Depressant drugs slow down central nervous system activity and are commonly used to induce sleep and relieve stress and anxiety. Unlike many other categories of drugs, most depressants (with the exception of methaqualone) are legitimate prescription medications that are diverted to the illegal drug market. Alcohol, the most commonly used depressant, is legally available to adults in this country but is frequently misused, causing problems for Americans of all ages.
Depressants are highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. In addition, tolerance develops fairly rapidly with these drugs, which increases a user's chances of experiencing an accidental overdose that can result in coma or death. Withdrawal from depressant drugs can be life threatening. Symptoms of use include slurred speech, disorientation, impaired judgment, loss of coordination, insomnia, delirium and death. In addition to alcohol, the drugs that fall in this category are commonly known as muscle relaxers, tranquilizers and sleeping pills, and include methaqualone, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.