Recognise Addiction when you see it...

List of Popular Used Illegal Drugs:


Also referred to as MDMA, Ecstasy is a partial derivative of amphetamine and possesses effects similar to other drugs within the classification. Users of Ecstasy will feel a heightened sense of euphoria and an increased feeling of emotion, as well as sensitivity.

Street names:

XTC, e, Adam, MDMA

Effects on the body:

Even in small doses Ecstasy can be dangerous to people with heart disease and asthma. Large doses can lead to overheating of the body and brain, dehydration, water retention, stroke and heart attack.
Effects on the brain:
Ecstasy affects your brain by increasing the release and activity of at least three neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine), and when it depletes these stores, especially the serotonin stores, it can lead to chronic depression. Psychiatrists say they are experiencing an increase in psychotic episodes and permanent brain damage among Ecstasy users.


When in powder form, cocaine is snorted or ingested by the user. Cocaine is a stimulant that leaves the user feeling more alert, talkative, strong and confident. Cocaine is extremely addictive and is a popular street drug. In a crystallized form, Cocaine is referred to as Crack; when solidified, the Cocaine is smoked by the user. Highs from crack are typically very short and powerful in nature. Crack cocaine is cheaper than the powder form and highly addictive.

Street names:

blow, charlie, coke

Effects on the body:

Your pulse rate increases, your blood pressure rises and your pupils dilate. After long-term use, you'll look emaciated, your sex drive will decrease, your nose will always be running and you'll get frequent colds. Cocaine is psychologically and physically addictive. Once the high wears off, addicts are left craving more stimulation.

Effects on the brain:

Cocaine interferes with the natural secretion of dopamine and serotonin, two of the brain's chemical messengers that transmit feel-good sensations. As a result, these neurotransmitters accumulate and trigger the trademark "high".
The scary fact is cocaine eventually depletes the level of neurotransmitters to such an extent that depression, apathy, fatigue, anxiety and suicidal depression can set in and may last for months.

If the depletion is total and permanent, even the best antidepressants will be futile and the user may never be able to escape from the darkest depression. Some also develop Parkinson's disease which leaves them with a tremor at an early age.


Also referred to as psychedelic drugs, hallucinogens create a range of perceptual distortion and various psychological symptoms. When a user is under the influence of these drugs, mushrooms, LSD or peyote for example, the individual will observe vibrant colours, transforming shapes and enhanced visions.
LSD - Street names: acid, blotter acid, microdot, white lightning
LSD is an odourless and colourless drug available in two forms: paper stamps impregnated with LSD or micro-tablets ("microdots'') containing LSD in very low concentrations per tablet.

Effects on the body:

Increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, numbness and weakness.

LSD affects a large number of chemicals in the brain, including the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The drug may also increase the levels of a substance called glutamate in very specific parts of the brain, over-stimulating the brain cells and causing an "electric storm''. Each electric storm causes hallucinations, and can lead to permanent changes.

Effects on the brain:

Spying on your brain

New technology has allowed doctors to pinpoint the areas of the brain most affected by drug abuse. One method is the brain Spect (single photon emission computed tomography) which uses gamma rays to construct two- or three-dimensional images of active brain regions.

With a brain Spect doctors can look at the damage done by impaired blood flow caused by various drugs, explains Dr Pieter Botha of the department of radiology at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. Drugs such as alcohol, cocaine or marijuana impair the effectiveness of blood vessels in the brain, constricting blood flow to certain areas. On scans these affected areas show up as "holes" in the brain.


Amphetamines and methamphetamines are stimulants commonly abused by young people at parties or raves. These types of illegal drugs enhance the user’s energy levels, allowing the individual to stay up all night. Aside from recreational use, these stimulants can be used to medicate individuals stricken with attention-deficit disorder.
Street names: tik, tik-tik, crystal, meth, crystal meth, crank, uppers, speed

Effects on the body:

Trembling hands, increased heart rate and sweating. An overdose can result in stroke and heart failure.

Effects on the brain:

Tik acts as a stimulant, similar to cocaine - but stays in the system for longer. The exhaustion of the brain's dopamine supply is extremely worrying. A tik addict loses up to half his dopamine supply every two years, compared with the 5-10% every 10 years for the average person. Dopamine helps to regulate coordinated movement and as soon as its levels drop by 15%, the victim develops Parkinson's disease, characterised by head and hand tremors..


This type of illegal drug is a tranquilizer similar to Valium or painkillers but approximately 10 times more potent. This classification of drugs is extremely addictive; Rohypnol is commonly abused either for it’s intoxicating, sedative or numbing characteristics.


This type of opiate is extremely addictive, relatively cheap and popular in urban environments. Heroin is fast acting and poses a number of deadly health risks. Because street heroine may contain a number of impurities, the drug can obstruct blood vessels that are crucial for the brain, liver, lungs and kidneys. Heroin may be taken via a pill form or injected straight into the veins.
Street names: smack, mud, china white, brown, Mexican brown, brown sugar, gear, H, horse, junk

Effects on the body:

First it leads to suppression of pain, drowsiness, heaviness of the limbs, shallow breathing, a weak pulse, dry mouth and pinpoint pupils. Long-term use causes liver damage, poisoning as a result of additives, bacterial infections, abscesses, arthritis and infection of the heart lining and valves. High dosages can result in a seizure, coma and death. Babies born to mothers who abuse heroin during their pregnancy may be born addicted.

Effects on the brain:

Heroin is quickly changed to morphine in the brain, which acts on certain receptors to give that feeling of utter bliss. But the brain reacts by creating fewer of its own feel-good endorphins. Heroin destroys the chemical balance in the brain to such an extent that the user starts to experience pain in the absence of any injuries. Rapid mood changes and confusion are the result of the chemical changes in the brain.


This popular drug comes from the leaves of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is smoked through a variety of instruments, such as a pipe, joint or bong. The typical effects of marijuana leave the user feeling relaxed and talkative. These effects typically plateau for roughly 90 minutes then taper off.
Street names: dagga, weed, marijuana, dope, grass, pot, ganja, hash, hashish

Effects on the body:

It causes frequent sinusitis and bronchitis and may cause infertility in men and women. Lung cancer is a real risk. It may harm an unborn baby.  Foetal marijuana syndrome - characterised by lower birth weight and developmental abnormalities - is five times more common than foetal alcohol syndrome.

Effects on the brain:

THC changes the brain chemistry that governs feelings, memory, the senses and co-ordinated movement.

Crystal methamphetamine:

Street names: crystals, crystal, meth, rock, candy, batu, glass, LA glass, super ice, hot ice, LA crystal, Hawaiian salt
This newer and deadlier form of crystallised methamphetamine is nearly 100 per cent pure methamphetamine. Odourless and smoked in glass pipes, it is more lethal than crack and cocaine, and seemingly more addictive.

Effects on the body:

Users need ever-heavier doses to reach the same high. Prolonged use damages the lungs, liver and kidneys.
Effects on the brain:
Brain damage is similar to tik, but to a greater degree.

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