Drugs Other Than Alcohol

What is a “drug?”

A drug is any substance taken by a person to achieve a better physical or mental state– real or imagined. Drug use means taking any amount of drugs under any condition—legal or illegal. Alcohol is a drug, and there are many others. For example, people consume caffeine in coffee and nicotine in tobacco and may not realize that these, too, are drugs.

How Can a Drug Affect You?

When using any drug, you should consider the risks and the effects it might have on your ability to perform routine and complex tasks. You should keep your level of risk low and avoid taking drugs that interfere with anything you might do. Remember that in addition to their intended purpose, many drugs have side effects. To complicate matters, drugs can affect various people in different ways, or a drug may affect a person differently each time it is used.

Legal Drugs
Use of legal drugs is common in the U.S. Generally, they are designed to address causes or symptoms of problems by changing the body’s chemistry.

Prescription Drugs

A doctor’s prescription for these drugs includes directions for use. Be sure to follow directions exactly, not only to accomplish the drug’s purpose, but also to limit dangerous and undesirable side effects. Prescription drugs can be helpful when used as prescribed. But they also can hinder your driving ability by reducing your level of alertness or ability to perform complex tasks. Do not use prescription drugs that are prescribed for other people.

Over the Counter/Non-Prescription Drugs

Available without a prescription, over-the-counter drugs can include anything from aspirin to cold pills, cough syrup and sleep aids. By law, these drugs must provide adequate directions for use in addition to information about possible side effects.

Whether a drug is prescribed by a doctor or obtained over the counter, always read the label carefully, especially if you intend to drive. Some may cause drowsiness or otherwise impair driving ability. If you have a question or concern about a drug’s effects, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Ask specifically how the drug could affect driving ability.

Illegal/Illicit Drugs

Illegal drugs, or street drugs, are sold without a prescription. Besides breaking the law, the risks of buying street drugs is not knowing what is in them. With street drugs, buyers also risk having one drug substituted for another without their knowledge.

Drugs and Their Effects

Drugs Vary by Type and Effect
Most drugs act on the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Stimulants—such as amphetamines—speed up the system, while depressants—such as tranquilizers—slow it down. Another drug family, hallucinogens, affects the way a user sees things. Below is a summary of common types of drugs and their possible effects.

Combining Drugs – Possible Synergistic Effect
What are the effects of taking two or more drugs at the same time? The result may be a synergistic effect: more than just one plus one. This means that the combined effect is greater than the sum of the two effects separately. Synergism is not a rare occurrence.  For example, a beer and another depressant may produce a synergistic effect. Anytime another drug is combined with alcohol, the effects may be different from those expected if either drug is taken alone. Combining drugs increases the risk of harmful and unexpected effects.