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The difference between stimulants and depressants is their effects on the body. Stimulants, which are often referred to as uppers, have a stimulating effect on the body as well as the mind. Depressants, on the other hand, have the opposite effect and are sedating to the body. Depressants work to slow the heart rate and breathing and have a relaxing effect on the mind.
Stimulants and depressants are the exact opposite of each other. To understand the differences, it helps to consider how they affect the body. Stimulants usually work to excite or arouse the body while depressants work to sedate it. Interestingly, both types of substances also affect the mind. A person who is taking a stimulant may feel alert and confident, while a person who is taking a depressant may feel calm and free of mental stress.
There are many types of stimulants and depressants. Often, people think of these substances in terms of medications. For example, barbiturates, tranquilizers, and benzodiazepines are among the medications that are used for their depressant qualities. Doctors may recommend barbiturates, for instance, to help a person sleep, help lower blood pressure, and relieve anxiety. Benzodiazepines may be used in treating people who have difficulty sleeping or are suffering from anxiety, and tranquilizers are useful for calming a patient or inducing sleep.
Among the most common stimulants a person may take are amphetamines, which may be used to treat disorders in which a person falls asleep when he shouldn’t as well as for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A drug called methylphenidate may be used to stimulate the central nervous system. Additionally, anorectics are medications that are classified as stimulants and often used for appetite suppression.
Some of the stimulants and depressants a person may encounter are not traditionally used as medications. Examples of such stimulants include cocaine, an illegal drug, and caffeine, which people commonly consume in coffee, chocolate, and tea. Alcohol is an example of a depressant; marijuana has some of the effects of a depressant but can also be classified as a hallucinogen.
Unfortunately, many of the substances that are used as stimulants or depressants are associated with a range of negative effects. For example, stimulants often are associated with poor impulse control, violent behaviors, paranoia, and "crashing" when the drug wears off. Depressants, on the other hand, may lead to sluggishness, depression, confusion, and slurred speech. Clumsiness and loss of consciousness may also result from depressant use.