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Substance Information

Commonly Misused Substances

The following provides comprehensive information on some of the most frequently misused substances. Links are provided for more in-depth information on each respective substance. For additional information on substances which have not been listed below, see the National Institute on Drug Abuse section on "Research Topics” and scroll to “Research by Substance.” Additional information is also available on

Substance Type & Information

Amphetamines & Methamphetamine
Amphetamine and methamphetamine are stimulants and chemically similar substances. Certain amphetamines are legally prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and sleep disorders.

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant chemically created from leaves retrieved from the South American coca plant. In the healthcare system, cocaine may be used legally by medical providers as anesthesia, however when illegally manufactured for recreational use it is illegal.

MDMA: Ecstasy/Molly
3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), is a synthetic or “designer” substance that changes mood and awareness. The substance is chemically similar to the amphetamines/methamphetamines substances and hallucinogens. The terms used to describe MDMA can vary.

Heroin is a substance made from morphine that derives from the seed pod of poppy plants native to parts of Asia and Latin America. Heroin can come in a powder form or a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.”

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Often prescribed by physicians to provide relief after experiencing pain from surgery or when completing treatment trials for advanced-stage cancer. On the drug market, the substance is accessed illegally and illicitly manufactured. The substance is often combined with other substances to increase potency.

Prescription Opioids: Codeine, Morphine, Hydrocodone/Hydromorphone, and Oxycodone/Oxymorphone
Codeine, Morphine, Hydrocodone/Hydromorphone, Fentanyl, and Oxycodone​/Oxymorphone are classified as prescription opioids, which are either made directly from the opium poppy plant or chemically created. These substances are used to treat moderate to severe pain, or coughing and diarrhea, and they can become addictive. 
Marijuana & Cannabidiol (CBD)
Marijuana Awareness Guide *updated 2019*
Marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants, which contain the chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the U.S.

Benzodiazepines and Opioids
Benzodiazepines are prescription sedatives usually prescribed for anxiety or Insomnia. In recent years, prescriptions for benzodiazepines have increased significantly. Combining these type of substances with opioids can be unsafe and increase the risk of causing fatal overdoses.

Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs - Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are a classifications of substances that alter the user’s perception. Hallucinogens can come from natural sources, such as plants and mushrooms or they can be manufactured by humans. Some common hallucinogens include salvia divinorum, LSD, and PCP.

Dietary Supplements 
Dietary supplements are intended to supplement the diet by increasing the dietary instance of substances such as a vitamin, mineral, herb/botanical, enzyme or amino acid. Unlike pharmaceutical substances, these substances are not intended to be a treatment, diagnosis, or cure for any disease and should not be labeled as such. The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists many herbs and supplements while providing in-depth information on their effectiveness, usual dosage and interactions. Find more information at this link.

Dietary supplements may be used by Sailors to meet the demands of military performance, but some supplements could be adulterated (contain unsafe ingredients) or misbranded (labeled falsely or misleadingly), creating potential threats to safety, and career. Learn more from Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) (, the Department of Defense dietary supplement resource for the military community, leaders, healthcare providers and DoD civilians. This resource can help Sailors and their families make more informed decisions about dietary supplements that they may use and understand the risks associated with certain supplements. Questions about supplements can be directed to the page’s “Ask the Expert” ( section. Learn about cannabidiol or CBD here.
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