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Everything You Need to Know

The Basics

Drugs are chemicals that change how your brain works. Some are medicines that help conditions like chronic pain or anxiety, but most have no medical use.

When swallowed, inhaled or injected, drugs find their way into the bloodstream. The bloodstream carries the drugs to the brain to intensify / dull sensations, change alertness or decrease physical pain. These changes affect the ability to make healthy choices and cause harm throughout the body. The damage to the brain and body get worse with continued use. Chronic drug use causes all kinds of side-effects — from osteoporosis and depression to liver or heart failure.

However, drugs can also kill in just one use. When the brain has too much of a drug(s) at one time, oxygen cannot reach the brain, causing overdose. Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.

Drug Categories

  • Depressants (alcohol, barbiturates and sedatives) — Slows down activity in the body to give unhealthy feelings of relaxation
  • Stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine and caffeine) — Speeds up the body’s nervous system to create a feeling of energy and wakefulness
  • Opiates (heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine — Produces chemical euphoria for a sense of well being and pain releif
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, peyote and methamphetamine) — Produces changes in perception, visual illusions and alteration of the senses
Drug Overdose Chart

The Questions

According to the most recent data, 20% of Americans 12 and older have used illegal drugs in the past year. Millions more abuse prescription drugs, which are often just as dangerous. In reality, these numbers are probably much higher. Many people who use drugs keep it a secret because of the shame and stigma attached to addiction.

Additionally, it’s estimated that there are around 16.7 million heavy drinkers in the United States. Even though alcohol is socially acceptable, it’s still an addicting drug that causes both short-term and the long-term damage.

Percentage of Americans that Have Tried Each Drug in Their Life

Drug Population (%)
Alcohol 88%
Marijuana 46%
Cocaine 17%
Hallucinogens 16%
Prescription Pain Relievers 13%
Inhalants 9%
Stimulants 6%
Sedatives 4%
Heroin 2%

SOURCE: National Survey of Drug Use and Health (2014)

To get statistics beyond the US, read the World Drug Report.

Opiates and alcohol are usually considered the most dangerous drugs because they are the deadliest, but no drug is completely harmless. Even if a drug can’t kill you, it can damage your body and mind, and over time lead to severe emotional, physical and social consequences. Substance abuse impacts not only the health and wellbeing of the person using but also their loved ones and their community.

People use drugs for many reasons, usually because they want to feel good or they want to escape feeling bad. When someone uses drugs habitually, they become accustomed to the feeling produced by that substance. Over time they need more and more to achieve the same effects, and eventually, they become emotionally and physically dependent on that feeling.

Even though it starts as a choice, addiction takes over the brain and makes you feel compelled to continue using despite the consequences. Everything from mental illness to bad relationships to financial troubles can keep people bound to drugs and alcohol to feel better, and eventually just to feel normal.

Here are some of our best drug-related articles:

Types of Drugs

Oxycodone Addiction, Abuse & Treatment: The Definitive Guide

Oxycodone (Roxicodone) is a prescription medication that is meant for treating pain, but it's highly addictive and abuse prone. Learn more online today!

Sleeping Pill Addiction: How to Recognize the Signs

Sleeping pills are designed to relax your mind, so rest comes easily. But some can also deliver euphoria, and that makes them a target for abuse. Learn the symptoms of sleeping pill addiction.

Vicodin Addiction

Vicodin is a prescription opioid painkiller that can be destructive to an addict’s life. Learn more about a road to recovery at Ambrosia Treatment Center today!

Adderall and Study Drug Addiction and Treatment Options

Study drugs like Adderall are extremely popular with college students looking for a competitive edge. But do you know how addictive these drugs really are?


Hydrocodone is a prescription medication that's designed to ease pain. But it can also cause intense discomfort in the form of addiction. This drug changes brain chemistry, and that leads to compulsive drug use in some people.


DXM is an active ingredient in many cold medications, including both pills and syrups. At high doses, it acts just like PCP and other hallucinogenic drugs. It can cause dependence, but treatment can help you to break the ties of addiction.

Alcohol Medications

Medications can help your body to overcome the trauma of addiction. When paired with therapy, it could help you achieve sobriety — something you may not have thought possible.


Codeine abuse can be intense. It can trigger the same addictive response as Vicodin and other opioids. Addictions can progress for years before they're caught. Learn how to get help and get better.


Xanax can seem soothing and calming. But the drug changes brain chemistry, and in time, you could be compelled to use the drug even when you don't want to do so. Learn how to spot signs of Xanax addiction.

Prescription Drugs

An overview of the 3 prescription drug categories - prescription opioids, prescription sedatives & prescription stimulants. Learn what they are an what they're used for.

Internet Addiction

Whether it's video games or gambling, society spends a lot of time connected to the web. Many who seek the internet as an escape from reality become addicted.

Process Addiction

Addiction doesn't stop at drugs and alcohol. Many suffer from a process addiction such as compulsive gambling, eating disorders or sex addiction.

Drug Addiction

Addiction is a complex disease that can affect anyone, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, and upbringing. Contact Ambrosia today to begin your recovery.


Alcoholism is a deadly, but treatable disease. Find out more about who is an alcoholic and how treatment for alcohol dependence works.


Fentanyl is spreading mixed with other illegal drugs. It is 40-50 times more potent than heroin, highly addictive and killing too many young adults.


Heroin addiction is the newest epidemic gripping America. Help is available. Learn about this deadly disease and how to treat it.


Cocaine is a terrifyingly addictive drug, but fortunately, there is hope for everyone to recover. Understand the facts and make the call today.

Flakka & Bath Salts

Flakka and bath salts are synthetic drugs that have extremely dangerous effects. Paranoia and panic attacks are some of the symptoms you will experience. Find help here.


Hallucinogens can lead to persistent psychosis and other mental health problems. Learn more about the short and long term effects this drug has on your mind.


Inhalants, most commonly referred to as sniffing, huffing and bagging are hazardous drugs that are easily accessible and can be a deadly high.

Marijuana (Cannabis)

Recreational marijuana is legal in some states, but contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be highly addictive and have serious consequences in your life.

MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

MDMA, commonly referred to as Molly or Ecstasy is a popular party drug largely used in music festivals, concerts and clubs. If you are struggling, call today.


Crystal meth is cheap, highly addictive, and readily available. Know the symptoms of methamphetamine use and where to get help.

Cough/Cold Medicines

Over-the-counter medicines are available at your local pharmacy without a prescription, and misuse of it is dangerous. If you are seeking help, recovery is possible.

Prescription Opioids

Pills like oxycodone (Percocet) & hydrocodone (Vicodin) were prescribed enough last year to give every American their own bottle. Get educated on the epidemic.

Prescription Sedatives

Prescription sedatives slow down your brain and diminish your level of awareness. Learn more about some of the health effects this drug can have on you.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants also known as uppers or speed increase alertness, but repeated abuse can cause psychosis, anger or paranoia. Freedom from addiction is just a call away.


Synthetic cannabis effects are more potent than marijuana and the outcome can be unpredictable. If you are struggling, you have the power to change your life.


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