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What Are the Different Types of Central Nervous System Depressants?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Image By: J E Theriot
  • Last Modified Date: 01 March 2019
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Different types of central nervous system depressants include benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Central nervous system depressants are drugs that reduce the activity of the brain or certain body parts. They are generally prescribed to treat sleep disturbances and anxiety. People can become dependent on central nervous system depressants, so their use needs to be strictly monitored by the health care provider. Alternative methods of anxiety and sleep disorders should be discussed with the health care provider before beginning treatment.

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed central nervous system depressants and are otherwise known as tranquilizers, anxiolytic medications, and anti-anxiety medications. These medications produce rapid relief from symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, however, they can produce side effects such as extreme drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, and blurred vision. These medications are only recommended for short periods of time, and those taking them should not drive or operate dangerous machinery. People can quickly build up a tolerance to these types of central nervous system depressants and may need higher dosages to produce similar results.

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Barbiturates or sedatives are prescribed to treat sleep disturbances and anxiety disorders, and although effective in treating certain conditions, they can be highly addictive. Those who take barbiturates often notice immediate relief from anxiety and insomnia, however, sometimes they find that they need to increase their dosage to achieve the same result they received from the lower dosage. This is a serious problem and becomes very dangerous to the person, who is at risk for addiction and overdose.

Alcohol is another central nervous system depressant and is consumed in the form of liquor, beer, wine, and mixed drinks. The effects of alcohol on the central nervous system include decreased respiration, decrease heart rate, confusion, loss of muscle tone, and memory problems. Disrupted sleep and taste and smell problems can also occur as a result of alcohol consumption. Morphine and codeine are also powerful depressants of the central nervous system, and are typically used to treat pain.

Alternative treatments for anxiety include talking with a mental health professional and taking antidepressant medications. These medications work to increase the level of a chemical called serotonin in the brain and are not considered central nervous system depressants. Alternatives to morphine and codeine-based pain relievers include anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and other pain medications that are acetaminophen based.

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