Know the 4 Categories of Drugs and What They Do

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Thousands of people overdose on prescription, over-the-counter, and street drugs every year. And often it’s unintentional. That’s because people don’t understand drug interactions. In this article, we’ll talk about the four categories of drugs and how they affect your body.


Stimulants, as their name suggests, stimulate your brain. They cause it to work overtime and in turn, your heart pumps faster and you feel energetic and jittery. The most common stimulant is caffeine. You can find it in coffee, tea, and certain medications such as Excedrin. Other stimulants include illegal drugs such as cocaine, MDMA (molly and ecstasy), and legal prescription drugs such as Ritalin and dextroamphetamine (for narcolepsy). 


Depressants are drugs that decrease brain activity. They include alcohol, any kind of sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, and anti-anxiety medication. When people unknowingly mix depressants, the effects of these drugs are magnified. You can think of these drugs like the brake on a car. Your body is the car and as you slowly step on the brake, the car slows down. Death happens when the car stops. 


These types of drugs are similar to depressants in that they block nerve signals, namely, pain signals. They derive from opium poppy plants, hence the name opiates. Morphine, a type of opiate, helps with pain after surgeries. Heroin, an illegal street drug, comes from morphine and has the same effect. Other forms of opiates include OxyContin, Vicodin, and fentanyl. These substances are highly addictive and can easily cause overdoses.


Hallucinogens are usually plant-derived compounds that change the state of your brain. Sometimes, people will see or hear things. Other times, they may feel disconnected from their body. The most famous hallucinogen is LSD, isolated from the wheat fungus, ergot. Other common hallucinogens include psilocybin, from mushrooms, and compounds from mescaline. People have been using hallucinogens for most of human history and researchers are now exploring the beneficial properties of these compounds. Still, despite anecdotes from users, these substances are not FDA approved to treat diseases at this point in time.


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