The 6 Types of Drugs and their Effects

There are 6 types of drugs , With different effects, according to its active principles: Cannabis, opiates, stimulants, legal (nicotine and alcohol) and designer drugs.

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

types of drugs

So what really separates these types of drugs is the dosage That the user takes. For example, Barbiturates Are a type of drug used to relieve anxiety but in high doses can be used As a sedative and hypnotic drug.

The 6 main types of drugs

1- Cannabis


He Cannabis Or marijuana is usually taken by grinding dry leaves and smoking it, although it is also usual to consume its pressed resin or hashish , It is usual to mix it with tobacco. Its active ingredient is THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocarbocannabinol). THC joins 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 natural cannabinoids Segregated by our own body (for example the Anandamide ). In addition the number of cannabinoid receptors in our system Central nervous system is greater than that of any other neurotransmitter, in certain areas of the brain its number is up to 12 times greater than that of Dopamine receptors.

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

Brain effects

Cannabis release releases cannabinoids that interact with cannabinoid receptors which in turn trigger the release of dopamine from the system Of reward, in particular the Nucleus accumbens . This increase in dopamine creates a pleasant effect that works as a booster and makes That the person who consumes it feels like continuing to take it. Therefore the type of dependence it provokes is psychological.

Behavioral effects

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

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

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

In chronic consumers of large quantities 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 provoke Physical but psychological dependence.

Does it provoke tolerance?

Effectively, regular marijuana users feel like the same amount of drug ever makes them less effects and they should consume more to feel the same.

Does it cause withdrawal symptoms?

In recent studies with mice chronically exposed to THC, they have been found to suffer from abstinence. It is not yet known if this is also given in Although it is very likely.

Can it cause schizophrenia?

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

In patients with schizophrenia It has been proven that this maturation deficit exists, but in order to develop schizophrenia it is necessary to have a Genetic predisposition And live in a certain environment . So the mere fact of consuming marijuana during adolescence Can not provoke schizophrenia But can induce it in people with genetic predisposition and increase the Chance 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 Many 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 Opiates Are substances derived from the resin of the opium poppy or opium plant. It can be ingested almost in any way, it can Eating, smoking, injecting... The most common opiate is heroin , Which is usually administered intravenously, this type of Administration is particularly dangerous because the necessary hygienic measures are not usually followed and diseases can be spread.

As with cannabis, there are Opioids , Of which the most important are opioid peptides, 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 upon 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 down neurons and slows down the transmission of others Neurotransmitters. By blocking the GABA function Nucleus accumbens (Structure of the reward system), the re-use 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 a Complete desensitization to both endogenous and exogenous stimuli.

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

Data of interest

Does it lead to dependency?

In fact, the administration of opioids in a chronic form causes both physical and psychological dependence, since it modifies receptors Opioids and affects the reward system. So people dependent on this substance continue to consume it both for the pleasurable effects As well as the adverse effects of not taking it.

Does it provoke tolerance?

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

Does it cause withdrawal symptoms?

Chronic opioid administration modifies the receptors by making them adapt and less sensitive, so that stimuli that before They were pleasurable they cease to be. The main symptoms of abstinence 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 is used, the morphine Is a type of opioid 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 the cocaine and the amphetamine And its derivatives such as"crack"or methamphetamine.

The cocaine is extracted from the coca leaf, formerly it was burned and consumed directly but today its elaboration is much more complex, in First place the coca leaf until all the salvia leaves, to that"broth"they add lime (for that reason the 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 become more Harmful than coca itself. In addition it is usually snorted, which is highly dangerous because it makes the drug as soon as possible to the brain through The blood vessels of the nose, this procedure causes great physical damage as it wears the nasal septum.

Currently in some indigenous peoples of South America coca leaf is still consumed, chewed to get energy and to alleviate the call "Evil of heights".

He Crack , Or the 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 that is sold in pills and is usually administered orally, as is the Methamphetamine . Due to its mode of administration usually have less intense effects than cocaine and its derivatives. Your Elaboration is complex and it is necessary to know chemistry to be able to do it, as we have been shown in Breaking Bad .

Brain effects

Both the cocaine as the amphetamine Act by blocking the dopamine transporter (DAT), thereby dopamine Remains free and focuses on key areas such as Nucleus accumbens , Area of ​​the reinforcement system. Amphetamine, in addition to blocking The dopamine transporter, blocks the receptors so that dopamine can not be recaptured and continues to produce and concentrate more and more until That 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 (Limbic area) and control of our actions (prefrontal cortex) and also to certain 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 sensation Of intense pleasure that the consumers describe as better than an orgasm, but if you increase the amount you can end up suffering from tremors, lability Emotional, 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 intake, but also Modified in the long term.

Does it produce tolerance?

Yes, the chronic administration of stimulants makes modifications in the reward system that adapts to the increase in the concentration of dopamine and Is habitable, so it takes more and more dopamine to activate the system and the person will have to take a higher dose in order to feel The effects of the drug.

Does it cause withdrawal symptoms?

Indeed, changes in dopaminergic neurons due to their overactivation cause unpleasant symptoms when drug. This overactivation can cause axonal degeneration and neuronal death, causing symptoms similar to those of the disorder called Burn out , 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 cause the person to search the drug with great impetus, setting aside their duties and endangering themselves and the People you have around you. In addition, it is usual for them to look for extreme pleasurable sensations in order to feel some pleasure, since, due to the Anhedonia find it difficult to feel it, this can cause them to carry out compulsive behaviors such as unprotected sex and without any kind of 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 tobacco, usually administered in cigarettes which carry many other toxic components and Carcinogens, such as tar, that damage the heart, lungs, and other tissues. In addition to burning it, other compounds are created by means of reactions Which are highly hazardous as carbon monoxide and hydrocyanic gas. Spain is the ninth largest European Union (EU) country Of smokers, 29% of the population is smoker.

He alcohol Is taken in the form of an alcoholic beverage which can be made by alcoholic fermentation or distillation. Is a Cool drug In all countries except Islamic states. Many people who suffer from a disease or disorder take it to"self-medicate", to Stunned and not think about their problems, so alcoholism is a comorbid disease with many other disorders. According to WHO in Spain we drink About 11 liters a 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 of the Components of tobacco is a Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) that prevents the destruction of dopamine, which affects the reward system.

Alcohol acts on the receptors of GABA potentiating its inhibitory action of the central nervous system and causing a cerebral slowdown general. It also acts in the Synapses Glutamatergic, canceling 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 more What happens is that if a person addicted to tobacco does not smoke will suffer the"monkey"and to calm it will need to re-smoke.

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 the Alcohol in the GABAergic, 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 the doses are increasing.

Do they provoke abstinence syndrome?

Effectively 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 stay Inactive and the typical nervousness of abstinence begins to suffer. This inactivation takes about 45 minutes (the time it takes for a smoker to Lit the next cigarette), so there are 20 cigars in each package, so it can last a full day.

As alcohol slows the brain by stimulating receptors GABA The body itself defends itself by eliminating these receptors to attenuate its inhibition. This way when the person no longer consumes alcohol has fewer GABA receptors than normal. This causes nervousness, tremors, Anxiety, confusion, dizziness, sweating, tachycardia, hypertension, etc. Can cause a delirium tremens and a disorder of the Memory 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

Hallucinogens and ecstasy

The main Designer drugs Are the LSD (Or acid), the mescaline , he PCP (Or Angel), the ecstasy (MDMA) and the Ketamine . These drugs cause intoxication, which is often referred to as"travel", which is Associated with sensory experiences, visual illusions, hallucinations and an increased 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, those that mainly affect the serotonergic system (like LSD) and those that affect mainly the Noradrenergic and dopaminergic system (such as amphetamine and MDMA). Although in reality all these systems are connected and are interacting as See below.

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) and causes a hypersensitivity of the perceptions of the senses. It also affects glutamate which is an accelerator of brain activity, Its activation explains the speed of thought and the problems of reasoning. The activation of the dopamine circuits explains the sensation of euphoria.

He ecstasy Acts on serotonin, an important regulator of mood. It blocks the serotonin transporter, preventing the reuptake of this. Excess serotonin causes a feeling of joy and empathy, but the Serotonin Completely empty, neurons can no longer Work as before and when this happens the individual feels a kind of sadness and heaviness that can last up to 2 days.

Behavioral effects

Hallucinogen intoxication can lead to 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 lucidity sensation.

In addition, at the physiological level, cause anxiety , Nausea, tachycardia, increased blood pressure and body temperature. In states of acute intoxication can produce Symptoms of panic, which is often referred to as"a bad trip", these symptoms include disorientation, agitation or even delirium.

Ecstasy acts on the striatum facilitating movements and creating a certain euphoria, also acts on the amygdala which explains the disappearance Of fears and increased empathy. In the long term, in the prefrontal cortex it damages the serotonergic neurons where it could be neurotoxic, causing a 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, tolerance is created quickly, sometimes after a single dose.

Do they produce withdrawal symptoms?

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 post-traumatic stress syndrome, since acting on the amygdala does so over the Fear and reduces or eliminates it while its effect lasts, which would give people with this syndrome time to treat themselves and face fear without stress. The bad thing about this is that, even in small doses, ecstasy is neurodegenerative for the brain .


  1. Caballero, A., Thomases, D., Flores-Barrera, E., Cass, D., & Tseng, K. (2014). Emergence of GABAergic-dependent regulation of input-specific plasticity In the adult rat prefrontal cortex during adolescence. Psychopharmacology, 1789-1796.
  2. Carlson, N. R. (2010). Drug Abuse. In N. R. Carlson, Physiology of behavior (pp. 614-640). Boston: Pearson.
  3. EFE. (May 29, 2015). Rtve. Obtained from Spain, ninth EU country with more percentage of smokers despite the fall since 2012.
  4. Drug Dependence, WHO Expert Committee on. (2003). WHO, series of technical reports. Geneva.
  5. WHO Study Group. (1973). Youth and drugs. Geneva.
  6. Stahl, S. M. (2012). Reward disorders, drug abuse and treatment. In S. M. Stahl, Stahl's Essential Psychopharmacology (pp. 943-1011). Cambridge: UNED.
  7. Valerio, M. (May 12, 2014). The world. Obtained from Spain doubles the world rate of alcohol consumption.

Loading ..

Recent Posts

Loading ..