Are Depressant Drugs Safer than Stimulant Drugs?

Drugs and alcohol have a reputation for being available in a variety of dangerous forms. Some drugs are said to be more dangerous than others and higher concentrations of alcohol are said to be more dangerous than lower concentrations. Is this a fear-based mentality or are some substances really more life threatening than others? For our research, we turn to the central nervous system and examine which has the higher risk of fatality.

Drugs come in two forms, uppers and downers, and alcohol is a well-known downer and so will be classified accordingly. Stimulants or uppers increase mental and physical functioning, speed and energy. Depressants or downers decrease mental and physical functions, slowing reflexes, and exhibiting as sluggishness. Some depressants come in anesthetic forms which can be used in surgery for short periods of time. Depressants occur in two pharmacological categories, barbiturates and benzodiazepines, both of which are used to cure anxiety attacks, stress reactions, sleep disorders and hyperactivity. Stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate, increase heart rate, blood pressure, alertness and respiration. [1]

Logically speaking, respiratory function and heart rate can be sped up or slowed down to such an extent that death occurs. Some claims have been made that depressants are not nearly as hazardous to oneself or to others as a corresponding dosage of stimulant. This is incorrect, as the physiology of the body with respect to its environment and emotional status has been thwarted and unnaturally altered. Stimulants may be more apparent to coworkers in a high-risk industry, but depressants are equally responsible for mismanagement of equipment, workplace fatality and overdoses. It is important to remember that at some point, the brain ceases to be able to control the body as much as it requires in order to stay safe, healthy and alive…no matter which “category” of drug is being abused.

Most importantly, taking or abusing depressants and stimulants together is extremely dangerous and can result in cardiac arrest or complete loss of the ability to breathe. Stimulants act on the system by increasing all team functions at one time, and depressants decrease all balanced functions at one time. If overdose does not occur, the individual is able to stay alive due to all parts of their system staying balanced with respect to each other. However, taking stimulants and depressants together will unpredictably speed up some functions while slowing down others. The combination can be deadly, and there may not be enough time to call the emergency medical services.

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1. “Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants and Stimulants – Prescription Drugs and Pain Medications: Part 2 of 3.” SpineUniverse. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 June 2011. http://www.spineuniverse.com/treatments/medication/central-nervous-system-cns-depressants-stimulants.

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