There are lots of different types of drugs. 

There are three main types; depressants, hallucinogens and stimulants.  These have different effects on your body and brain.


These slow down your thinking and can affect your heart rate and breathing. They can produce feelings of warmth and relaxation. Depressant drugs, like alcohol and heroin, work in much the same way on mood and personality. However, the repeated use of such drugs over an extended period of time can cause the body to become reliant and tolerance to be increased.  More and more of the drug has to be taken in order to get the desired effect. In building tolerance to the effects of a drug, the user may be taking the first steps on the road to physical drug dependence.

Examples of depressant drugs are Alcohol, TranquillisersHeroin and the Opiates.


Hallucinogenic drugs, like LSD, and certain 'magic' mushrooms, affect those areas of the brain which control sensory perception and thought patterns. They do this by altering the way in which the messages are received and interpreted. The change in mood or personality brought about by hallucinogenic drugs is more likely to be influenced by the set and setting of the drug used.


These drugs have the opposite effect of speeding up mental activity and physical functions, producing feelings of excitement and confidence. Stimulants raise blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration and reduce the desire to eat. After the effects wear off people may feel tired, hungry and depressed.

Examples of stimulant drugs are Nicotine , Caffeine, Cocaine  and Amphetamines .

Drug, set and setting

How these effects show themselves and how the drug feels to the individual is the result of a complex interaction between the properties of the substance itself (drug), the individual’s mood, experience and expectations (set), and the environment within which the drug is taken (setting).

In addition to these 3 broad categories, each particular drug has its own specific effects and risks.

Some drugs are quite new and their harms may not yet be fully known such as New Psychoactive Substances/Legal Highs. Sometimes drugs don’t contain what you think they do.

There are also performance and image enhancing drugs that claim to improve the physical training and a person’s physical appearance, sometimes used by body builders - steroids.

Emergency help

Most people don’t use drugs and even amongst those that do, emergencies are rare.  But no one can be certain how drugs will affect them so there’s always the risk that they’ll have a bad time, fall ill, and hurt themselves or even worse. Here’s what you need to know should you ever have to help a friend or relative who’s having a bad reaction to a drug. 

Talk to Frank Emergency Help (opens an external website)

Want to know more about a drug, their effects and the law?

Frank has compiled an A-Z of drugs.  Here you can find out all its different names, the effects it has, the risks involved and what the law says.

Frank A- Z of drugs (opens an external website)