Types of drugs and alcohol
There are three main types of drugs – depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. They all cause your mind and body to react in different ways.
Depressants slow your body down; your breathing and heart rate can slow down, you can experience nausea and vomiting, and your ability to think and react to what is happening around you can be affected. Alcohol, heroin, cannabis, sedatives and inhalants are all depressants. These can give you a short-term sense of pleasure and make you feel good for a period of time, but many people experience feelings of depression after using depressants.They can make you disinhibited which increases the chance you might act impulsively or take unsafe risks. Regular depressant use can affect your mood in the longer term, making it even harder to cope, and can increase the risk of suicide in someone experiencing depression.
Cannabis can cause depression, acute panic attacks or ongoing anxiety and paranoia, even in people who have never previously shown signs of having a mental health condition. There is no known ‘safe’ level of cannabis use.
Stimulants speed your body up. They increase your heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. People using stimulants can feel an increase in confidence, motivation and energy, and a decrease in the need for sleep. While some may say that they enjoy this ‘buzz’, stimulants can cause you to feel agitated, anxious, paranoid, aggressive and violent. You can also experience a range of physical side effects, such as severe stomach cramps, headaches and dizziness. Methamphetamines – such as speed and ice – cocaine and ecstasy are some of the commonly known stimulants.
Hallucinogens affect your sense of time and your emotional state, and can cause you to experience auditory or visual hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there). Many people experience unpleasant or scary changes to their reality as a result of using hallucinogens. These negative effects can also be relived if the person experiences ‘flashbacks’ sometime later. Hallucinogens include LSD, ketamine and magic mushrooms. Cannabis can also have hallucinogenic effects.
How people react to drugs and alcohol depends on the person’s size, the type and amount of drugs and alcohol being taken, and how often they are being used. Visit the Alcohol and Drug Foundation for more information about particular drugs and their effects.