Common drug types, their effects, and dangers

by Eugene Ng    

A pile of prescription drugs

The six most commonly used illegal drugs in Australia are amphetamines, methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates, marijuana and benzodiazepines. Drug testing kits used for workplace drug testing should cover all these at a minimum. 

Drugs can affect different people in different ways. How a drug affects a person can depend on their weight, size, and health, their frequency in using their drug and also the presence of any other drugs in their system. The effects are also dependent on the amount of drugs taken. 

With illegal drugs, it can be hard to judge how much has been taken because they are uncontrolled, and therefore the quality and strength of the drug varies from batch to batch. 

The effects of drugs, and the symptoms of coming down and withdrawal, can affect a person‘s ability to work safely and effectively, which is why most organisations have a strict zero tolerance towards drugs (and alcohol) in the workplace. 

This Drug Wheel classifies drugs as part of seven general categories: Stimulants, Depressants, Cannabinoids, Psychedelics, Opioids, Dissociatives and Empathogens. 


The Drug Wheel by Mark Adley

© The Drug Wheel is based on the Drugs Wheel by Mark Adley and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 Unported License.


Different types of drugs have different effects including: 


Examples: alcohol, benzodiazepines (minor tranquillisers), cannabis, GHB, heroin, morphine, codeine, methadone, and some inhalants. 

Effects: They affect the central nervous system by slowing down the messages between the brain and the body. They affect concentration and coordination and can slow down the person‘s ability to respond to unexpected situations. 

Dangers: In small doses they can cause the user to feel more relaxed and less inhibited but in larger doses they can cause drowsiness, vomiting, unconsciousness and death. 


Examples: caffeine, ephedrine, nicotine, amphetamines, cocaine, ice and ecstasy (MDMA). 

Effects: These speed up the messages between the brain and the body, and make the user feel more awake, alert, confident or energetic. 

Dangers: Large doses or long-term use of strong stimulants can cause over-stimulation, anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. 


Examples: ketamine, LSD, MXE, datura, magic mushrooms (psilocybin) and mescaline (peyote cactus), nitrous oxide. Cannabis and ecstasy can also have hallucinogenic qualities. Effects: These distort a person‘s perception of reality. Users may imagine seeing or hearing things, or distortions of reality through hallucinations. 

Dangers: Bladder damage, numbness, weakness, tremors, paranoia and panic attacks, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. 

To read more about the different types of drugs and the different effects they can have, click here. 

Andatech offers a range of drug testing kits and equipment that can be found here

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.

Eugene Ng

With a background in sociology, Eugene developed an interest in how various factors influence society and development. His informative blog posts focus on drink driving, air quality, car safety and new technologies.