Different Types Of Addiction
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Different Types Of Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

There are several different types of drugs and addiction out there that can cause serious harm. Learning the different kinds of addiction and how to spot them can help save a life.

When people think of addiction, the usual suspects come to mind: alcohol, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and so on. But what if I told you that there are over 25 different drugs we were going to cover in an informative series? Would you be able to guess at what they were?

We want to give you the lowdown on what these drugs are, their side effects, long term effects, and what types of treatment are available for those suffering from that specific addiction. By doing so, we are able to keep you informed and up-to-date on your knowledge, which increases your potential ability to spot those who may be addicted and offer them help.

We will be covering a variety of different drugs in the following categories:


Stimulants are a type of drug that raises levels of nervous activity in the body, making you feel full of energy or hyperactive. This increases mental attention and alertness while causing elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

Once addicted, depression and sleep disturbance are common withdrawal symptoms, which makes those trying to quit likely to relapse. Repeated abuse can cause paranoia, psychosis, and the possibility of heart failure.


Depressants are the opposite of stimulants. These substances cause the central nervous system to slow down, allowing the user to feel relaxed and calm. Those who feel anxious or have trouble falling asleep may be the most likely to abuse such drugs. Depressants also lower inhibitions, as seen when drinking alcohol.

Negative effects of depressants include drowsiness, inability to concentrate and make informed decisions, slurred speech, and poor coordination. Over time, heavy abuse can cause major respiratory problems, dependence on the substance for sleep, and liver damage.


Opiates are drugs that are used to treat pain, often prescribed by doctors or used in treatment for those suffering from medical illnesses or injuries. These drugs promote feelings on contentment along with blocking pain receptors in the brain.

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Because opiate-users often find the need to up their dosage to get the same effects, overdosing is common and often leads to cardiac or respiratory arrest. Withdrawal is also extremely unpleasant, with symptoms of irritability, insomnia, fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea. All of these make it a difficult drug to quit.


Hallucinogens are a type of drug that does exactly as their name explains: gives the user a hallucination. Hallucinations cause a person’s reality to be distorted, either by sight, sound, or touch. These drugs can also cause rapid and intense mood swings.

The risks of taking hallucinogens are quite high. People who see or hear things that don’t exist can lose contact with reality and cause harm to themselves or those around them. Many users experience feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and fear. Long-term use can result in permanent psychosis and mental disorders.


Cannabinoids is a category all of its own because these substances originate naturally in plants and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. This linkage causes feelings of euphoria and relaxation in the brain.

Consistent use of such substances creates difficulties in concentration, impaired memory, lower reaction times, and sensory distortion. Once addicted, long-term users are at risk for immune system suppression, respiratory damage, abnormal cell growth, and reduced sex drive and performance.


Not all drugs are illegal to own or difficult to get a hold of. Many reside in your own home, and when they are not used in the way they were meant to, they can be just as harmful as the usual offenders. These types of drugs are usually abused by adolescents, as they are easily accessible and inexpensive. Huffed, snorted, or sniffed these liquids and vapors are quick acting and dangerous.

Alcohol-like, these substances cause poor coordination, confusion, lightheadeness, and vomiting. Because the high only lasts for a few minutes, repeated and constant use can lead to severe headaches, weakness, unconsciousness, and death.

Anabolic Steroids

When you hear the term anabolic steroids, most people automatically think of the athletes who have been caught using and abusing them. While indeed promoting muscle growth and lower body fat through increased testosterone production, these substances also cause male characteristics in females, such as the deepening of voices, and changes to male reproductive organs.

Long-term abuse can cause growth stoppage, male-pattern baldness, and the infamous roid-rage. In severe cases of addiction, cancer and heart attacks are common. Because steroids are injected, sharing needles is also a common cause for AIDS and other infections.

Prescription Drugs

Amphetamines (Stimulants)

Many people think that prescription medication is different from the drugs that aren’t doled out by a doctor. However, when a person hasn’t been prescribed a drug and doesn’t need it, the effects of taking a prescription drug has many of the same effects as illegal ones. For example, Adderall is an amphetamine that allows those with ADHD to focus, but will cause those without any medical conditions to become energetic, talkative, and jittery.

Common side effects of prescription medication vary depending on the drug that is abused. Many are abused because they eliminate pain or allow the person to slide into an easy sleep. Many people don’t realize that prescription medications are just as addictive as street drugs and need to be more wary when taking them.

Over The Counter

An even more overlooked source of drug abuse are over the counter medicines. Most people believe that if you can get medicine without a prescription that it can’t be dangerous. Unfortunately, such logic is incorrect. Many adolescents are using cough medicine and Dramamine patches or pills to get high because they are easy to get a hold of and cheap to buy.

Such over the counter drugs can cause hallucinations, loss of motor control, and poor judgment. When taken in high doses, it can cause fever, which can then lead to heart stroke if taken in an already hot environment.

Polysubstance abuse is also an issue to take into consideration. Mixing more than one drug can have dangerous side effects.

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