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

Legal highs, research chemicals, bath salts, NPS (novel or new psychoactive substances), club drugs, designer drugs… whatever you call them they are different from traditional illegal drugs. They have been created to mimic the effects of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines but avoid legal classification by having slightly different molecular structures.

In April 2016, the Psychoactive Substances Act became law and was enforced from 26 May 2016.

* It is illegal to sell, produce or offer to supply

* Possession will not be illegal, except in prison or if you are believed to be intending to supply

We have produced a leaflet offering information and harm reduction advice. To understand all the terms and concepts associated with the new law, CGL have produced a Glossary.

For a clear guide to what the Bill will mean, this link to a summary produced by Michael Linnell and DrugWatch is useful.

All other drugs have been studied over many years and information is available on their long and short term effects. This is not true for NPS. There has been NO safety testing. The results of taking NPS can be varied and unpredictable and increase the risks and impact to physical and mental health.

NPS state ‘unfit for human consumption’ on the packets for a reason.  Many of the new groups who are taking NPS do not see themselves as traditional drug users and can be unwilling or unaware of services which can support them.


Staff are available to deliver training  around Legal Highs to other professionals and organisations.

Useful links:

FRANK                          www.talktofrank.com

Angelus Foundation   www.angelusfoundation.org.uk

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

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.

Need support or information? Catalyst work with people who are using NPS and offer support and information through all its services. Please contact us. We have a dedicated NPS Assertive Outreach Worker covering Guildford and Woking but who can provide support in other areas.