Basically three types of substances are abused:
- Opiates: This group includes heroin, morphine and opium. They mimic the brain’s feel-good hormones, called endorphins, and all bring about a state of peaceful euphoria.
- Amphetamines: They stimulate the nervous system. Cocaine, nicotine, Ecstasy and speed fall into this group. These are the so-called ‘uppers’.
- The downers, namely alcohol and barbiturates. These are nervous system depressants. Alcohol is legal, but can produce very similar effects to mind-altering substances. Alcohol detoxification can be quite dramatic. In severe cases it can resemble detoxification from heroin.