Depressants and Stimulants

When it comes to drugs of abuse, depressants and stimulants are among the most common. Stimulants are drugs that produce an increase in physical and mental activity by stimulating the nervous system, whereas depressants are those which depress the nervous system. If you are struggling to stop taking these drugs, an alcohol or prescription drug addiction treatment program can help you reclaim control of your life and move forward.

Understand the Effects of Depressants

Depressants are a class of drugs that cause depression in the central nervous system.

Contrary to what many people think, depressants do not make you feel depressed. In fact, many people who struggle with depression develop a habit of abusing depressants because they help to numb the related pain and emotional discomfort.

Types of Depressants

Most depressants are characterized by being relaxing or sedating. Here are a few examples of drugs that can be classified as depressants.


Alcohol is far and above the most common depressant. It is readily available, heavily marketed, and popular in nearly every country in the world. It is also partly responsible for the common misunderstanding that depressants cause depressive behavior.

Despite being classified as a depressant, alcohol often causes people to behave in an emotionally unstable manner. It is not uncommon for intoxicated people to behave in self-destructive or harmful ways or to experience fits of crying, anger, or guilt—all common symptoms of depression.

While these symptoms may be similar to those of depression, they are more often a result of alcohol decreasing an individual’s inhibitions. This allows them to express emotions that they would otherwise be repressing.

Medically, alcohol is considered a depressant because of the way that it affects the central nervous system. Alcohol tends to lower blood pressure and decrease the rate of breathing.


Opiates are very powerful sedating drugs that can range in intensity from fairly mild to extremely potent. Mild opiates such as codeine may be included in some over-the-counter medications. When using these drugs, there is a very low risk of dangerous respiratory depression.

However, more powerful opiates like oxycodone and heroin can cause serious respiratory depression. With these drugs, there is a very real risk of overdosing due to extreme respiratory depression.

Opiates are also known for being very addictive. When you become addicted to opiates, you will develop withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly try to stop using them. These symptoms are similar to those of a very serious flu. You may experience shaking, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, and changes in body temperature.


Benzodiazepines (benzos) are another class of central nervous system depressants. They are most commonly prescribed by doctors to help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Benzos are also useful for helping to prevent seizures.

People who struggle with anxiety or seizures often have an imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters. When your body becomes overwhelmed by excitatory neurotransmitters, you may develop physical symptoms like twitching, shaking, or seizures.  Benzodiazepines produce relaxation by inhibiting, or slowing, the activity of these stimulating neurotransmitters.

However, this is also one of the reasons that withdrawal from benzodiazepines and alcohol can be so dangerous. When your body becomes dependent on these drugs to produce GABA, it tends to stop producing GABA on its own. This means that when you stop taking these drugs, your body will be even more out of balance than it was before.

This extreme imbalance can lead to overexcitation which causes serious withdrawal symptoms including seizures. Benzos also carry a serious risk of respiratory depression, especially when combined with other depressants. There is a high risk of overdosing on benzodiazepines, but combining them with alcohol is extremely dangerous.

The Effects of Stimulants

Stimulants are a class of drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. Stimulants are all marked by similar characteristics. They tend to make people hyper-energetic, more talkative, and more motivated while causing physical symptoms like increased blood pressure, sweating, and agitation.

Many stimulants cause a release of dopamine in the brain. As such, many of them are very addictive. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of motivation, happiness, and excitement. Drugs that stimulate this pathway are notoriously addictive, especially if the people using them are trying to mask an underlying condition such as depression or fatigue.

Common Stimulants

Here are some examples of common stimulants.


Cocaine is a fairly short-acting stimulant that is a popular drug of abuse. Most of its effects last no longer than an hour. Cocaine is often cut with other stimulants, however, which may prolong its effects.

Cocaine is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor. This means that it prevents dopamine from being taken out of the neural pathway as it would normally be. This causes high amounts of dopamine to continue to bombard the receptors, causing feelings of extreme euphoria.

As the effects begin to wear off and dopamine is moved out of the brain cells, people often experience a very intense comedown. The down from cocaine is very much the opposite of its initial effects. People may become lethargic, depressed, anxious, and unmotivated.

Cocaine is not known to cause a serious physical addiction. However, it can create changes in neural pathways that can have long-lasting effects. Long-term use of dopamine drugs can interrupt the flow of dopamine through the brain and make it difficult for people to find enjoyment in activities like socializing or their hobbies.


Amphetamines are one of the most commonly used types of stimulants. They are popular in both the medical community, which uses them as medication for ADHD, and in the recreational community.

In either case, amphetamines function by releasing large amounts of dopamine into the brain. This is different from cocaine, which causes your brain to overuse the dopamine that is already being produced.

However, the effects are similar. Amphetamines often cause an increase in mood, chattiness, and energy. While the basic effects are often similar, each amphetamine has its own unique properties. Here are some examples of common amphetamines and their differences.

Treating Addiction to Depression and Stimulants

If you find yourself addicted to stimulants or depressants, it makes sense to pursue a recovery sooner rather than later.  It’s important to know the treatment from these different types of drugs can be quite a bit different.

  • Addiction treatment for depressants – Depressants are usually much more physically addictive than stimulants. This means that they will often require a more intensive treatment protocol. Depressants are more likely to require detox than stimulants.
  • Treatment for stimulant addiction – Most stimulants do not cause serious physical dependence. While they might cause changes in the brain that can take a while to undo, these are not the same as physical withdrawal symptoms. Many of these symptoms manifest as post-acute withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression.

After any necessary detox, rehab in an inpatient or outpatient program will begin. There, you will be able to talk with counselors and other people in recovery about your experiences. There, you can learn more about how to cope with cravings, manage stressors, and better handle difficult situations.

Addiction Treatment at BlueCrest Recovery

Depressants and stimulants are two of the most commonly-abused classes of drugs. Depressants are often physically addictive and can cause serious withdrawal symptoms. Stimulants are generally psychologically addictive.

If you or a loved one are addicted to depressants or stimulants, contact BlueCrest Recovery today by calling 888.292.9652 to learn more about our New Jersey treatment programs.

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