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Facts About Drug Addiction Treatment and How to Rehab

Because of the widespread use of alcohol and the current national focus on the opiate epidemic, there is an increased awareness around their risks and negative consequences. Beyond alcohol and opiates, there are many other substances that can be abused and ultimately result in an individual suffering from addiction. While some of these substances are illegal and have negative associations (cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.) many others are legally prescribed by physicians and can be clinically appropriate (benzodiazepines, amphetamines such as Adderall, Ritalin, etc.) Also, substances such as marijuana becoming legalized for medical and recreational use in many states creates additional confusion. It may be unclear if you are your loved one can safely take these substances, what problematic use looks like, and if a drug is ultimately harmful or helpful.


Depressants are a class of drug that typically act to reduce anxiety and for this reason, are sometimes referred to as “downers.” Benzodiazepines are such a drug, interacting with neurotransmitters to decrease anxiety and thereby creating feelings of relaxation and, in larger doses, sedation and numbness. They are widely prescribed and may be more easily recognized by their brand names: Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, etc. People can and do take benzodiazepines safely and appropriately; however, their potential for abuse is high and many people, with and without addiction histories, may find themselves dependent. While many people who struggle with “benzos” obtain them from a doctor, many others get them from the street and they are often used in conjunction with other drugs as a way to “come down.” When taken in large doses, they can cause blackouts and loss of memory. The detox process from benzodiazepines is highly dangerous and should always be monitored in detox or by a physician that understands addiction medicine.

Less commonly used and prescribed today, barbiturates such as phenobarbital are also depressants that have abuse potential; alcohol is also considered to be a depressant.


Stimulants are drugs that produce feelings of energy, mental alertness and a sense of euphoria or wellbeing because of increased dopamine in the brain. For these reasons, this class of drugs is sometimes broadly referred to as “uppers.” They include illegal substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine as well as drugs that are prescribed legally for conditions such as ADHD, e.g. Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Concerta, etc. Like most legally prescribed narcotics, these drugs are widely abused and can be obtained legally or illegally. While stimulants are sometimes very helpful and improve the quality of life for those diagnosed with ADHD, they can be addictive and are not appropriate for everyone, even if diagnosed with an attention disorder. The beginning stages of stimulant addiction may start with occasional use at a party or before a major test, but as psychological and physical dependence grows, an individual may rely on stimulants to simply get through their day. College students and others in performance-based environments are more vulnerable to stimulant abuse due to the availability of the drug and pressure to succeed.

Ecstasy, synthetic marijuana and even caffeine are also classed as being stimulants.


Hallucinogens are a class of drug that induces a state of altered consciousness, otherwise known as “tripping.” Hallucinogens include substances such as LSD, DMT, and psilocybin, otherwise known as “magic mushrooms.” These affect an individual’s perception of reality, sometimes inducing hallucinations and feelings of acute paranoia or euphoria. While there is some research that points to the use of substances such as psilocybin being therapeutic when carefully monitored and dosed appropriately, recreational, unmonitored use of such substances can result in psychosis that may be temporary or potentially longer lasting if an individual is vulnerable to underlying brain diseases such as schizophrenia. If an individual experiences a “bad trip” when under the influence of such drugs, their impaired judgement, acute fear or increased aggression may result in dangerous behaviors that could endanger their own lives or those of others.


As the name suggests, these drugs are typically consumed by inhalation through the nose or mouth with the intention to achieve a high. They can include average household items such as glue, nail polish, paint thinner, aerosol cans, etc. Because of easy availability, adolescents and children can be particularly vulnerable to using inhalants and, in this way, inhalants are sometimes considered a “gateway” drug to other harder substances. When breathing in these chemical vapors, a brief high is produced that because of its tendency to quickly fade, may result in an individual using multiple times over the course of several hours. Like depressants, inhalants slow the functions of the body and impact the central nervous system, and a person under the influence of inhalants can present as being intoxicated.


Cannabis is most widely known as marijuana (but includes other forms such as hashish) which is the most widely consumed illicit drug in the world. Cannabis is commonly smoked but can be ingested through oil, vapor or eating “edibles,” which is food that is prepared with cannabis. Marijuana has undergone many recent legal changes in the United States, and it is legal for medical and/or recreational use in a growing number of areas. However, it currently remains illegal on the federal level and in many states. While marijuana is experiencing a growing social acceptance, it is important to remember that, like alcohol and many other prescribed substances, a drug being legal does not mean it is safe or appropriate for everyone. Marijuana has relatively minor physical withdrawal or risk of physical dependency, but can be highly psychologically addictive. Especially in younger users, marijuana has the potential to alter brain chemistry and affect motivation negatively. While some research indicates that marijuana may be potentially helpful for mental health issues such as PTSD, there is other evidence that points to marijuana worsening the symptoms of depression or anxiety.

While this may be difficult to keep up with, and though the lines between appropriate and inappropriate use of a prescribed substance may sometimes seem blurry, addiction follows a predictable path and can be identified with the help of a professional. The question to ask to determine if you or a loved one has a problem with a drug, regardless of its legality or social acceptance, is, “What is my relationship to this stuff?” Do you find yourself using more and more? Do you feel anxiety when you’re running out? Do you keep secrets or minimize your use to others? Do you engage in behaviors your normally wouldn’t? Are experience negative consequences in your external world? And even if you are not, does your use of this substance create a sense of internal shame or guilt? These are only examples of questions that we may need to ask ourselves or our loved ones if we want to radically embrace honesty and begin to develop clarity around whether or not we are suffering from addiction.

This list is not exhaustive and only touches on some primary classes of drugs with high abuse potential. Just as treatment approaches change over time, so does drug use. There are new chemical compounds, mostly synthetic, that continue to emerge as drug trends change and evolve.

Life of Purpose offers rehab from alcohol, drugs and opioid (prescription meds) at our various locations in Florida and Pennsylvania.

Accredited By

Accredited Addiction Center The Joint Commission National Quality Approval Association of Recovery in Higher Education National Asspciation of Addiction Treatment Providers
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