The 6 Types of Drugs and their Effects

There are 6 types of drugs, with different effects depending on their active ingredients: cannabis, opiates, stimulants, legal (nicotine and alcohol) and designer drugs.

There really is a fine line separating drugs and drugs from abuse since many drugs have active ingredients and recreational drug effects if they are taken repeatedly and abundantly.

Types of drugs

So what really separates these types of drugs is the dose  that the user takes. For example, barbiturates are a type of drug used to relieve anxiety but in high doses it can be used  as a sedative and hypnotic drug.

types of drugs

The 6 main types of drugs

1- Cannabis

The cannabis or marijuana usually taken fumándoselo dry grinding their leaves, but also consume their usual pressed resin or hashish, is usually mixed with snuff. Its active ingredient is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocarbocannabinol). THC binds to  the CB1 receptors of the cannabinoid system .

It is curious that in our organism exists a cannabinoid system, which indicates that we have endogenous cannabinoides, that is to say natural cannabinoids  segregated by our own organism (for example the anandamide ). In addition the number of cannabinoid receptors in our central nervous system  is greater than that of any other neurotransmitter, in certain areas of the brain their number is up to 12 times greater than that  of dopamine receptors.

The cannabinoid system acts mainly in the cerebellum, which governs motor coordination; In the brainstem that regulates the vital functions; And in the striatum, the hippocampus and the amygdala respectively responsible for the reflex, memory and anxiety movements.

Brain effects

Cannabis release releases cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors which in turn trigger the release of dopamine from the reward system, specifically the nucleus accumbens . This increase in dopamine creates a pleasant effect that works as a reinforcer and makes  the person who consumes it feel like continuing to take it. Therefore the type of dependence it causes is psychological.

Behavioral effects

Its main behavioral effects at low doses are euphoria, decrease of certain pains (for example ocular), decrease of anxiety, sensitivity to colors and accentuate sounds, short-term memory loss (recent memories), Movements slow down, stimulation of appetite and thirst and loss of consciousness of time.

At high doses it can lead to panic, toxic delirium and psychosis.

All these effects are transient, their duration depends on the sensitivity of each person and the quantity taken but usually do not last more than an hour.

In chronic consumers of large amounts can have long-term effects such as decreased motivation and social deterioration?

Data of interest

Does it lead to dependency?

As indicated above, cannabis does not cause neural changes in the long term and acts on the reward system, so it does not cause physical dependence, but psychological dependence.

Does it provoke tolerance?

Effectively, regular marijuana users feel like the same amount of drug is making them less and less and should consume more to feel the same.

Does it cause withdrawal?

Recent studies with mice chronically exposed to THC have been found to suffer from abstinence. It is not yet known whether this is also occurring in humans, although it is very likely.

Can it cause schizophrenia?

A recent study by Dr. Kuei Tseng has found that repeated supply of THC to rats during adolescence caused a deficit in the maturation of GABAergic connections of the ventral hippocampus with the prefrontal cortex, which would lead to a decrease in control Of the impulses. This effect did not occur when cannabis was given to adult rats.

In patients with schizophrenia this maturation deficit has been proven, but in order to develop schizophrenia it is necessary to have a genetic predisposition and to live in a certain environment. So the mere fact of consuming marijuana during adolescence cannot cause schizophrenia but can induce it in people with genetic predisposition and increase the likelihood of suffering.

Can it be used as a therapeutic agent?

Cannabis has therapeutic properties such as anxiolytic , sedative, relaxing, analgesic and antidepressant . It is recommended in low doses for numerous diseases that cause pain such as multiple sclerosis.

If you want to know more about this type of drugs I recommend the following video:

2- Opiates

The opioids are derived resin poppy plant or opium substances. It can be ingested in almost any way, can be eaten, smoked, injected … The most common opiate is heroin, which is usually administered

Intravenously, this type of  administration is especially dangerous because the necessary hygienic measures are not usually followed and diseases can be spread.

As with cannabis, there are endogenous opiates , of which the most important are opioid peptides, the  so-called “morphines of the brain itself”. These opioids bind to opioid receptors, of which the most important are mu (μ), delta  (∂) and kappa (k). Endogenous opioids such as endorphins and enkephalins are stored in opiate neurons and released during neurotransmission  and act on the reward system to mediate reinforcement and the feeling of pleasure.

Brain effects

Opioids act on GABA, a neurotransmitter of the brain’s inhibitory system, which slows neurons and slows the transmission of other  neurotransmitters. By blocking the function of GABA nucleus accumbens (structure of the reward system), it prevents the reuptake of  dopamine that has already been released, causing our body to believe that there is not enough dopamine, so a torrent is discharged from this  neurotransmitter, Which will cause the sensation of pleasure.

Behavioral effects

The effects of opiates can range from calm to analgesia (both physical and psychological). Although a chronic take may lead to complete desensitization to both endogenous and exogenous stimuli.

At high doses it produces euphoria, which is its main reinforcing property, followed by a deep feeling of tranquility, drowsiness, affective lability  , mental dizziness, apathy and motor slowness. These effects can last for several hours. Overdose may depress the respiratory system and  may lead to coma.

Data of interest

Indeed, the administration of opioids in a chronic way causes both physical and psychological dependence, since it modifies the opioid receptors and affects the reward system. So people dependent on this substance continue to consume it both for the pleasurable effects and for the adverse effects of not taking it.

Does it provoke tolerance?

The answer is yes, the tolerance starts fairly quickly, it does not take a long time to take this drug to feel it, since opioid receptors adapt quite quickly. As explained above, tolerance implies that the individual must take more drugs every time to feel its effects, so that in the long run the dose necessary to feel euphoria can lead to overdose.

Does it cause withdrawal?

Chronic opioid administration modifies receptors by making them less sensitive and adaptive, so that stimuli that were previously pleasurable cease to be. The main symptoms of withdrawal syndrome are dysphoria, irritability and autonomic hyperactivity characterized by tachycardia, tremors and sweating.

Can it be used as a therapeutic agent?

Yes, and in fact it is used, morphine is a type of opiate that in low doses causes sedation but at high doses can cause a coma and even death. Its chronic administration causes dependence, tolerance and abstinence, as it happens with other opioid substances.

If you want to know more about this type of drugs I recommend the following video:

3- Stimulants: cocaine and amphetamine

The main stimulant drugs are cocaine and amphetamine and its derivatives such as “crack” or methamphetamine.

Cocaine is extracted from the coca leaf, it was formerly burned and consumed directly but today its production is much more complex,  first the coca leaf is pressed until all the sage leaves, to that “broth” Add lime (hence cocaine is a white powder), sulfuric acid  and kerosene which serve as fixatives and increase the effects of cocaine on the brain.

As you can see, the “ingredient list” of cocaine is not at all healthy; its compounds are highly toxic and can be more harmful than coca itself. In addition it is usually snorted, which is highly dangerous because it makes the drug arrive as soon as possible to the brain through  the blood vessels of the nose, this procedure causes great physical damage because it wears the nasal septum.

Currently in some indigenous peoples of South America coca leaves are consumed, chewed to get energy and to alleviate the so-called “altitude sickness.”

The crack, or base, is a derivative of cocaine sold in the form of stone. You can sniff, inject, or smoke. Its effect is more intense than cocaine because it takes less time to metabolize.

The amphetamine is a type of synthetic drug sold in tablet and is usually administered orally, as the methamphetamine. Due to its mode of administration it usually has less intense effects than cocaine and its derivatives. Its way of elaboration is complex and it is necessary to know chemistry to be able to do it, as they have shown us in Breaking Bad.

Brain effects

Both cocaine and amphetamine act by blocking the dopamine transporter (DAT), so dopamine  is free and concentrates on key areas such as the nucleus accumbens , area of ​​the reinforcing system. Amphetamine, in addition to blocking  the dopamine transporter, blocks the receptors so that dopamine cannot be recaptured and continues to produce and concentrate more and more until  it is exhausted. Dopamine can stay active up to 300 times longer than it normally activates normally.


Dopamine is one of the most important neurotransmitters in the brain, the effects of stimulant drugs on dopamine affects areas  involved in motivation (limbic area) and control of our actions (prefrontal cortex) as well as certain circuits related to The  memory (both explicit and implicit).


Stimulants produce long-term permanent brain changes, even after years of abstinence. In a McCann study, it was found that the number of dopamine receptors from chronic methamphetamine users had decreased markedly and this receptor deficit persisted after 3 years of  abstinence. The loss of dopaminergic receptors increases the risk that these people will suffer from Parkinson’s disease when they are older.

Behavioral effects

The main effects are the euphoria and the increase of energy that usually translate into a greater activity and verbiage. At high doses it causes a very intense sensation  of pleasure that the consumers describe as better than an orgasm, but if the amount is increased it can suffer tremors, emotional lability  , agitation, irritability, paranoia, panic and repetitive or stereotyped behaviors.

At high doses can produce anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations , hypertension, tachycardia, ventricular irritability, hyperthermia and respiratory depression.

An overdose can lead to heart failure, stroke, and seizures.

Data of interest

Does it produce dependency?

Stimulant drugs produce both physical and psychological dependence since they not only activate the reward system during the take, they also  modify it in the long run.

Does it produce tolerance?

Yes, chronic administration of stimulants makes modifications in the reward system that adapts to the increase in dopamine concentration and becomes habit-forming, so that more and more dopamine is required in the system to activate and the person will have to take a dose Higher to be able to feel  the effects of the drug.

Does it cause withdrawal?

Indeed, changes in dopaminergic neurons due to their overactivation cause unpleasant symptoms when the drug is not consumed. This overactivation can lead to axonal degeneration and neuronal death, causing symptoms similar to those of the burn-out disorder, which is often associated with high levels of stress for prolonged periods.

Symptoms of withdrawal include drowsiness and anhedonia (lack of pleasure in any stimulus), and long-term loss of cognitive effectiveness, depression, and even paranoia.

These effects make the person search the drug with great impetus by putting aside their duties and endangering both themselves and the people around them. It is also usual for them to look for extreme pleasurable sensations in order to feel some pleasure, since because of the anhedonia they find it

Difficult to feel it, this can cause them to carry out compulsive behaviors like unprotected sex and without any discrimination.

Can they be used as therapeutic agents?

Amphetamine can be used to treat sleep disorders, all those related to sleep problems during the day, and to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD .

If you want to know more about this type of drugs I recommend the following video:

4- Legal drugs: nicotine and alcohol

The nicotine is extracted from the leaves of snuff, usually given in cigarettes which carry many other toxic components and carcinogens such as tar, which damage to the heart, lungs and other tissues. In addition to burning it are created other compounds by chemical reactions that are highly dangerous as carbon monoxide and hydrocyanic gas. Spain is the ninth country in the European Union (EU) with the highest percentage of smokers, 29% of the population is smokers.

The alcohol is taken in the form of an alcoholic beverage which can be made by alcoholic fermentation or distillation. It is a legal drug in all countries except Islamic states. Many people who suffer from a disease or disorder take it to “self-medicate”, to stun and not think about their problems, so alcoholism is a comorbid disease with many other disorders. According to the WHO in Spain they drink around 11 liters per year per person, well above the world rate that oscillates 6.2 liters per year per person.

Brain effects

Nicotine acts on the nicotinic receptors in the acetylcholine network and, in high doses, promotes the segregation of dopamine. In addition another component of tobacco is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) that prevents dopamine destruction, which affects the reward system.

Alcohol acts on the receptors of GABA enhancing its inhibitory action of the central nervous system and provoking a general cerebral slowdown. In addition, it also acts on the glutamatergic synapses , canceling out its excitatory action, which would increase the depression of the central nervous system.

It also acts on the reward system by attaching to opioid and cannabinoid receptors, which would explain its enhancing effects.

Behavioral effects

Nicotine has activating effects and mental alertness; contrary to what is usually thought has no relaxing effect. As will be explained later what happens is that if a person addicted to tobacco does not smoke, he will suffer the “monkey” and to calm him will need to go back to smoking.

Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system this produces relaxation, drowsiness and diminution of reflexes, at the cognitive level causes  social disinhibition, therefore it is usually taken in social gatherings and parties.

Data of interest

Do they produce dependency?

Both nicotine and alcohol produce physical and psychological dependence. Nicotine produces long-term changes in cholinergic receptors and alcohol in GABAergics, this explains the physical dependence they cause. Psychological dependence is explained by the fact that both substances act on the  reward system.

Do they produce tolerance?

Yes, both drugs cause tolerance by promoting the interval between taking and taking is getting shorter and doses are increasing.

Do they provoke withdrawal syndrome?

In fact both cause an intense withdrawal syndrome.

When a smoker starts smoking a cigar the reward system starts up and begins to segregate dopamine, which produces pleasure. But when the cigar is finished, the dopamine receptors are desinsibilized to adapt to the amount of dopamine, so that they temporarily become inactive and begin to suffer the typical nervousness of withdrawal. This inactivation lasts about 45 minutes (the time it takes for a smoker to light up the next cigarette), so there are 20 cigarettes in each package, so it can last a full day.

As alcohol slows the brain by stimulating GABA receptors the body itself defends itself by removing these receptors to attenuate their inhibition. This way when the person no longer consumes alcohol has fewer GABA receptors than normal. This causes nervousness, tremors, anxiety, confusion, dizziness, sweats, tachycardia, hypertension, etc. And may lead to delirium tremens and memory disorder associated with alcoholism, Korsakoff syndrome.

If you want to know more about this type of drugs I recommend the following video:

5- Design drugs: hallucinogens and ecstasy

The main designer drugs are LSD (or acid), mescaline, PCP (or angel dust  ), ecstasy (MDMA) and ketamine . These drugs cause intoxication, often referred to as “travel,” which is  associated with sensory experiences, visual illusions, hallucinations, and an increase in the perception of both external and internal stimuli, this  type of effect is called psychedelic.

These types of substances are often referred to as “disco drugs” as they are often used in this context.

Brain effects

Hallucinogens can be of two types, which mainly affect the serotonergic system (such as LSD) and those that mainly affect the noradrenergic and dopaminergic system (such as amphetamine and MDMA). Although in reality all these systems are connected and are interacting as we will see below.

Also Read: Ludopathy: Psychological Aspects and Characteristics

As an example of the mode of action of the hallucinogens we will expose the action of LSD. This compound binds to the 5HT2A receptors ( serotonin receptors  ) and causes a hypersensitivity of sensory perceptions. It also affects glutamate which is an accelerator of brain activity,  its activation explains the rapidity of thinking and problems of reasoning. The activation of the dopamine circuits explains the sensation of euphoria.

The Ecstasy acts on serotonin, an important regulator of mood. It blocks the serotonin transporter, preventing its reuptake. Excess serotonin causes a feeling of joy and empathy but serotonin reserves are completely emptied, neurons can no longer function as before and when this occurs the individual feels a kind of sadness and heaviness that can last up to 2 days .

Behavioral effects

Intoxication with hallucinogens can cause visual illusions, macropsy and micropsy, emotional and emotional lability, subjective slowing of the time, intensification of the perception of colors and sounds, depersonalization, derealization and sensation of lucidity.

In addition to physiological level can  cause anxiety , nausea, tachycardia, increased blood pressure and body temperature. In states of acute intoxication can produce symptoms of panic, which is often called a “bad trip”, these symptoms include disorientation, agitation or even delirium?

Ecstasy acts on the striatum facilitating the movements and creating certain euphoria, also acts on the amygdala which explains the disappearance of the fears and the act of empathy. In the long term, the prefrontal cortex damages serotonergic neurons where it could be neurotoxic, causing  irreversible damage that could degenerate into depression.

Overdose of these substances can produce extremely high temperatures, seizures and coma.

Data of interest

Do they produce dependency?

No evidence has been found that they produce physical dependence, but psychological.

Do they produce tolerance?

Yes, in addition tolerance is created quickly, sometimes after a single dose.

Do they produce withdrawal syndrome?

No evidence has been found that they produce withdrawal syndrome.

Can they be used as therapeutic agents?

Yes, they can be used for example to help patients suffering from the syndrome of post-traumatic stress as acting in the amygdala does on  fear and reduces or eliminates the duration of its effect, which would give them time to people With this syndrome to treat and face fear without  stress. The downside to this is that, even in small doses, ecstasy is neurodegenerative to the brain.

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