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The Three Main Categories of Drugs

Drugs of abuse are generally grouped into three different classifications, based on similarities that those drugs share. However drugs that are in the same group can also be quite different in the way they work.

Just to confuse the issue, certain drugs will change their characteristics when used in larger quantities. This means that they can fall under different groups at different times. An example of this is cannabis. This drug generally considered to be a depressant. However, the drug can act as an hallucinogen when taken in large enough doses.

Stimulants

These types of drugs stimulate the central nervous system and the brain, increasing the speed of communication between the two. Increased physical activity and alertness are common effects of stimulant drugs such as amphetamines (speed), cocaine, and inhalants like amyl or butyl nitrites. Many people take stimulants are taken to feel happy and to decrease appetite.

Legal stimulants include drugs such as coffee, which people can soon develop an addiction to and find hard to give up, suffering withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking it. more on stimulants >>

Depressants

Depressants operate in a totally different way to stimulants. Activity between the central nervous system and the brain is decreased, slowing down the messages between the two. In medical situations, they can relax muscles and calm nerves.  Prescription depressants are often used to help individuals with sleeping disorders such as insomnia. more on depressants >>

Hallucinogens

These types of drugs are sometimes referred to as “mind-altering” or “mind-expanding” drugs. Hallucinogens radically distort a user’s perception of reality by interfering with the brain and central nervous system. Vivid hallucinations are experienced by people that take these type of drugs. Hallucinogens can make users see and hear things that aren’t really there and make things look really strange. more on hallucinogens >>

Photo Credit: psyberartist on Flickr