Commonly Abused Drugs

Commonly Abused Drugs

At C.I.R.P. we see many types of drug addictions. Our staff are trained to recognise the different ways in which drugs effect the body and the brain’s neurochemistry. We understand that the drugs that people abuse create chemical imbalances in the brain and as such treatment has to address this if it is to be successful. We aim to connect all our clients with a care team that includes addiction doctors and psychiatrists where necessary.
The following are examples of the types of drugs that we often see being misused by our clients:

Cocaine &

What is cocaine? 

Street names: blow, C, coke, crack, flake, freebase, rock, snow

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. Stimulants make people feel more alert and energetic. Cocaine can also make people feel euphoric, or “high.”  Pure cocaine was first isolated from the leaves of the coca bush in 1860. Researchers soon discovered that cocaine numbs whatever tissues it touches, leading to its use as a local anesthetic. Today, we mostly use synthetic anesthetics, rather than cocaine.

In the 1880s, psychiatrist Sigmund Freud wrote scientific papers that praised cocaine as a treatment for many ailments, including depression and alcohol and opioid addiction. After this, cocaine became widely and legally available in patent medicines and soft drinks.

As cocaine use increased, people began to discover its dangers. In 1911, Canada passed laws restricting the importation, manufacture, sale and possession of cocaine. The use of cocaine declined until the 1970s, when it became known for its high cost, and for the rich and glamorous people who used it. Cheaper “crack” cocaine became available in the 1980s.



What is Heroin?

Street names: junk, H, smack, horse, skag, dope

Heroin is a dangerous and illegal drug with a high addictive potential. It is also an effective painkiller.

Heroin belongs to the opioid family of drugs. Also in the opioid family are the “opiates,” such as morphine and codeine, which are natural compounds found in the opium poppy; and “synthetic” opioids, such as Demerol (meperidine) and methadone, which are chemically manufactured. Heroin is a “semi-synthetic” opioid: it is made from morphine that has been chemically processed. It enters the brain quickly and produces a more immediate effect. Heroin is converted back into morphine in the brain.

When heroin was first introduced in the late 19th century, it was promoted as a pain reliever and cough suppressant. By the early 20th century, the dangers of heroin were recognized. Laws were introduced throughout North America and Europe to restrict the production, distribution and use of heroin.

In some countries, there are circumstances where heroin may be prescribed by physicians. In the United Kingdom, for example, doctors may prescribe heroin for extreme pain. This treatment is usually reserved for patients who are terminally ill. In the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Denmark, a small number of people who are addicted to heroin, and who have not responded to other treatments, receive heroin by prescription in carefully monitored maintenance programs.


(Crystal Meth)

What is methamphetamine?

Street Name: speed, meth, chalk, ice, crystal, crystal meth, jib

Methamphetamine belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines — powerful stimulants that speed up the body’s central nervous system. It has been used medically as a treatment for obesity and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While still available for medical use in the United States, its use is limited by the severity of its adverse effects, and by its high addictive potential. Methamphetamine is not legally available in Canada.


Prescription Opioids
(Morphine, Methadone
Percocet, Dilaudid)

What are prescription opioids?

Street names: M, morph, (for morphine); meth (for methadone); percs (for Percodan, Percocet); juice (for Dilaudid)

Opioids are a family of drugs that have morphine-like effects. The primary medical use for prescription opioids is to relieve pain. Other medical uses include control of coughs and diarrhea, and the treatment of addiction to other opioids. Opioids can also produce euphoria, making them prone to abuse. Some people use opioids for their ability to produce a mellow, relaxed “high.” Federal laws regulate the possession and distribution of all opioids.

Use of prescription opioids is legal only when they are prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, and are used by the person to whom they are prescribed. Illegal use includes “double doctoring,” or obtaining a prescription from more than one doctor without telling the prescribing doctor about other prescriptions received in the past 30 days. Penalties for the illegal possession and distribution of prescription opioids include fines, imprisonment or both.



What are benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a group of medications that can help reduce anxiety and make it easier to sleep. They are also used as a muscle relaxant, to induce sedation for surgery and other medical procedures, and in the treatment of seizures and alcohol withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are also called minor tranquilizers, sedatives or hypnotics. They are the most widely prescribed psychoactive drugs in the world.

The calming effects of benzodiazepines can often be achieved without drugs. Various kinds of exercise, such as walking, running, yoga or tai chi can help, as can reducing the stress in your life and taking time for relaxing activities such as meditation, reading a book or having a warm bath. Talking with a trusted friend, family member or therapist and working out the problems that are troubling you can also help. Whenever possible, these approaches should be tried first, before benzodiazepines. However, when non-drug approaches are not possible or do not help, benzodiazepines can provide relief.

When taken by mouth, the calming effects of benzodiazepines are felt within 30 minutes to four hours, depending on the type taken. With most benzodiazepines, the effects last several hours.

When used appropriately, benzodiazepines are safe and effective drugs. They do, however, have potential for abuse and can be addictive. For this reason, they are usually only recommended for short-term or occasional use.



What is cannabis?

Street names: marijuana (grass, weed, pot, dope, ganja and others), hashish (hash), hash oil (weed oil, honey oil)

Cannabis sativa, also known as the hemp plant, has been cultivated for centuries for industrial and medical use, and for its “psychoactive,” or mind-altering, effects. Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil all derive from the cannabis plant.

More than 61 chemicals, called cannabinoids, have been identified as specific to the cannabis plant. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid, and is most responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use.

Hemp grown for industrial use has very low levels of THC. Hemp fibres are used to make rope, fabric and paper. Hemp seeds are high in protein and yield an oil with nutritional and industrial value.

Many claims about the medical uses of marijuana have not been scientifically proven; however, some have. In Canada, THC and other pure cannabinoids are available in three prescription medications:

- Marinol (dronabinol) is synthetic THC and Cesamet (nabilone) is another synthetic cannabinoid. Both are prescribed to relieve nausea and vomiting and to stimulate appetite. This can help people who have AIDS or who take drugs used to treat cancer.

- Sativex, the world’s first prescription medicine derived from the cannabis plant, was approved in Canada in 2005 for the relief of pain in multiple sclerosis. Sativex is a combination of THC and cannabidiol.