Update: Learn more about the integration of Counselling and Mental Health Services and the new Psychiatric Services.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a drug?

A drug is any chemical you take that affects the way your body works. They do this in a myriad of different ways.
Specifically, a drug must be:

  • produced outside of the body, 
  • able to pass from your body into your brain, and then,
  • once inside your brain, a drug changes the messages your brain cells are sending to each other and to the rest of your body by interfering with your brain's own chemical signals.

Are there different types of drugs?

Yes. There are many way to classify drugs, and most drugs span categories and thus can have multiple effects. 
The 7 major drug categories are Depressants, Stimulants, Hallucinogens, Dissociative anesthetics, Narcotic analgesics, Inhalants, and Cannabis.

What is a Depressant?

Depressants, or "downers", are drugs that slow down communication in your central nervous system (CNS), which reduces alertness and the general activity of the brain and body. In low doses, depressants may make you sleepy, calm, and less aware of your environment; they may slow down breathing and heart rate. Examples of depressants include alcohol, anti-anxiety tranquilizers (e.g., Xanax, Prozac, Valium, Thorazine), benzodiazepines (e.g., Ativan, Rohypnol), anti-depressants (e.g., Zoloft, Paxil), and GHB (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate).

What is a Stimulant?

Stimulants, or "uppers", are drugs that speed up communication in your central nervous system (CNS), similar to the naturally occurring hormone adrenaline. They produce a rapid, temporary burst of energy, and may have effects such as enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and mental acuity. They can also suppress appetite, and provide a feelings of euphoria. Examples of stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines (e.g., speed, Adderall), methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta), methamphetamine, nicotine, and caffeine.

What is a Hallucinogen?

Hallucinogens, or “psychedelic drugs”, are drugs that can cause substantial subjective changes to people’s sense of reality, including auditory and visual hallucinogens. They also cause varying degrees of alteration in emotional, mood, and cognitive processes. Examples of hallucinogens include marijuana, LSD, MDMA (ecstacy), ketamine, mescaline, phencyclidine (PCP), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).

What is a Dissociative anesthetic?

Dissociative anesthetics are drugs that inhibit pain by cutting off the brain’s perception of the pain. Examples of a dissociative anesthetics include ketatmine, and phencyclidine (PCP).

What is a Narcotic analgesic?

Narcotic analgesics are potent analgesics that are selective central nervous system depressants used to relieve pain.  They can cause numbness and mood changes, as well as induce a state of euphoria or unconsciousness. Examples of narcotic analgesics include morphine, Codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Dilaudid), fentanyl, and heroin.

What is an Inhalant?

Inhalants are breathable substances that have a wide range of effects depending on the substance and the dose, from alcohol-like intoxication to intense euphoria to vivid hallucinations. Examples of inhalants include paint thinners, paint, gasoline, Toluene, plastic cement, hair sprays and various anesthetic gases.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is the scientic name for marijuana, and is a term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa. The major psychoactive component in cannabis is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes effects that vary dramatically among different users, including a sense of relaxation, heightened sensory perception, altered perception of time, increased appetite, paranoia, and anxiety. This category includes cannabinoids (e.g., marijuana, hashish), and synthetics like Dronabinol.


For more facts, statistics, and in-depth information, please visit our Substance Misuse website.