The Need To Know On Drug Types

The Need To Know On Drug Types

When studying drugs, scientists and researchers have come up with various ways of classifying them, in order to better work on education and harm reduction for both users and frontline medical staff.

The four types of drugs most commonly abused in the UK are:

  • Cannabis
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Amphetamines

However, for the purposes of research and treatment for addictions, the Department of Health says that there are different variables that should be applied in order to categorise drugs. These include:

  • Uses (i.e., whether they are medicinal or recreational)
  • The effect on the body
  • The source of the substance (synthetic or plant)
  • Legal status
  • Risk status

The Drug Wheel is one way that scientists have been able to categorise drugs, according to these factors, and based on the effect that they have on the body. There are seven categories on the Drug Wheel, replacing the previous 4 types of drug (stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and opiates). The updated categories are:



  • Desirable effects include: Making a person feel relaxed and/or euphoric
  • Negative effects include: Paranoia, distorted reality, memory problems and difficulty paying attention
  • Examples: cannabis (marijuana, hash) and synthetic cannabis (spice)



  • Desirable effects include: Increased energy and alertness, feelings of euphoria
  • Negative effects include: Paranoia, aggressiveness, anxiety
  • Examples: Methamphetamine, cocaine, amphetamines (speed)



  • Desirable effects include: Sexual arousal, feeling ‘loved up’ and socially confident
  • Negative effects include: Feeling low after the drug has worn off (a ‘comedown’), recklessness, dehydration
  • Examples: MDMA (ecstasy), mephedrone (MKAT)



  • Desirable effects include: Feeling spiritually connected to the world and people around you
  • Negative effects include: Anxiety, having upsetting or disturbing hallucinations (a ‘bad trip’)
  • Examples: LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), dimethyltryptamine (DMT)



  • Desirable effects include: Euphoria, relaxation
  • Negative effects include: Panic attacks and anxiety, disturbing hallucinations
  • Examples: Nitrous oxide (laughing gas), ketamine



  • Desirable effects include: Anxiety relief
  • Negative effects include: Confusion, slurred speech, difficulty controlling the body
  • Examples: Alcohol, benzodiazepines (Valium), GHB



  • Desirable effects include: Pain relief and euphoria
  • Negative effects include: easy to become dependent on them and overdose
  • Examples: Codeine, Fentanyl, Methadone, Morphine, Buprenorphine


The Drugs Wheel is able to show medical professionals not only where the different drugs fit into the various sections, but quickly allow them to assess an emergency situation.


Harm Reduction

For frontline health professionals, it is critical that they are able to quickly find out what they are dealing with and apply the appropriate action. Different types of drugs interact in different ways and have different types of side effects. Knowing where each drug stands allows doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to prevent an overdose, provide treatment and then work on harm reduction strategies with the patient for future reference. It also helps them to work better with patients suffering from the effects of newer drugs that they may not have seen or worked with before.

Harm reduction strategies that medical professionals may look into as the result of consulting the Drugs Wheel and working with the patient could include:

  • Substitution therapies. One of the most common and useful substitution therapies is the use of methadone to treat those suffering from an addiction to heroin. For patients whose bodies have become reliant on drugs, it is often safer to provide them with a substitute than to try to take them straight off of the drug.
  • Naloxone treatment and overdose prevention programmes
  • Drink driving prevention and education programmes
  • Needle distribution and recovery programmes. For those addicted to injectable drugs this can help them to avoid catching diseases or becoming ill from using dirty needles.


New Psychoactive Substances

The Drugs Wheel was updated and released in 2012 to include new psychoactive substances (previously known as legal highs). These are synthetic substances which mimic the effects of existing drugs, and also carry a lot of the same risks and complications. Since these drugs became illegal, they are even less regulated and unsafe, so knowledge of the substances is critical for medical staff.


Drug Treatment Programmes

One of the things that is becoming better understood in recent years is the causes of drug addictions, and thus the reasons that people may struggle to recover from substance abuse. Knowing this means that medical personnel are far better placed to work with patients, not only on the physical signs of their addiction, but also the mental ones.

Latest addiction treatment approaches recognise that drug misuse could be a symptom of:

  • Trauma
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Parental neglect
  • Abandonment


For this reason, the best addiction treatment services will provide a medical arc as well as a psychological one, with a counsellor or behavioural expert, group and individual sessions and even wellbeing therapies.

Dealing with these issues can be incredibly painful for sufferers, which is why these sessions are often best served in a secure and structured environment, where aftercare can be provided, and sufferers will always have someone to speak to during the most difficult days.

Cassiobury Court is a dedicated rehabilitation centre which provides up to 90 days care on a residential basis, for people suffering with all types of addiction. Clients are able to work with trained therapists and counsellors, as well as doctors and peers, who are able to speak with them and help them through the most difficult days of recovery.

A range of wellness and social activities are also provided, so that those dealing with drug abuse and addiction are able to stay busy and enjoy their time at the centre to make the recovery process a bit easier.

Counselling sessions are in groups, as well as individual sessions that allow patients to dig in deeper to the root causes of their issues. Family sessions are also available, helping clients to work on rebuilding their most important relationships, and setting up their support network ready for when they return home.

After leaving Cassiobury Court, patients enjoy a full 12 month aftercare programme, that offers support around the clock that should ensure that they don’t relapse and have everything they need to enjoy a happy, drug-free life outside of the unit.

Please contact Cassiobury Court today to find out more about our services on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222.