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Understanding the Different Types of Drug Addiction

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Drug addiction is a complex condition that affects not only the individuals who are directly experiencing addiction but also their loved ones. The impact of addiction can ripple through families and communities, creating a cycle of pain and struggle. Recognizing the different types of drug addiction is crucial for understanding how to help others pursue addiction recovery with compassion and understanding.

Drug addiction can be categorized by the substance being abused—including opioids, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and cannabis. Each type of addiction can have unique characteristics and challenges.

Types of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction can manifest in various forms and may appear different depending on the substance or substances involved in the addiction.  


Stimulants are drugs that increase activity in the brain, resulting in heightened alertness, attention, and energy. Commonly used stimulants include:

  • Cocaine: Cocaine is known for its intense but short-lived euphoria.
  • Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine often leads to severe physical and psychological dependence.
  • Prescription stimulants (such as Adderall or Ritalin): These stimulants may be used medically for treating conditions like ADHD but can be abused for their stimulating effects.

The effects that stimulants can cause on the body and mind include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Elevated mood and increased energy
  • Anxiety, paranoia, and, in severe cases, psychosis


Depressants slow down brain function and are often prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. However, they can be misused. Common depressants include:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol is one of the most widely used substances.
  • Benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax): These substances can be highly addictive if misused.
  • Barbiturates: These substances are less commonly prescribed today but can still be abused, 

The effects that depressants can cause on the body and mind include:

  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Relaxation and drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination and judgment


Hallucinogens alter perception, mood, and thought processes, leading to experiences that feel real but are created by the mind. Examples of hallucinogens include:

  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide): This substance is known for its powerful psychoactive effects.
  • Psilocybin (magic mushrooms): This naturally occurring substance may be used in some traditional rituals. Some people can develop a physiological dependence to psilocybin.  
  • MDMA (ecstasy): This substance promotes feelings of emotional closeness and euphoria

The effects that hallucinogens can have on the body and mind include:

  • Altered sensory perceptions and hallucinations
  • Emotional swings and an altered sense of time
  • An increased potential for triggering mental health issues


Opioids are powerful painkillers that can lead to severe physical dependence. Common opioids include:

  • Heroin: Heroin can be highly addictive. It can also lead to additional health risks based on how it is used.
  • Prescription painkillers (such as OxyContin and Vicodin): These substances can be effective for pain relief but can also be highly addictive.
  • Synthetic opioids (such as fentanyl): These substances can be extremely potent, and the risk of an overdose when using them is often high. 

The effects that opioids can have on the body and mind include:

  • Pain relief and euphoria
  • Respiratory depression and a high risk of overdose
  • High potential for addiction and physical dependence

Signs & Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug addiction can be challenging, but it is often essential for early intervention. Knowing the signs of substance abuse can be key in helping a friend or loved one find support when they need it most. 

While symptoms of substance abuse can vary, some general signs you may notice include:

  • Changes in behaviour or personality
  • Neglecting responsibilities and personal hygiene
  • Withdrawal from social activities and relationships
  • Financial difficulties and secretive behaviour

Beyond these, there may be more specific behavioural changes that become apparent depending on the type of substance a person is using. 

Signs of Stimulant Use:

  • Hyperactivity and excessive talking
  • Insomnia and reduced need for sleep
  • Paranoia and agitation

Signs of Depressant Use:

  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Slurred speech and impaired coordination
  • Memory problems and confusion

Signs of Hallucinogen Use:

  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Distorted sense of reality and time
  • Mood swings and paranoia

Signs of Opioid Use:

  • Constricted pupils and drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe cravings and withdrawal symptoms

Treatment Options

Treatment for drug addiction must be tailored to the individual’s needs and typically involves a combination of approaches. 

Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapeutic approaches can help individuals understand and change their behaviour patterns. These therapies often focus on developing coping strategies, improving emotional regulation, and building a support network.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) combines behavioural therapy with medications to treat substance use disorders. For example, methadone and buprenorphine may be recommended to help manage opioid addiction, while medications like naltrexone may be recommended to reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Support Groups

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provide a sense of community and shared experience. These groups offer peer support, accountability, and a structured program for recovery.

Personalized Treatment Plans

It can be essential to seek professional help for addiction recovery. Professional programs often use a personalized treatment plan that addresses the unique needs of the individual. This plan may involve a combination of therapies, medications, and support systems to maximize the chances of successful recovery.

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Supporting a Loved One

Supporting a family member or friend who is experiencing the effects of drug addiction can be challenging, but doing so may be helpful for their recovery. 

Effective Communication Strategies

  • Listen without judgment: Show empathy and understanding without criticizing or blaming.
  • Express concern: Communicate your worries about their well-being calmly and lovingly.
  • Encourage treatment: Offer information about treatment options and encourage them to seek professional help.

Setting Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries to protect your well-being and prevent enabling behaviours while helping someone seek addiction recovery. Be consistent in enforcing these boundaries while showing love and support.

Finding Support for Yourself

While helping others with addiction, you may also want to seek support from counselling or support groups for family members of addicts, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. It is important to take care of your mental and physical health to stay strong for your loved one.

Seek Support at Calgary Dream Centre

Understanding the different types of addiction can be crucial for recognizing the signs, seeking appropriate treatment, and providing effective support. Substance abuse is a complex but treatable condition, and recovery is possible with the right approach and support systems.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help. Calgary Dream Centre offers comprehensive support and resources to guide you through the recovery process. Contact us today to learn more.

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  • Written by Craig Hill

    Craig Hill has been involved with the Calgary Dream Centre (CDC) since its inception. Starting with trips to the LA Dream Centre where seeds were planted in him that were never forgotten. After years of working in business, real estate, and church ministry, Craig returned to the CDC to step in as the CEO. Craig has a deep appreciation for the life change that happens here, the incredible team, and seeing the redemptive work that God is doing. Outside of work, Craig is a family man who loves nothing more than being with his wife and kids at the lake.

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    The Calgary Dream Centre acknowledges with humble gratitude that our organization is located on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Iyarhe Nakoda Nations, the Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta District 6, and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.