Types of drugs

It can be difficult to know what drug does what. There are a huge number of different drugs but they nearly all fit into 3 simple groups.


cocaineThese drugs all accelerate the central nervous system (CNS). This causes sharp increases in heart rate, breathing and also affects the whole digestive system.

Most of these drugs also act to increase your confidence levels and can lead to you thinking your abilities are increased as well. This is not the case. These drugs are not addictive in a physical sense but the feelings of confidence can be very habit forming.

Deaths are usually related to effects on blood pressure and the heart. Drugs in this category include:

  • Amphetamine Sulphate – Speed, Whizz, Billy, Fast, Go, Phet, Amphet, Sulph
  • Methamphetamine – Crystal Meth (very rare in UK)
  • Ecstasy – E, Pills
  • Mephedrone
  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine


heroinAll these drugs depress the Central Nervous System (CNS) but they may not make you feel depressed. The dangers of these drugs lie in the fact that your CNS keeps your breathing and heart going, and if it gets depressed beyond a certain point then breathing can stop and the heart can give up.

The real danger with these drugs comes from mixing them with other depressants. If you take two depressant drugs then each one exaggerates the effect of the other one leading to a 4 times increased depressant effect.

The vast majority of drug related deaths are due to mixing alcohol with heroin, methadone, valium or similar depressants. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions so can make resisting other drugs more difficult.

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin – H, Smack, Brown, Scag, Gear, Junk
  • Morphine
  • Valium
  • Temazepam
  • Nitrazepam or any other of the benzodiazepine group
  • Methadone
  • Subutex


mushroomsThese drugs are a bit different. Physical addiction is not the problem but these drugs can give some very scary experiences. To lessen the likelihood of this it is better to use them in a safe place and with people who can be trusted.

For people who have had mental health problems (especially one which involves frightening thoughts) these can be very concerning.

    • LSD
    • Magic Mushrooms
    • Ketamine
    • Fly Agaric

For more interactive and clear information about different substances, have a look at the website for Drugs and Me.

New Psychoactive Substances

Detailed information is available on our New Psychoactive Substances page.

This list is not exhaustive as new drugs appear but these are the main types which are available even though they are illegal.

Since May 2016, NPS (previously known as ‘Legal Highs’) have been banned.

The safest way to do any drug is not to. Find out as much as you can and be as safe as you can. Live to enjoy.

Catalyst do not try to tell people what to do or not to do. We are not promoting any form of drug use. All drugs can be dangerous in many ways as they can cloud your judgement and affect your actions, as well as having physical and psychological effects.