Footprints to Recovery

Close this search box.
Get Help Now!
Close this search box.

6 Types of Psychoactive Drugs

5 min read
2 sections
5 minute read
5 min read
2 sections

Skip to Section:

Psychoactive drugs are drugs that change your mental state. These drugs can cause intoxication, which impacts your mood, perception, and consciousness.

Many legal and illegal substances contain psychoactive properties, so it’s important to know the benefits and risks associated with these drugs.

6 Types Of Psychoactive Drugs

Common psychoactive drugs include:
  1. Depressants
  2. Opioids
  3. Stimulants
  4. Hallucinogens
  5. Marijuana
  6. Designer drugs
What Are Sedatives and Tranquilizers?


Depressants slow down the central nervous system. They typically cause people to feel sedated and relaxed. Some people take prescribed depressants to help with sleep or anxiety. Others abuse these substances to get high.
  • Benzodiazepines include medications like Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.
  • Sedative-hypnotics include medications like Ambien and Lunesta.
  • Barbiturates include medications like Nembutal and Luminal.
Alcohol is also a depressant. When you first drink, you may feel calmer and happier, but excess alcohol can cause slurring and processing problems. It can make your feelings of depression and anxiety worse.


Opioids also act like depressants. When taken as prescribed, they can help people with moderate or severe pain. When abused, they can produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Opioids include drugs like:
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Vicodin
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
The strength of each opioid varies, so it’s not always obvious how much you’re taking. And if you buy pills off the street, you never know exactly what you’re getting. For example, you may assume you’re buying Vicodin, but a dealer may lace the pill with fentanyl. If you stop taking opioids suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range in severity. You could feel sick for several days before your body starts to heal. During that time, you’re at risk of relapsing. That’s because you may experience intensified cravings. Most people benefit from a supportive medical detox during this stage and then professional opioid addiction treatment once the opioids are out of their system.


Stimulants increase brain activity. They enhance energy and alertness. Some people are prescribed stimulants for symptoms related to ADHD or narcolepsy. Common stimulants include: When abused, stimulants can produce a euphoric rush, but a “crash” soon follows, making the user want to continue taking more drugs. Long-term abuse can result in several health complications, including:
  • Tissue damage
  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks
Heavy stimulant users may develop withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use. These symptoms can include:
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
Although stimulant withdrawal is not life-threatening, medical detox can help you feel more comfortable during this time.


man using prescription opioids
Hallucinogens include several drugs that alter your consciousness. Hallucinogens include drugs like:
  • LSD
  • Psilocybin
  • DMT
  • Peyote
  • Ketamine
  • DXM
Most people take these drugs orally. They might eat them or brew them into tea.

Hallucinogens disrupt the communication between brain chemical systems. When abused, these drugs can result in mood problems, sensory issues, and sleep disruptions. They can also trigger hallucinations and delusions. Sometimes people experience a “bad trip.” When this happens, they may feel stuck in a panicked state for hours or days. Afterward, they may endure flashback syndromes, where they relive the terror over and over again.


Marijuana affects how your senses perceive the world. The THC found in marijuana can produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation, but it can also impair memory and cause coordination problems.

Designer Drugs

There are many different kinds of designer drugs. Common ones include:
  • Bath salts
  • Spice/K2 (synthetic marijuana)
  • MXE
  • Flakka
  • W18
These drugs are synthesized. That means they are manmade. Their chemical composition remains unknown. Because of that, it’s impossible to know what you’re actually taking when you take a designer drug. Often, manufacturers use many different chemicals to create these drugs.

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

Finding Help For Addiction

Whether you’re reading this article for yourself or someone else, there are many things you can do to fight back against addiction.

Start by:

What drugs are causing problems? How have they affected your overall life? How long has the abuse lasted?

Can you use your health insurance for treatment? Do you need to set up a payment plan?

Are there any other mental or physical illnesses present? What other circumstances require support?

Why do you want things to change? Why do you want to live a life free from addiction?

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

Jenna Richer
Medically Reviewed by Jenna Richer, MSW, LCSW
Are you covered for addiction treatment? Find your insurance
Questions About Treatment?
Get Confidential Help 24/7. Reach Out For More Details About: