Abuse and Addiction: Common Drugs and Their Dangers

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Drugs are substances that affect how the body and mind function. Drugs can have an impact on a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological state. Physicians prescribe drugs to patients to treat symptoms and illnesses. People may also take illicit drugs to change their physical or mental state, giving them more energy or helping them relax. Drugs can produce enjoyable effects such as euphoria or excitement, reduce pain and stress, and alter behaviors. Drugs may be legal in the form of prescription medications, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. They can also be illegal in the form of substances like heroin and cocaine.


When consumed in excess, alcohol slows down bodily functions dramatically, but drinking moderately does not usually result in significant health issues. Alcohol includes wine, beer, and liquor. After drinking alcohol heavily, physical results include loss of coordination, slurred speech, and slowed reaction times. People also experience loss of judgment and the ability to think clearly. Men who drink more than four alcoholic drinks per day and women who drink more than three alcoholic drinks per day may have an alcohol use disorder.


Benzodiazepines may be prescribed professionally to treat people with severe anxiety. Over time, someone who takes this type of drug can develop a tolerance to it, which leads to dependence and the potential risk of an overdose. Detoxing from benzodiazepines requires careful medical supervision because withdrawal symptoms can be serious. Common benzodiazepines include Ativan, Halcion, Klonopin, Librium, Xanax, and Valium.

Illicit Drugs

Illicit drugs include illegal substances that are usually highly addictive. The nature of illicit drugs varies widely, with some drugs, such as marijuana, slowing down the central nervous system and other drugs, like cocaine, putting the brain into hyperdrive.

Marijuana and hashish are known as cannabinoids. Commercial and street names include blunt, dope, grass, joint, pot, reefer, weed, boom, hash, and hemp. Users experience euphoria, relaxation, increased heart rate and appetite, impaired memory, and possibly anxiety. Health risks include frequent respiratory problems and potential mental health issues.

Club and dissociative drugs include MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which has nicknames such as Ecstasy, Molly, and lovers’ speed. Flunitrazepam and gamma-hydroxybutyrate are common date-rape drugs known as roofies, rope, soap, scoop, or liquid X. These drugs lower inhibitions, relax muscles, create memory loss, cause drowsiness and disorientation, and impair coordination. Health risks include addiction, sleep disturbances, and seizures.

Hallucinogens include LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. These drugs may be called acid, yellow sunshine, buttons, peyote, magic mushrooms, shrooms, or little smoke. Users can experience increased blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature; sweating; sleeplessness; dizziness; impulsive behavior; and mood swings. Health risks include hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.


Opiates are prescription drugs that doctors use to relieve both acute and chronic pain. Taken as directed, opiates can be effective pain relievers. However, the risk is high for patients to develop addictions. Once an addiction occurs, the addict might begin “doctor-shopping” to find doctors who will prescribe more pain relievers. After this avenue is exhausted, the addict will often turn to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get. Nicknames for heroin include smack, horse, skunk, white horse, and cheese. Nicknames for opium include big O, black stuff, gum, and hop. After taking opioids, users experience euphoria, impaired coordination, confusion, sedation, and slowed breathing. Health risks include endocarditis, hepatitis, HIV, and fatal overdose. Common types of opiates include codeine, Demerol, Dilaudid, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone, oxycodone, propoxyphene, and tramadol.

Sleeping Pills

Sleeping pills are a type of prescription medication known as sedative-hypnotics. These addictive medications may lead people to begin taking higher doses to get the desired results. Someone who is dependent on sleeping pills will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drugs, so it’s best to withdraw under medical supervision. Common types of sleeping pills include Ambien, Amytal, Lunesta, and Sonata.


Stimulants are prescription medications used to treat disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Stimulants are known for enhancing performance by activating the central nervous system. People experience better cognitive and physical function and feelings of excitement after taking stimulants. Addiction is possible with stimulants, and people will also develop a tolerance to the drugs. Cocaine is a prevalent stimulant that’s also known as blow, bump, candy, coke, crack, rock, snow, and toot. Amphetamines may be called beauties, hearts, speed, and uppers. Methamphetamine is commonly called ice, crank, crystal, fire, glass, and speed. The effects of stimulants include increased heart rate and blood pressure, elevated body temperature, increased energy and alertness, tremors, irritability, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. Health risks include insomnia, weight loss, cardiac complications, stroke, and seizure. Common types of stimulants include Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Ritalin, diet pills, and anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are known as roids, juice, gym candy, and pumpers. While steroids don’t cause intoxication, they do cause hostility, aggression, acne, cholesterol changes, and hormone irregularities. Medical risks include prostate cancer, reduced sperm production, high blood pressure, and liver cysts.

Inhalants such as paint thinners and aerosol propellants may be called poppers, snappers, and whippets. These drugs cause lack of inhibition, slurred speech, and loss of coordination. Health risks include depression, memory impairment, and damage to both the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

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