The Three Categories of Substances

The Three Categories of Substances

Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge Explains the Three Categories of Substances

Narcotic substances are often fit into three distinctive categories. In today’s blog, the staff at Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge explains stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens and how each of these substances acts differently in the teen brain.


Stimulants, sometimes called uppers, speed up the brain and its functions. Use of stimulants can temporarily increase energy and alertness, and are often abused by students and workers to meet important deadlines. Stimulants can also cause a more rapid heart rate and higher body temperature. Cocaine and amphetamines are the most commonly used street drugs that are classified as stimulants. Prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, come in tablets or capsules.

Dangers of Stimulants

When stimulants are used, the human body is pushed beyond its normal limits. The artificial energy boosts come at a heavy cost. The aftermath may include exhaustion, depression, and apathy. The immediate exhaustion prompts the user to desire the drug again, and a vicious cycle begins. Soon the goal is not to get high but instead using the drug to feel any energy at all.


Depressants, sometimes called downers, slow down the brain and body. Use of depressants can cause lowered energy, a slowed heart rate, and lower body temperature. Drugs in this category come in tablets, capsules or in liquid form. Other drugs that classify as depressants include alcohol, sedatives (Xanax), tranquilizers and anesthetics.

Dangers of Depressants

The reduction of brain activity can change a person’s emotions, senses, judgments, and movements. A teen may quickly develop a tolerance to many depressants, when larger doses are then needed to achieve the same effect. An increased risk of depression, chronic fatigue, high blood sugar, and sleep problems can result from the continued use of depressants.


Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that hinder the brain and body’s perception of reality. Use of hallucinogens can cause delusional thoughts and the experience of sights, sounds, tastes, and sensations that seem concrete but aren’t real. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is possibly the most well-known drug in this category.

Dangers of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens alter awareness and perceptions, causing visual and auditory hallucinations. LSD, for example, is not chemically addictive but can lead to negative effects like anxiety and paranoia. Two long-term effects of these drugs include the possibility of mental illness and persistent flashbacks of certain drug experiences.

All Substances Can Be Addictive

Repeated high doses of these substances often lead to substance abuse and addiction. While all substances can be addictive, the good news is that substance abuse and addictions are treatable.

Substance Abuse Treatment at Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge

If your teenage son is struggling with substance abuse, Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge is waiting to help. We offer hope and direction through our boarding school, mentoring programs and substance abuse treatments. To learn more about our programs, contact us online today.
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