What are Central Nervous System Depressants? How does it work?

October 4, 2021
Solace Asia

Central nervous system or CNS depressants are chemicals that slow down brain activity. By doing so, they help to relax and calm people who use them. They include barbiturates, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and some tranquillisers to name a few. In high doses, they can become anaesthetics. CNS depressants can be harmful if used against prescription or abused.

Many psychiatrists will prescribe CNS depressants for various mental conditions. For example, benzodiazepines like xanax has been given to treat anxiety. Yet, these can in turn become addictive and cause many problems thereafter. Why people become addicted to these meds is based on how they work with our nervous system.

How does it work?

Neuro-transmitters work by sending messages between various cells in the brain. The brain has many different types of neurotransmitters for various functions. For instance, the transmitter dopamine works to provide pleasure in the midbrain area. Whereas, GABA is another neurotransmitter that helps to relax brain activity.

CNS depressants act on the brain by affecting the GABA neurotransmitter. GABA stands for gamma aminobutyric acid. GABA slows down brain activity. So, when it is activated by a particular CNS depressant, a sense of calm and relaxation will be felt. Various CNS depressants act on this neurotransmitter in their own unique way. But, whatever the case may be, all CNS depressants will have the same effect of relaxing the brain.

Types of CNS drugs

There are two major groups of CNS depressant drugs. They are as follows:

Barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral) and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal) are prescribed medicines. These medications tend to treat sleeping disorders, anxiety, and tension.

The other group are Benzodiazepines.This group consists of medicines such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), and Chlordiazepoxide HCL (Librium). For more information on Alprazolam, you may click here.  These medications are prescribed to treat anxieties, stress, tension, and panic attacks. Estazolam (ProSom) has been prescribed for sleeping disorders. Due to its sedating effect, these drugs are capable of calming the body to states of restfulness.


Please be cautious when using these medicines. Having the power to lower our awareness, CNS depressants have rather severe side-effects. For instance, they should not be applied with any medicine that causes sleepiness or reduces pain.

This includes over-the counter or OTC allergy, cold, and pain meds. If combined, it can be fatal. It's because these OTC drugs and CNS depressants lower brain activity simultaneously, when combined.

Such effects may include slowed down breathing and heart rate, which will be fatal. For more information on OTC drugs and its lethality as well as addictive potential, click here.  

Potential AddictionIt's important to get treatment if one has abused or is dependent on CNS depressants. Due to its lulling effect, people do get hooked on these medications. And because it is not considered illegal, it's easy to dismiss such dependency as addiction. Nevertheless, any substance where there is a need to use it for normal functioning, has crossed the line into addiction. Especially, if such use continues unabated in spite of the risks involved in overdose. Examples of the risks of overdose include but are not limited to the following: Coma, Unconsciousness, and Death. Yet, besides the effects of the drug, we have to also consider the effects of an addiction, which may include: Isolation, Obsession, and Compulsive use. As there is potential for addiction, one can get help for CNS depressant abuse. What's important is to get into hospital for detoxification. Be honest about the amount, frequency, and type of drug used. Then, after some time in detoxification, you can then proceed for addiction treatment, if necessary. Some people may just have a problem with the drugs, but not have an addiction to it. But, if it has created an unmanageable life, addiction treatment will help in the long-run. These involve counselling, therapies, and behavioural management around relapse prevention. For more information, call us. We'll be more than happy to help you in your recovery from CNS depressants.

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