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Drugs can be classified in many ways. They can be grouped according to:



uses (medicinal or recreational)

effect on the body (the specific effect on the central nervous system)

source of the substance (synthetic or plant)

legal status (legal/illegal/decriminalised)

risk status (dangerous/safe).




Stimulants accelerate messages travelling between the brain and body. They can make a person feel more awake, alert, confident or energetic. They can also cause a person to feel anxious, aggressive or paranoid. Common stimulants include methamphetamine (ice), amphetamines, cocaine, nicotine and caffeine.



Empathogens include substances that cause the brain to release dopamine and serotonin. They can increase feelings of connection and empathy, pleasure and energy levels but can also cause mood swings, dehydration and depression. The most common empathogen is MDMA, or ecstasy.



Psychedelics are also known as hallucinogens. They can cause hallucinations, or change a person’s thoughts, mood, sense of time or perception of their environment or themselves. Common psychedelics are LSD, peyote and psilocybin.



Dissociatives are a type of psychedelic drug. They can cause a person to feel disconnected from their body or physical environment. They can also distort physical senses, such as taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. Common dissociatives are ketamine and nitrous oxide.



Cannabinoids refer to any medicinal, recreational or synthetic substance that joins the cannabinoid receptors of the body and brain. These substances have a similar effect to cannabis, causing a ‘high’ during which a person may feel happy, relaxed, hungry, giggly or quiet and reflective. Cannabis is more commonly known as marijuana.



Depressant substances affect the central nervous system, slowing down the messages travelling between the brain and body. Sometimes depressants reduce concentration, inhibitions and coordination and cause people to feel relaxed. Common depressant drugs are alcohol, benzodiazepines, GHB/GBL and inhalants/solvents.



Opioids affect the opioid receptors in the brain and are usually derived from the opium poppy. Like depressants, opioids slow the central nervous system and messages travelling between the brain and body. They are often used to treat pain. Common types of opioid include codeine (Panadeine®, Panadeine Forte® and Nurofen Plus®), fentanyl, morphine, methadone, tramadol and heroin.


Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition

115  Academy St., Greeneville, TN 37743