Depressants are psychoactive drugs which temporarily diminish the function or activity of a specific part of the body or mind. Examples of these kinds of effects may include anxiolysis, sedation, and hypotension. Due to their effects typically having a “down” quality to them, depressants are also occasionally referred to as “downers“. Stimulants or “uppers“, which increase mental and/or physical function, are in stark contrast to depressants and are considered to be their functional opposites. Depressants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines and as illicit substances of recreational abuse.

Depressants are substances which slow down the normal function of the central nervous system. These drugs include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. Marijuana and some inhalants are also depressants.

Barbiturates are a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. Commercial names include Amytal, Nembutal, and Phenobarbital.

Benzodiazepines (other than Flunitrazepam) are commonly prescribed as tranquilizers. These drugs are among the most widely prescribed medications in the US. Commercial names include Valium and Xanax.

Flunitrazepam, commercially known as Rohypnol, is a sedative associated with sexual assaults. This drug is not sold in the US, but may be brought in from other countries. Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is illegal in the US due to its sedative properties and frequent abuse in sexual assaults.

Short-term effects

The use of depressants can result in a slowed pulse and breathing, slurred speech, drowsiness, lowered blood pressure, poor concentration, fatigue and confusion, as well as impaired coordination, memory and judgment.

Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) may cause visual and gastrointestinal disturbances, urinary retention, and temporary memory loss.

Long-term effects

Prolonged or heavy abuse of depressants can result in addiction, impaired sexual function, chronic sleep problems, respiratory depression and respiratory arrest, and death.

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