A depressant is a drug that reduces the function or activity of a specific part of the body or brain.[1] Due to their effects typically having a "down" quality to them, depressants are also occasionally referred to as "downers." Stimulants or "uppers," which increase mental and/or physical function, are considered to be the functional opposites of depressants. Depressants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines and as illicit substances. When these are used, effects may include anxiolysis, analgesia, sedation, somnolence, cognitive/memory impairment, dissociation, muscle relaxation, lowered blood pressure/heart rate, respiratory depression, anesthesia, and anticonvulsant effects. Some are also capable of inducing feelings of euphoria. Depressants exert their effects through a number of different pharmacological mechanisms, the most prominent of which include facilitation of GABA and/or opioid activity, and inhibition of adrenergic, NMDA, histamine and/or acetylcholine activity. Anaesthetics, sedatives, tranquillizers and alcohol are examples of depressants.



Depressants are used both individually and clinically for therapeutic purposes in the treatment of a number of indications, including the following :

  • To reduce feelings of anxiety and panic.
  • To induce sleepiness and relieve insomnia.
  • To induce analgesia and relieve aches and pains.[citation needed]
  • To reduce convulsions/seizures in the treatment of epilepsy.
  • To cause muscle relaxation for those with muscle pain or spasms.
  • To lower blood pressure and/or heart rate.[citation needed]
  • To boost the mood and/or enhance sociability.[dubious ][citation needed]



Distilled (concentrated) alcoholic beverages, often called "hard liquor", roughly eight times more alcoholic than beer


Barbiturates are effective in relieving the conditions that they are designed to address. They are also commonly misused, physically addictive, and have serious potential for overdose. When, in the late 1950s, it became clear that the social cost of barbiturates was beginning to outweigh the medical benefits, a serious search began for a replacement drug. Most people still using barbiturates today do so in the prevention of seizures or in mild form for relief from the symptoms of migraines.





Combining multiple depressants can be very dangerous because the central nervous system's depressive properties has been proposed to increase exponentially instead of linearly.[citation needed] This characteristic makes depressants a common choice for deliberate overdoses in the case of suicide. The use of alcohol or benzodiazepines along with the usual dose of heroin is often the cause of overdose deaths in opiate addicts.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • depressant — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ reducing functional or nervous activity. ► NOUN ▪ a depressant drug or other agent …   English terms dictionary

  • depressant — [dē pres′ənt, dipres′ənt] adj. [ DEPRESS + ANT] lowering the rate of muscular or nervous activity n. a depressant medicine, drug, etc.; sedative …   English World dictionary

  • Depressant — De*press ant, n. (Med.) An agent or remedy which lowers the vital powers. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • depressant — index narcotic (adjective), narcotic (noun) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • depressant — sedative, 1876 as a noun, 1887 as an adjective; see DEPRESS (Cf. depress) + ANT (Cf. ant) …   Etymology dictionary

  • depressant — [n] sedative calmant, downer, intoxicant, relaxant, tranquilizer; concept 7 …   New thesaurus

  • depressant — 1. Diminishing functional tone or activity. 2. An agent that reduces nervous or functional activity, such as a sedative or anesthetic. [L. de primo, pp. pressus, to press down] * * * de·pres·sant ənt …   Medical dictionary

  • depressant — UK [dɪˈpres(ə)nt] / US noun [countable] Word forms depressant : singular depressant plural depressants a drug or substance that makes you feel relaxed and makes your body work and react more slowly Derived word: depressant UK / US adjective …   English dictionary

  • depressant — 1. noun A pharmacological substance which decreases neuronal or physiological activity. Alcohol acts first as a stimulant and then as a depressant. 2. adjective Acting as a depressant …   Wiktionary

  • depressant — noun Date: 1876 one that depresses; specifically an agent that reduces a bodily functional activity or an instinctive desire (as appetite) • depressant adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary