Drug Guides

From hard, street drugs to prescriptions with addiction potential, drugs interact with brain and body chemistry to create an altered state of intoxication. Explore our encyclopedia of drug information for information on drug appearance, methods of use, drug toxicity and drug addiction potential. Our practical, tailored guides offer in-depth information on how specific drugs can affect health, behavior, career, academic performance, lifestyle and relationships. For addicted individuals and their loved ones, we also offer basic information on treatment methods, therapy options, drug rehab facilities, transitional planning, and sober living.

Cocaine

A powerful stimulant, cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the cocoa plant to derive a fine, white powder. Most commonly snorted, cocaine can also be ingested through smoking, injection, or rubbed into the gums to achieve a high. Acting primarily on the brain’s neurotransmitter, dopamine, cocaine creates feelings of euphoria and energy, and carries a high addiction potential. Crack, cocaine’s cheaper cousin, is often cut with baking and consists of small yellow crystals producing a shorter, intensified high.

Heroin

Derived from the poppy plant, heroin is an opiate that depresses the central nervous system creating a “rush”-like high. Addictive from the first use, heroin can range in appearance from brown granules to a fine white powder, depending on purity and quality of the drug. Heroin can be smoked or snorted, though it is commonly injected for faster intoxication–creating risks of infection, vein collapse and blood-borne illnesses such as HIV and Hepatitis.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are synthetically derived, physically addictive stimulants which can be prescribed medically or used recreationally. Amphetamines can be taken in pill form, smoked or injected, and create euphoric, energetic feelings due to their ability to alter the brain’s neurotransmitters–particularly dopamine and norepinephrine. One powerful amphetamine derivative is methamphetamine–commonly “cooked” with household chemicals–providing a cheaper, intense high. Tolerance to amphetamines builds quickly, and addiction can result in heart failure, psychosis, skin disorders, and severe dental conditions (known as “meth mouth”).

Cannabis

Cultivated and harvested naturally, cannabis is a psychoactive plant with sedative qualities due primarily to its active ingredient–known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While used medicinally for a narrow range of physical conditions such as cancer and glaucoma, cannabis remains the most widely used recreational drug in the world. Though most users do not experience marijuana as physically addictive, psychological addiction takes a lasting hold on frequent marijuana smokers. Marijuana and its resin-based derivative–known as hash oil–can have harmful effects including lung damage, personality changes, lethargy and short-term memory loss.

Club Drugs

Club drugs–also known as “designer drugs”–are psychoactive, trip-based drugs that have gained popularity in the dance party scene, primarily among youth. Ranging from MDMA (“Ecstasy”) and Ketamine (“Special K”) to GHB and PCP, club drugs tend to have hallucinogenic and dissociative properties, altering the user’s mental and sensory perception of themselves and the world around them. Club drugs have addiction potential despite periodic use, and can lead to fatalities due to dehydration, psychosis, self injury, and physical complications. Some club drugs, such as GHB, have also been involved in sexual assault cases as a means to facilitate date rape.

Hallucinogenic Drugs

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that produce mind-altering effects by facilitating auditory, visual or sensory hallucinations. Hallucinogens can be naturally occurring or synthetically manufactured. Some of the most popular hallucinogens include LSD (“acid”), psilocybin and fly agaric mushrooms (“shrooms”), peyote, mescaline and salvia divinorum. Use of hallucinogenic drugs can lead to psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety, psychotic breaks, or flashbacks from Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) and carry a host of physical risks, as well.

Prescription Drugs

Though administered legally, prescription drugs can quickly become addictive. From opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycontin to stimulants such as Adderall or Dexedrine, prescription drugs act on the brain’s neurotransmitters, often producing euphoric feelings and chemical changes in the brain. Hypnotics are a subclass of prescription drugs that also carry high addiction potential–both with benzodiazepine (“benzos”) use and nonbenzodiazepines (“Z-drugs”). Users often develop rapid and cross-tolerance when using prescription drugs, leading to heightened side effects, medical complications, increased tolerance and addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can be especially harrowing, causing many prescription drug addicted individuals to engage in street purchase, theft, medical fraud, and “doctor shopping” in order to continue their prescription drug addictions.

Nicotine

Though still legal in most countries, nicotine products are considered one of the most addictive drugs in existence. Derived from the tobacco plant, nicotine can be smoked in cigarettes, inhaled through cigars, transferred through oral tissues (“chew”), or delivered transdermally through nicotine patches. Acting on a wide variety of the brain’s neurotransmitters, nicotine produces an extremely short-lived, subtle high, requiring repeated and frequent use to maintain. Nicotine addiction develops rapidly for most users, requiring increasing use to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and has been associated with a variety of lung disorders, oral conditions and cancers.