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I don't understand the Wikipedia article on depressants.

This is what I have gathered:

  1. Depression and anxiety disorders are treated by antidepressants.

  2. Narcolepsy, ADHD, obesity, smoking addiction, lethargy are treated by stimulants.

  3. The opposite class drug of a depressant is a stimulant not an antidepressant.

So what do depressants treat? Bipolar? Mania? Impulse control disorders? I couldn't find any articles on treating bipolar with depressants. What I have found are Lithium and mood stabilisers.

The Wikipedia article said depressants can treat OCD, anxiety or depression. Why? This seems a little odd for terminology. Depression is treated with a depressant?

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Depressants belong to a general class of drugs that decrease activity in one or more parts of the nervous system. Depression in the usual sense of the word comprises a particular subset of depressed states, particulars as it refers to lack of happiness or drive. Not all depressed states are considered depression in the common sense of the word. Similarly, not all stimulated states are the opposite of this depression. Different parts of the brain can be depressed or stimulated, and the affects of these effects come in many forms and resulting psychological states. Generally speaking, a depressant can be used to treat a condition if that particular depressant decreases activity in a part of the nervous system that is overactive in that condition. Anxiety, as you have mentioned, is a prime example condition where one part of the brain is overactive, for which certain depressant drugs can calm that part of the brain to effect relief from the anxiety. If a particular case of depression is caused by overactivity in one or more brain regions, then it could in theory be possible to treat that depression using depressants that decrease activity in those particular brain regions. The key thing to keep in mind here is that mental depression can be caused by over or underactivity in various brain regions, so there is a possibility of using either specific types of stimulants or specific types of depressants to effect relief.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Michael. Please add a source. So anxiety or depression could be treated with either depressants or antidepressants depending on the type or degree of depression or anxiety? What is an example situation for each? $\endgroup$ – Jack Bauer Jan 13 '16 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ The specific cause is more important to this topic than is the degree. Depression is a blanket term used to describe the result of many etiologies. One of the reasons doctors will go through a list of possible medications or other treatments, recommending one at a time, is because not all depression is caused by the same underlying pattern. I do not have any sources available. This message is coming from all the differential brain-scans and related information I came across while taking biopsychology. Each medication targets specific foci in the brain, stimulating some and depressing others. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jan 13 '16 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that terminologically it sounds wrong to say that carefully chosen depressant drugs could treat certain cases of depression. One would need to understand the complex nature of the brain and how there are many cases of signal pathways where one part of the brain inhibits activity in another. Hence, stimulating certain brain regions can depress others indirectly, and vice versa. There are numerous such cases, but I cannot remember all those weirdly named regions anymore since I never use the information. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jan 13 '16 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I would say that antidepressants are not strictly stimulatory in their effects. They are usually pretty complex in their regional selectivity. Overall though, yes, most antidepressants are more a stimulant than a depressant in nature. On the question of anxiety, even though anxiety is generally considered an overactivity of certain brain regions, it can often be treated with antidepressants. Similarly, ADHD is usually treated with (quite strong) stimulants, as you probably know, despite being called "hyperactivity". $\endgroup$ – Michael Jan 13 '16 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ I am no expert on these topics. It would be nice if one could come in and shed some light. I just know enough to have a fair understanding of how drugs affect the brain in general. At the same time, even the average psychologist probably has only minimal understanding of neural pathways and drug selectivity patterns. The person using the fruits of research need not be the person performing the research. $\endgroup$ – Michael Jan 13 '16 at 17:22

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