Different types of substances

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Opioids can be highly addictive, but sometimes they are necessary. (iStock)
Opioids can be highly addictive, but sometimes they are necessary. (iStock)

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.
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