Substance Use Disorder: Depressants

Signs, Symptoms and Questions to Ask Yourself & Your Doctor

Alcohol, benzodiazephines and barbiturates are depressants that slow the central nervous system (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

The use of alcohol is acceptable in many societies as a social aid and within celebratory events, because alcohol, in low doses, makes one feel at ease and gives a confidence boost (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Benzodiazephines and barbiturates are prescribed sedatives necessary as treatment for anxiety and sleep issues, as well used in treating seizures (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

There are good and well-intentioned uses for these substances but when overused and abused, one may develop a substance use disorder (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

While depressants can cause one to feel relaxed and somewhat sleepy at the "normal" end of the spectrum, abnormality occurs when one overuses depressants, potentially leading to death. When substances interfere with normal life functioning, one may be slipping into an addition or dependency. Substance use that interrupts normal life functioning may affect family and social life, affect employment obligations and be the cause of legal consequences, such as driving while under the influence.

Criteria for Substance Use Disorder is as follows: preoccupation with using, controlling usage and obtaining the substance, not meeting social obligations, continued use despite hazardous results, and the build up of tolerance and withdrawal (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Questions to ask yourself or your doctor:

  • Is the use of a substance or substances affecting the personal relationships in my life, such as with my spouse, children, parents or significant other in a negative way?
  • Is my usage affecting my job performance in a negative way, such as missing work and showing up late?
  • Is my usage affecting my physical health in negative ways?
  • Am I experiencing negative financial and/or legal consequences as the result of my usage?
  • Am I self-medicating for underlying issues? (Scorzelli & Chaudhry, 2009).

Cultural, social and religious background may influence whether one will readily seek treatment for substance use disorder (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Historically, for mankind, substance use has been around for ages and the use of substances have built sub-cultures that advocate drug use (Singer, 2000). It wasn't until the detrimental effects on society that the term addiction was born around the 19th century (Singer, 2000). Thus history, tradition, gender and cultural stereotypes, background influence all can be deeply ingrained as obstacles in one's mind, potentially interfering with one seeking help (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014) (Singer, 2000).

Treatment can include medication in dealing with symptoms of withdrawal, but used alone may be as effective as when coupled with counseling or other psychological therapies (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Included in a successful treatment plan is inspiration from family and therapist, the learning of new coping skills, a change from a reinforcing environment and to "enhance support from non-using family and friends" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

In seeking treatment, here is what to look for in choosing a therapist:

Substance Abuse Counseling Certification in Michigan

Michigan has many different levels of certification as offered through the Alcohol Drug Abuse Certification Board of Michigan a non-governmental body. The three primary levels of certification are called Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor (CADC) and the Certified Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (CAADC).

Program Licensure
A Substance Abuse Treatment or Prevention License is required for any organization offering, or purporting to offer, Substance Abuse Treatment, Rehabilitation, or Prevention.

Substance Abuse Treatment Programs who receive funds through the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration are required to be accredited by one of six national bodies.

Certification is required for persons in specific job classifications that provide substance use disorder treatment or prevention services through the regional coordinating agency provider network. (The public sometimes refers to this as an "addiction counselor license.")
Certification codes include CCS, CADC, CAADC, CCJP, CCDP, CPS, and CPC –M.

Licensing, Certification and Training, (2014). Retrieved from,4612,7-132-2941_4871_48558-59278--,00.html

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Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology. (6th ed). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education.

Scorzelli, J. F., & Chaudhry, S. Z. (2009). Relationship between anxiety and addiction to a depressant drug. Journal Of Psychoactive Drugs, (1), 61.

Singer, M. (2012). Anthropology and addiction: an historical review. Addiction, 107(10), 1747-1755. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03879.x