Depressants are often medically prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety, tension, insomnia, muscle spasms, and irritability. However, depressants are also abused for their intoxicating effects. They are obtained by theft, through illegal prescriptions, or they are purchased on the illicit market.

Drugs included in this classification are chloral hydrate, barbiturates, glutethimide, methaqualone (Quaaludesr), benzodiazepines, and antianxiety or sedative drugs such as Valium®, Miltown®, and Equanil®. Depressants are produced in pill or capsule form.

If your teenager is abusing depressants, he or she may appear to be in a state of intoxication much like that of alcohol, with impaired judment, inebriation, slurred speech, and loss of motor coordination. Other symptoms include a weak and rapid pulse, slow or rapid but shallow breathing, and cold and clammy skin.

As with narcotics, the body acquires a need for increased doses of depressants in order to achieve the same high. If your teenager is unaware of an increased dependency on depressants, he or she may increase their intake to dangerous, toxic levels in order to achieve the same intoxicating effects, Mixing depressants with alcohol is a particularly dangerous combination that can cause an overdose and death.

Withdrawal from depressants can be extreme, After 24 hours without the drug, symptoms such as anxiety and agitation may develop, Depending on the potency of the drug, withdrawal will peak between two to eight days, causing appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, increased heart rate, and excessive sweating, Some severe symptoms of withdrawal may be delirium, convulsions, and in some cases, death.

Be aware that you may have prescription depressants in your medicine cabinet, such as Librium®, Xanax®, Valium®, Dalmane®, and Doriden®, that have the potential to be abused by your child.


Barbiturates were once among the most widely used depressants, prescribed by doctors to induce relaxation and sleep. Like other depressants, barbiturates are sold on the illicit market or are legally prescribed to addicts by physicians.

The three most abused barbiturates are Nembutalr, Seconalr, and Amytalr, which are capsules or pills that may be red, blue, yellow, or white. Their street names include downers, barbs, red devils, blue devils, and yellows. They are usually sold in plastic bags or pill bottles. Barbiturates are taken orally and their effects may last up to six hours.

The physical effects of barbiturates include intoxication much like that of alcohol, slurred speech, and disorientation. An overdose can cause dilated pupils, shallow breathing, clammy skin, weak and rapid pulse, coma, and death.
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