Service Directory for Drug and Alcohol Users

types of drugs

The three main types of drugs, classified by their effects on the central nervous system are:

  • depressants;
  • stimulants; and
  • hallucinogens.


Depressant drugs slow down, or depress, the functions of the central nervous system (however, they don't necessarily make you feel depressed). Depressant drugs include:

  • alcohol;
  • opiates and opioids: including heroin (also known as 'H', 'hammer', 'smack' and 'gear'), morphine, codeine, methadone and buprenorphine;
  • cannabis: (also known as 'green', 'smoke', 'weed', 'pot', 'dope', 'cone' and 'mull'), including marijuana, hashish and hash oil. In stronger concentrations, such as in hashish and resin, cannabis can also act as an hallucinogen in addition to being a central nervous system depressant;
  • minor tranquillisers/benzodiazepines (benzos): including diazepam (Valium), oxazepam (Serepax), nitrazepam (Mogadon), temazepam (Normison and Euhypnos); and
  • some solvents and inhalants: including vapours from petrol, glue, chrome paint and lighter fluid.

In moderate doses, depressants can make you feel relaxed. Some depressants cause euphoria and a sense of calm and well-being. They may be used to 'wind down' or to reduce anxiety, stress or inhibition. Because they slow you down, depressants affect coordination, concentration and judgment. This makes driving and operating machinery hazardous.

In larger doses, depressants can cause unconsciousness by reducing breathing and heart rate. A person's speech may become slurred and their movements sluggish and uncoordinated. Other effects of larger doses including nausea, vomiting and, in extreme cases, death. When taken in combination, depressants increase their effects and increase the danger of overdose.

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