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Different Types of Addictive Drugs

Addiction affects millions of lives in America every day. Different types of addictive drugs activate the pleasure center in the brain that creates a shortcut to the reward. Different types of addictive drugs affect people in different ways and can impact the course of treatment. Additionally, the varying addictive qualities of individual drugs can affect how good a person feels when they use certain drugs — and how bad when they stop.

Different Types of Addictive Drugs

Generally speaking, addictive drugs fall into three main categories: narcotics, sedatives, and stimulants. 

Narcotics — While the word “narcotics” is used generally to describe any drug, they are actually a class of drug that are naturally opium-derived, or synthetically made in a lab.  Types of narcotics include heroin, opium, fentanyl, and OxyContin.

Sedatives — These are a class of drug that slow down the central nervous system. They can include prescription drugs like Xanax or Klonopin, as well as marijuana and alcohol.

Stimulants — This class of drugs speeds up central nervous system responses. They can include cocaine, amphetamines, and certain prescription drugs like Adderall.

While many drugs have a risk of dependency, some are more addictive — and abused — more than others. The top different types of addictive drugs are:


Opiates are highly addictive drugs that activate the reward centers of the brain. Dependence on opioid drugs can occur in a very short period. Over time, opioid drugs can actually change the chemical structure of your brain and make you physically dependent on the drug. This physical dependence can cause severe withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using the drug that usually require medical intervention.

Opioid drugs can cause seizures, psychosis, hallucinations, and death. IV drug use can spread infectious diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis.


Cocaine is another highly addictive drug that, even in small doses, can be dangerous. It is a stimulant and gives users feelings of euphoria. However, it can also increase blood pressure, cause a racing heart, and even cause heart attacks. 

Crack, the rock form of cocaine that is usually smoked, is an incredibly potent stimulant. Because it acts quickly on the reward centers of the brain, it is highly addictive. This addiction can lead to numerous health problems, such as kidney and liver problems, heart attacks, and strokes.


Because of its accessibility and general acceptance in mainstream society, many people do not consider marijuana addictive. However, like alcohol, marijuana has the potential to be abused. In fact, recent data suggests that up to 30% of marijuana users struggle with marijuana abuse disorder.

Through frequent use, people may experience withdrawal symptoms when they haven’t used marijuana. Marijuana can cause cognitive function impairment and mood swings. Additionally, marijuana has been shown to elevate blood pressure and reduce the ability for your blood to carry oxygen through your body.


Amphetamines are stimulants that can make users feel as if they’re unstoppable. They can be prescribed by doctors for the treatment of ADHD and other mental health issues. They can also be synthetically and illegally made (crystal meth). However, these drugs are extraordinarily addictive — especially if abused. 

Amphetamines can cause paranoia, delusions, skin issues, and dental issues. Irreversible brain and nerve damage is also an issue for people who abuse amphetamines.


Alcohol is one of the most abused drugs in the United States, due in large part to the ease in which people can access it. Additionally, alcohol is usually the first drug that teenagers or young people experiment with. Alcohol use disorder affects some 15 million people in the United States.

Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. It can cause poor coordination, memory impairment, and slurred speech. Long-term use can lead to brain damage, liver damage, heart attack or stroke, and even death. Alcohol use can lead to physical dependence which can make withdrawal uncomfortable and may require medical intervention.

Prescription drugs

Prescription drug use is on the rise. In fact, between 20-30% of people who are prescribed prescription opioids abuse them. Many prescriptions drugs, like Adderall and OxyContin and incredibly addictive.

Prescription drug abuse can lead to a host of problems, which can vary depending on the drug. These problems include: elevated blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, and brain damage.

Signs of Addiction

Addiction is a disorder rooted in denial and shame. Many people do not want to admit that they are dependent on different kinds of addictive drugs. Knowing the signs of addiction to look for, in yourself or in a loved one, can help get on the road to recovery.

Emotional and Behavioral Signs:

  • Obsessive thoughts and actions — especially about getting more of the drug
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Loss of control
  • Personality changes
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation

Physical Signs:

  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Sudden weight changes — especially weight loss
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Insomnia
  • Strange body odors
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech 

Addiction Treatment in Nashville, TN

If you or someone you love is struggling with drug addiction, Brentwood Springs Detox can help. Our team of caring addiction experts know about the different kinds of addictive drugs and can help make a treatment plan to help you. Contact us today to find out about your treatment options to take back your life from addiction. When you’re ready to start, we’re here to help.

Types of Drug Addictions

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