The drug wheel is out to get you!

Illegal drugs may be harmful, but that doesn’t mean that legal drugs don’t cause issues.

We’ve probably all heard of the karma wheel and how it will run you over if your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, but have you ever heard of the drug wheel? The drug wheel and its karma equivalent might not have a lot in common, but the drug wheel can certainly run you over and leave you flattened in its wake!

The drug wheel is a way of classifying drugs into seven general categories:

  • Stimulants, which includes illegal drugs like amphetamines, cocaine and ICE, as well as commonly used and legal drugs such as caffeine and nicotine.
  • Depressants, such as alcohol and kava.
  • Cannabinoids, which include the commonly used drug cannabis (regular, medicinal and synthetic) and butane hash oil.
  • Psychedelics, including the well-known LSD.
  • Opioids, such as the illegal drug heroin. This category also includes many pharmaceutical drugs, such as codeine, fentanyl, methadone and oxycodone.
  • Dissociatives, which include nitrous oxide and ketamine.
  • The most well-known drug in this category is the illegal and relatively widely-used MDMA or ecstasy.

Take a look at the drug wheel on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website. It provides a pictorial and informative way of looking at drugs in a whole new light. You can also click on parts of the wheel to receive further information about the categories of drugs, as well as information about the individual drugs themselves.

The drug wheel also provides a brief summary of the common effects of each category of drugs. For example, not surprisingly, stimulants can provide increased euphoria (which most of who drink coffee can well attest to with our first coffee of the day!) and confidence. However, they can also increase heartbeat, lead to mood swings and anxiety, and cause dehydration. Depressants, on the other hand, can cause nausea, vomiting and dependence issues.

It’s worth pointing out – and it’s mentioned on the ADF website regularly – that there is no safe level of drug use. That doesn’t matter if it’s an illegal drug, which may have dubious origins and you can’t be sure of the purity and strength, or legal drugs, particularly if taken above the recommended dosage or when not prescribed.

For example, opioids in the United States have been a massive concern for some time. In fact, many are saying that the country is in the throes of an opioid epidemic. However, most of the issues are caused by not heroin or other illegal drugs, but by prescription medicine such as fentanyl and oxycodone. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, more than 130 people are dying every day in the United States from an opioid-related drug overdose.

No safe level of drug use? With around 47,600 people dying from an opioid-related overdose in 2017 alone, the statement is certainly backed up.


Illegal drugs may be harmful, but that doesn’t mean that legal drugs don’t cause issues. Credit Marco Verch

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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