Understanding Depressants – Barbiturates, Tranquilizers and Opiates

Depressants are drugs that depress the central nervous system and are therefore potentially very dangerous if not treated with the utmost respect and care.

They should be a last resort to treat any condition and only used for a short time.

Some of the more common psychoactive depressant drugs include; barbiturates, tranquilizers and opiates.


Taken orally, barbiturates are used medically to induce sleep, relieve tension and control epileptic seizures.

These drugs are fat-soluble and are consequently absorbed into the fatty tissue of the brain.

Used on a short-term basis, barbiturates can reduce anxiety and produce euphoria. They do this by generally slowing down bodily functions. Consequently, they are referred to as “downers.”

Over the long term, however, they are physically addictive. Severe withdrawal symptoms including convulsion, psychosis and even death can occur when the drugs are no longer taken.

Consequently, barbiturates can only be legally obtained with a prescription and those withdrawing from barbiturate dependence are advised to seek medical assistance.

Major and Minor Tranquilizers

Before tranquilizing drugs were made available in the 1950s, severe forms of mental illness were much more difficult to treat. There was no effective way to calm patients so they could profit from psychotherapeutic counselling.

With the availability of major tranquilizers, the management of mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, became somewhat easier.

The minor tranquilizers, which include such drugs as diazepam and Librium, are used to treat anxiety and muscle tension.

Long-term use of these tranquilizers may produce psychological and physiological dependence and withdrawal symptoms whenever the minor tranquilizers are overprescribed.


The opiates, (drugs that are synthesized from opium) include morphine, heroin, and codeine.

Generally known as narcotics, these drugs create both psychological and physiological dependence.

The medical use of these narcotic drugs has been debated ever since morphine was first synthesized in the early 1800s. Morphine was administrated to relieve pain but was often abused.

As a result, the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 was passed to prohibit the non-medical use of narcotics in United States.

Heroin has no medical and legally approved use, although it too was once used to relieve pain. It is derived from morphine and was originally believed to be a non-addictive pain reliever.

However, it soon became evident that heroin was addictive, that tolerance built up and that discontinuance of heroin use could lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin can be injected just under the skin or intravenously, smoked, eaten or sniffed. Use of an unclear hypodermic needle can result in hepatitis or HIV.

Other effects of heroin are loss of appetite, loss of sexual interest and lethargy. Heroin is very expensive and many crimes are committed by heroin addicts to support their addiction.

Codeine is a weaker painkiller than either morphine or heroin but can also be psychologically and physiologically addictive. It is medically prescribed on a short-term basis to relieve coughs and sometimes is injected to relieve pain. Most codeine is produced by morphine.

As you see, you must be very careful when you intend to use such depressants. You can easy become addicted which can result in a number of unpleasant side effects.

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