing an abuse disorder (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012). Family predisposition is also a factor in that genetics as well as family dysfunction can place a person at higher risk (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012). Genetic predisposition is linked to 40-60% of substance abuse risk factors (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012). Other important factors to note are demographics including male gender, inner city or rural residence, low socioeconomic status and difficulties with employment (Darbo & Driscoll, 2012).


It is important to seek medical advice when deciding to decrease or stop taking depressant medications. There can be serious adverse effects from abruptly stopping Benzodiazepines, Barbiturates or consuming alcohol. Cognitive behavior therapy is effective in treatment of substance abuse and relapse (Carroll & Onken, 2005). Cognitive behavior therapy is effective in treating both the abuse problem as well as underlying conditions that contribute to the disorder (Carroll & Onken, 2005). Other options for treatment include motivational psychology, family and couples therapy, drug counseling and medications (Carroll & Onken, 2005).

Abuse of depressants can lead to long-term behavioral complications. Repeated use of drugs such as Benzodiazepines, barbiturates and alcohol can lead to changes in the brain in the rewards region (Nestler, 2013). This is why it is important to seek treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Myths and Facts

1) Drug addiction is a more serious problem than alcohol.

Fact: alcohol causes more problems than heroin or crack cocaine.

2) Drug addicts are bad people.

Fact: People from all backgrounds, religious and political beliefs can be affected.

3) Once an addict always an addict.

Fact: There are many success stories of those who have overcome addiction.

Retrieved from:


Carroll, K. & Onken, S. (2005). Behavioral Therapies for Drug Abuse. The American

Journal of Psychiatry Vol 162 (8). Retrieved from

Center for Disease Control (CDC). (2015). Alcohol and Public Health. Retrieved


Darbro, N. & Driscoll, K. (2012). Substance Abuse: Risk Factors and Protective

Factors. Journal of Nursing Regulation Vol 3 (1). Retrieved from



Nesteler, E. (2013). Epigenetic mechanisms of drug addiction. Neuropharmacology

vol 76 (b). Retrieved from

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education:

New York, NY.