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Understanding Addiction to Depressants and the Effects

Many people are given prescription medications by their doctor and never stop to wonder if they are addictive. Depressants are a valuable method of treatment for those who need them, but they are a class of drug that can lead to addiction. It’s important to understand how these drugs work and why you might need treatment.

What are Depressants?

Depressants are drugs that depress certain areas of the nervous system to help a person relax. They are often given to people who suffer from mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. They may be prescribed for seizures and convulsions. This is more of a class of drugs rather than one particular type of drug.

People who take depressants may sell them to dealers on the street for the money. Others will go to dealers to get more of these drugs if they can't get a prescription or if the amount their taking stops working.

Depressants are often referred to as "downers" on the street. They can come in multi-colored tablets or capsules, and sometimes they come in liquid form. Depressants vary in their potency, and some forms are stronger than others, even in smaller dosages. They are usually prescribed by a doctor, but there are some that are able to be made and sold on the black market.

Some common street names include:

  • Barbs
  • Candy
  • Phennies
  • Red Birds
  • Tooies
  • Tranks
  • Yellow Jackets or Yellows

Depressants drugs are sold under several different brand names, and types of depressants include:

  • Ativan
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Celexa
  • Cipralex
  • Halcion
  • Klonopin
  • Lexapro
  • Librium
  • Seroquel
  • Tranquilizers
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Zoloft

How Abuse of Depressants Leads to Addiction

To understand how addiction works in the body, it's important to know some basic abuse facts first. It can help to know the difference between abuse and addiction.

The definition refers to the act of taking depressants in a way other than how they were intended. It can mean taking higher doses without a doctor's consent, taking them more frequently than prescribed, or taking them for longer than necessary. It can also mean taking them without a prescription.

A person who is abusing the drug will often want it for the feeling it gives them rather than just to treat a condition. They will think about it even when they aren't using, and will often use even when it has bad consequences. Drug abuse doesn't always lead to addiction, but it increases the likelihood that someone will become addicted to a prescribed depressant medication.

An addiction to depressants occurs once abuse has become a pattern. The body becomes used to having the drug, and if is stopped, withdrawal symptoms can begin.

Drug abuse statistics tell us that 2.2 million people have abused depressants in their lifetimes. It is very easy for that abuse to develop into an addiction. The body adjusts its systems to accommodate the medication, and when the medication is missing, it sends out warnings that it needs more. These warnings are withdrawal symptoms that become increasingly uncomfortable and even painful until you will do anything to get more of the drug.

There are many short-term side effects of depressants, and these can occur any time after they've been started, or once drug abuse begins. Side effects can include:

  • Slower than normal brain function
  • Lowering of the blood pressure
  • Difficulty with concentration and focus
  • Feeling fatigued or sluggish
  • Slurring speech
  • Slower pulse and breathing rates

If these symptoms become more severe, it's possible that addiction has taken place, and you may want to consider drug addiction treatment programs to stop using them safely.

It doesn't take long before you can develop a tolerance to depressants, and when this happens, larger doses are needed to experience any relief from your symptoms. However, this is when addiction can take place. Many people are in denial that they're addicted to depressants, and for them, it can help to understand some of the more common depressants addiction signs, including:

  • Depression
  • Chronically feeling fatigued
  • Problems with breathing
  • Sexual dysfunction issues
  • Sleep difficulties, including nightmares and insomnia

These and other symptoms are clear indicators that there is a need for drug rehab to get help.

Depending on the type of drug that has been used, overdose warning signs may be very different. An overdose can be fatal, and quite often, overdoses happen when someone has tried to stop using a drug on their own, found that they weren't able to, and then gone back to their normal dosage. Tolerance levels can change very rapidly, and from the moment of your last dose, your tolerance starts to adjust. If enough time has passed, your tolerance level decreases, which is what puts so many people at a high risk of overdosing.

Some of the warning signs of overdose include:

  • Dramatically slowed or stopped breathing
  • No pulse, or a very low heart rate or blood pressure
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Fainting or becoming unconscious
  • Having difficulty speaking
  • Losing coordination or falling down
  • Excessive sweating with a very low body temperature

Anyone who abuses depressants is at a high risk of overdose; and this is especially true if that person has decided to try and stop using them. The best way to guard against depressants overdose is to seek immediate help from a depressants rehab. It is best to intervene before the addiction becomes fatal.

Depressants and Co-occurring Disorders

Depressants are often prescribed to treat mental health conditions. This is just one of the reasons patients are at an increased risk of developing an addiction. People who have a mental health disorder will often try to treat the symptoms on their own. If they receive a prescription medication, they may take more than prescribed or more often.

Depressant Addiction and the Resulting Effects

People who suffer from a mental condition and addiction have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring or co-existing disorders. Many times, it's difficult to get people with this condition to seek help because they think they are handling things. Often, they do well at functioning normally while they are using and no one knows what's going on. However, in time it will be impossible to hide the addiction because it may make the symptoms of the mental health disorder worse.

Getting treatment for both conditions is essential for recovery for the person with a dual diagnosis. Many drug treatment centers offer programs for those with co-occurring disorders. They receive therapy for both conditions and may even be prescribed medication for the symptoms of the mental health condition.

A dual diagnosis (or co-occurring disorder) can happen with any drug addiction and mental health disorder, but it becomes even more common when you're treating a mental condition with an addictive medication. It's important to disclose any personal or family history of mental illness to your doctor and to not try to treat yourself if you suspect you have such a condition.

Treating Addiction

The first step in any treatment plan is to get the drugs out of your system. You will need to stop taking the depressants so your body can return to normal function. This isn't always as easy as it sounds, especially for someone who has been a long-term addict.

This process is known as detoxification, and it shouldn't be tried on your own. It may seem like such a simple thing to stop taking your depressants, but it can have serious consequences. Your body has come to depend on these drugs to function, and it will present with symptoms of withdrawal when you stop taking them. This can be a serious situation to try to attempt alone.

Because many people who use depressants never really intend to become addicted to them, their addiction comes as quite a shock. For that reason, addicts will frequently stop using them abruptly on their own. This "cold turkey" method is never a good idea because it can cause all kinds of withdrawal symptoms. These might include:

  • Difficulty sleeping at night and fatigue during the day
  • Feeling weak in the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Becoming very agitated
  • Experiencing a high body temperature
  • Symptoms of delirium
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Onset of convulsions

There have been occasions when stopping depressants abruptly has led to death because of severe medical complications that arose from doing so. A drug addict should never try to stop taking depressants without getting professional help to do so. It's usually necessary to wean off these types of medications, and protective measures can be used to guard against any medical complications. Also, if an emergency situation does occur, help is immediately available when the drugs are stopped in a controlled and monitored environment.

Instead of going it alone, you need to find a detox facility. You'll receive 24-hour support as your body readjusts to normal functioning without the assistance of drugs. The staff will monitor your condition and take steps to prevent serious side effects of the withdrawal. If a medical emergency would happen, you would receive help right away.

Two methods of detox exist for drug addiction. You may be interested in medical detox, which uses specific medications to help reduce or prevent withdrawal. While this sound appealing to the addict, it does have some downsides. For one thing, you'll extend your period of treatment because the medications being used will need to be withdrawn as well.

Another concern with medical detox is the risk for another addiction. Many of the drugs used in these situations are also addictive while less severe than what you're using. However, you're still at an increased risk for addiction when you go this route.

The second method of detoxing is using a holistic approach. Instead of taking medications, the facility will develop a nutritional program to help you get the nutrients you need for optimal functioning. You also will likely start exercising daily because it helps the body get rid of toxins faster. It also sends endorphins to the brain much like the drugs so you can experience a natural high that isn't bad for you.

You can talk to your therapist and discuss which option is best for you. Detoxing will take about a week, but the timeline will depend on how long you've been using depressants and which one as well as whether you've been combining it with other drugs.

Once you've completed detox, it's time to deal with your addiction. You'll probably feel pretty good and think you're cured and ready to go on with your life. However, drug addiction is not a disease that can be cured. Instead, it's a condition you learn to manage, and drug addiction treatment is the way to accomplish this goal.

You'll find there are several different types of programs available to help you with your addiction. You need to understand your options and choose the one that best fits your situation.

Inpatient treatment programs are popular and well-known by most people. You go to a rehab facility and spend up to 30 days in treatment. This option is ideal for the person who has a serious addiction problem and very little support. It allows you to focus on your recovery with no distractions. It also keeps you away from triggers and negative influences until you're equipped to handle them.

If you have a long-term addiction or you've relapsed more than once, you may be a candidate for a residential treatment program. You stay at the facility just like with inpatient care, but the time is much longer. You can be there for several months until you're ready to face the world on your own.

Another option is an outpatient program. With this type of treatment, you attend therapy a certain number of times each week while managing your other responsibilities. You still get the same treatment, but you don't have to stay at the facility. Outpatient programs are ideal for people with a minor addiction or those who have been abusing a drug but haven't become addicted yet. It's also beneficial for people who have children or jobs to consider.

If you need the flexibility of an outpatient program with more therapy and monitoring of inpatient rehab, you may be interested in intensive outpatient treatment. You will spend more time in therapy, even going every day if your plan recommends it. However, you can still work around a job and be at home at night with the family.

For any outpatient program to work, you must have a strong support network and be able to get away from those who influenced you in the wrong direction. Otherwise, you'll have difficulty maintaining recovery.

What Will Happen in Treatment?

A primary concern for many addicts who are considering entering a rehab program is what will happen while they're there. Even if you have some idea of what to expect, you can't base those expectations off what you see in movies or read about. It's important to get the facts about rehab before you choose a drug addiction center.

First, you'll attend therapy – both individual counseling and group meetings. This is an important aspect of your recovery and one you must take seriously. You may be embarrassed to admit you became addicted to a prescription drug, but you don't need to feel that way. You'll quickly discover you aren't alone and there's nothing wrong with you for falling into this trap.

It's also in therapy where you'll learn how to manage your addiction. You'll develop skills to help you recognize potential issues and triggers and find positive ways of dealing with problems. This may sound boring, but you might be surprised to find that many different activities constitute therapy. You may go hiking or attend a yoga class. You may work with animals or work in a garden. There may be social activities among your group to help you learn how to have fun without the aid of drugs.

Depending on your situation, you may be prescribed medication to deal with your addiction. If the drug abuse is part of a dual diagnosis, you'll need to find a different medication to manage the mental health disorder. This is one of the components of treatment for people who were prescribed a depressant for a medical condition. If their condition hasn't gone away, they will still need to seek treatment while realizing the impact their addiction will have on the choices they are given.

Health and wellness is also a big part of many drug addiction treatment programs. Instead of just focusing on the addiction, the treatment plan works with the whole person. Nutrition is an essential component to living a healthy life after treatment. Many times, a person doesn't eat the right foods and lacks the proper nutrients. A condition develops which leads them to turn to drugs.

Exercise is the other component to health and wellness. Working out provides a positive way to deal with stress so that it doesn't impact your health.

You may practice journaling in treatment or you may get involved in programs like art or music therapy where you can express your emotions without words. It's important to learn how to deal with your feelings so you won't be as tempted to turn to addictive substances.

When looking at the various programs available in your area, think about all these components. You want a well-rounded treatment plan to help you learn how to live a happy and healthy life once you leave the program.

Depressant Addiction and the Resulting Effects

Getting Help for Your Addiction in Washington State

Whether you have only recently realized that you're addicted to depressants, or this is something you have known for a very long time, getting professional help is the best thing you can do for yourself. Depressants can be dangerous when they've been taken for too long, or used incorrectly, and it's vital for you to stop them when it is safe to do so.

Northpoint Recovery provides a modern facility with a small ratio of patients to staff so you can get the necessary attention to begin your journey to recovery. We provide individualized treatment programs that address your unique needs. We also offer a variety of treatment methods to help you learn how to manage your addiction and avoid relapse in the future.

Another benefit of choosing our treatment program is that we help you create a support network to encourage you when you need it and to cheer you on with your successes. You'll quickly come to feel like a part of a community where everyone is dedicated to each other's successes. We also invite you to reach out to the local community because we believe it's important for every person to have a purpose in life. Our holistic approach has enabled us to help many recovering addicts begin a new life, and we'll help you as well with your goal of sobriety.

Drug addiction treatment options exist that can help you, and here at Northpoint Recovery, we've helped many people stop their use of depressants the right way so that they can enjoy a successful recovery. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you, please contact us.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist Today

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Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

Our facilities currently open for services:

Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Boise, Idaho.

Northpoint Recovery

Our National Medical Detox and Inpatient Addiction Facility.

The Evergreen at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Washington State.