Street and Illegal Drug Abuse

Currently, prescription drugs get a lot of the attention in terms of legal and public health initiatives to curb their use, but illegal drug abuse is also problematic. Illegal drugs are ones that don’t have a currently accepted medical use in the United States.

Illegal drugs are mostly schedule I controlled substances in the United States. This indicates the substance is illegal to use for any purpose and also has many risks associated with its use including addiction and dependence.

When someone sues an illegal drug, they are at risk of not only addiction and negative health effects, but also legal consequences.

Illegal drugs can be classified into the following groups:

  • Cannabinoids
  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Hallucinogenics
  • Club drugs
  • Inhalants
  • Anabolic steroids


A cannabinoid is a drug classification referring primarily to marijuana. This drug class is fairly controversial. Marijuana is illegal at the federal level and is still a controlled substance, despite being legal for recreational use at the state level in many places around the country.

Cannabinoids can be smoked or swallowed. in the short-term, effects can include euphoria, relaxation, drowsiness, and changes and sensory perception. Also possible are changes in learning and memory and adverse effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, and psychosis.


Opioids are one of the most troubling drug classifications right now because of the ongoing opioid epidemic. Opioids primarily refer to prescription pain medications, but there are two completely illegal opioids as well. These are heroin and opium. Heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected. Opium can be swallowed or smoked.

Opioids are central nervous system depressants. In the short-term the effects can include euphoria, problems with coordination, sedation, nausea, and vomiting. Opioids also slow breathing, which can lead to slow or stopped respiration, overdoses, and death.


There are prescription stimulants and illegal stimulants sold on the black market. Among the illegal stimulants are cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine. These drugs cause most of the body’s functions to speed up. The effects of stimulants in the short-term can include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. A person abusing stimulants may also have high energy levels, reduced appetite, irritability, anxiety, violence or psychosis.

Long-term stimulant abuse can lead to serious health risks include dangerous weight loss, stroke, seizures, and cardiac and cardiovascular events.

Dissociative Drugs

When it comes to illegal drug abuse, the use of dissociative drugs can be problematic although not as much so as with some of above substances. Dissociative drugs create feelings of being disconnected from one’s body and reality.

Ketamine is one of the most commonly abused dissociative drugs. Other dissociative illegal, abused drugs include PCP and similar substances, salvia, and dextromethorphan (DXM). These substances can cause long-term health risks including tremors, anxiety, memory loss and other severe symptoms although they’re less addictive than many other illegal drugs.


Hallucinogens are substances that change a person’s perception and feelings. They create hallucinations, and can also cause paranoia and panic. When someone uses these drugs, which include LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin, it can lead to paranoia, impulsivity and dangerous behavior.

When someone is a long-term user of these drugs and in particular LSD, they may experience flashbacks for years after they last used it.

Club Drugs

Club drugs are often described in this way because they’re used in rave and party scenes by people who want to stay up for long periods of time, feel euphoria, and feel an enhanced sense of overall arousal. MDMA is one of the more common club drugs. Street names for MDMA include ecstasy and Molly. There is also GHB, and a substance called flunitrazepam.

When someone uses club drugs, along with hallucinogenic effects they may experience lowered inhibition, increased sensitivity to certain stimuli and anxiety. Severe side effects can include memory loss, sedation, loss of consciousness, seizures or coma.


Inhalants are often common household substances, yet they are abused recreationally and can have serious effects associated with their use. Inhalants can include solvents such as glue, gasoline or paint thinner. When someone uses inhalants they may experience loss of motor coordination, headaches, slurred speech and wheezing. Severe health effects can include depression, memory impairment and damage to the nervous system and cardiovascular system. Also possible is loss of consciousness and sudden death.

Illegal drug abuse can lead to addiction and dependence. If someone is abusing illegal drugs, they may require professional addiction treatment. Learn more about illegal drug abuse including signs and symptoms of drug abuse by browsing our drug guides.