Types of drugs and their effects
As well as being determined by dose and how it is taken, the way a drug affects a person depends as much upon the psychological characteristics, personality and mood of the individual (and their social context) as upon the chemical properties of the drug itself. The notion that specific drugs have fixed and predictable effects (which are the same from person to person) is extremely widespread, but it is in fact not the case. The generalised confusion about which drug category some substances actually fit in to reflects this. Current understanding identifies the following broadly applicable categories and effects, however:
Substances that depress the activity of the Central Nervous System and produce an altered state of consciousness. They include: alcohol, benzodiazepines (including Valium ®); GHB/L; barbiturates; solvents.
Depending on the dose, common effects include elevated mood, relaxation, loss of inhibitions, uncontrolled behaviour, slowed breathing and reactions, reduced heart rate, eventual sedation.
Substances that suppress psychological distress, physical and/or emotional pain and produce an altered state of consciousness, and include: opium, morphine, heroin and codeine; paracetamol and aspirin can also be included here, as can ketamine and cannabis.
Depending on the dose, common effects include euphoria, detachment, and relief from negative stimuli, slowed heart rate and breathing, drowsiness.
substances that stimulate the activity of the Central Nervous System and produce an altered state of consciousness, and include: cocaine/crack; amphetamines (speed); ecstasy; mephedrone (‘meow’): tobacco; crystal methamphetamine (ice); BZP; caffeine and ephedrine.
Depending on the dose, common effects include increased heart rate and energy, changes in self-awareness, suppressed appetite, euphoria, confidence, talkativeness and sociability.
Substances that dramatically alter perception, sensory experience and states of consciousness, and include LSD (acid), magic mushrooms, ecstasy, ketamine (Special K), cannabis; and solvents.
Depending on the dose, common effects include relaxation, changes in self-awareness, mood and cognitive functioning, dramatically altered sense of time and space, euphoria, alterations to visual and auditory sensory input.
Substances that anaesthetise the body and allow consciousness to feel released from its usual constraints, such as ketamine (Special K), methoxetemine (MXE), DMT, Salvia Divinorum and Nitrous Oxide (‘laughing gas’).
Depending on the dose, common effects include profound alterations in the relationship to the body and mind (including ‘out of body experiences’), sensory awareness and experience of ‘reality’.
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