Prescription depressants are drugs that slow down the workings of the brain and central nervous system. Along these lines, they’re often prescribed for people who are anxious (and need to slow down their thoughts) or can’t sleep. While they’re called depressants, they do not usually cause or worsen symptoms of depression. A better way to think of them may be as “relaxants”, or sedatives. Highly potent forms of modern prescription depressants were previously used as tranquilizers and are generally phased out due to potential side effects.
Benzodiazepines, or “benzos” are a type of depressant with addictive properties. Some of the most commonly abused forms of the drug include: Diazepam (or Valium), Alprazolam (Xanax), and Estazolam. These drugs are typically prescribed for severe stress, panic attacks, convulsions, and/or sleep disorders. Most teens who get addicted to these drugs take them at parties or get them from friends. Many also get addicted after being prescribed depressants, usually for insomnia or anxiety.
Substance abuse, including depressant abuse, is usually tied to a number of factors. There is no single cause for it, but the biggest contributing factor tends to be family history. This suggests that there is a genetic predisposition toward self-medication, or a susceptibility to addictive substances that can run in the family. However, a family history doesn’t foretell an addiction, and people without a family history of drug abuse can still become addicted. Other possible causes include:
Trauma and abuse – a traumatic childhood can lead to the use of addictive substances as a form of coping or self-medication, an escape from the emotional havoc caused by old memories and experiences.
Gender – boys are more likely to try drugs, but girls are more susceptible to the addictiveness of a drug.
Peer pressure – benzodiazepines are not the usual party drug, but some teens get addicted because they get their drugs from an outside source, at a party or through friends.
Depression/mental illness – teens with mental health issues are more likely to try drugs or turn toward them as a form of coping. Depressants produce a feel-good feeling through the release of dopamine, leading to addiction.
Isolation – being alone and withdrawn from others can worsen feelings of loneliness, self-loathing, and depression, leading to substance use as a way to feel better.
of teens have used prescription drugs non-medically.
of people addicted to depressants use another drug.
deaths per year are caused by benzodiazepine abuse.
Understand addiction – much of the negative behavior associated with drug use can be stopped by treating the addiction. But it is not as simple as starting a drug treatment plan, and watching it flourish. Treatment takes time, and sometimes, relapses can happen. As a parent, it is important to understand how addiction works, and to understand what to expect from drug addiction treatment.
Help your teen stay sober – drug relapses often occur, but it’s up to the teen to learn from them. And, it is up to family and friends to provide the support necessary to help a teen feel like it’s worth trying to quit again and stay clean.
Be involved – the drug addiction treatment process might involve a lot of time between a therapist and their patient, but most therapists acknowledge that the most important form of therapy is a good bond between parent and child. As a parent, it is important to make sure you're involved in the process and offer support to your teen when they need it.
When teens are physically dependent on depressants, stopping use of the drug can lead to dangerous withdrawal effects. Depressants such as benzodiazepines and alcohol are particularly dangerous due to potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms, requiring medical supervision. As such, teens need the oversight and advice of a therapist and doctor to safely quit. Because benzos affect brain activity by slowing it down, suddenly discontinuing use can lead to the brain activity speed rapidly normalizing, which can lead to seizures.
Treatment for depressant abuse also entails therapy, to address the mental and behavioral patterns and triggers that exist in connection with the drug use.
While there is no medication specifically targeting benzodiazepine and its effects on the brain – including the effects of quitting after a severe addiction – a guided and medically-prepared drug withdrawal treatment plan will ensure that your teen survives withdrawal and has a smooth transition into early recovery. Gradual dose reduction is usually the way withdrawal symptoms are prevented, although medical supervision is still necessary.
During teen depressant abuse treatment, a therapist can work with teens to first help them discover both their unhealthy behaviors that led to the drug abuse, as well as any other behaviors, contexts, or even relationships, that may be connected. This can be a crucial step toward people making a recovery, where they no longer have the same vulnerability to return to using, and they’re prepared to live healthy lives.
A therapist can also help teens identify the potential stressors that perhaps triggered or sustained the drug abuse. This is important work for teens to face, in that they may not be completely aware of the things that led up to their use and eventual abuse of the drug. Identifying and rectifying these factors allows teens to not only recover from the past drug abuse, but also take preventative action for the future.
Where one-on-one therapy can make a lot of headway, group therapy helps put that information into some useful context. It can be difficult to work the fruits of therapy into everyday practice, but group therapy is one way for newcomers to sobriety to learn more about what it means to live without drugs, and cope without a high.
Everyone has unique challenges and problems, but group therapy gives you a new way to look at things, and a new perspective on a similar issue. It lets you step out of your own shoes for a moment, or even help others deal with their issues.
At Paradigm Malibu, depressant abuse treatment involves helping teens through drug withdrawal, giving them a place to go through early recovery, and utilizing therapeutic tools such as CBT and DBT to help teens find a better path through life’s struggles, without the use of drugs or similarly destructive behavior.
The road to recovery can be long and harsh, and most of it will take place at home and throughout life – but our goal is to provide a starting point, a solid foundation from which teens and their family can build off.
A primary concern when treating drug addiction is to get to a drug-free place, away from old memories and temptations, where teens can simply focus on getting better and getting healthy. From there, it’s a task and challenge to heal the mind, and train it to recognize the dangers of addiction and the lure of drug use, and to stay away from potential triggers.
A lot of time is spent addressing how drug use is often used to cope with stress and failure, and how it’s important to learn how to deal with these things in sobriety.
Paradigm dug really deep at getting to the root of my sons addiction issues. They also involved us in the process and worked through a lot of family issues. The staff and councilors were top notch and I felt that my son was in a safe spot even with some of the deep emotional issues he was going through. We continue to go to learn from the councilors and other families even after our son’s treatment. It has been a very good experience.
- Dave Z.
Is it a choice to continue to use depressants?
Everything we do revolves around our ability to choose to do what we want, but certain subconscious impulses affect our decisions. We have inherent biases and we act in accordance with instinct. Addiction to a substance will change the way the brain works, making abstinence and sobriety very difficult due to persistent and powerful cravings.
In most cases, it is not a conscious or rational choice to continue using depressants – instead, it’s usually due to emotional pain leading someone to cave into their deep desire to use again, because of how addiction affects the brain. With time, these changes can be reversed, and it becomes easier and easier to resist the urge.
Do depressants cause depression?
Addiction in general can worsen or even trigger depression, but depressants are not named such because they overwhelmingly lead to depressive symptoms. Instead, they depress a person’s inhibitions and anxieties, calming them down. This is why benzodiazepine is commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
Can addiction be cured?
Certain effects from an addiction will never go away. For one, someone with a history of addiction may still relapse despite years of sobriety, in moments of extreme stress, or after being subjected to addiction triggers (like a specific place or meeting a specific person) after years of carefully avoiding such triggers. The danger of relapsing remains, but part of overcoming the bulk of the risk is learning to live with that danger and make the most of life so that the urge to use again is never strong enough to overpower the risk or consequences associated with using.