The dictionary states that a drug is a substance (other than food) intended to alter the body’s processes and affect how they function. There are many different types of drugs that affect the body. Many of these drugs are illegal and classified according to how addictive they are. It is important to know how drugs affect the body and what problems different drugs can cause.
Stimulants are a class of drugs that increase the activity of the body and are commonly referred to as uppers. These drugs produce a rapid high that is quickly followed by a low.
Side Effects: Stimulants are popular because they will make an individual more mentally alert and focused. However they also increase the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. Further side effects of stimulants are heart failure and seizures, as well as muscle tremors. People can also experience stomach issues, headaches, and excessive tiredness.
Examples: Some stimulants are cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and amphetamines. Cocaine is produced from the coca plant is white in appearance and often appears in powdered form. It can be snorted, injected, and smoked, and can also produce crack cocaine, which is smoked. It causes increased sexual excitement, alertness, confidence, and energy, but once these feelings wear off, they cause touchiness, agitation, sleeplessness, and worry. After long usage, there will be confusion, problems with sexual performance, paranoia, depression, and delirium, among other neurological issues. Additionally, stimulants can change brain chemistry, alter mood, and have an effect on behavior. However, with many of these drugs, time spent in treatment allows these effects to reverse.
Withdrawal symptoms: mental and physical fatigue, sleeplessness, loss of pleasurable feelings, crankiness, worry, tension, excessive sleep, extreme hunger, yearning to use drug of choice.
Depressant drugs are the opposite of stimulants. They are referred to as downers and reduce or slow functions of neurotransmitters and the central nervous system. Tranquilizers, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and barbiturates are depressants.
Side effects: Side effects include reduced brain function, reduced respiratory rate, reduced blood pressure, lack of focus, misperception, tiredness, light-headedness, incoherent speech, high temperature, lethargy, enlarged pupils, depression, problems with urination, visual disturbances, bewilderment, and addiction. Additionally, one can experience reduced ability to make decisions, problems recalling things, and loss of coordination, paranoia, and suicidal notions. Other individuals many become aggressive and irritable. Chronically, depressants can cause depression, continual tiredness, and respiratory issues, issues with sexual functioning, and sleep issues. If a person has reached a level where they are dependent then they will also experience fear, intense desire to continue using, and anxiousness surrounding being able to obtain the drug.
Examples: The most commonly known depressant is alcohol. Others are benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Klonopin.
Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms can include sleeplessness, feebleness, and queasiness. Those who use chronically and take higher doses can experience anxiety, elevated body temperature, disorientation, and delirium, and convulsions may happen. Withdrawal from depressants can be life-threatening.
Opioids are a class of natural and synthetic drugs derived from the opium poppy plant. There are both legal and illegal opioids. Legal opioids are often used as painkillers, such as morphine and fentanyl, but can still be just as dangerous as illegal ones in terms of side effects and addictions. Many illegal drugs are cut or mixed with other compounds and can be contaminated. Opioids can cause a wide variety of reactions in their users.
Side effects: These can include elation, sedation, confusion, lower respiratory rate, passing out, falling in and out of sleep, and mood changes.
Withdrawal: Withdrawal signs include sweating, tiredness, sleeplessness, irritability, headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Over time, a user can develop a weaker immune system, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory issues, and various medical issues including infections.
Hallucinogens are drugs that change perception, thoughts, feelings, and cause physiological effects such as hallucinations. They can be smoked, snored and absorbed through the mouth. Those who use hallucinogens call their experiences “trips” and can have a good or bad trip, both of which are short-lived. This class of drugs affects neurotransmitters serotonin or glutamate and their functions, which regulate many different things including communication to the brain.
Side effects: Hallucinogens can speed up the heart, cause nausea, powerful feelings and sensory experiences, increased blood pressure, increased breathing rate, high body temperature, lessened hunger, problems with producing spit, issues with sleep, mixing of senses (such as “seeing” sounds) spiritual experiences, feeling of calmness, clumsy movements, excessive sweating, feeling scared, loss of control and disconnection from body (PCP, DXM, Ketamines, Salvia), irrational suspicion, unreasonable distrust of others, and psychosis.
If hallucinogens are used for a long time, there are unusual but deadly side effects. One is persistent psychosis, which includes visual problems and confused and scattered thinking, suspicion, and changes in mood. The other is flashbacks. Flashbacks are repetitions of a drug episode and can turn into Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD) depending on the severity. People will experience hallucinations and visual disturbances repeatedly with this disorder.
Examples: Ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, Peyote, psilocybin or shrooms, PCP, DXM (usually found in cough medicines), Salvia, and Ketamine. Ketamine is used in surgery and long-term use can also cause bladder/excretory system problems and memory loss.
Withdrawal: Some of these hallucinogens are considered addictive while others aren’t necessarily physically addictive. Those that are physically addictive will produce withdrawal symptoms while those that aren’t physically addictive may not have obvious withdrawals. Common withdrawal symptoms are sweating, desire to use the drug, and headaches. Hallucinogens do need more research to understand long-term effects and possible addictive properties.
There are five schedules that are used to classify drugs here in the United States. They are defined by the potential for abuse, medical use, and safety. Schedule 1 states that the abuse potential is high, there is no recognized medical use in the US, and there is an absence of established safety for use of the drug, even under medical supervision. Drugs on this Schedule 1 list include marijuana, heroin, LSD, peyote, ecstasy, GHB, psilocybin, Quaaludes, Khat and bath salts. Schedule 2 differs in that the drug has a recognized medical use in the US and has severe restrictions when used. Many drugs are listed on the Schedule 2 drug list, including many prescription drugs.
All of these drugs types can cause a person to build tolerance and in some cases contribute to dependence and addiction. All of these drugs also have a negative short-term and long-term effects on the body. The best way to avoid all of these side effects and potential dangers is to get help if you are using, or to never use at all!
Northeast Addictions Treatment Center is a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center in Quincy, Massachusetts. Our team has been helping individuals with Drug or Alcohol Addiction live a life of Recovery since 2016.
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