Are Depressants or Stimulants More Dangerous?

Published On: June 23, 20165.5 min read1096 wordsCategories: Addiction Treatment And Rehab

Most drugs people use recreationally or illegally can be classified as either a depressant (downer) or a stimulant (upper). Alcohol is considered a depressant. Both types of drugs and alcohol cause a certain effect that the user seeks. Let’s take a look at how each one affects the body and examine whether one could be considered more dangerous than the other.

If you feel you have a problem with drugs, read on to learn how to get help. Legacy is the top choice for drug rehabilitation in Charlotte NC. We offer customized plans to meet your needs.

Stimulants vs. Depressants – Which is More Dangerous?


A depressant slows down the body’s processes, both physically and mentally. They are sometimes called sedatives or tranquilizers. When prescribed by a doctor, they are used for anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.

Common drugs prescribed by doctors for these disorders include Valium or Xanax for anxiety and Ambien and Soma for insomnia. The street drugs Rohypnol and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) are also considered depressants. As mentioned, alcohol is also a depressant. Marijuana is a depressant as well.

Effects of Depressants

When someone takes a depressant, their body’s processes are slowed. Heart rate and breathing slow, and blood pressure is reduced. It also causes muscle tension to loosen and eases pain. The relaxation and sedation effects of the drugs work well for some medical procedures and can be prescribed afterward during the healing process in order to reduce pain.

Depressants work by turning down the areas of the brain responsible for anxiety or fear, leaving the user feeling calmer and less agitated. They work almost immediately, where antidepressants, which have a similar effect, can take weeks to begin to work.
Sleep aids such as Ambien are prescribed for people who have trouble sleeping.  They can have unusual side effects such as driving, eating, or having sex while asleep, and then having no memory of it the following day. It is prescribed for short-term use only because it can be habit-forming.

Depressants can cause side effects such as difficulty concentrating, headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, dizziness, and problems urinating. They can also cause symptoms of depression. Continued and increased use of depressants can cause people to become irritable, paranoid and even aggressive, even though the initial effect is the opposite. Someone who takes depressants regularly will build up a tolerance and need more in order to get the same effects.

When depressants are used for pain, physical dependence can develop. This coupled with increased tolerance can create the potential for addiction. Depending on the depressant and the strength, the effects may only last a few hours. If someone is using them for pain relief as prescribed by a doctor, he or she may end up taking more than the recommended dosage in order to keep pain at bay. Have a friend addicted to depressants? Call Freedom Detox for drug rehabilitation in Charlotte NC.


A stimulant does the opposite of a depressant. It increases energy, attention, and alertness. It speeds up the body’s processes, including the heart rate and respiratory rate. It also raises body temperature and blood pressure. It reduces appetite and the need for sleep.

Prescription stimulants are given to people suffering from attention disorders and include drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall. They can also be prescribed for narcolepsy and sometimes depression. Illegal stimulants are street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy or MDMA.

Caffeine and nicotine are also considered stimulants because they increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Effects of Stimulants

When someone takes a stimulant, it elevates their mood and alertness by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with pleasure and attention. It increases energy and suppresses appetite, which is why many people and children on drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall lose weight.

Other side effects can include paranoia, increased heart rate, fatigue, and irregular heartbeat. Once the drug wears off, it can cause exhaustion, apathy, and depression.

Long-term effects of continued abuse of stimulants can include damage to the heart vessels, high blood pressure, malnutrition, psychosis and in some cases, brain damage.

The potential for addiction to stimulants is similar to that of depressants. Increased, continued use can cause a physical dependence that can cause withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking them.  Common withdrawal symptoms include depression, irritability, trouble sleeping, and strange dreams.

Additional Risks of Depressants and Stimulants

Many people mix stimulants and depressants and do not think of how they may interact with one another. For example, someone may take a Xanax and drink a beer, not thinking that they are both depressants. This can cause an increased risk of overdose or death because both drugs are causing the respiratory system to slow down.

On the other hand, some like to mix stimulants with alcohol. Some use cocaine or other uppers, and some just drink energy drinks with alcohol in order to enhance the effects of both. Know someone with a stimulant addiction? Call Legacy for drug rehabilitation in Charlotte NC!

Side effects from taking one or both of the drugs that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Swelling of the tongue or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Hallucinations

Which Drug is Worse?

Both drugs have their dangers, especially when they are taken without the supervision of a doctor, or if they are street drugs. A person’s overall health can play a part in which type of drug can have the worst effect. If someone already has heart problems such as irregular heartbeat or palpitations, then stimulants may increase their potential to develop worse problems. In addition, drugs can affect someone’s mental health. If a person is already experiencing depression and begins taking a depressant, it is likely that their symptoms will worsen.

Both drugs can cause addiction, the potential for overdoses and death. Any drug taken without the guidance of a doctor is a risk.

Affordable and Dependable Drug Rehabilitation in Charlotte NC | Freedom Detox

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to stimulants or depressants, give us a call at Freedom Detox. We have admissions counselors who can answer your questions about addiction and treatment programs. We offer customized treatment plans that meet your recovery needs. We know that the programs that benefit someone else may not work for you, especially if you work in the medical field. You won’t find a more comprehensive rehab program in North Carolina. Call us today at (800) 475-2312 or get in touch with us online to learn more.

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