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What Are The Most Commonly Used Drugs Today?

There may be some disagreement among the general public as to what a drug is, and isn’t. Some people don’t consider a substance to be a drug unless it is illegal. This would rule out nicotine and alcohol. Some consider a drug to be anything that is addictive, which would put both of those drugs back in the picture. Some people differentiate prescription drugs such as vicodin and oxycontin from heroin because the previous two are legally available by prescription while the other is an illegal street drug, although both drugs are opiates and have the same side effects and rate of addiction.

For the purposes of this post, however, we will assume that drugs are substances that are abused, whether illegal or not. These drugs are often used addictively, with serious side effects of a physical, mental and legal nature. This post examines the effects of drug use and the drugs most commonly used.

1. Alcohol


Alcohol remains one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. While it is not always used addictively, recent studies show that alcoholism is on the rise. Alcohol use can cause trouble in all areas of life including health problems, legal troubles, mental health issues, family problems and financial problems. Here are some common effects of alcohol use:

  • Slowed reaction time
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Mood changes
  • Agitation
  • Dependence
  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Lowered immune system

2. Marijuana


Marijuana has been a hot topic all over the country as laws regulating its use have changed drastically. While it is still considered an illicit drug in many states, in others it is almost completely legal. There are debates as to whether or not marijuana has medical uses, and many people maintain their use is for relief of chronic illness. Regardless, the reality is that it remains a recreational drug, and despite any therapeutic benefits, there are consequences to its use.

  • Changes in mood and appetite
  • Impaired body movement
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss
  • Long-term loss of intelligence

While many people maintain that marijuana is a “harmless” drug, evidence shows that this is not necessarily the case. Cognitive impairment often results from chronic marijuana use, as well as potential respiratory damage. In addition, car accidents involving marijuana use have tripled over the last few years, most likely due to increased legalization.

3. Anabolic Steroids

steroid needle

Anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of male testosterone. Originally prescribed to correct hormone deficiencies, they have become popular with both male and female bodybuilders looking to enhance their performance and physique. There are serious effects of drug use when anabolic steroids are used outside of a prescription.

  • Severe acne
  • Hair loss
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Behavioral problems: Aggression, depression, suicidal thoughts
  • Increased risk of HIV/Hep C when drugs are injected

When women take steroids, the following can occur in addition to the above side effects:

  • Growth of facial hair
  • Deepened voice
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Cessation of menstrual cycle
  • These effects may be irreversible

4. Prescription And Over The Counter Medications

Pills Spilling From Bottle


While prescription drug abuse has been an issue for some time, recent years have seen the effects of drug use reach nearly epidemic proportions as prescription drugs, particularly opiates and benzodiazepines, have become more and more widely abused.

Drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Fentanyl and other opiate painkillers are causing serious health issues. Hospitals are seeing an increase in overdoses and babies born addicted as a result of painkillers.

Some of the effects of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness “nodding out”
  • Itchy skin
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Physical and psychological dependence

5. Methamphetamines & “Designer Drugs”

club drugs

Crystal meth, Ecstasy, Bath salts and other similar drugs are synthetic substances that have created a devastating problem. These are drugs that have no therapeutic value and are often abused by young people. Jails and psych wards are filled with people who have committed crimes while using these drugs. The health issues that they have caused are alarming. Here are some of the effects:

  • False sense of well-being
  • Excitability and excessive talkativeness
  • Decreased appetite resulting in extreme weight loss
  • Paranoia and delusional thinking (meth psychosis)
  • Irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular damage (often irreversible)
  • Memory loss
  • Premature aging

6. Heroin

heroin use

A relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable opiate, heroin has been a commonly used drug for years. It is interesting to note that heroin is legally used in other countries as a painkiller. It is in the same family of drugs as pharmaceutical opiates such as Vicodin. With the rise in people addicted to painkillers, heroin has become even more popular because people often turn to it once they are unable to get their pills. Heroin is often cheaper and easier to get. This is a highly addictive drug that has a variety of short and long-term effects.

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Sleepiness, or for some, insomnia
  • Overdose and death
  • HIV/Hepatitis C risk increases when injected
  • Physical dependence that causes horrible withdrawal symptoms

7. Cocaine

Cocaine continues to be a popular drug of choice for people of all backgrounds and ages. It can be snorted, smoked and injected. Cocaine is highly addictive and its use can cause overdose and death. Crack cocaine is particularly dangerous because it is even more addictive than cocaine in other forms, and it has an extremely short high. This means that you need a lot of it to get and keep the desired result.

  • Feeling of well-being and loss of inhibitions
  • Bad comedown, or “crash”
  • Paranoia, agitation, irrational thinking
  • Addiction
  • Overdose that can lead to death

If you are struggling with addiction and don’t know where to turn, Sound Recovery Solutions can help you. Our treatment program combines individual, group and family therapy, as well as life skills training and relapse prevention to create an individualized treatment plan that supports long-term recovery. Call us today at 561-666-7427 for more information.

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