Opioids, Depressants and Stimulants: What’s the Difference?

Nowadays, there is an array of prescription drugs to manage pain, treat sleeping disorders, and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and ADD. Although for the most part these medications are needed and are used as prescribed, addiction has unfortunately developed in many instances. Needless to say that the majority of individuals who developed an addiction to the above-mentioned prescription drugs were individuals who primarily used and/or abused opioid painkillers and depressants such as Xanax. As popular as these prescription drugs may be in treating a variety of health issues, how different are from each other are they and why are they so often abused?

Opioids like Morphine, Percocet, Vicodin, and Fentanyl are painkillers and are usually prescribed by doctors to help with the endurance of pain, particularly after surgery. The amount of the drug and the timing for when they’re supposed to be used are closely monitored by the physician because they are highly addictive and most of the time patients need to be weaned off the drug in a timely fashion so as to prevent addiction. When taken, opioids break down and attach to protein in the brain called opioid receptors which can reduce the perception of pain felt by the individual. When these drugs are abused, they can cause a euphoric feeling for a short while, but slowly, the individual will build a tolerance and will need higher doses as the addiction continues. Although many individuals addicted to opioids started using at first for pain management, not everyone who is prescribed these medications becomes addicted. It’s important to always talk to your physician if prescribed these drugs or, when possible, use over the counter painkillers which are non-addictive.

Stimulants boost brain activities and can leave the user feeling alert and even “high”. Stimulants are meant to help with concentration and energy and are often prescribed by doctors to help treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression. Individuals who are not diagnosed with any particular disorder may experience different drug effects and when these drugs are abused they can lead to addiction, severe side effects, and even death. Stimulants are used heavily in college settings as ADHD is becoming a commonly diagnosed disorder.

Depressants are also drugs that are widely prescribed. Drugs like Valium and Xanax are taken with very little attention to how addictive and devastating these drugs can be to our cells and nervous systems. Depressants slow down the nervous system and, if taken in high doses, can cause severe respiratory issues. Many people who take depressants are not diagnosed with any particular disorder and just use the drugs for its calming effects. They don’t realize that the more they use the more tolerance is built, causing them to opt for higher doses, which unfortunately can lead to overdose and death.

Addiction to opioids, stimulants or depressants can be very dangerous. These drugs must always be prescribed by a physician as they often cannot be mixed with other substances and high doses can be addictive and deadly. If you feel you are developing an addiction to certain medications you have been prescribed, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional or addiction specialist. One way to recognize a possible problem is if you are building tolerance and require a higher dosage. Most of the time, when doctors prescribe these medications they prescribed doses that are not addictive or that the user can easily be weaned off.  None of these drugs should be discontinued cold turkey as they have dangerous withdrawal symptoms with many needing medical supervised detox if an addiction has developed.