What is Depressant Substance Abuse?

Educate Yourself & Get the Proper Treatment

About Depressant Substance Abuse, Symptoms, & Causes

What are Depressants? Depressants are substances that slow down our central nervous system and make us more relax. When we take a depressant we sometimes can feel in a daze (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014). Depressants can be found in everyday life settings such as alcohol or prescribed sedatives and tranquilizers. Many people use depressants, whether it’s drinking alcohol at a party or taking sedative medication to get some sleep. If monitored correctly, depressants will usually have little affects. Yet when it comes to large amounts depressants can have physical, mental, and emotional effects on a person. If you or someone you know are showing symptoms of substance abuse, by reading this flyer you will be able to understand substance abuse of depressants and how to receive proper treatment.

Many people that drink alcohol will act differently. They may seem more relaxed, self- confident, jubilant, or less inhibited. So how do you know when alcohol may be a problem? High dosage of alcohol can cause symptoms of depression, fatigue, lethargy, decreased motivation, sleep disturbance, and confusion. Some people will slur their words, walk unsteadily, and have trouble paying attention or remembering things (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014). When someone is extremely intoxicated they can fall into a coma/ stupor. Once they become sober they might have amnesia of events that happened while they were intoxicated. Such high dosages of alcohol can have health effects and can be fatal (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan,2014).

Intoxication depends on your body type and gender. Women are more likely to be less tolerant of alcohol than men are. This is mostly because of the difference between the genders physical builds. To each person it differs in the amounts a person can tolerate. In many cases men are more likely to build a higher tolerance to alcohol. They might not feel the effects of alcohol, yet they don’t realize that they can become dependent on it and if they were to stop drinking they would experience withdrawal symptoms. Many people that experience withdrawal symptoms will first and most likely feel shaky, weak, have perfused perspiration, anxiety, headaches, nausea, or abdominal cramping. Some people might go further and start experiencing seizures or hallucinations (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014).

Similar to alcohol, Benzodiazepines (BZD) and barbiturates depresses the nervous system to make a person feel more relax. Addiction to sedatives has the same withdrawal and intoxication symptoms of alcoholism where a person can experience a euphoric episode and then be become depressed. Sedative drugs are prescribed medications that are used to help with anxiety or insomnia. Examples of sedatives are Xanax, Valium, Halicon, Librium, Klonpin, and Seconal. High dosages of tranquilizers can cause health problems such as low blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate and can be dangerous if combined with alcohol (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014).

Sedatives are a one of the most common prescribed drugs given out in hospitals and in clinics. Research has shown that around 90% of patients in hospitals are prescribed sedatives. Many times sedatives end up on the black market and are most likely abused (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014). One of the most common areas of abuse of sedative medication is within elderly people. Unintentionally, doctors are willingly giving out prescribed BZD to many elderly people. Therefore, they can become reliant on these sedatives and start to build a tolerance. Many elderly people will start slurring their words and can be come delirious due to withdrawal of the medication. Research has shown that elderly single people that are ages 75 and older, and/or suffering from three of more disease are more likely to abuse BZDs (Voyer, P et al.).


Do you feel like you are experiencing these symptoms? There are many reliable treatment options and rehabilitation clinics for you yet in order to receive proper treatment. You can pick a treatment option that you feel most comfortable with for you must be motivated to get the help you. Some medication can help with alcoholism. BZD can reduce tremors and anxiety, decrease pulse and respiratory rate, and stabilize blood pressure. Yet giving out BZD can be tricky and needs to be given out in smaller dosages everyday so that patients can withdrawal from alcohol and not get addicted to BZD. Nalthexone is another medication that can block endorphins during drinking which can help with cravings. Acamprostate also can reduce cravings by targeting neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA which help maintain abstinences (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014).

Psychological therapies such as behavioral therapy or cognitive therapy are also used to help patients learn to avoid alcohol. Behavioral therapy uses conditioning methods to help patients associate alcohol consumption with negative reinforcements. Cognitive therapy helps the patient identify situations where they are most likely drink. The therapist will challenge their patients as to why alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014).

Alcoholics’ Anonymous (AA) meetings are support groups that can help you overcome addictions. The AA believes in complete abstinence and has a 12 step program in order to help you reach abstinence. There are group members that make themselves available to provide moral and social support if and when needed. You can find an AA meeting all across America and in your community (Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, 2014). You can log onto http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/find-local-aa to see where the nearest meeting is to you.

Myths and Misconception

Alcoholism or sedative abuse is not significant in the elderly and signs of alcohol abuse are more obvious in elderly people than in younger people.

- Over three million people over sixty five abuse alcohol. Signs of abuse are not very obvious because many people confuse them with signs of old age such as confusion, self- neglect, or falling (Krach, P, 1998).

Alcoholism is more prevalent in lower socioeconomic classes.

- No, alcoholic can be anybody and can hold respected jobs and received a high education. Only half of alcohol abuse is reported to be from people in lower socioeconomic classes (Messner R., & Lewis, S.J., 1994).

Anyone with three or more drinks a day is considered an alcoholic.

- A diagnosis of alcoholism is not based on the quantitive amounts yet rather on the side effects a person experienced that effect his or her job, relationships, and health (Messner R., & Lewis, S.J., 1994).

Alcoholism is a moral weakness

- Alcoholism is a disease and not a character flaw. Such stereotypes can be harmful for people that suffer from alcoholism (Messner R., & Lewis, S.J., 1994).

An alcoholic only hurts themselves.

- Around eight to thirteen people in the lives of alcoholics are affected by alcohol abuse (Messner R., & Lewis, S.J., 1994).

How Do I Know Which Therapist to Use?

When looking for a psychologist to go to it’s important to make sure that he or she has the proper credentials. A psychologist must obtain a doctorate degree from an accredited college/university. As part of a psychologist training, he or she must have supervised clinical internship experience and one year post-doctorate supervised (APA, 2016). The therapist also must have a state certification. You can search for a specific psychologist near you by logging onto http://locator.apa.org/.


Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan. (2014). Abnormal Psychology, 6th edition. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill Education

Voyer, P.,Preville, M., Martin, L.S., Roussel, M., Beland, S., & Berbiche, D. (2011) Factors Associated with Self- Rated Benxodiazephine Addictions Among Community- Dwelling Seniors, Journal of Addiction Nursing (Taylor & Francis Ltd) 22(1/2), 46-56 11p.

Krach, P. (1998) Myths & Facts About Alcohol Abuse In The Elderly, Nursing 28(2) 25, 231p.

Messner R., & Lewis, S.J. (1994) Myths & Facts About Alcoholism, Nursing 24(12) 69p.

American Psychological Association, How to Choose a Psychologist Retrieved on February 15, 2016: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/choose-therapist.aspx

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