One of the problems practitioners encounter is that people now hear about many medications due to the hype of pharmaceutical company advertising and the promises made on TV commercials, and they think that’s the solution to their problem. Just take a pill and that will “solve my depression.” People often learn the hard way that there’s a lot more to getting through depression than just taking a pill. No two patients are the same; everybody’s an individual, so you have to do a comprehensive assessment to see what methodology can best be utilized with that client to help them with their recovery from depression.

While there are a lot of different drugs out there, you don’t have to be an expert on every single one of them because basically there are just five classes of mind-altering drugs. So whether you’re a counselor, a physician, nurse, or therapist, when you’re dealing with substance problems, you are always dealing with five classes of chemicals. The five classes of drugs all exhibit different effects. What they all have in common is that they stimulate the reward/pleasure center of the brain. They are:

  • stimulants (cocaine, crystal meth, Ritalin, Adderall)
  • depressants/sedative-hypnotics (alcohol, antianxiety medications/tranquilizers such as xanax, and barbiturates)
  • cannabinoids (marijuana)
  • psychedelics/hallucinogens (LSD, PCP, ecstasy), and
  • opiates/opioids (opiates such as opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin are derived from the opium poppy while opioids such as Demerol, Vicodin, Dilaudid, Percocet, Fentanyl, OxyContin, and Norco are synthetically produced).

This blog post is an excerpt from The therapist’s Guide to Addiction Medicine – A Handbook for Addiction Counselors and Therapists – by Barry Solof, MD, FASAM; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).