Drug Types

Various forms of medication are used to treat specific types of illness and conditions. In the following brief descriptions, the most commonly used medications are briefly outlined for clarification.

If you are taking medication for any purpose, it is important to understand how the medication works. If a person takes one medication that raises blood pressure and heart rate and introduces another medication with the same type of mechanism, the risks not only double, but can increase synergistically, which means that they can triple or quadruple the effects of each other. Even when all medications are prescribed, it is important that your doctor knows ALL medications you are taking, including alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, which may be legal. These legal drugs have huge impact on other medications. Taking vitamins, herbal concoctions and mineral supplements can have serious interactions with prescription medications. Of course, any time medication is being taken without a prescription, it is necessary to practice caution in order to avoid overdose or interactions with other drugs.

The following guides may help determine if you have taken something that is potentially dangerous or lethal. Overdose of medications is a common cause of death, even when it is accidental.

Classification of Drugs

Drug Schedules: All medications and chemicals used to make drugs are classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency into five categories. These determine the drug’s purpose and medical use for effectively keeping nonmedical drugs out of pharmaceutical preparations. This is done according to the use of the drug medically and it’s tendency toward addictive properties.

Schedule I: These drugs have no recognized use for medicinal purposes and are highly addictive in nature. They span all types of drugs. Some of these are heroin, LSD, ecstasy and cannabis.

Schedule II: These drugs are those with limited medical use, and have somewhat less potential for addiction. Some of these are cocaine, methadone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, and amphetamine drugs.

Schedule III: These drugs have moderate potential for addiction and include more frequently prescribed medications such as Vicodin, drugs that include less than 90 milligrams of codeine in a dose, ketamine and anabolic steroids.

Schedule IV: drugs are those seen as medically useful in numerous situations and include Darvon, Soma, Xanax, Valium and Ambien; all of which are types of benzodiazepine medication.

Schedule V: These are medications least known for their potential to become habit forming or addictive. Some are cough suppressants with less than 200 milligrams of codeine, such as Robitussin AC, Lomotil or others. There are some prepared medications for use as analgesics, anti-diarrheal and others. These are made with the lowest possible amount of narcotic ingredients.

Common Drug Types

Classification of types of drugs lists thousands of ingredients and purposes for medicinal use. Here is a short list of drugs commonly abused or used recreationally, although most have medicinal purposes.

Antidepressants

There are several types of antidepressant medications, and a wide variety of drugs within each type. The three most commonly used types of anti-depressants are selective serotonin reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and atypical antidepressant medications. There are others, such as the older varieties known as tricyclic and tetracyclic medications, as well as MAOIs. These are seldom used because their side effects can be very disruptive and/or hazardous. All of these drugs work differently and it is sometimes necessary to try several before relief is achieved. They all have potentially dangerous side effects when combined with other medications. Stopping these drugs can have serious side effects. Tapering off must be medically supervised.

Anti-anxiety drugs

These drugs are primarily used to calm the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Some are prescribed for use as sedatives or sleeping pills. The class of drugs used here is most frequently benzodiazepines. These cause drowsiness, slowed heart rate and breathing, and interfere with normal functioning. Dangers are for abuse, due to increased need for drugs to function normally. Severe dangers are present in combining these medications with others, such as alcohol, barbiturates and narcotic pain medications. Some stimulant medications may also cause severe symptoms and can lead to death. Stopping these drugs after even short-term use can have serious consequences. Medications must be managed and tapered off by a physician.

Barbiturates

These are drugs used primarily for sedation. Barbiturates can include some drugs prescribed as anti-anxiety medication, but are usually used for purposes of sedation and as tranquilizers. They have relatively high potential for abuse and dependence. Each particular drug in this type is rated differently. They range from Schedules II through IV. Serious health consequences, including fatal overdose are often seen with these drugs.

Cannabis

Marijuana, hash and hash oil are classed in this type. Various laws govern growing, selling, buying and possession of these drugs, depending upon the state. Laws are changing quickly, nationwide, as medical purposes for marijuana are being touted and recognized. These drugs currently are listed with the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency as Schedule I. State laws have decriminalized marijuana for use by individuals in varying degrees. There is high risk of dependence on this drug, along with potential for interaction with other drugs. Some users may use cannabis to counteract the effects of stimulant medications, with the possibility of severe anxiety and panic attacks. Other interactions include potential for overdose when under the influence of marijuana, due to its effects on decision making and cognitive functions.

Club and Street Drugs

Ecstasy, rohypnol, and GHB are three club drugs frequently used and abused. Ecstasy and GHB are schedule I drugs, and rohypnol is schedule IV. GHB and rohypnol are sedative hypnotic medications. Rohypnol is infrequently used for surgical purposes in veterinary settings. Ecstasy is a stimulant medication used frequently at gatherings like raves. There is serious danger of drug interactions with these medications. Since they are produced outside clinically monitored settings, there is no standard of production and other chemicals may be introduced when they are being manufactured.

Dissociative Drugs

These drugs vary by schedule. Several are popular for abuse. One of these drugs is less than Schedule I, while two of them have no schedule. While two are medically-indicated for use, they are abused often. These drugs are:

  • Ketamine, a Schedule III medication, sometimes used for anesthetic on animals.
  • Salvia, a nonscheduled, plant based drug. This is smoked most often and has no medicinal applications.
  • Dextromethorphan is a nonscheduled substance added to many cough suppressant and cold medications.
  • PCP is a schedule I and II drug.

Dissociative drugs induce sedative effects, along with a sense of disconnection from self and others. These drugs can induce mild hallucinations. Danger exists for serious drug interactions and psychotic episodes for those who suffer from mild to severe mental illness.

Hallucinogens

These drugs produce vivid hallucinations for users. LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline are the most popular hallucinogenic medications, all of which are Schedule I substances. They have no medically-recognized purposes, although extensive research has been done to determine their possible effectiveness in treating mental illness in varying forms. Dangerous side effects have been recognized by those who suffer from mental disorders and at high doses. There is danger, also when used with other drugs.

Inhalants

Inhalants are seldom scheduled as drugs, but are commonly used to gain an altered state and have been frequently abused. Solvents are the most popular form of inhalant. These can range from spray paint to gasoline and Freon. Because they are dangerous, often lead-based chemical compounds, side effects can be severe. Brain damage from inhalants is frequent. Health risks are severe and interaction with other drugs is sometimes fatal.

Narcotics

This is a classification that includes all medications based on opiates. Primarily used for pain management, opioids are drugs highly likely to cause addiction. Lower levels of opiates are scheduled lower than those with higher levels. Some of the opioid narcotics are synthetically produced. These range from Schedule I, such as heroin, to Schedule V, very low levels of codeine in some cough suppressant medications.

Steroids

A group of naturally-occurring chemical compounds, some are used medicinally and others are used/abused for purposes of body-building and restructuring of muscle and bone. Anabolic steroids are the type most often abused, since there is little medicinal purpose for these drugs. There are also corticosteroids, which are those used for anti-inflammatory purposes. All steroids are designed for short-term use, as there are severe medical complications when used. Some persons have had fatal reactions to steroid use, even short-term. Dangerous side effects occur from use of these drugs.

Stimulants

A central nervous stimulant gives the user a burst of energy, along with increased alertness and euphoria. They feel powerful and unstoppable. Agitation, nervousness and hyper-manic mood swings are symptoms of use of these drugs. Medically, they are used to treat obesity, ADHD and ADD, as well as narcolepsy. Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine and amphetamine. The use of these drugs for recreational purposes leads to severe medical consequences, as well as some permanent cognitive and behavioral damage.

Nicotine

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A central nervous stimulant AND depressant, nicotine may relax some users while invigorating others. Some users receive both benefits from tobacco use. Nicotine can be smoked, chewed or taken in other forms when replacing tobacco. Highly addictive, tobacco products are legally obtained and not scheduled. Serious health risks are recognized by tobacco users and those who breath their blown out smoke or live in the same vicinity with tobacco smokers.

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