Types of Drugs

types of drugs types of drugs types of drugs

There are four main classifications of drugs grouped according to their physiological effects:

  • Stimulants
  • Sedatives
  • Opioids
  • Psychedelics

Stimulants

Stimulants are substances that excite bodily function, but more specifically stimulate the brain and central nervous systems. Stimulants can make you more alert, elevate mood, and increase speech and motor activity.

caffeine , cocaine (powder)/crack cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine

Sedatives

Sedatives relax the body and slow brain activity by acting on the central nervous system. They have a calming effect and are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. There are two primary types of sedatives: benzodiazepines and barbiturates.

Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Ambien

Opioids – Fentanyl & Carfentanil

Opioids are substances used to relieve chronic and acute pain. Opioids are depressant drugs, which means that they slow down the part of the brain controlling breathing. Some opioids occur naturally, collected from the seed pod of the opium poppy, while others are artificially produced (synthetic opioids).

heroin, codeine, oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl, carfentanil

  • Fentanyl is a powerful pain medication that is 100 times stronger than morphine. Pharmaceutical-grade fentanyl can safely be used for pain management and is administered through a slow-release patch on the skin. Illicit fentanyl, which is sold on the street as powder, is produced in clandestine laboratories, often by criminal actors; therefore, it poses a significant health and safety risk to the public.
  • Carfentanil is an opioid used by veterinarians to tranquillize large animals. It is unsafe for human consumption as it is approximately 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and ten thousand times more toxic than morphine. Carfentanil comes in powder form and is often cut into other drugs like heroin and counterfeit pills that resemble prescription opioids.

Psychedelics

​Hallucinogens are psychedelic drugs that can affect sensory perception and alter the way people see, hear, taste, smell, or feel. Hallucinogens can also affect mood and thoughts, and are often accompanied by a sense of euphoria. Many can be found in nature and have long been used safely for religious and cultural purposes.

LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), cannabis, ecstasy (MDMA1), ketamine2


[1] Also stimulant

[2] Also dissociative

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Advocating for public health- and human rights-based drug policies grounded in evidence, social justice, and compassion. www.drugpolicy.ca