Types of Drug Abuse
Any substance, medication, compound or drug that induces either altered states of consciousness, euphoria, or both can be abused. The types of drugs abused covers the entire spectrum of compounds and their corresponding effects; and is not limited to illegal drugs. Types of drug abuse includes both illegitimate substances acquired on the street, in addition to substances acquired legally through doctors (it should be pointed out that drugs can be obtained legally through a doctor in ways that are entirely unscrupulous).
Categories of Abused Drugs
Generally speaking, drugs of abuse fall into one of three categories: Stimulants, Narcotics, and Sedatives. The federal government tightly regulates the prescribing criteria for each class of medication, whether it is an analgesic pain-killer or a Stimulant. Drugs are rated according to their Abuse Potential, which refers to the intensity of the euphoria the drug induces, its onset, as well as its potential to generate tolerance and dependence.
The following list describes the drugs most commonly Abused and how they affect the person:
Alcohol – generates short term euphoria and sedation. Perhaps the most widely abused substance available. Prolonged Abuse induces severe physical handicaps, liver damage, and, eventually, mental health deterioration. Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired motor functioning.
- Impaired judgment.
- Staggering behaviors.
Amphetamines – operate on the mesolimbic pathways by stimulating production of the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Norepinephrine. Amphetamines are one of the most widely abused drugs available today. Abuse is not determined by gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. The most common side-effects include:
- Changes in one’s sex drive or libido.
- Increased energy.
- Dry or cotton mouth.
- Increased heart-rate or pulse.
- Decreased appetite and weight-loss.
- Agitation and restlessness.
Barbiturates – Barbiturates are a class of drugs known as hypnotic sedatives. They work by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down bodily functions such as heart-rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Barbiturates generate a variety of effects that run the gamut from minor sedation to complete anesthesia. There exist several different kinds of Barbiturates, including short-acting, long-acting, and fast-starting. In the past they have been prescribed to treat conditions such as Anxiety Disorder or Insomnia, and are sometimes used as analgesics, or pain medications. Side effects include:
- Poor judgment.
- Altered level of consciousness.
- Compromised coordination.
- Shallow breathing.
- Difficulty expressing thoughts or thinking coherently, slow or slurred speech, sluggishness.
Benzodiazepines – a class of drugs known as hypnotic sedatives or minor tranquilizers. They work by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down bodily functions such as heart-rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Neurologically they act on what are called GABA receptors in the brain, which is an area of neuro-functioning associated with the pleasure center. There are a number of different Benzodiazepines available today: Alprazolam – Xanax, Chlordiazepoxide – Librium, Clonazepam – Klonopin, diazepam – Valium, Lorazepam – Ativan, Triazolam – Halcyon. Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Abuse include:
- Impaired motor functioning.
- Repertory depression.
- Compromised coordination.
- Shallow breathing.
- Difficulty expressing thoughts or thinking coherently.
- Slow or slurred speech.
Club drugs – refers to a variety of compounds that tends to be abused by adolescents, teen-agers, and young adults. These drugs span a fairly broad spectrum of substances that include both Stimulants and Depressants. Over the past decade they have become popular with people who go to raves, bars, concerts, and nightclubs. Because many of the drugs (although not all) are relatively new to the market, research regarding long-term effects are incomplete. Current data and statistics, however, indicate that this class of substances is most frequently abused by those within a specific youth culture, and as such poses certain clinical considerations with regards to treatment protocols that might be different from therapeutic approaches targeting an adult population of abusers.
The following is a list of drugs that are considered to be Club Drugs. The list includes:
- MDMA (ecstasy)
- GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyric Acid)
- Rohypnol (Roofies)
- Ketamine Hydrochloride (Special K)
Cocaine – Cocaine is a highly addictive, highly powerful stimulant that is derived from the Coco plant and typically comes in a powdered form. The powder can be snorted, injected, or cooked down into a compound that can be smoked called free-base or crack. With the exception of Methamphetamine, Cocaine is presently the single most abused stimulant in the country and is frequently used with depressants such as alcohol, Benzodiazepines and Heroin. In the 1970s the drug enjoyed a renaissance in popularity and was touted by experts as being non-addictive because it doesn’t have the physical symptoms of withdrawal one sees with Heroin or liquor or sedatives. After the explosion of crack in the mid 1980’s, however, opinion changed and it is now accepted that Cocaine’s has powerfully addicting psychological properties.
Crack – Crack is a form of Cocaine that is designed to be smoked and comes in rocks of varying color and size. It is related to free-base in that it has been cooked down to release the addictive properties from its impurities. In this way it is a purer form of the drug than the crystalline powder that is typically snorted or injected. It has a variety of street names including rock, base, or cavvy, and is considered to be the most addictive form of the drug available. Crack generates a rush and high that is as intense as it is brief, creating a powerful reward stimulus-loop that inevitably, over time, leads to more use, with each subsequent dose reinforcing the next. Crack first appeared en masse in urban neighborhoods in the early to mid-1980’s, and quickly evolved into public health crises of epidemic proportions, affecting hundreds of thousands of people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.
Signs of Crack Abuse include:
- Anger or erratic volatile moods.
- Inability to hold a job.
- Financial and legal problems.
- Grandiose sense of well-being or inflated self-image.
- Poor reality testing; delusional thinking.
- Appetite loss and weight loss.
- Decreased social inhibitions.
- Extreme psychomotor agitation; e.g. pacing, clenching jaws, nervous ticks.
- Anxiety; irritability; argumentative.
Hallucinogens – Hallucinogens refer to a class of substances that fall into 3 distinct categories. These include what are known as Delriants, Psychedelics, and Dissociatives. Although there is overlap between the effects and symptoms of intoxication, drugs in each category tend to generate different experiences. Historically, the use of Hallucinogens goes back thousands of years. In different cultures they have been utilized for a variety of reasons, typically for religious ceremonies (for example Native Americans have taken Mescaline for centuries to induce spiritual experiences). In general, unlike the effects produced by opiates or stimulants, which are used for purely recreational reasons, the psychedelic experience is commonly associated with altered states of being or consciousness, with trance-like states, and with dreaming and meditation.
The three classes of Hallucinogens can be broken down as follows:
Dissociatives – this class of drugs includePCP, Ketamine, and DMX (or Dextromethorphan). In addition to their Hallucinogenic qualities, these drugs also have analgesic, or pain-killing, properties. They produce a range of effects that includes a sense of detachment from one’s surrounding environment and amnesia, and are also responsible for producing effects such as de-realization and depersonalization, during which one’s sense of self becomes dangerously permeable. These last two symptoms are extreme and usually occur in the presence of what is referred to as Dissociative Personality Disorder. They are states indicative of a certain kind of ego instability and as such can be perilous to individuals who do not have a solid sense of ego boundaries.
Deliriants – this class of drugs is often regarded as true Hallucinogens, because their properties are derived from plants as opposed to being synthesized in a laboratory. Deliriants include Nightshade, Mandrake, Henbane, and what is known as Datura. The effects produced by Deliriants include actual hallucinations (as opposed to experiences where one’s sense of time or self is distorted), during which a person may be unable to recognize their own features in a mirror, or engage in discussions with people that are not present. They are referred to as Deliriants because their symptoms closely resemble the experiences one has while suffering a delirious fever. Often they generate periods of complete blackout, during which the person under the influence will have no recollection of what they did or said while under the influence.
Psychedelics – Included in this classification of drugs is LSD and Psilocybin. The effects of Psilocybin and LSD are frequently compared to self-induced psychosis. Effects and symptoms include impairment of one’s ability to recognize aspects of reality, to think coherently and in a linear fashion, impairment of one’s ability to communicate, and an inability to organize the constituent parts of their personality; the result of this is a fragmented sense of identity which can linger well after the effects of the drug have worn off. Additionally, and not understood by science, is LSD’s propensity to generate what is called flashbacks. Flashbacks are experiences during which one’s sense of reality is disturbed by a re-experiencing of the qualities of perception they had while on the drug.
Narcotics – Narcotic derives from the Greek word for benumb (Narko). Medically it refers to a class of substances that induced sleep or have analgesic, pain-killing properties. Today it is most commonly associated with drugs that fall into the classification of Opiates, such as Morphine, Heroin, and their analogs like Hydrocodone (Vicodin). However, since the legal definition of Narcotics differs from the medical definition, there are actually two different classifications that consequently cover a broad range of psycho-active compounds and drugs. The first drug to truly be labeled as a Narcotic was liquor, whose recorded use goes back to ancient times.
The side effects of Narcotics intoxication include:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Sense of apathy.
- Decreased physical activity.
- Constriction of the pupils.
- Flushing of the face and neck.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Respiratory depression.
Prescription Drug Addiction
Prescription Drug Addiction – Prescription drugs are an umbrella term that covers an enormous array of different medications designed to treat a variety of ailments. The vast majority of prescription drugs is relatively harmless, at least with regards to addiction, and covers the entire spectrum of both physical and mental health ailments. Prescription drugs cover all manner of mental health issues. However, with regards to Abuse Potential, the medications of interest include Stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall (used for the treatment of ADHD), sedatives and tranquilizers, and Narcotic Painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, or Morphine.