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Abusing Prescription Sedatives, Tranquilizers and Depressants

Prescription sedative abuse is becoming more commonplace in the United States.

As the use of tranquilizers and depressants increases, these drugs are being abused more often. What people don't realize is that even though they're prescribed, these medications are dangerous. They are incredibly potent, and abusing them can easily lead to an addiction.

You may be facing this situation yourself. Perhaps you have been abusing sedatives, and now you're not sure if you can stop. You owe it to yourself to learn as much about these medications as you can. The more you know, the more you'll see that there is hope if you have an addiction.

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The Definition of Depressants, Sedatives and Tranquilizers

According to Wikipedia, a sedative or a tranquilizer is a drug that will induce sedation. It does this be reducing irritability or excitement. These drugs are classified as depressant drugs for this reason.

People may take these medications for a number of different reasons. Some take them because they help with anxiety. Others take them because they need help getting to sleep and staying asleep at night.

The problem is that these drugs are often over-prescribed. Doctors may give them to patients too freely, or they may allow their patients to remain on them. When this happens, abuse is often the result.

Is There a Difference Between Sedatives and Tranquilizers?

There really isn't that much of a difference between these two types of medications. Both fall into the depressant classification. Both drugs can soothe, and both have a calming effect. They both will induce sleep, as well. This is why in the medical world, it's acceptable to use them interchangeably.

Interesting Facts About Tranquilizers

Even if you have been taking tranquilizers for quite some time, there may be a lot you don't know.

Sedative Addiction

For example, did you know that:

  • There are different classes of tranquilizers, known as major and minor tranquilizers?
  • Major tranquilizers are more for treating psychosis, whereas the minor version is for anxiety?
  • Both types of drugs were first introduced in the 1950s?
  • During that time, they revolutionized the field of psychology? They offered hope to psychiatrists who needed help controlling their patients.
  • In the earliest days of their use, these medications were given to help with everyday stress and tension?
  • Minor sedatives are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States today?
  • These medications can quickly produce a tolerance in people who take them long-term?
  • They are also regularly involved in accidental overdoses and suicide attempts?
  • Overusing sedatives can result in increased aggression and hostility?

Commonly Abused Sedative and Tranquilizer Drugs List

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are some sedatives that are more commonly abused than others. These include:

  • Nembutal (pentobarbital)
  • Luminal (phenobarbital)
  • Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Limbitrol (chlorodiazepoxide)
  • Valium (diazepam)
  • Ativan (Lorazepam)
  • Halcion (Triazolam)
  • Lunesta (Eszopiclone)
  • Sonata (zaleplon)
  • Ambien (Zolpidem)

These are the medications that doctors most freely prescribe as well. They work quickly to give patients the results they're looking for. Unfortunately, doctors are usually slow to take their patients off these drugs. So many other natural sedatives could be substituted for them instead.

Of course, you can find these medications at more places than just a pharmacy. Because of their high abuse potential, they are regularly available on the street. It may even be possible to find them online.

Some common street names for these drugs include:

  • Barbs
  • Phennies
  • Red Birds
  • Reds
  • Yellow Jackets
  • Candy
  • Downers
  • Tranks
  • Sleeping Pills
  • Mexican Valium
  • Roofies
  • Forget-Me Pill

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The Definition of Sedative Abuse

Sedative abuse is defined as using these medications outside of a doctor's prescription or order. Some experts argue that it's possible to abuse them even when taking them according to doctor's orders. They claim that there is no reason to take these drugs long-term. Other medications should be used once the patient is stable enough to come off them.

Many of the medications on the above list are also benzodiazepines. These drugs are among the more commonly abused types of depressants.

There are several ways that people may abuse them, and they include:

  • Taking medications that were not prescribed for them by their doctors.
  • Taking too much of a drug at one time to increase the dose.
  • Taking too many doses of the medication during the day.
  • Grinding the pills up and then mixing the powder with water to inject the medication.
  • Chewing the pills instead of swallowing them.
  • Taking tranquilizers along with other drugs or with alcohol.

It is possible to abuse sedatives without realizing you're doing it. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that how you've been taking your medication is a form of abuse. If your depressant use has become dangerous, there are some warning signs you can look for. They include:

  • Noticing that your memory isn't as good as it once was.
  • Having problems with your judgment, or with making decisions.
  • Finding that your blood pressure is much lower than it normally is, or should be.
  • Finding that you're having problems with your breathing.
  • Realizing that you spend a lot of time thinking about your medications.
  • Visiting more than one doctor for prescriptions for the same drug (Doctor Shopping).

If you notice any of these warning signs, sedative abuse has become a problem for you. It's so important for you to arrest this issue before it turns into an addiction.

Also, it should go without saying that intentional sedative abuse is dangerous as well. These medications may be prescribed, but they can be just as harmful as street drugs.

What is a Sedative Addiction?

If you're like most people, it never crossed your mind that you could become addicted to tranquilizers. They're simply medications that you get from your doctor. However, it is possible to become addicted to sedatives, and once you do, it's very hard to stop.

When you're a sedative addict, you spend most of your time thinking about your medications.

You obsess over them. You make sure you always have plenty of them on hand at all times. You may become angry when someone questions you taking your pills. In short, they are the most important part of your life.

No one likes to hear that they have an addiction to a drug; especially if it happened by accident. However, it's really important for you to know and understand what your relationship with sedatives is. If you are addicted, you need to get immediate help to stop using them safely.

Some people are able to tell if they're addicted by identifying the signs of tranquilizer addiction in themselves. You can attempt this as well by looking for the following symptoms:

  • Problems with concentration
  • Feeling sleepy most of the time
  • Shakiness in your hands
  • Irregular breathing rates and patterns
  • An irregular heart rate
  • Frequently feeling dizzy
  • Problems in your relationships with your family and friends
  • Letting go of your important responsibilities
  • Always feeling on edge, and like you can't really relax

If you aren't sure, maybe you can ask someone you trust to tell you if they think you're addicted. Also, you may want to mention your concern to your healthcare provider. They can identify some of the symptoms associated with addiction that you might not be able to see.

Maybe you've noticed some of the above symptoms of addiction in yourself. However, you still can't really be sure you're an addict. It could be that you're in denial of your problem. It could also be that you're just in disbelief that this happened to you.

Either way, you need to know the truth, and there are a few other ways you can find out. You may want to start by having a free phone assessment done with a drug rehab center. This will allow you to talk with a professional and explain your concerns. If the person you speak with does think you have an addiction, they can help you learn what to do.

If you're not ready to speak to anyone about your concerns yet, you could start with taking a quiz. This addiction quiz was developed with people like you in mind. It will ask you a series of questions about your sedative use. Answer them honestly, even if it's difficult for you. Once you complete the quiz, you can get access to your results right away. You'll get a recommendation so you'll know how to proceed.

Sedative Drug Side Effects

In many ways, the side effects of sedatives can resemble what happens with alcoholics. These are powerful drugs, and they do have serious side effects. Using these drugs excessively, or for a long time is only going to make them worse.

The side effects of these medications will change, depending on how long you're taking them. Let's take a look at the short-term and long-term effects of depressant drugs.

In the Short-Term

Even if you only use depressants for a short time, you could still suffer from their effects. You might experience:

  • Feeling drowsy and lethargic
  • Extreme fatigue, even during the day
  • Feeling mentally confused, or having brain fog
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Slurring of your speech
  • Having constipation or diarrhea
  • Having shallow breathing
  • Having slower reflexes than normal
  • Becoming very depressed
  • Frequent mood swings

In the Long-Term

Taking sedatives long-term can cause you to do serious damage to your mind and body. Most people don't realize that this is possible. Some of the more concerning long-term effects of these medications include:

  • The onset of severe depression
  • Possible suicidal thoughts due to depression
  • Having epileptic spells and seizures
  • Having hallucinations or delusions
  • Losing your vision
  • Losing your memory
  • Suffering from insomnia
  • Muscular dysfunction in the body
  • Problems with the kidneys or liver
  • Severe respiratory complications

Recovery and Withdrawal Symptoms from Tranquilizers

You can recover from a tranquilizer addiction. However, it's really important for you to not stop taking them on your own. This could be very dangerous because of the withdrawal symptoms you may experience.

Withdrawal is your body's way of reacting to no longer having the medication. As time has gone on, your body has adjusted. It's come to expect tranquilizers on a regular basis. When that stops, you will experience withdrawal.

Symptoms of withdrawal with tranquilizers and sedatives can include:

  • Having heart palpitations
  • Having pain in your bones or muscles
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cravings for depressant drugs
  • Becoming irritable and angry
  • Becoming extremely paranoid
  • Developing social fears
  • Extreme depression

Sometimes withdrawal can even become much more severe. In some cases, it's possible to suffer from:

  • A heart attack
  • A stroke
  • Delirium tremens
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations and delusions

When you withdraw from depressants, it is not going to be very easy. This is especially true if you try to quit without professional help.

You should expect your symptoms to begin within the first 24 hours after your last dose. Once they start, they should be mild. However, this will quickly change as time goes on. They'll become much more severe, and should peak between the third and fifth day.

The duration of withdrawal is very personal. Some people start to feel better within a week. Others may take several weeks before they feel like themselves again. It's even possible to continue experiencing symptoms for months after your last dose.

What's the Best Way to Recover From a Sedative Addiction?

Once you know you have a depressant addiction, the best way to recover is in a drug rehab setting. This is because of the many risks involved with coming off these drugs. In the event of an emergency, you may need medical help very quickly.

If you're alone when you stop taking tranquilizers, you may not be able to get help right away. An emergency can strike at any moment, and you may not have much warning when it does.

It's possible that you've taken all the proper steps and you know you're not addicted. However, you also know that you could become addicted to tranquilizers at any time. You're wondering if you need to get professional help in your situation.

The answer to that question is yes. However, you probably don't need to go to a treatment program. You will benefit from talking with your medical doctor about the best way to stop taking your medication.

It will also benefit you to consider going to counseling. Many therapists actually specialize in drug abuse counseling. There may be a deeper reason why you started abusing tranquilizers. If that's the case, you need to know what that reason is. It could be that you have been self-medicating, and you really have a co-occurring disorder. Finding out now will help you take the proper steps to ensuring you don't end up an addict later on.

Every individual is unique, but you may find that you need a period of detoxification. You have probably underestimated how powerful depressants are. Going to a drug detox will help you get through the worst of the withdrawal period. It can make your symptoms much milder, and many may even be eliminated completely.

You'll probably start by tapering off your medication slowly. Again, please don't attempt to do this on your own. It should only be done by professionals. You may be given other medications to help with withdrawal. Or, you could be a candidate for a more holistic method of detox. Either way, this is a step you don't want to skip if it's recommended for you.

Sedative and Tranquilizer Addiction Treatment Will Help You Recover

More than anything, you need to know that you're not the only person who has faced this challenge. These drugs are so addictive, and many people have walked in your shoes before. The good news is that a lot of them have successfully recovered from their addictions. You could be next.

When you come to Ashwood Recovery, we take the time to get to know you. We know that what you're going through is difficult, and we want to help you through it. You'll find that our caring and compassionate way of assisting our patients will help you immensely.

We offer an intensive outpatient treatment program that is both flexible and effective. It might be just what you're looking for, and what you need to be successful. No matter how long you've been using sedatives or tranquilizers, you can recover if you take the right steps.

Are you concerned about sedative abuse in your own life? Do you have additional questions about tranquilizer addiction that you'd like to have answered? We can help you learn more. Simply contact us and let's discuss your concerns and what your options are.

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