Drug Guide

Reading Time: 12 minutes

It is important to understand the ways that different drugs, both illicit and prescription, can affect us. If you are struggling with issues of substance abuse and addiction, find a treatment program in your state.


Alcoholism is a disease that occurs when a person begins to crave alcohol, become physically dependent on the substance, and lose control over how much they drink. Alcoholism is similar to drug addiction in that it requires professional treatment for a person to be able to stop drinking, which is often the safest course of action. Though legal to purchase, alcohol can be a very dangerous substance, causing severe withdrawal symptoms and deadly overdose.


Ativan is the brand name of the drug lorazepam, a benzodiazepine. Ativan works by slowing activity in the brain to allow for relaxation.” However, many people abuse the drug by taking large doses, which cause an intense high. The drug is normally prescribed to treat anxiety, but when abused, it can worsen anxiety issues and also cause addiction.


Klonopin (brand name of clonazepam) is a benzodiazepine drug normally prescribed to treat seizures and panic disorder. Those who abuse the drug take it in large doses to experience a strong high. Unfortunately, those who abuse Klonopin are not only putting themselves in danger of addiction but also of experiencing new or worsening seizures among other deadly side effects.


Xanax is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Many people abuse the drug in order to experience the high it causes when taken in large doses. Xanax can be extremely addictive as well as deadly; as a benzodiazepine, it causes severe, psychological withdrawal effects that can mimic psychosis. Xanax is the brand name of alprazolam.


Phenobarbital is used to control seizures. The drug can actually cause seizures in those who abuse it and then stop suddenly. Because it is a barbiturate, people often mistake phenobarbital for being less dangerous than benzodiazepine drugs, but it causes many of the same severe effects when abused, including addiction and intense, psychological withdrawal symptoms.


Adderall is one of the most commonly abused prescription stimulants. The drug contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, and an estimated 6.4 percent of full-time college students age 18 to 22 used Adderall nonmedically in the past year.” Adderall causes a person to need little sleep and food and to be able to concentrate on something for much longer, but even with these desirable effects, abusing Adderall can be dangerous and cause addiction.


Concerta is a prescription drug containing methylphenidate. The drug is a stimulant and is meant to treat those with ADHD. However, many people abuse the drug for its ability to cause weight loss and minimize the need for sleep, especially students hoping to focus and study for longer periods of time. Abusing Concerta can cause severe side effects, though, including psychosis, heart attack, stroke, and addiction.


Dexedrine is the brand name of dextroamphetamine, a stimulant drug that causes addiction when abused. This medication is only meant to be taken in prescribed doses by those suffering from ADHD, but many individuals, especially college students, buy the medication for illicit use. Dexedrine can cause serious adverse reactions, including overdose, psychosis, and seizures, and all of these are more likely to occur as the result of abuse.


In 2011, 3.2 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 1.6 percent) have used heroin at least once in their lives.” The drug is so addictive, though, that it is estimated that around 23 percent of those individuals will become dependent on it. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid drug synthesized from morphine that is normally injected. Heroin abuse is currently on the rise after minimizing in previous years, and many believe this is a direct result of the large amounts of prescription opioids currently being prescribed and abused.


Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is an addictive drug. Though it has been approved for medicinal and recreational use in certain states, the drug can cause severe addiction in those who abuse it, especially those who smoke every day and those who started when they were young. Officially, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, and abuse can cause dependence, uncomfortable and even painful withdrawal symptoms, heart problems, difficulty coping with anxiety and stress, and addiction.


Cocaine is a powerful illicit stimulant that is abused in many different ways. Those who inject cocaine experience a higher risk for contracting transmittable diseases and those who snort the drug can experience frequent nosebleeds and even a loss of their sense of smell. Anyone who abuses cocaine often and in large doses can become addicted and can overdose on the drug, causing heart attack, stroke, and death.


Crack is a particular, rock-like type of cocaine that is smoked. A person can become addicted after his or her first time trying crack cocaine,” making it even more addictive than other types of the same drug. Crack is extremely likely to cause psychosis in those who abuse it frequently, as well as brain seizures, respiratory failure, and severe depression.


While methamphetamine is prescribed in extremely rare instances to treat ADHD, crystal meth is an illicit form of the drug that is often abused by smoking it through a pipe. Crystal meth has a number of serious risks, including causing rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and “damage to the small blood vessels in the brain. Those who abuse meth are likely to experience physical and psychological issues that last for months and even years after their substance abuse has stopped.

Bath salts

Bath salts are synthetic cathinones that affect the human brain in many strange and as yet unknown ways. While these drugs cause many stimulant effects (and are often marketed as cheap alternatives to MDMA and amphetamines), they are extremely intense and can create severe anxiety and depression as well. These substances can also be addictive and cause intense cravings and other issues that may last long after the individual stops abusing them.


MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly) is a popular club drug that causes both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Most of the pills containing ecstasy are laced with other drugs as well, which can make them even more dangerous. Ecstasy causes intense, emotional reactions as well as euphoria and extremely high body temperatures, which can even cause deadly dehydration.


Ketamine is normally used as an anesthetic and is most commonly used to sedate animals in veterinary offices. Unfortunately, many individuals steal this drug or buy it illegally in order to get high, often attempting to experience a state of dissociation called the k-hole, which often occurs right before overdose. Ketamine is also used to facilitate sexual assault, as it can be given to someone unknowingly and causes relaxation, unconsciousness, and amnesia.


Hallucinogens are almost all Schedule I substances, and while some, like salvia, are not currently controlled, they can still cause severe psychological effects when abused. LSD, peyote, and psychedelic mushrooms are all non-addictive, but the effects a person experiences while on these drugs, especially during a bad trip could cause self-harm, homicide, or accidental death. Hallucinogens create distorted perceptions that can sometimes be terrifying, causing individuals to experience flashbacks long after the drug has worn off.


Opiates, also known as opioids, painkillers, or narcotics, fall into a category of drugs either derived or synthesized from the poppy plant that can treat pain. Heroin is a type of opiate, but it is not approved for medicinal use. Narcotics work by binding to receptors in the brain, which blocks the feeling of pain,” but unfortunately, those who abuse these drugs to get high or who take larger doses than prescribed often become addicted to them.

Prescription drugs

The most commonly abused prescription drugs include stimulants, opioids, and CNS depressants. Some other prescription medications can cause addiction as well, which is why it is always extremely important to discuss the risks of a certain medication with your doctor before taking it. Prescription addiction is a serious problem currently, as “prescription and over-the-counter drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older”


Lortab is a type of hydrocodone-based drug that also contains acetaminophen and is used to treat pain. Unfortunately, many people abuse Lortab for the opioid drug it contains, as it can cause a strong high when taken in large doses. Those who become addicted to Lortab put themselves at serious risk of respiratory depression, painful withdrawal symptoms, and a severely diminished tolerance for pain.


Used to treat opioid addiction, Subutex is the brand name for buprenorphine, a partial opioid agonist. The drug has a ceiling effect and is, therefore, meant to be safer from abuse than methadone for the treatment of opioid addicts who require daily medication maintenance. However, many people do still abuse Subutex, and the medication has gained popularity as a heroin substitute and as a primary drug of abuse in many areas.


Roxanol is a morphine drug meant to be taken orally and to treat moderate to severe pain. Like other opioids, if abused, Roxanol can cause severe addiction as well as deadly overdose. Those who are prescribed this medication are urged to be extremely careful in administering the drug and making sure no one else takes it.


Fiorinal is a combination of butalbital, aspirin, and caffeine that is meant to treat tension headaches. The drug is not commonly prescribed because it can cause severe addiction in those who abuse it because of the presence of the barbiturate butalbital. Respiratory depression, among other severe symptoms, can also occur as the result of taking large doses of Fiorinal.


Gabapentin is an anti-compulsive that treats seizures, but in recent years, abuse of the drug has been on the rise.  The drug can cause a marijuana-like high as well as “zombie-like effects” in those who choose to misuse it. Though it is still not certain if the drug causes an addiction syndrome like other addiction syndromes, gabapentin is understood to be dangerous if abused.


Codeine is a natural opiate and very strong. The drug is normally used to treat pain and cough. While codeine is an effective medication for those who need it, it is often abused, especially by younger individuals who use cough medication to get high. Codeine is addictive when abused, and even in its liquid form, can cause severe respiratory depression when taken in large doses.


Dilaudid is the brand name medication for hydromorphone, an opioid. The street names for the drug include D, dillies, football, and juice. Dilaudid abuse can often lead to addiction and other serious issues, including painful withdrawal symptoms, respiratory depression, and death.


Fentanyl is one of the strongest prescription opioids available. It is only meant to treat those who are being maintained on another type of opioid and are experiencing breakthrough pain. Fentanyl is more potent even than heroin, and its use as a heroin substitute often results in frequent overdoses that can lead to respiratory depression and death. Those who abuse fentanyl often need long-term addiction treatment, possibly with methadone maintenance.


Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the US and the opioid most associated with abuse, either licit or illicit. Unfortunately, those who misuse hydrocodone have considerable access to the drug, as it can be found online, in medicine cabinets, in friends’ houses, or through doctor shopping and drug theft. Though not as potent as some other opioids, hydrocodone can cause addiction if misused and is still able to create severe respiratory depression when taken in large doses.


Morphine can be prescribed as a capsule, tablet, or injection for those who need moderate to severe pain treatment. Morphine is a natural opiate derived from the poppy plant and those who misuse it are putting themselves in severe danger of addiction. Some of the brand names associated with morphine include Duramorph, Infumorph, Roxanol, and MS Contin.


Methadone is a synthetic opioid that is used to treat opioid addiction. Methadone maintenance treatment is a long-term recovery option for individuals who need to be maintained on medication during their opioid addiction recovery. The program itself was invented in the 1960s and is still used today, despite lingering stigmas. Methadone is effective in helping to treat addiction, but it can also be abused and cause addiction itself, which is why it can only be received through treatment in a specialized clinic.


Oxycodone is an opioid medication used to treat pain. The drug is often abused under the street names O or Oxycotton. Addiction can come on swiftly for those who misuse oxycodone, and because the drug is often prescribed in combination products that also contain acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, other severe side effects can occur, especially when the medication is used in large doses.


Norco is a brand name drug containing acetaminophen and hydrocodone. It is often abused for its opioid effects, and large doses can cause euphoria, relaxation, relief of pain, and respiratory depression. When a person abuses Norco in large doses, they are likely to become addicted and to overdose on the drug, which can cause brain damage, coma, and death.


Laudanum, also known as opium tincture, is not prescribed as often today as it once was but is still used in some cases to treat diarrhea. Like other opioids, when laudanum is taken in large doses, it can cause euphoria and respiratory depression. Those who abuse it put themselves at risk for addiction but also of dependence, tolerance, overdose, and other dangerous effects.


Dextropropoxyphene, an opioid-based pain reliever, is currently not prescribed in most cases because the drug causes serious toxicity to the heart, even when used at therapeutic doses. Some doctors do still prescribe the medication, although other options exist in the same drug class that does not cause these severe side effects. Like other opioids, dextropropoxyphene can be addictive when abused.


Demerol is the brand name medication of meperidine, an opioid painkiller. Also known as demmies, Demerol is prescribed as a liquid or a tablet, but many people take large doses of the drug after becoming dependent on it and tolerant to its effects or to create intense euphoria. This action can lead to addiction as well as many other unwanted effects like an overdose.


Hydromorphone is a generic opioid drug that can be used to treat moderate pain. Those who misuse the drug to create euphoria put themselves at serious risk of overdose and addiction. Hydromorphone is a Schedule II drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse and can cause dangerous side effects in those who do.


Tramadol is a type of opioid that can be used to treat pain but can also cause atypical effects. In 10 percent of the cases of tramadol withdrawal, “hallucinations, paranoia, extreme anxiety, panic attacks, [and] confusion” occur. This is one reason why tramadol abuse is extremely dangerous, and those who do abuse the drug (as well as those who are merely dependent on it) need to be treated in a professional detox facility.

Sleeping pills

Sleep medications are only Schedule IV substances but can cause addiction if abused. Many people misuse these medications by taking them and then fighting the urge to sleep, which causes euphoria. Like many other CNS depressants, these drugs can cause the user to participate in strange behavior while asleep that they will not remember the next day.


Ambien is the brand name of zolpidem, a sleep medication. The drug is also abused in high doses by those who want to experience euphoria. Ambien can be addictive like many other prescription medications, and treatment may require medication and behavioral therapies.


Amytal is the brand name of the barbiturate amobarbital. Like other barbiturates, Amytal is often abused to create euphoria and relaxation. The drug is addictive, though, and can also cause respiratory depression, which can be deadly.


Lunesta is an addictive drug when abused, but when taken as prescribed, it is a safe and effective treatment for insomnia. However, the drug can also cause severe side effects, including nightmares, nausea, and depression, which all become more likely to occur with abuse.


Sonata is a brand name sleep medication used to treat insomnia. Though the drug is effective for those who require it, unfortunately, abuse is common and can lead to addiction. Sonata also causes individuals to participate in activities while sleeping that they do not remember upon waking.


Zolpidem, the generic name for Ambien, is a sleep medication that can also become addictive when abused. Those who misuse zolpidem will be likely to become dependent on the drug and to crave it, which can lead to overdose and a number of other dangerous effects. The drug should only be taken right before bed and as prescribed by a doctor.