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Commonly Used Drugs

Though any drug taken recklessly or outside of a doctor's supervision can become addictive and harmful to your health, we have identified key commonly-used drugs below. From alcohol to hallucinogens, these drugs have the potential to alter a user's brain chemistry, damage their body and harm family members and friends.

Overcoming addiction is a multi-step challenge that involves tackling both physical and mental behavior patterns, but a vital first step in that battle is education. If you believe you are suffering from addiction, take a moment to read through the information below to better understand signs and symptoms. If you believe a loved one is struggling with addiction, the information below can help you begin a conversation about the risks involved with the use of legal and illegal substances.

If you need additional information about any of the drugs listed below, believe you are a good candidate for addiction treatment or simply need guidance on your next steps, we are here to help. Call us anytime at 1-813-882-3003 for a free, confidential conversation.

  • Alcohol Addiction
  • Opioid (Painkiller) Addiction
  • Stimulant Addiction
  • Club Drug Addiction
  • Sedative/Hypnotic/Depressant Addiction
  • Marijuana/Hashish Addiction
  • Inhalant Addiction
  • Hallucinogen Addiction


Alcohol affects the central nervous system as a depressant, resulting in a decrease of activity and inhibitions. Even a low level of alcohol within the body slows reactions. Alcohol impairs concentration and judgment, and can lead to intoxication, and in excessive amounts, poisoning.

Alcohol irritates the gastrointestinal tract, causing an erosion of the stomach lining, resulting in nausea and vomiting. Long-term use of alcohol can lead to liver disease (hepatic cirrhosis). Alcohol can also compromise the cardiovascular system and lead to sexual dysfunction. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause problems for the developing fetus known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Drinkers experience changes in tolerance as alcohol dependence develops, often causing memory lapses related to drinking episodes.

Alcohol Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse may include:

  • Tolerance to the effects of alcohol
  • Need for daily or frequent use of alcohol
  • Lack of control over drinking/intake
  • Solitary drinking
  • Making excuses to drink
  • Episodes of memory loss associated with drinking
  • Episodes of violence associated with drinking
  • Behavioral problems
  • Absenteeism
  • Shaking in the morning
  • Neglect of appearance or personal needs
  • Redness and enlarged capillaries in the face (especially the nose)
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Availability and consumption of alcohol becomes the focus of social activities
  • Changes in peer-group associations
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Unexplained mood swings
  • Hostility when confronted about drinking

Everyone’s experience of addiction is different, so not everyone suffering from alcohol addiction will display all these symptoms at once. Nonetheless, if they show signs of habitual behavior patterns around alcohol consumption, they are likely good candidates for treatment.

Risk of Alcohol Withdrawal

As with other drugs, frequent drinkers can experience withdrawal when they cut back or eliminate drinking. This can lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from moderate to severe and life-threatening.

Because alcohol affects the nervous system, its absence in the body can lead to withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Confusion
  • Moodiness
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep
  • Hand or muscle tremors
  • High pulse rate

Withdrawal from excessive drinking can also trigger a condition known as delirium tremens (or DTs) which can lead to hallucinations, seizures, stroke or heart attack.

In the case of heavy drinkers, withdrawal can occur as soon as 5-10 hours after their last drink, with most symptoms subsiding within 5-7 days. Because alcohol withdrawal can lead to life-threatening complications, detoxification should only take place under medical supervision.

Next Steps

If you or a loved one have concerns that you may be suffering from alcohol addiction, contact a medical professional or addiction treatment provider today. Because alcohol withdrawal can lead to complications, it’s essential to enter a supervised treatment program before attempting to wean yourself or a loved one off of alcohol.


The most powerful prescription painkillers are opioids, which are designed to act on the nervous system the same way as opium, morphine (a powerful painkiller that is highly addictive) or heroin. Continued use or missuse of opioids can result in physical dependence and/or addiction. Withdrawal symptoms that can appear with the lessening or absence of the drug include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, confusion, diarrhea, vomiting and cold flashes.

These medications include Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl and Meperidine. The common brand names are Oxycontin, Percocet, Roxicet, Roxiprin, Vicodin and Dilaudid. Some “street” names include oxy, roxy, hillbilly heroin, percs, vikes, dillies, pain killer, juice and M.

Opioids have both mental and physiological effects such as constipation, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, unconsciousness, respiratory depression and slowed breathing, risk of heart attack, coma and death. Opioids are primarily used in a pill or tablet form and are taken orally, crushed and snorted or IV injected.

Signs and symptoms of opioid (painkiller) addiction may include:

  • Usage increase over time
  • Change in personality
  • Shifts in energy, mood or concentration
  • Social withdrawal (withdrawing from family and/or friends)
  • Continued use of painkillers after the medical condition has improved
  • Time and distance increases to obtain prescriptions
  • Change in daily habits and appearance
  • Constant cough, running nose, red/glazed eyes, irregular sleep
  • Neglect of responsibilities (chores, finances, work)
  • Increased sensitivity to normal sights, sounds, emotions, etc.
  • Forgetfulness and/or blackouts
  • Defensiveness, irritability in response to questions/comments about use

Long-term effects of opioid use

Because opioids interact with the brain’s chemical receptors to relieve pain, they can also produce short-term feelings of pleasure, a sense of calm, or an out-of-body sensation. Opioids have a strong effect on the brain and repeated use can quickly lead to addiction.

Unfortunately, long-term use of opioids can also lead to lasting and impactful health effects, both neurological and physiological. These include:

  • Sleepiness and lack of concentration
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Lack of judgement leading to risky behavior
  • Risk of HIV and hepatitis from injectable drugs
  • Impacted immune system
  • Dependence in newborns if mother uses opioids during pregnancy
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain due to lowered breathing rate)
  • Increased risk of additional drug use, especially heroin

Kratom: not an alternative to opioids

Kratom, also known by the street names Herbal Speedball, Ketum or Thom, comes from a tree in Southeast Asia. Its leaves contain a psychoactive opioid compound and are often used in place of opioid painkillers. Kratom is not currently an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the Internet in recent years. Most recently, Kratom has become available in storefronts, sold as a green powder in packets labeled “not for human consumption.” It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum.

Some people who abuse Kratom do so in an attempt to circumvent medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by addiction to opioids and/or alcohol. There is no scientific evidence that Kratom is effective or safe for this purpose.

Signs and symptoms of Kratom addiction may include:

  • Sensitivity to Sunburn
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry Mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased Urination
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Aches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional Changes
  • Runny Nose
  • Psychotic Symptoms


Stimulants include: Cocaine, Crack, Amphetamines, Methamphetamines, etc. Regular users of stimulants may exhibit irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance, tremors, skin flushing and weight loss over time. Continued use leads to overall physical and health failure, heart palpitations, energy loss, swallowing problems, insomnia, respiratory distress, unconsciousness, nose bleeds and nasal damage (resulting from snorting), trembling, seizures, nausea and vomiting. Along with the many physical consequences, stimulant abuse may create psychiatric effects which include suicidal behavior, anxiety, depression, memory loss, blackouts, paranoia, panic states, delusions, poor concentration, compulsive behavior and loss of interest in friends, family, physical appearance and non-drug related activities.

Signs and symptoms of stimulant abuse may include:

  • Dry mouth and nose
  • Bad breath and frequent lip licking
  • Excessive activity, difficulty sitting still
  • Lack of interest in food
  • Lack of interest in sleep
  • Irritability, argumentativeness, nervousness
  • Overly talkative; conversation often lacks continuity, changing subjects rapidly
  • Runny nose, cold or chronic nasal/sinus problems, nose bleeds
  • Use or possession of paraphernalia


In the past, the term “club drugs” was a vague term that referred to the designer drugs that had been used frequently in the school system, night clubs, college campuses, and all-night, underground parties called Raves. Because most of these drugs are odorless, flavorless and colorless, these drugs can be impossible to detect. Included in this category are Ecstasy (MDMA), Special K (Ketamine), GHB, Roofies (Rohypnol), Clarity, and LSD. Because of underground “street labs” and “cooking kitchens,” the drug sources, pharmacological agents, and chemicals used to manufacture these drugs, it is difficult to determine the toxicity, consequences, and symptoms that may occur with each “batch.” However, common to most of these “club drugs,” physical effects include damage to the serotonin-containing neurons in the brain, along with a variety of behavioral and cognitive consequences, and memory loss.

Ecstasy (MDMA) is similar to the stimulant Amphetamine and the hallucinogen Mescaline. Effects last from 3-6 hours. Confusion, depression, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and paranoia have been reported, even weeks after the drug is taken. Also, MDMA may cause increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. MDMA can lead to dehydration, hypertension, heart and/or kidney failure. In high doses, decreased body temperature causes muscle breakdown, kidney and cardiovascular failure, and possible death. MDMA use has resulted in heart attacks, strokes, seizures, and fatalities.

GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate) can be a clear liquid, white powder, or in capsule form. Overdosing on GHB (also called the date rape drug) can occur easily due to the inconsistency in manufacturing (street labs and home “cooking kitchens”). GHB directly attacks the central nervous system, sedating the body. GHB use may cause drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of consciousness, impaired breathing, coma, and possible death.

Special K (Ketamine) in its injectable form is an anesthetic that was developed for use in veterinarian medicine. When in its liquid or powdered form, Ketamine is commonly used in combination with marijuana or tobacco products. Ketamine use may cause amnesia, impaired motor functions, high blood pressure, depression, and fatal respiratory problems. At the very least, Ketamine use will cause impaired attention, decreased concentration, and memory loss.

Roofies (Rohypnol) is a benzodiazepine (such as Valium, Halcion, Xanax) which is about 10 times more potent than Valium. Rohypnol is flavorless and odorless. Users crush the pills and snort the powder, sprinkle it on marijuana and smoke it, dissolve it in a drink or inject it. Because it is virtually undetectable in beverages, it has been used to commit sexual assault, giving it the reputation of the “date rape” drug. The sedative and toxic effects can impair the user for up to 12 hours. Rohypnol use may cause profound amnesia and confusion. (Rohypnol is sometimes referred to as the forget-me-not drug). Adverse side effects include decreased blood pressure, visual disturbances, confusion, amnesia, liver/kidney damage, and possible death.

These synthetic drugs are manufactured to chemically resemble illicit drugs but may be purchased legally because drug manufacturers constantly change the chemical structure to circumvent drug laws. Synthetic cathinones and methcathinones are the main groups of chemicals in use. Since these synthetic drugs have not been approved for human consumption or medical use, their long-term effects are unknown, yet potentially severe.

Street names may include:

  • Smiles, Molly, N-Bomb (251 N-Bome)
  • Bath Salts, Blizzard
  • Flakka (alpha-PVP)
  • Krokodil (homemade opioid)


These drugs interact with the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to depress cognitive activities. They include sedatives (used to make a person calm or drowsy) and tranquilizers (intended to reduce tension and anxiety).

Sometimes called “downers” or “benzos” (short for benzodiazepine) these drugs come in tablet, capsule or liquid form. Some drugs in this category are: Xanax, Valium, Halcion, Librium, Ativan, Klonopin, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Seconal, Phenobarbital, Amytal, and Haldol.

The effects of depressants are similar to alcohol and range from short to very long lasting. The abuser can rapidly develop a high tolerance, which increases the need for escalating dosages to maintain the desired effect. As dependency on the drug increases, cravings, anxiety and panic are common if the user is unable to get more.

Withdrawal may be severe and potentially lethal. Symptoms of withdrawal may include delirium, hallucinations, anxiety, tremors, weakness, abdominal cramps, nausea, high body temperature, convulsions, spatial and time disorientation, seizures, respiratory failure, heart failure and even death.

Symptoms of sedative/hypnotic/depressant abuse may include:

  • Symptoms of alcohol intoxication with no alcohol consumption
  • Lack of facial expression or animation
  • Flat affect
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Disorientation
  • Slow brain function
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Visual disturbances
  • Lack of coordination
  • Difficulty or inability to urinate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts


The primary effects of marijuana and hashish are behavioral because the drug affects the central nervous system. Both marijuana and hashish decrease one’s ability to perform tasks requiring a great deal of coordination (such as driving a car). Visual tracking is impaired and the sense of time is prolonged. Learning is greatly affected because the drug diminishes the ability to concentrate. Frequent users may experience a loss of energy, lack of concentration, memory loss, decreased performance at work/school, and a general lack of ambition.

Other effects may include blood-shot eyes; increased heart rate and blood pressure; bronchial irritation; sinusitis; and asthma in heavy users; decreased fertility; and possible detrimental effects upon the immune system.

Regular users may also experience agitation, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety over a period of time.

Signs and symptoms of marijuana/hashish abuse may include:

    • Rapid, loud talking and bursts of laughter in early stages of intoxication
    • Sleepy or stuporous in later stages of intoxication
    • Forgetfulness in conversation
    • Inflammation in the whites of the eyes; pupils unlikely to be dilated

  • Odor similar to burnt rope on clothing or breath
  • Tendency to drive slowly (beneath speed limit)
  • Distorted sense of time (tendency to overestimate time intervals)
  • Use or possession of paraphernalia (roach clip, packs of rolling papers, pipes, bongs)
  • “Munchies”

**Synthetic marijuana, known by several street names such as Spice, K2, Black Mamba and Fake Weed, is a synthetic cannabinoid manufactured to chemically resemble THC but may be purchased legally because drug manufacturers constantly change the chemical structure to circumvent drug laws. Synthetic Cannabinoids are usually sold combined with herbs and aim to mimic the effects of cannabis. They are usually smoked or occasionally drunk as a tea.  These drugs have not been approved for human consumption or medical use, so the long-term effects are unknown, yet potentially severe.

Signs and symptoms of Synthetic Cannabinoid abuse are similar to those of Marijuna, but may also include:

  • Disconnection from thoughts, feelings, memories and sense of identity (dissociative state)
  • A fast and irregular heart rate
  • Hypertension
  • Chest Pain
  • Euphoria
  • Racing thoughts
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures


The effects of inhalant abuse can include severe headaches, nausea, fainting, accelerated heartbeat and vomiting. Common Inhalants of Abuse are Glue, “Whip-Its” (Nitrous Oxide found in Whipped Cream Cans), Cleaning Products (Such as Computer Dusters and other cleaning materials) and Lighter Fluids.  Since the drugs are absorbed through the respiratory tract, adverse effects associated with inhalant abuse include liver or kidney damage, convulsions, damage to the lungs, stroke, anemia, peripheral neuropathy, brain damage and sudden death.

Signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse may include:

  • Substance odor on breath and clothes
  • Runny nose
  • Watering eyes
  • Drowsiness or unconsciousness
  • Poor muscle control
  • Prefers group activities to being alone
  • Distractibility
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Depression
  • Change in behavior
  • Change in sleep pattern


Commonly abused hallucinogens include PCP, LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and peyote (a cactus plant containing mescaline). Most hallucinogens share common effects of use. Any portion of sensory perceptions may be altered to varying degrees. The “seeing” of sounds and the “hearing” of colors are common side effects. Hallucinogens are commonly associated with panic attacks at the height of the drug experience. Depersonalization, acute anxiety, and acute depression have also been noted as a result of hallucinogen abuse.

Signs and symptoms of hallucinogen abuse may include:

  • Extremely dilated pupils
  • Warm skin, excessive perspiration and body odor
  • Distorted sense of sight, hearing, touch
  • Distorted image of self
  • Distorted time perception
  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Unpredictable flashback episodes, even long after withdrawal
  • Poor impulse control
  • Paranoia
  • Disorientation
  • Fear, terror
  • Deadened sensory perception (may experience severe injury while appearing not to notice)
  • Symptoms of intoxication
  • Unpredictable behavior (may swing from passive to violent for no apparent reason

If you feel that you or someone you care about has a problem with drugs, please call us at (813) 882-3003 or email us at

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