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What are the 5 classes of drugs?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2020 | Firm News |

There are many factors that impact the type of penalties you receive for drug crimes. Along with drug schedules, substances are also broken down into classes based on their effect on the body and mind. 

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, drug classes are determined by the Controlled Substances Act. Accepted classes of drugs include narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and marijuana. This guide breaks down each class, including the types of drugs that are included within each. 


Narcotics are often used to provide pain relief, but their effects also diminish the senses and cause the user to descend into a stupor-like state. They decrease physical activity and/or ability, slow breathing, and impact bowel function, sometimes causing constipation and nausea. Narcotics like opioids have a high risk of physical dependence and overdose. Common narcotics include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and methadone. 


Stimulants have an opposite effect on the body as compared to narcotics. These drugs cause feelings of exhilaration and excitement, boost activity, and suppress appetite. They also cause a range of negative effects, including vomiting, chest pain, and tremors. Amphetamines, methamphetamine, and cocaine are all classed as stimulants. 


As the name implies, depressants induce a sleepy, relaxed feeling when ingested. Many of these drugs are used therapeutically to treat issues like chronic anxiety. However, when abused they lead to effects like memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, and confusion. Depressants include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), and rohypnol, which is often used in conjunction with sexual assaults. 


Hallucinogens are substances that distort the user’s sense of reality and surrounding environment. They also appear to alter time, making a person feel as though time is progressing very slowly. Some users experience severe psychological effects, including intense paranoia and psychosis. This class of drugs includes LSD, MDMA, ketamine, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote. 


Marijuana induces a feeling of pleasure when smoked or ingested, while also impacting memory and perception. In high doses it can cause delusions and hallucinations. While marijuana is illegal on the federal level, some states have legalized or decriminalized it, either for recreational or medicinal use.