Types of Drugs

Alcohol

Considered now as a gateway drug for those with addictive personalities.  Alcohol is an intoxicating substance made from the fermentation of sugar, starch, and yeast. Consumption of it depresses the central  nervous system. Alcohol is quickly absorbed and affects the body’s  neurotransmitters, resulting in enhanced or depressed sensations and  moods.

Alcohol can be an addictive substance. Not everyone who consumes alcohol will become addicted. However, certain people may be more susceptible to addiction. Alcohol addiction refers to a psychological and physical dependency on alcohol. Individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction may build up a tolerance to the substance, as well as continue drinking even when alcohol-related problems become evident.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants prescribed for the treatment of:

  • Narcolepsy.
  • Hyperactivity, e.g. ADHD.
  • Asthma.

For example, two common CNS stimulants, Adderall and Ritalin, are prescribed for hyperactivity disorders and narcolepsy, but are commonly abused.

Amphetamines are often abused for their ability to suppress appetite and stave off fatigue. In fact, many people who begin taking amphetamines  to lose weight or stay awake, for example to study, get caught in the  web of amphetamine use and abuse.

Amphetamines like Ritalin and Adderall are often referred to by young people as “smart drugs” or “study drugs” for their perceived ability to help students focus.  However, any immediate benefit is counteracted by long-term dangers,  e.g., many theorize that these drugs harm a developing brain’s ability  to learn and memorize information in the long-term.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (or “benzos” for short) are a class of drug that includes Xanax, Klonopin, Librium, Valium, Ativan, and Rohypnol, among   many others. They are central nervous system depressants, or “downers”, that are frequently used for psychiatric purposes. These include treating insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks,  seizures/convulsions, muscle spasms, and also symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. At the same time, benzodiazepines are one of the most addictive substances that exist, having a powerful potential for abuse and a severe physical dependence which is why benzos are often discussed withs drugs and addiction.

When using benzodiazepines, it is highly advisable  to abstain from alcohol, opiates and other central nervous system depressants. These have a potentiating effect on each other, which means they increase the power of each other. The use and  drug abuse of these drugs land most people in drug treatment rehab.

Benzodiazepines

Cocaine is a stimulant drug and is very addictive. The three routes of administration for cocaine are snorting, injecting, and smoking. It stimulates the brain by releasing dopamine, which causes the user to feel pleasure.

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant (or “upper”) that affects the central nervous system. Like many other dangerous drugs, it has had and continues to have legitimate medical uses, such as  appetite suppression and anesthesia. However, in addition to being highly addictive, it is also more dangerous than many other stimulants (such as amphetamines), as it may lead to sudden cardiac death.

One of the most serious effects of cocaine abuse is heart muscle damage. Cocaine  may cause damage by inducing cell death in the muscles of the heart  (cardiomyopathy). Intravenous cocaine use can lead to inflammation of  the inner tissues of the organ (endocarditis).

Crystal Meth

Crystal methamphetamine (crystal meth) is a powerful central nervous stimulant with highly addictive properties.  In terms of chemistry, methamphetamine contains an extra methyl group than regular amphetamines. This means it is broken down in a fundamentally different way when consumed, which is why it is so much more addictive. When used recreationally, crystal meth can be injected, snorted or smoked – all of which are extremely dangerous.

Crystal meth is also all the more dangerous  because it is produced (or “cooked”) for illegal sale, often by amateur chemists. This means that there is no control over the purity of street meth and the side effects it may cause. Crystal meth production causes air pollution, crime (materials are often shoplifted  from pharmacies) and danger to the surrounding area. It is not at all uncommon to hear of a “meth lab” exploding due to the dangerous and  volatile chemicals that are used.

Bath Salts

Since the early 2010s, there has been increasing  media coverage   of a new kind of drug: “bath salts.” Awareness heightened after the   Miami “cannibal attack,” during which bath salts supposedly drove a man into violent psychosis. Although this has been deemed a myth, it is not   far from the truth: these drugs are  incredibly dangerous.

“Bath salts” owe their namesake to the resemblance they beat to Epsom salts, which are used to take relaxing baths. However, they are really synthetic cathinones, a class of drugs that are similar to stimulants   (amphetamines and cocaine) and empathogens (MDMA, Ecstasy).

There are a number of synthetic cathinones that go under the name of bath salts, such as:

  • Methylone, a.k.a. “explosion” or “M1”
  • Mephedrone, a.k.a. “meph” or “meow meow”
  • Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a.k.a. “Cloud-9” or “Ivory Wave”

Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a highly addictive form of  cocaine. Also known as “rock” “base” or simply “crack”, it is a  freebase form of cocaine, which means it can be smoked rather than snorted (and it can be   injected, as well). Smoke enters the bloodstream and affects the user within about 8 seconds, a much quicker rate than powder cocaine. This method of consumption, as well  as its chemistry, make it an especially dangerous drug with a high potential for dependence. Many people still remember the “crack epidemic” of the mid-80s, during which the poor inner cities of Canada saw crime nearly double due to heavy addiction.

Crack is known to be a much more powerful form of cocaine, which is already highly addictive in powdered form. It induces a powerful, yet short-lived “rush” of euphoria, as well as:

  • Increased impulsivity
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased energy
  • Heightened libido
  • Insomnia/lack of sleep
  • Intense craving for more cocaine
  • Paranoia

These effects are caused by a heavy rush of dopamine to the brain. This creates the high that crack cocaine is known for, which generally lasts between 5-10 minutes. After this brief but intense high, users experience a shortage of dopamine. This creates the incentive to use more crack, but the dopamine levels quickly become more and more difficult to replenish. This is the reason that cocaine becomes so addictive in such a short period of  time.

Ecstasy

Ecstasy, also known as “E,” “X,” or “Molly” are the names used for the amphetamine (i.e. speed) and  entactogenic (empathy-causing) drug MDMA. The drug is most often swallowed as a pill, but can also be snorted or injected at times. It comes in the form of a pill in various shapes, sizes and colors. However, ostensibly pure MDMA has recently been trafficked as “Molly” in the form of a crystalline powder or capsule.

Ecstasy is popular at parties and raves because of its inhibition-lowering effects. Users report their senses — in particular, touch — being heightened and stimulated under the influence. Depending on dosage and how it is consumed, these effects usually take hold within   one hour and can last up to four hours. Other effects include:

  • Sharp and intense euphoria
  • Increased sociability
  • Feeling of empathy and friendliness toward other people
  • Sense of inner peace
  • Enhanced colors and sounds
  • Mild to moderate closed-eye visual hallucination
  • Heightened libido
  • Energy & wakefulness

Adverse effects experienced before and after taking ecstasy may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Teeth grinding

Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are a type of drug that cause the user to experience hallucinations or otherwise significant changes in consciousness or perception. This effect distinguishes them from other drugs (such as stimulants, opiates, or sedatives) in which hallucinations may occur, but only incidentally. By contrast, hallucinations are the primary effect of hallucinations, and indeed the effect that is sought after when using them.

Hallucinations (or, as they are commonly referred to, “tripping”) are defined as altered, extra or diminished perception in wakeful state of consciousness. They can be varied in nature, comprising one or more of the following:

  • Visual hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Olfactory (smelling) hallucinations
  • Tactile (feeling/touching) hallucinations
  • Gustatory (tasting) hallucinations

Types of Hallucinogens

  • LSD
  • Psilocybin (“mushrooms”)
  • DMT & other tryptamines
  • Peyote, mescaline & other phenethylamines
  • PCP (a.k.a. “Angel Dust”)
  • Ketamine
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM, common in most over the counter cough syrups)
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade)
  • Mandrake
  • Nutmeg
  • Benadryl (when taken at high doses)
  • Dramamine (when taken at high doses)

Heroin

Heroin is a substance that is both illegal and extremely addictive. The substance derives from opium from the poppy plant before it is refined to morphine, then further chemically modified to become heroin. Despite its deserved negative reputation for its high risks, heroin continues to be a commonly abused drug.

Heroin is sold and used in a number of forms including white or brown powder, a black sticky substance (tar heroin), and solid black chunks. These different forms of heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected under the skin, into muscle, or directly into the veins. Regardless of the technique of use, the drug delivers its potent effects  quickly. As the strength of any street drug is hard to gauge from batch to batch, the potential to overdose on heroin is always a distinct possibility.

Like other opiates, heroin is a “downer” that depresses the central nervous system. Users report an intense “rush” of euphoria and relaxation, which is particularly strong when injected intravenously. These effects encourage further use, which quickly leads to tolerance (needing to use heroin in larger quantities to achieve the same effect). In most cases, heroin use will also progress to more intense forms of administration such as injection.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate pain reliever. It’s typically prescribed to patients for severe pain or injury, or after a patient has undergone surgery. It works quickly to eliminate any pain in the body. However, it can also be very addictive. Fentanyl is much more potent than heroin and 100x more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl was originally synthesized by Paul Janssen of Janssen Pharmaceuticals in 1960. It works to relieve pain quickly, and its effects don’t last long. Users of fentanyl may experience a state of euphoria and relaxation and may abuse it in attempt to seek these feelings on a regular basis.

Because Fentanyl is frequently administered in a hospital setting, people with easier access to the drug (those working in or around a  health care setting) may fall prey to fentanyl addiction. Others may  start taking fentanyl as prescribed, but become dependent on it. Fentanyl is often sought out for illicit purposes due to its powerful pain-relieving and relaxing effects. Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with heroin or cocaine to heighten their effects. Combining these drugs is extremely dangerous, as while the effects are heightened, so are the dangers.

Marijuana

Marijuana (a.k.a. cannabis, weed or pot) is the most frequently used and abused illegal drug in the world. According to the United Nations, it is used by about 162 million people on a yearly basis and 22.5 million on a daily basis. It is casually used, and recently there has been a universal trend to legalize it for medicinal and/or recreational use. Despite this growing cultural acceptance of marijuana use, there can be no mistake that marijuana addiction is a real and serious condition.

The cannabis plant contains the psychoactive  compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is responsible for the high that marijuana induces. Although marijuana is typically consumed by smoking, it may also be vaporized and prepared in a number of foods  (such as tea, brownies and other “edibles”).

Although commonly believed to be not addictive, marijuana actually accounts for the vast majority of admissions into treatment centers. It is estimated that about 9% of adults who use marijuana become dependent on it. Daily use drastically aggravates risk for addiction, with 10-20% of daily marijuana users identifying as addicts.

Methadone

Methadone is a narcotic analgesic that is prescribed to help patients  with withdrawal symptoms from illegal drug use or to deal with severe  pain. This medication can be habit-forming and may be prescribed in decreasing amounts to alleviate additional withdrawal.

The use of methadone to detoxify addicts remains  controversial. Programs that prescribe it are strictly regulated. They must be certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services  Administration and registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Nevertheless, these regulations have not prevented methadone from being  diverted and sold as “street methadone.”

Like other opiates, methadone quickly induces a tolerance with repeated usage. This means that higher doses are required in order to achieve the same effect. This is why detoxifying with methadone is strictly controlled to allow an addict’s body to gradually adjust to each reduction in dosage. However, when used outside of a medical setting, tolerance and continually higher doses often lead to overdose.

Problems may arise when people abuse methadone without a prescription or in combination with other opioids, benzodiazepines or alcohol.

Morphine

Morphine is the primary chemical component in opium. It is an opioid analgesic drug that is used to treat severe pain, and it is regarded as the gold standard of pain relievers. Use can create a high that includes feelings of euphoria and reduced tension. As an opiate, morphine can addictive. This means that:

  • The body develops a tolerance to the drug and as use continues, it requires more and more to achieve the desired effect.
  • Certain reinforcing brain patterns may develop as a person obsesses  over the drug and its effects and, in turn, compel the user to compulsively seek it out.

Morphine, like other prescription opiates, can quickly lead to abuse and dependency, even when the user begins taking it for legitimate medical reasons.  Misusing morphine by taking excess doses and/or combining it with street drugs, alcohol, or even other prescription drugs can have dangerous health effects and may even be fatal.

Opiates

Opiates are a class of narcotics that derive from the opium poppy. They may be natural derivations of opium or drugs that have been synthesized from natural opiates (which are correctly termed synthetic or semi-synthetic opioids, despite being frequently referred to as “opiates”). In the popular mind, these drugs are most commonly associated with pharmaceutical painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, or with illicit street drugs such as heroin.

Opium has been used for both medical and recreational purposes for millennia. In fact, it was once available for consumption as a tonic, much like alcohol. Recreational use of opium or opiates began to be criminalized in the early 1900s, while  the synthesis of opioids for medical purposes took off soon after. Since the 1990s, addiction to both street and pharmaceutical opiates has exploded and become one of the most urgent public health concerns.

Different Types of Opiates 

Natural Opiates

Naturally occurring chemicals found in the opium poppy, such as:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Esters of Morphine

Slightly natural modifications of pure morphine that are converted into morphine upon being consumed. These include:

  • Diacetylmorphine/Morphine Diacetate (Heroin)
  • Desomorphine (Krokodil)

Semi-Synthetic Opioids

Partially synthesized from natural opiates or morphine esters, such as:

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Roxicodone)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)

Synthetic Opioids

Wholly synthesized from natural opiates or morphine esters, such as:

  • Fentanyl
  • Tramadol (Ultram)
  • Methadone

OxyContin

OxyContin, generically known as oxycodone, is a narcotic used for pain relief. It can be habit-forming. Side effects include fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. It is available as a liquid, tablet, extended-release tablet, and capsule. It can be taken with or without  food. OxyContin is a branded formulation of the powerful opioid painkiller, oxycodone. It is prescribed to manage cases of moderate to severe pain. When taken as directed, it is a safe and effective medication, and has proven invaluable for many with pain management issues. However, many people abuse OxyContin in order to get high–a practice that can prove dangerous and even fatal. Misuse of the pills (for example, taking too many pills at once, or crushing them up to be snorted or injected) elicits more intense effects and increases the risk of complications.

An opioid use disorder is described as “a problematic pattern of opioid use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”  In cases of compulsive OxyContin use, the individual typically spends the majority of his or her day obtaining and using the opioid painkiller. Users frequently attempt to get multiple prescriptions from different doctors or otherwise obtain the drug illegally.

Oxycodone

Oxycodone is a drug of the opiate class of narcotics. Developed in 1916 for medical purposes, it has become one  of the most dangerous   and widely abused drugs in Canada. Milligram for milligram, oxycodone is   about ¼ to 1/3 the strength of heroin  (depending on how pure it is), and it is now widely recognized as a  gateway to heroin addiction. Yet, unfortunately, many are deluded into  believing that one is safer than the other because it is legal and prescribed by a doctor.

“Oxycodone” is a chemical and should not be confused with OxyContin, which is one of several trademarked names it is sold under. These  formulations include:

  • Percocet (combined with acetaminophen or paracetamol)
  • Percodan (combined with aspirin)
  • OxyContin (sustained-release)
  • Roxicodone (immediate release)

Long-term use of oxycodone can and frequently does  lead to dependence and/or overdose. Overdoses are particularly severe, and may lead to death. Signs of an overdose are: shallow or restricted breathing, loss of consciousness, pale and cold skin, low blood pressure, and respiratory arrest.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants (“uppers” or psychostimulants) are a class of pharmaceutical drugs. They may be used to treat ADHD and other conditions such as sleeping disorders, nicotine withdrawal and obesity. Their main functions include improved concentration and focus, increased energy, and appetite suppression.

Despite their legitimate medical uses, prescription stimulants are widely abused and used for unapproved purposes. They are especially widespread among college students, who use them to increase focus and study or do schoolwork.

There are numerous stimulant medications used to treat ADHD and other conditions, including:

  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Dextroamphetamine/Levoamphetamine (Adderall)
  • Dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, Concerta)

Prescription stimulants produce an intense rush of energy and euphoria, but they are followed by an equally intense  “crash”. The discomfort felt during this comedown makes users more likely to use these drugs again, thus instigating frequent abuse and  eventually addiction.

PCP

Phencyclidine, better known as “Angel Dust” or  simply “PCP”, is a hallucinogen. Like many other drugs that are now widely recognized to be dangerous, Phencyclidine was originally developed for medical purposes. It was taken off the market in 1965 due to its potential for abuse, and began to be used recreationally by about 1967. In fact, PCP abuse became so rampant that by the late  1970s, 13% of high school students had tried it and it was labeled America’s #1 drug problem.

Angel Dust is a hallucinogenic drug with dissociative properties. This means it can cause the user to feel detached from reality, as well as experience the audio-visual hallucinations that are associated with psychedelic substances. While street PCP can be cut with other substances (which impact its effects on the user), pure Angel Dust requires high doses to induce  dissociation/hallucinations. However, it also depends on how the drug is consumed.

PCP is phencyclidine. Similar to ketamine, it is a dissociative anesthetic that causes:

  • Hallucinations.
  • Out-of-body experience.
  • Delusions.
  • Irrationality.

Ritalin

Ritalin is one of the trade names for the stimulant methylphenidate. It is commonly used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the sleep disorder narcolepsy. Ritalin is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. Ritalin can be very addictive, especially when misused or taken via alternate methods, such as by injection or snorting.

Ritalin addiction typically occurs when users take it non-medically, or in excess of prescribed parameters. Those who abuse Ritalin often take it to:

  • Lose weight.
  • Improve alertness/stay awake.
  • Get high.

Ritalin is often referred to as a “smart drug” and abused for its reputation of improving school performance, even though such use of methylphenidate remains a highly debated topic.

When users take Ritalin in ways other than those prescribed, they can experience a “high” that is not felt when the drug is taken as  indicated. For example, when snorted, the effects of Ritalin can mimic  those of cocaine, producing a feeling of euphoria. In fact, the pattern of abuse for Ritalin addicts is often very similar to that of cocaine addicts. Taken intravenously, effects of the drug have a significant spike, which can lead quickly to a pattern of dependency and addiction.

Steroids

Steroids are a class of drugs used to stimulate certain functions in the body. Medicinally, steroids are prescribed to stimulate cell production or a patient’s appetite. When combined with hormones, steroids can be used as a contraceptive.

Steroids are lifesavers in many situations. For example, corticosteroids open up the lungs to allow for increased breathing during asthma attacks. However, there are steroids that can be incredibly damaging to one’s health,  and these are anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone in the body, which means they encourage the body to lay down protein, increasing muscle mass. Unfortunately, anabolic steroid abuse is all too common, particularly with bodybuilders and men involved in certain sports.

Of course, anabolic steroids do have legitimate uses, such as to induce puberty and encourage the creation of muscle mass for people suffering from serious wasting diseases. However, even this comes at a price. For those who are otherwise healthy, steroids can quickly damage overall health and induce a number of unwanted effects.

Spice

Spice is one of the many names used for a type of drug that is relatively new, having come into being around the early 2000s. Other names for it include K2, Bombay, Bombay Blue, Moon Rocks, Bliss, Blaze, Genie, and Black Mamba. All of these refer to synthetic cannabis, that is, drugs that are chemically unlike cannabis yet nevertheless mimic its effects. Spice first appeared in Europe in about 2004. It was, and continues to be, marketed as an “herbal incense” not to be sold for human consumptions. However, smoking it is said to induce  effects very similar to cannabis (i.e. marijuana).

Despite being referred to as “synthetic cannabis,” spice has recently been deemed much more dangerous. According to researchers, its side-effects can be highly unpredictable. There is little quality control, and there have been  frequent reports of links to:

  • Psychotic episodes
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Convulsions
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting

Valium

Valium is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. It is used to treat anxiety, seizures and muscle spasms. It can be habit forming, so it should not be taken for an extended period of time. It is prescribed by medical doctors and psychiatrists to treat anxiety and panic attacks. Historically, Valium has been a popular pharmaceutical agent–widely used for its muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, and sedative properties.

The substance is also known by its generic name, diazepam. Valium is a  depressant drug that strengthens the effects of a neurotransmitter in  the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA works to slow down brain activity, so increasing GABA neurotransmission will result in less activity and reduced anxiety.

Valium is a potential drug of abuse that can result in problems like physiological dependence, tolerance, and addiction when used for an extended period of time, at high doses, or for reasons other than prescribed.

The general feeling of relaxation that Valium induces is what has made it one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs in the sedative or tranquilizer category.

Xanax

Xanax is the name brand of the generic drug alprazolam, which is a benzodiazepine. It is primarily used to prevent anxiety and panic attacks, as well as anxiety caused by depression in some patients, by altering the chemicals in the brain.

Xanax is the trade name of the prescription medication alprazolam, and is in a category of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Typically, doctors prescribe Xanax to treat patients suffering from anxiety and panic disorders. The medication works by interacting with a receptor in the brain that in turn increases inhibitory brain activity, thus tempering any problematic excitement related to anxiety.

As a fast-acting drug, the majority of the benefits are established within an hour after use, with the total duration of effect being at  least 6 hours. Xanax is commonly abused by those seeking it for its sedative effects. Even people who take the medication exactly as prescribed can become addicted to it without realizing it.