Are Depressants More Dangerous than Stimulants

Depressants and stimulants are the two primary groups of drugs that encompass illicit, prescription, and legal substances. Where depressants slow down the nervous system, stimulants speed up neural activity. While each of these classes of drugs presents health risks, are depressants more dangerous than stimulants?

About Stimulants

Stimulants are substances that increase nerve activity in the central nervous system and the brain. The effects of stimulants are a boost of energy and enhanced mental clarity. In addition, the brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine, which causes feelings of euphoria.

Stimulants come in various forms. In fact, prescription stimulants, like Adderall, or Ritalin, contain amphetamine and do have medical uses. These include the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.

Illicit stimulants like cocaine, meth, and MDMA are used solely for recreational drug purposes and are much more powerful and dangerous. All stimulants have short-term effects, which prompts repeated use. Stimulants are highly addictive once the brain records the dopamine effects in its reward region causing drug cravings.

Dangers of Stimulants

It is due to their highly addictive properties that stimulants become very dangerous. Prescription stimulants are misused by students to increase scholastic performance, reducing their need for sleep and improving focus and concentration. Some people also 

misuse stimulants as a weight loss tool. In both cases, addiction can quickly develop.

Stimulants abuse carries several risks. These risks include:

  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Aggression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Nasal damage
  • Malnutrition
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Overdose

About Depressants

Depressants are substances that have the opposite effect on the brain, as they slow activity in the central nervous system. These drugs attach to the neurotransmitters and increase gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels. The effects of depressants include a sense of deep relaxation, mild euphoria, drowsiness, and sedation. 

Depressants include benzodiazepines (benzos), hypnotics, barbiturates, and alcohol.

Prescription depressants are used to treat anxiety disorder, insomnia, muscle spasms, and seizures. The depressants help these conditions by slowing the heart and breathing rates. Alcohol, on the other hand, is solely a recreational substance. All depressants can be habit forming, causing the person to develop a substance use disorder.

Dangers of Depressants

Just as with stimulants, the brain recognizes the dopamine effects of depressants and imprints them in the reward center. As tolerance to the substance rises, the person uses more of the substance to get the desired effect. This can result in addiction.

Dangers caused by abuse of depressants include:

  • Injuries and falls
  • Mental confusion
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Slowed heart rate and breathing rate
  • Liver disease
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Coma

Overdose Risk of Depressants and Stimulants

When asking, “Are depressants more dangerous than stimulants?” you must understand that both of these drug classes are risky. This is especially true when stimulants or depressants are combined with other substances.

For instance, about 80% of ER visits for benzos involve another substance, usually opioids or alcohol. Combining depressants enhances the impact on the respiratory system and can lead to overdose or death. Also, taking a high dose of any single depressant can also lead to respiratory failure and death. Binge drinking is one example of this.

The same can be said for combining stimulants, which can result in heart failure. Also, mixing a stimulant like cocaine with a depressant like alcohol is highly risky. In this case, the effects of each of the drugs are masked. This can lead the person to ingest more of the substances and then suffer an overdose.

Withdrawal: Depressants vs. Stimulants

Know that when pondering whether depressants more dangerous than stimulants, it isn’t only the drug use that is risky. Once addiction has taken hold, the dangers from withdrawal are also of concern. 

While withdrawal from stimulants carries some dangers, especially mental health risks, withdrawal from benzos or alcohol can be very risky. The potential risks for someone with a late stage alcoholic are such that the detox must be very closely monitored. This is because a serious withdrawal effect called the delirium tremens can be life threatening.

Benzo withdrawal is also very risky. For this reason, someone with a benzo addiction who enters recovery is put on a taper schedule. This is a two-week process where the person receives smaller and smaller doses as their system adjusts gradually. The tapering program helps reduce the severe withdrawal symptoms.

As you experience withdrawal symptoms, a medical detox program assists you by providing both medical and psychological support. The length of the detox depends on the substance and the addiction history, but one to two weeks is common.

Get Help for Stimulant or Depressant Abuse and Addiction

Both depressants and stimulants are dangerous. Both can lead to addiction, health problems, legal and financial problems, accidents, and death. If you have formed a dependence on either stimulants or depressants and wish to stop the drug, help is available.

After you have completed the detox, you will need to learn how to live your daily life without the substance. This is a process that requires time and patience, as you have to learn how to respond differently to triggers and cravings. The brain must be taught new patterns, which takes time.

The treatment phase of recovery will include these elements:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Exercise and nutrition
  • Education

The duration of the treatment program depends on the severity of the substance use disorder. Most addiction treatment programs, both outpatient and residential, accept insurance.

Pacific Bay Recovery Residential Treatment for Stimulant and/or Depressant Addiction

Pacific Bay Recovery is a leading provider of treatment for substance use disorder. If you were wondering, “Are depressants more dangerous than stimulants?” you are now aware that both drug classes present risks. If you are struggling with substance use disorder, please reach out to our team today for guidance at (619) 350-8220.

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