The Effects of Stimulants and Depressants

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・3 Sources

A Stimulant is an all-embracing term covering various drugs such as the drugs that enhance the body’s activity, pleasurable and contain symphathomimeic effects. These drugs are used widely in the world as both prescription and non-prescription drugs for recreational or performance enhancing purposes. The mechanisms of stimulants vary widely. Most exert their effect by influencing the neurotransmission of monoamine, which are neurotransmitters that are involved in motivation, reward, and regulation of temperature and sensation of pain like norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. The reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine is blocked by stimulants, thereby increasing their circuit’s activity. One among the most notable stimulants is caffeine that belongs to the class of chemicals called xanthine that is found in tea, coffee, chocolate and cocoa naturally. Although caffeine has many methods of action on the body of humans, its primary methods is about decreasing the levels of adenosine that naturally occurs in the central nervous system to function in various biochemical processes like the transfer of energy. As a neurotransmitter, adenosine helps in neurons protections by decreasing levels of brain activity. Lowered activity of adenosine also alters the action of many other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, dopamine and serotonin. At higher doses, it affects prevents the transmission of signals in GABA pathways, which can lead to negative effects like anxiety and insomnia. Even though the taste is said to be the reason for dependence or addiction to caffeine for the users this is not true. If caffeine is taken off abruptly from the people that depend on it, there are chances of withdrawal symptoms. This means that the human body develops a dependence on caffeine. For example for the regular drinkers of coffee, if they stop drinking it, they get a headache, but when they drink it, the headache disappears. Caffeine interacts with 82 other drugs, and 11 of these drug interactions are severe. Therefore, since caffeine can interact with other drugs, patients on drug treatments are advised to consume caffeine with caution. For example, some antibiotics, antiarrhythmic, alcohol abuse deterrent drugs, anti-ulcers, anti-depressants, anti-platelet and antipsychotic drugs among many others interact with caffeine (Carrol & Zuckerman, 1977).
While stimulants increase arousal in the brain areas, depressants act in the opposite manner by lowering the levels of neurotransmission, thereby depressing stimulation or arousal in the brain. Commonly, depressors are called downers based on the fact that they reduce the arousal levels when consumed. However, like stimulants, there are both prescription depressants and illicit depressants. Like stimulants, depressants also apply their effects in varying pharmacological methods, but the basic mechanism is through GABA facilitation and prevention or inhibition of the activity of monoaminergic or glutamaergic. Some of the major symptoms from the use of these drugs include relaxation, drowsiness, anesthesia, coma, sleep and reduced inhibition. In addition, they can also lead to death of an individual. Benzodiazepines are among the commonly used depressants. They function in the central nervous system, thereby finding use in different medical situations. They also vary in terms of potency, action durations and affinities in the receptor site, which makes them work in a variety of conditions. They increase GABA to inhibit the activity of the brain, thereby producing a calming or drowsy effect, which is beneficial to individuals that suffer from sleep problems and anxiety. Diazepam belongs to benzodiazepine class of depressants, and functions by affecting unbalanced brain chemicals in people suffering from anxiety. Other than treating anxiety, diazepam is also used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, spasms of the muscle and seizures. There are different drug interactions with benzodiazepines. Therefore, a healthcare provider is required to complete a drug interaction screen as an essential step every time a new drug is added or withdrawn in a given regimen of treatment. Some people are dependent on benzodiazepine drugs either psychologically or physically. Physical benzodiazepine dependence happens when an individual becomes tolerant to the drugs and because of physiological tolerance the users become physically dependence, which can show following a reduction in dosage (Julien, 2001).
Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs that cause substantial subjective alterations in consciousness, emotion and thought like hallucinations and perceptual abnormalities. Hallucinogens produce their effects by primarily disturbing the interaction of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter and nerve cells. These categories of drugs are distributed in the entire central nervous system, where the system of serotonin controls behavioral, regulatory and perceptual systems. An example of hallucinogen is Phencyclidine (PCP), which is ordinarily termed as angel dust. This drug acts through the brain’s glutamate receptor that is essential for pain perception, environmental responses, memory and learning. The effects of PCP are classically felt within few minutes following ingestion and lasts for many hours. Abuse and dependence on hallucinogens can occur to result in serious health, family and personal issues. Some people may continue taking the hallucinogens even when they cause problems like failing to keep promises, missing work and getting late, doing dangerous things and breaking rules and laws, thereby abusing it. If such users continue to abuse the drugs, they may end up becoming dependent such that they lose control, need to consume more for effects it brings, crave drugs and show withdraw symptoms whenever they stop using it. There are different drugs that interact with hallucinogens. For example, 7 drugs have been identified that interact with PCP. There are major, moderate and minor interactions with other drugs. However, it advised that individuals should not to stop any medication before consultations with a healthcare provider (Carrol & Zuckerman, 1977).
Like stimulants and hallucinogens, narcotics are also psychoactive drugs that contain properties to induce sleep. Morphine, thebaine and codeine are the primary three narcotics in use. Morphine is used as a pain medication. It is natural found in several animals and plants. Morphine acts on the central nervous system directly to reduce the pain feeling. It is administered for chronic pain and acute pain, and especially during labor and myocardial infarction. The effects of narcotics on the human body can range from mild to severe. In addition, if regularly used, the user may become addicted to narcotics. For example, morphine can be habit-forming at regular doses, and should not be shared with individuals that have histories of addiction or abuse. Over time, the drugs work to weaken the functions of the brain and the body leaving the user entirely dependent on them (Skinner & Goldberg, 1986). Narcotics interact with other drugs, which mean that they should be taken under strict directions of a doctor. Since like depressant they depress the central nervous system, narcotics should not be used in combination with drugs like benzodiadepines, barbiturates and alcohol that also can cause similar effects of depressing the central nervous system.


Carrol, E. N., & Zuckerman, M. (1977). Psychopathology and sensation seeking in “downers,”“speeders,” and “trippers”: A study of the relationship between personality and drug choice. International Journal of the Addictions, 12(4), 591-601.
Julien, R.M. (2001). A primer of drug action. New York: Worth Publishers.
Skinner, H. A., & Goldberg, A. E. (1986). Evidence for a drug dependence syndrome among narcotic users. British Journal of Addiction, 81(4), 479-484.

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