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Depressants

Historically, people of almost every culture have used chemical agents to induce sleep, relieve stress, and alleviate anxiety. While alcohol is one of the oldest and most universal agents used for these purposes, hundreds of substances have been developed that produce central nervous system depression. These drugs have been referred to as downers, sedatives, hypnotics, minor tranquilizers, anxiolytics, and anti-anxiety medications. Unlike most other classes of drugs, depressants are rarely produced in laboratories. Generally, legitimate pharmaceutical products are diverted to the illicit market. A notable exception to this is a relatively recent drug of abuse, gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB).

The following tables shows the more commonly abused depressive drugs.

 
Drug NameStreet NamesChemicalClassificationForms
Alcohol liquor, wine, beer. ale. sherry. booze, Ever Clear, grain, hard cider, jack, shine, and assorted trade names Ethanol depressant (neural toxin) colorless liquid
Heroin Smack, Horse, Mud, Brown sugar, Junk, Black tar, and Big H Diacetylmorphine narcotic (opiate) White to dark-brown powder or tar-like substance
Codeine Empirin compound with codeine, Tylenol with codeine, Codeine in cough medicine (5alpha,6alpha)-7,8-Didehydro-4,5-epoxy-3-methoxy-
17-methylmorphinan-6-ol [naturally occurring opiate]
narcotic (opiate) Dark liquid varying in thickness, capsules, tablets
Barbiturates Downers, Barbs, Blue Devils, Red Devils, Yellow Jacket, Yellows, Nembutal, Tuinals, Seconal, Pentothal and Amytal various barbiturates Red, yellow, blue, or red and blue capsules
Hydrocodone Anexsia®, Hycodan®, Hycomine®, Lorcet®, Lortab®, Tussionex®, Tylox®, Vicodin®, and Vicoprofen® various synthetic narcotic Syrup, Tablets or capsules
Oxycodone OxyContin 4,5a-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one, dihydrohydroxycodeinone semisynthetic opioid tablets
Ketamine jet, super acid, Special "K", green, K, cat Valium (±)-2-(2-Chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino)cyclohexanone anesthetic clear liquid or white to off-white powder
Tranquilizers Valium, Librium, Miltown, Serax, Equanil, Miltown, and Tranxene benzodiazepines depressant tablets
Phencyclidine PCP, Hog, Angel Dust, Loveboat, Lovely
Phencyclidine anesthetic Liquid, white crystalline powder, pills, capsules
Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate GHB, Grievous Bodily Harm, Georgia Home Boy, Easy Lay, Liquid Ecstasy, Liquid X 4-Hydroxybutanoic acid depressant clear liquid
Rohypnol Roofies, Rophies, Roche, Forget-me Pill, Circles, Mexican Valium, Rib, Roach-2, Roopies, Rope, Ropies, Ruffies, and Roaches Flunitrazepam depressant tablets

In moderate amounts, barbiturates produce a state of intoxication that is remarkably similar to alcohol intoxication. Symptoms include slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, and impaired judgment. Depending on the dose, frequency, and duration of use, one can rapidly develop tolerance, physical dependence, and psychological dependence to barbiturates. With the development of tolerance, the margin of safety between the effective dose and the lethal dose becomes very narrow. That is, in order to obtain the same level of intoxication, the tolerant abuser may raise his or her dose to a level that may result in coma or death.

There are marked similarities among the withdrawal symptoms seen with most drugs classified as depressants. In the mildest form, the withdrawal syndrome may produce insomnia and anxiety, usually the same symptoms that initiated the drug use. With a greater level of dependence, tremors and weakness are also present, and in its most severe form, the withdrawal syndrome can cause seizures and delirium. Unlike the withdrawal syndrome seen with most other drugs of abuse, withdrawal from depressants can be life threatening.

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Last Updated: 5/19/14