Drug Use (ABCT Fact Sheet)

When we speak of drug use, we mean those substances that affect our brain and, thus, our behavior. Different drugs have different types of effects. The major classes of psychoactive drugs are depressants, amphetamines, hallucinogens, inhalants, opiates, and cannabis. Below are brief descriptions of these drugs and their effects.

  • Depressants, such as barbituates and benzodiazeprines, slow down the brain and central nervous system and include alcohol, tranquilizers (Valium®, Xanax®), and sedatives (e.g., Dalmane®, Amytal®, and Seconal®). These drugs, even when prescribed, can cause a strong physical and psychological dependence.
  • Stimulants, such as crack, cocaine, methamphetamine, and diet pills, speed up the central nervous system. Rapid psychological and physical dependence to amphetamines can occur, particularly if these drugs are injected or smoked.
  • Hallucinogens produce distortions of perception (for example, seeing or hearing things that are not really there) and affect insights and judgment. Common hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, MDA, and mescaline. Although physical dependence is rare, frequent use can lead to psychological dependence.
  • Inhalants give users an immediate “high” or “buzz.” Inhalants such as glue, solvents, aerosols, and volatile nitrates were never meant to be used as drugs, and, when inhaled, their long-term use often results in very serious health problems, including brain damage. Frequent use of inhalants can cause psychological dependence.
  • Opiates are very strong pain killers and include heroin, methadone, morphine, Demerol, percodan, and Dilandid. Although some opiates are prescribed for short-term medical use, abusers seek a different effect: highs and relaxed feelings. People can become physically and psychologically addicted to opiates.
  • Cannabis, the most commonly used illegal mood-altering drug in North America, includes marijuana, hashish, and hash oil. Regular and frequent use of large doses can cause psychological and physical dependence.

A publication from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies


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