Types of Drugs
1) Stimulants are drugs that elevate alertness, changing a person’s mood by increasing energy
a) Caffeine is the most popular drug in the United States and is available in many products (e.g., coffee,
tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and “stay alert” pills)
b) Nicotine is both toxic and highly addictive. The most common way to ingest nicotine is to smoke
cigarettes, which is the single greatest preventable cause of death. Each year, about 450,000 people die
prematurely due to tobacco, which is a death toll that far exceeds that caused by alcohol and illegal
c) Cocaine and Crack are powerful stimulants that heighten alertness, raise blood pressure and pulse
rate, keep users awake, reduce appetite, and cause agitation. Cocaine, the most popular of illegal
stimulants, is either snorted up the nose (in a powder form) or is dissolved and injected into the body.
Crack is a hardened form of cocaine that people generally smoke with a pipe. The typical cocaine user is
well-to-do. African Americans are four times as likely as whites to use crack.
d) Amphetamines are easy to make, and many underground chemists operate highly profitable
businesses selling drugs known on the street as “crank,” “speed,” “meth,” “crystal,” “go,” or “ice.” These
drugs increase alertness, causing an excited sense of well-being while reducing the desire to sleep and
eat. They were first developed for the medical treatment of personality disorders and obesity. Many
people have become dependent on amphetamines, including patients who began taking them under a
2) Depressantsare drugs that slow the operation of the central nervous system , reduces coordination,
and decreases mental alertness (i.e., they have the opposite effect of stimulants).
a) Analgesics are drugs that dull pain. The most common analgesics include over-the-counter pain
relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Less common, but more
problematic, are naturally occurring narcotics, or opiates, such as opium and drugs derived from opium
(e.g., morphine, codeine, and heroin). Opiates are highly addictive.
b) Sedative-hypnotics include barbiturates and tranquilizers. Medically, these drugs are used to produce
two effects: relaxation (sedation) and sleep (hypnosis). The psychological effects of these drugs are
similar to those of alcohol. Abrupt barbiturate withdrawal is fatal for 1 in every 20 persons.
c) Alcohol is an accepted part of our culture; the fact that alcohol is so widely accepted and so widely
used means that it creates more problems than other drugs. Common health problems associated with
alcohol include malnutrition, cirrhosis of the liver, and heart problems; also, children of alcoholic
mothers have lower birth-weights, slower language development, lower IQs, and more birth defects
than other children. Death can result from using alcohol in combination with other depressant drugs (e.g., sleeping pills), drunk driving, and extreme intoxication.
- Most current studies indicate that: (1) a little more than half of all Americans say they have had at least
one drink in the last month; (2) more men than women drink (although this difference is narrowing); (3)
whites drink more frequently than African Americans, and; (4) the prevalence of drinking is greatest
among the college educated and those with higher incomes.
3) Hallucinogens are stimulants than cause hallucinations. The most commonly used hallucinogens in
the U.S. include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), peyote, mescaline, psilocybin, PCP (phenylcyclidine, or
“angel dust”), and MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or “ecstasy”). While about 10% of the
U.S. population has tried a hallucinogenic drug at some point, only about 0.5% reports using one
- Hallucinogens are nonaddictive, but these drugs are powerful and can sharply raise p