What Is CNS Depression? Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options

The central nervous system controls almost all the activities in human body. This also includes vital activities such as respiration as well as heart beats. Depression in central nervous system (CNS) slows down all this bodily activities. CNS depression can have serious consequences such as low respiratory rate, decrease in heart rate and loss of consciousness and on some occasions, even death.

In majority of cases, CNS depression is caused due to use of CNS depressant drugs. This does not mean that all CNS depressant drugs are bad, but abuse of such drugs due to their addictive nature can be detrimental for the individual.

Under normal circumstances and with prescribed dosage recommended by the treating doctor, these drugs have many medical benefits. But at the same time they are common drugs of abuse and this is the reason many people die of overdose of such drugs.

What Causes CNS Depression?

As said earlier, in most cases of CNS depression, the cause is drug overdose. It can be accidental or intentional. Few of the common depressant drugs include alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, drugs used for general anesthesia and anticonvulsants that are used for epilepsy etc. When two depressant drugs are combined together, their effect is much higher than consumption of single drug.

It is not only with drugs, inhalation of certain poisonous gases and chemicals can also cause depression of nervous system. Other than this, certain metabolic conditions in the body such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can lead to nervous depression. Since CNS depression is a serious health consequence, knowing its symptoms in its early stage will help the patient as well as the people around him to reduce the morbidity and mortality rate.

CNS depressants primarily act through the GABA system. Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a chemical that helps the brain cells to exchange messages and interact with one another.

CNS depressants slow the brain by increasing the GABA activity.

CNS Depression Signs And Symptoms

Knowing the symptoms of CNS depression is of great value for those who are taking these drugs for medicinal purpose. It is also beneficial for relatives and friends who are aware of people who take such types of drugs. It is beneficial in initiating quick treatment.

  • Drowsiness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • In-coordination.
  • Unsteady gait.
  • Impaired attention and memory.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Fast pulse and heart rate.
  • Decreased pain perception.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Coma.
  • Death if timely medical aid is not given.

Treatment For CNS Depression

A person having CNS depression should be treated in a hospital where all primary facilities are available for maintaining breathing and circulation. Patient with slow breathing is given oxygen. In case if he is not breathing, he is put on ventilation or artificial respiratory machine. Medicines are injected to stimulate cardiac output. In certain cases, antidotes are given to counteract the effect of CNS depressants.

Gastric lavage (wash) with fluids may help to take out the drug from the stomach. This is especially important in certain opiate overdose.