There are 3 main types of drugs.
- Depressants Drugs that slow down the central nervous system. Examples include opiates (e.g. heroin), alcohol, cannabis, sedatives (e.g. Valium), inhalants (e.g. petrol) and analgesics (pain killers).
- Stimulants Drugs that increase the body's state of arousal by increasing the activity of the brain. Examples include nicotine, caffeine, ecstasy, amphetamines (such as speed or Ice), and cocaine.
- Hallucinogens Drugs that alter perception of reality and can cause hallucinations. Examples include LSD, ecstasy and high doses of cannabis.
Some drugs may have properties of more than one of the above categories. For example cannabis has depressive, hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties.
Although the media focuses on illicit drugs, the first mind-altering (psychoactive) drug used by children is often a commonly available legal drug such as alcohol or an inhaled household substance.
Why do young people use drugs?
Drugs offer immediate ‘benefits’ – otherwise people wouldn’t take them. These benefits are both real and perceived, legal and illegal drugs.
Young people use drugs to relax, have fun, be part of a group, out of curiosity or to escape physical or psychological pain. However any perceived or real ‘benefits’ are short lived and can result in serious or life threatening, immediate and long term harms.