When it comes to recovery from drug addiction and substance abuse, understanding various categories and types of drugs matters. Many addictive drugs fall into the categories of stimulants or depressants. The symptoms, risk factors and patterns of addiction may be different when considering stimulants vs depressants.
Identifying Stimulants and Depressants
Some stimulants and depressants are prescription drugs with a known medical use, while others are illicit substances. You can become addicted to prescription stimulants and depressants if used in a way not prescribed by a doctor. This includes taking higher doses than prescribed or taking the drug more often than recommended. It might also mean altering the form or method of delivery, such as crushing prescription pills and snorting or injecting the drug to get a quicker high.
Common stimulants include the ADHD drugs Adderall and Ritalin as well as the illegal drugs cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamines. Nicotine in cigarettes and the caffeine in coffee are also considered stimulants.
Heroin and opioid prescription drugs, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, belong to one category of depressants. These types of depressants have painkilling effects along with the relaxing high that users often experience. Another category of depressants, benzodiazepines, is sometimes prescribed to relieve stress and panic attacks. Barbiturates are used to treat anxiety and severe sleep disorders. Alcohol is also considered a depressant.
Stimulants are sometimes referred to as uppers, while depressants might be called downers because of their respective actions in the body.
Characteristics of Depressants
Depressants slow down the actions of the central nervous system, so people who take depressants experience feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Physical symptoms of depressant use might include:
- Slowed heart rate
- Slowed breathing rate
- Sluggish digestion
In some cases, depressant use can cause unconsciousness or death if the heart and lungs slow down so much that the body cannot function normally anymore. Using multiple depressants at the same time increases the risk of deadly consequences. This includes mixing alcohol with other depressants.
Characteristics of Stimulants
Stimulants work by increasing the activity of the brain and certain systems in the body. Some symptoms of stimulant use include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Excess sweating
- Irregular breathing
- Tremors or convulsions
- Panic attacks
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
When the high from stimulants eventually fades, some users experience feelings of depression and exhaustion. Overuse of stimulants might also cause heart failure or stroke.
Similarities Between Stimulant and Depressant Addiction
While the specific symptoms of depressant and stimulant use differ, the overall pattern of addiction is similar. Addiction to either type of drug develops when someone develops a physical or psychological craving for the substance. This often occurs as a result of illicit drug use or from taking a prescription drug improperly. However, some people develop an addiction even when they take a prescription depressant or stimulant exactly as prescribed.
Someone who is addicted to drugs might lose interest in regular activities and become focused on obtaining more of the drug. Physical dependence develops when the body starts becoming used to the drug and higher or more frequent doses are required to get the same effect.
A person addicted to depressants or stimulants might experience withdrawal symptoms once drug use stops. Withdrawal from some depressants can cause life-threatening seizures, which makes medical monitoring during withdrawal essential.
Recovery from Stimulants Vs Depressants
A comprehensive rehab program can successfully treat addiction to both stimulants and depressants. Rehabilitation from drug abuse and addiction might include a combination of treatment options, such as individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and 12-step programs. A period of detoxification and withdrawal might be necessary before treatment can begin.
If you have any co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression, treatment for these things often goes hand in hand with rehab for drug addiction. When you enter a drug treatment program, part of the initial admissions process is an assessment of any conditions you might have that could complicate treatment.
After participating in a residential treatment program for stimulant or depressant abuse, you might have follow-up outpatient therapy sessions or support group meetings to help keep you on track and prevent relapses. Contact Recovery Works to find out more about our residential rehab programs for substance abuse and to talk to an admissions specialist to determine whether you are eligible for admission to the centre.