Types of Illegal Drugs

Although most people know that there are various illicit substances that are abused throughout the world very few are aware that these drugs fall in different categories. Some of these drugs have a combination of characteristics that cut across the three categories. It is important for every person to be aware of these illicit drugs in order to lower the risk of substance abuse. Additionally awareness about these drugs may also help to identify and help individuals who are addicted to these substances. The following are various types of illegal drugs:


These drugs elevate mood; heighten alertness, increase energy and feelings of well being. The drugs give the user a rush of adrenalin which is closely followed by a crash. When used for an extended period of time they cause irritability, paranoia, apathy, restlessness depression and fidgeting which is characterized by constant body movement. Coffee and caffeine are some of the most widely used stimulants.

  • Ecstasy
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine (Also called “Crystal Meth” or just “Meth)
  • Amphetamines
  • Methylphenidate


These form a major group among the various types of illegal drugs. Depressants simply depress the nervous system. They reduce pain, anxiety, stress and fear which puts the person at ease. The downside of these drugs is that they are highly addictive and often result in reduced ability to fear, anxiety or stress. Alcohol is the most popularly known and abused depressant. Although it can cause symptoms that are similar to hallucinogens and stimulants but it is still considered as a depressant.

  • Marijuana
  • Barbiturates
  • Tranquilizers (For example: Ketamine a.k.a. “Special K”)
  • Heroin
  • Morphine and codeine are commonly used by physicians to alleviate acute condition, however they still cause addiction and are often abused illegally.


Inhalants are commonly found most in workplaces or homes. Although most people do not think of them as drugs these substances have mild-altering properties when inhaled. They aren’t illegal, though it is important to have them on this list because they are frequently abused in the same way that illegal drugs are.

  • Markers
  • Glues
  • Hair sprays
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Paint thinner
  • Whippets (N2O cartridges)


These are chemical compounds that activate cannabinoid receptors in the human body. They include endocannabinoids that are naturally produced by animals and human beings. Cannabinoids include:

  • Phytocannabinoids which occur in the cannabis plant
  • Endogenous cannabinoids produced by human and animal bodies
  • Synthetic cannabinoids produced in laboratories


Opiods work by binding to opiod receptors; these are found in the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. Receptors in these organs mediate the negative and beneficial effects of the opioids. Opioids include:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Kratom
  • Tramadol
  • Desomorphine a.k.a. Krokodil


Hallucinogens cause alternations in thought, mood or perception. Hallucinogens have a very rich history and have been used by various cultures around the world to induce mystical or religious experiences.

Users of these types of illegal drugs experience misperceptions, out of body experiences, complete fantasy and distortion of reality as well as a cocktail of emotions that change rapidly. People who are addicted to the drugs may experience a good or bad trip. A bad trip is simply an anxiety or panic attack which can result in violent behavior or mental breakdown. Hallucinogens include:

  • LSD
  • Ketamine
  • Dimenhydrinate
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Madrake
  • Diphenhydramine
  • PCP
  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Jimson weed
  • Salvia Divinorum – Legal in most places, but is undergoing scrutiny and has been outlawed in some states in the U.S.

Ecstasy and marijuana have characteristics that are associated with the above category. These two drugs are part of the illicit substances that cut across several categories. While marijuana does not cause severe hallucination or the adrenalin rush associated with stimulants it also doesn’t induce complete relaxation that is characterized by depressants.

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