Below are the major classifications of drugs (both legal and illegal), which drugs belong to which classification, and the classifications’ general effects on a person.
- Central Nervous System Depressants
Central Nervous System Depressants work by slowing brain activity. Prescription Central Nervous System Depressants can be useful when prescribed by a doctor for treatment of anxiety, sleeplessness, and panic. Most CNS Depressants work by affecting GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA inhibits brain activity, and CNS Depressants work by increasing GABA activity. CNS Depressants can cause drowsiness, excessive yawning, dizziness, headache, and slowed breathing and heart rate. CNS Depressants include: alcohol, barbiturates (which include Quaaludes, some sleep medications and tranquilizers), and benzodiazepines (which include Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Librium, Ambien, and some other sleeping medications and tranquilizers).
- Central Nervous System Stimulants
Central Nervous System Stimulants, as you may have guessed from their title, work the opposite way of CNS Depressants. They work by stimulating the brain and speeding up mental processes. CNS Stimulants increase energy and alertness, heighten awareness, lower inhibitions, and raise blood pressure and heart rate. They also reduce appetite, reduce the need and ability to sleep, and boost confidence. Prescription CNS Stimulants are used to treat excessive tiredness, ADD and ADHD, obesity, depression, and more. CNS Stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine.
Opiates are both prescription and non-prescription drugs that are used to relieve pain. They are typically derived from opium, which comes from the poppy plant; however, there are many completely synthetic opioids as well. In legal, legitimate use they are meant to relieve pain that over the counter remedies aren’t strong enough to help. Addicts use opiates to achieve a state of euphoria, or numbness. Tolerance to the euphoric effect of opiates is reached faster than tolerance to the dangerous effects, so overdosing on opiates is highly possible. Death from opioid overdose is caused by cardiac or respiratory arrest. Opiates include heroin, morphine, fentanyl, codeine, Percocet, Vicodin, hydrocodone, Tramadol, Oxycodone, Hydromorphone, and methadone.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding cannabinoids, which come from the marijuana plant. Some parts of the plant are completely legal and available over the counter and have pain-relieving or calming effects. Other parts of the plant are illegal in many states or are only available to those with a prescription from a doctor. More and more states in the US are legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational and/or medical purposes. Cannabinoids can be used to relieve pain, increase appetite, alleviate restlessness or insomnia, and ease anxiety or panic. Side effects can include slower reaction time, confusion, headaches, and in some cases, auditory or visual hallucinations, Cannabinoids include marijuana and hashish. Street names or slang for marijuana include: pot, grass, weed, Mary Jane, Sweet Jane, brick, joint, L, J, Thai stick, ganja, ganj, dank, doja, and more.
As their name would imply, hallucinogens are designed to cause auditory and visual hallucinations in the user. They can be both found in nature in some plants, or synthetic and human-made. Users of the drugs experience distortions in their perception of reality. They can also cause rapid mood changes. Hallucinogens include: LSD (acid), mescaline, magic mushrooms, and MDMA (ecstasy).
Many drugs can be used through inhalation, but inhalants are drugs that can only be taken through inhalation. These are usually household products that are misused to achieve a high. They are popular amongst young people and low or no income people due to their easy access and affordability. Inhalants include aerosol sprays, glues, paint thinners, nitrates, and gasoline.
- Dissociative drugs
Dissociative drugs cause visual and auditory distortions, which are not quite the same as hallucinations caused by hallucinogens. They cause users to feel a detachment from reality or their bodies, often described as a floating sensation. Dissociative drugs include PCP, ketamine, and DXM.