How Do Drugs Work?

Our brain functions through the interaction of different chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters regulate emotions, mood, temperature, sleep, pleasure, memory, coordination, etc. Some drugs act like natural neurotransmitters and trigger abnormal messages to be sent out. Other drugs cause nerve cells to release abnormally high levels of natural neurotransmitters. Depending on the type of drug being consumed, a person may have intense feelings of euphoria such as those cause by stimulants or slowing of cognitive and motor skills such as those caused by depressants.

Types of Drugs

There many types of drugs that trigger harmful effects. Drugs are categorized by the effects of each. To learn more about each, click on the links:

        • Cannabis: Can produce increased heart rate, dry mouth, reddening of the eyes, muscle relaxation, changes in temperature sensation, and increased appetite. In greater doses, can trigger anxiety and hallucinations. Long term use can affect sensory and motor skills. For example Marijuana, Hashsis, Synthetic Marijuana (Spice/K2).

        • Stimulants:  Increase the intensity of moods and emotions and prompt a sense of euphoria and energy. For example: Cocaine, Methamphetamine, MDMA (Molly, Ecstasy, X, XTC), Nicotine, Amphetamines (Adderall).

        • Depressants: Decrease or "slow down" cognitive and motor abilities. For example: Alcohol, Benzodiazepine (Valium, Xanax), Flunitrazepam (Roofies), GHB.

        • Hallucinogens: Alter perceptions, thoughts, consciousness, and emotions. For example, LSD, Psilocybin (Shrooms, Peyote, PCP).

        • Narcotics: Reduce pain, alters mood and behavior, and usually induces sleep or stupor. For example, Heroin, Morphine, Codeine, Opium, Hydrocodone, Salvia.

        • Steroids: Prompt harmful changes in cholesterol levels, acne, high blood pressure, and liver damage.

        • Inhalants: Spray paints, markers, glues, cleaning fluids, gasoline and other products that contain substances that have mind-altering properties when inhaled.

        • Prescription Medication: Medication that requires a physician's approval, however, when consumed without a prescription, can have harmful effects. 

The Cycle of Addiction:

Cycle of Addiction


If you or someone you know is struggling with the use of alcohol or drugs and would more information, contact:

Student Counseling & Wellness Services

(210) 784-1331