Illegal drugs are those scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled substance, having little or no medical value, and a high potential for abuse or addiction.
That said, there is much controversy surrounding the DEA’s decisions when classifying drugs – some wonder, for example, why marijuana and LSD, two drugs that are not known to cause chemical dependence are scheduled higher than notoriously more dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine.
List of Common Illegal Drugs
Cocaine and Crack Cocaine
Cocaine and crack cocaine are extremely addictive stimulant drugs. Crack cocaine is more potent than traditional powdered cocaine and is often smoked rather than snorted. Long-term abuse can result in seizures, heart disease and cardiac arrest, stroke, overdose, and damage to the septum and surrounding nasal tissues.
GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) is primarily produced in illicit laboratories, although the prescription drug Xyrem (sodium oxybate) is also considered to be GHB. GHB is most often used recreationally as a party/club drug but is also infamous for its use as a date rape drug. The depressant effects of GHB include cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, seizure, coma, and in rare cases, death.
Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs
Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs alter the user’s perception of reality and thinking patterns. This can include audio, visual, tactile, or emotional changes or shifts in the way a person perceives time. Some individuals may feel dissociated from their body or their environment.
These drugs include the following
- Ketamine (Special K)
- Mescaline (peyote)
- PCP (Angel Dust)
- Psilocybin mushrooms
Despite its legal status in several states for medicinal and even recreational purposes, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level as well as in many other states. Although it is not known to be chemically addictive or cause withdrawal symptoms, it can become psychologically addictive and a hard habit to break.
Marijuana use can sometimes result in unwanted side effects such as anxiety and paranoia, and long-term excessive use can impact an individual’s motivation and affect social life as well as work and school performance.
MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)
MDMA is a synthetic “designer” drug that acts as both a stimulant and a psychedelic substance. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), its effects mimic a combination of amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. There is some argument among researchers whether MDMA is a stimulant drug with hallucinogen properties or a drug that should be placed in a class of its own.
Although MDMA is not considered to be chemically addictive, it can be habit-forming and is often mixed with other drugs including ketamine, meth, cocaine, and synthetic cathinones (bath salts.) This fact increases the risk of adverse health problems and overdose, which in rare cases can result in a dramatic rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) and organ failure.
Methamphetamine (meth) is typically found in powder form, while crystal meth resembles shards of glass or bluish-white rocks. Meth is highly addictive, and its stimulant properties can result in cardiovascular problems and death. Effects on the brain can include delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, and aggressive and violent behaviors.
Opium, Heroin, and Other Opioids
The effects of illegal opioids are similar to that of prescription painkillers, in that they produce a pain-relieving effect and euphoria. Opioids are synthetic versions of opiates, which are naturally-occurring compounds found in the opium poppy. Opium itself is illegal, while compounds contained within the dried latex, such as morphine and codeine, are available by prescription.
Illegal opioids include the following:
Heroin is a hugely popular and highly addictive illegal street drug that is derived from morphine. It is a potent painkiller and in large doses can cause heavy sedation and unconsciousness.
Heroin can be smoked, snorted, and injected intravenously. In addition to overdose and other physical and mental effects of addiction, heroin users who use or share needles are at high risk for abscesses, infection, collapsed veins, and blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.
Fentanyl began as a prescription drug with limited use, and currently is indicated for the treatment of severe pain when all other methods fail, as well as general anesthesia for surgery. Illegal fentanyl, however, is made in clandestine labs, often in China, and sold on the street as heroin, oxycodone, or other less-potent drugs.
Fentanyl is roughly 50 times more potent than heroin and is involved in thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.
Carfentanyl is similar to fentanyl but 100 times more powerful. It is not indicated for human consumption and is only legal for use by veterinarians for the sedation of large animals such as elephants. Still, carfentanil is occasionally found cut into other street drugs and is responsible for a number of deaths in the United States and Canada.
Other illegal opioids include U-47700 (Pink) and fentanyl analogs. Also, Grey Death is a name used for a street drug that has have been found to contain U-47700, heroin, and opioids including fentanyl and carfentanil.
Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) is a tranquilizer up to ten times more potent than the popular benzodiazepine Valium. The drug is available as a pill and users often crush the pills into powder and snort it, sprinkle it on marijuana and smoke it, or even inject it.
Like GHB, Rohypnol is famously used as a date rape drug – it is sometimes added to an alcoholic drink at parties and clubs unbeknownst to the drinker, thus rendering them incapacitated and paralyzed. They may be awake are aware of what is happening, but are powerless to move or defend themselves. They are also usually unable to fully remember the event just hours after it occurred.
Anabolic or “muscle building” steroids are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. Some common names for anabolic steroids include Juice, Roids, and Stackers.
People who use anabolic steroids usually take them orally or inject them into their muscles. Steroids can also be applied to the skin as a cream, gel, or patch.
Synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana are psychoactive chemicals with effects that often do not resemble marijuana at all. They are often sold as liquids for vaporizers or are sprayed on dried plants for smoking.
These substances can cause hallucinations, psychosis, aggressive or violent behavior. Two common names for these drugs are Spice and K2.
Treatment for Drug Addiction
Regardless of a person’s drug of choice, if a person is chemically or psychologically addicted, he or she needs professional help. In addition to physical and mental health issues, extended drug abuse and addiction can adversely affect a person’s relationships, career, and academic goals.
Depending on the drug abused, some people require more intensive care, including a medically-supervised detox. Comprehensive, evidence-based treatments, such as behavioral therapies and counseling, help to heal the emotional and mental impacts of addiction while teaching individuals the coping skills they need to prevent relapse and enjoy long-term sobriety and wellness.
Our medical and mental health staff specialize in addiction and can provide clients with the tools necessary to achieve and sustain their recovery goals. Recovery from addiction is a long-term endeavor, but you don’t have to it alone. Contact us today to discuss treatment options and discover how we can help you begin your recovery journey!
Related: The Dangers of Mixing Molly and Alcohol