News about how parents can get a wealth of information about the child’s behavior, and the signs that indicate that they might be using drug or alcohol.

prescription depressants

What are prescription depressants?

Depressants, sometimes referred to as central nervous system (CNS) depressants or tranquilizers, slow down (or “depress”) the normal activity that goes on in the brain and spinal cord. Doctors often prescribe them for people who are anxious or can’t sleep.

When prescription depressants are taken as prescribed by a doctor, they can be relatively safe and helpful. However, it is considered misuse when they are taken not as prescribed, to get “high,” or when you take some prescribed for someone else. This can lead to dependence and addiction are still potential risks. Addiction means you continue to seek out and take the drug despite negative consequences.

Depressants can be divided into three primary groups: barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and sleep medications.

TypeConditions They Treat
Barbiturates
  • mephobarbital (Mebaral®)
  • phenobarbital (Luminal®)
  • sodium pentobarbital (Nembutal®)
  • Seizure disorders
  • Anxiety and tension
Benzodiazepines
  • alprazolam (Xanax®)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin®)
  • diazepam (Valium®)
  • estazolam (ProSom®)
  • lorazepam (Ativan®)
  • Acute stress reactions
  • Panic attacks
  • Convulsions
  • Sleep disorders
Sleep Medications
  • eszopiclone (Lunesta®)
  • zolpidem (Ambien®)
  • zaleplon (Sonata®)
  • Sleep disorders

How Prescription Depressants Are Misused

Depressants usually come in pill or capsule form. People misuse depressants by taking them in a way that is not intended, such as:

  • Taking someone else’s prescription depressant medication, even if it is for a medical reason like sleep problems.
  • Taking a depressant medication in a way other than prescribed—for instance, taking more than the prescribed dose or taking it more often, or crushing pills into powder or opening capsules to snort or inject the drug.
  • Taking a depressant to get “high.”
  • Taking a depressant with other drugs or to counteract the effects of other drugs, such as stimulants.
  • Mixing them with other substances, like alcohol or prescription opioids.

Read more about prescription drugs and what happens to the brain and body when someone misuses them.

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What are cough and cold medicines?

Also known as: Candy, Dex, Drank, Lean, Robo, Robotripping, Skittles, Triple C, Tussin, and Velvet

cough and cold medicinesMillions of Americans take cough and cold medicines each year to help with symptoms of colds. When taken as instructed, these medicines can be safe and effective. They become harmful when taken in a way or dose other than directed on the package.

Several cough and cold medicines contain ingredients that are psychoactive (mind-altering) when taken in higher-than-recommended dosages, and some people misuse them. These products also contain other ingredients that can add to the risks. Many of these medicines are bought “over the counter” (OTC), meaning you do not need a prescription to have them.

Two commonly misused cough and cold medicines are:

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM) cough syrup, tablets, and gel capsules. These OTC cough medicines are safe for stopping coughs during a cold if you take them as directed. Taking more than the recommended amount can produce a “high” and sometimes dissociative effects (like you are detached from your body).
  • Promethazine-codeine cough syrup. These prescription medications contain an opioid drug called codeine, which stops coughs, but when taken in higher doses produces a “buzz” or “high.”

Read more about prescription drugs and what happens to the brain and body when someone misuses them.

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spice

What Is Spice?

Spice is a mix of herbs (shredded plant material) and laboratory-made chemicals with mind-altering effects. It is often called “synthetic marijuana” or “fake weed” because some of the chemicals in it are similar to ones in marijuana. But, its effects are sometimes very different from marijuana, and often much stronger. Usually the chemicals are sprayed onto plant materials to make them look like marijuana.

Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration has made many of the active chemicals  found in Spice illegal. However, the people who make these products try to avoid these laws by using different chemicals in their mixtures.

Spice is most often labeled “not for human consumption” and disguised as incense. Sellers of the drug try to lead people to believe it is “natural” and therefore harmless, but it is neither. In fact, the actual effects of spice can be unpredictable and, in some cases, severe or cause death.

How Spice is Used

Most people smoke Spice by rolling it in papers (like with marijuana or handmade tobacco cigarettes); sometimes, it is mixed with marijuana. Some people also make it as an herbal tea for drinking. Others buy Spice products as liquids to use in e-cigarettes.

What happens to your brain when you use Spice?

Spice has only been around a few years, and research is only just beginning to measure how it affects the brain. What is known is that the chemicals found in Spice attach to the same nerve cell receptors as THC, the main mind-altering ingredient in marijuana. Some of the chemicals in Spice, however, attach to those receptors more strongly than THC, which could lead to much stronger effects. The resulting health effects can be unpredictable and dangerous. Additionally, there are many chemicals that remain unidentified in products sold as Spice and it is therefore not clear how they may affect the user. It is important to remember that chemicals are often being changed as the makers of Spice often alter them to avoid drug laws, which have to target certain chemicals.

Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person uses drugs.

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Teenagers

Guided by the principle that community engagement is critical for addressing complex public health issues, the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington has been testing Communities That Care (CTC), a community-mobilizing initiative for preventing those risky behaviors.

Substance abuse among adolescents negatively impacts their still-developing brains, and can lead to risky behavior, injury and even death.1 Guided by the principle that community engagement is critical for addressing complex public health issues, the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington has been testing Communities That Care (CTC), a community-mobilizing initiative for preventing those risky behaviors.

CTC is a data-driven framework that uses local survey and archival data to help communities identify and prioritize their needs, and then allows them to choose and implement evidence-based programs that have been shown to be effective in addressing those needs. Communities choose from a “menu” of tested and effective programs for youth, their families, schools and communities.

The CTC initiative consists of five core components that will train communities how to conduct community readiness assessments; engage stakeholders by forming coalitions to oversee CTC activities; use epidemiologic data to develop community profiles of risk and protective factors; choose evidence-based programs and/or policies to implement that will reduce the community’s identified risk factors and bolster protective factors; and improve implementation based on the evaluation data.2;3

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