The Drugs of Abuse: An Overview
Central Nervous System Depressants
This category includes the most widely abused drug, alcohol. In addition, the category consists of barbiturates, non-barbiturates that have barbiturate-like effects, anti-anxiety tranquilizers, anti-psychotic tranquilizers, certain anti-depressants, and certain pharmaceutical combinations that contain more than one type of CNS Depressant. The benzodiazepines, chloral hydrate, GHB, methaqualone (Mandrax), lithium, phenobarbital, the sedating antihistamines, and many other substances are included in this category. Commonly referred to as "downers," and also as sedative-hypnotics, the effects of these drugs at intoxicating doses mirror the effects of alcohol.
Importantly, however, they are not detected by an alcohol breath test, and do not produce an odor of an alcoholic beverage. Unlike the case with alcohol, there are generally no consistent correlations between the levels of these drugs ingested and the degree of intoxication. These drugs produce relaxation, drowsiness, impaired balance and coordination, slurred speech, a lowering of inhibitions, and increased risk taking. They also produce horizontal gaze nystagmus, do not generally affect pupil size, and typically depress the vital signs. The non-alcohol CNS Depressants are extremely dangerous when taken with alcohol. Pharmaceutical preparations of these drugs usually contain warnings advising the user not to drink alcohol at the same time, and to be aware that they may impair driving.
Central Nervous System Stimulants
This category includes the ubiquitous cocaine in all its various forms, amphetamine, methamphetamine, ephedrine, Ritalin, certain diet pills, and other related substances. Commonly known as the "uppers," the effects of these drugs mimic the body's "fight or flight" response, the autonomic nervous system's response to perceived danger. Their effects include dilated pupils, elevated vital signs, hyper-alertness, rapid and agitated body movements, extreme weight loss accompanied by deteriorating health and hygiene, and a diminished ability to "filter" environmental stimuli, such as noises and movement. CNS Stimulants do not produce horizontal gaze nystagmus. The user may overreact to seemingly minor events, and may view minor inconveniences as