Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders

Drugs are anything that we put in our bodies to alter their normal state. Drugs generally fall into three different classifications: Uppers, Downers and All-Arounders. Much of the information in this sections has been adapted from the book Uppers, Downers and All Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs by Darryl S. Inaba, Pharm.D, William E. Cohen and Michael E. Holstein.

Alcohol with Other Drugs

Don’t mix alcohol and other drugs. Mixing two substances together often amplifies the effect of the substances in an unpredictable way. When dealing with substances that affect the parts of your body that control basic functions like breathing and your heartbeat, it isn’t safe or smart to take chances. Often, people don’t consider alcohol to be a downer and mix other substances and booze.


Uppers are stimulants that affect most of the basic processes that happen in your body that keep you alive, like your temperature, heart rate and breathing. They also stimulate the pleasure/reward center in the brain, which often means they have a high potential for addiction and abuse. Uppers are a wide class of drugs and each stimulant that is part of the category has a different intensity. Uppers include cocaine, amphetamines, Adderall, caffeine and nicotine.


Like uppers, downers also affect most of the basic processes that happen in your body to keep it alive by slowing or inhibiting processes causing users to experience sedation, disinhibition of emotions and impulses, muscle relaxation and drowsiness. Unlike uppers, however, downers take effect through many different processes in the body. Because of this, there are three major classes of downers: opiates/opioids; sedative-hypnotics; and alcohol. Skeletal muscle relaxants, antihistamines, over-the-counter sedatives and lookalike sedatives are also considered downers.


This class of downer controls pain and induces pleasure but creates problems because of tolerance, tissue dependence and severe withdrawal. Common opioids/opiates include heroin, codeine, and Oxycontin/Vicodin. In addition to tolerance, tissue dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms; opioid/opiate users risk drug contamination, dirty needles, high cost, STIs, and a high potential for addiction.


This class of downer can induce sleep, depress most body functions like breathing and muscular coordinator and cause the user to experience relaxation, lowered inhibitions, less intense physical sensations and reduced muscular coordination in speech and movement. Sedative-hypnotics are generally prescribed to individuals that need treatment for various psychiatric disorders in which the goal of treatment is to calm, induce sleep or reduce anxiety. These medications are prescribed by doctors for very specific reasons, however, many valid prescriptions are diverted to the illicit drug market for abuse. Risks associated with abuse of sedative-hypnotics include a rapid onset of tolerance and dangerously severe withdrawal symptoms. Commonly abused sedative-hypnotics are phenobarbital, Seconal, Nembutal, Tuinol, Rohypnol, Valium, Librium, Xanax, and Halcion.


Many people say that they drink because of alcohol’s relaxing and inhibiting effect. In small and moderate doses, that can be true depending on the person and their previous history. It is, however, a drug that is often not viewed as potentially harmful because of its widespread use and social acceptance. Annually, approximately 1800 college students die from large doses of alcohol. (http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/StatsSummaries/snapshot.aspx) Drinking heavily and frequently can result in serious problems both within a drinker’s body and their social environment around them. Check out Student Support and Advocacy Center’s awesome information on alcohol for more information on where to get help and how to reduce negative consequences.


All-Arounders are a group of substances that distort the user’s perception of reality by manipulating the brain’s interpretation of the senses. The user’s brain experiences sensory messages that are intensified and often mixed up. Impaired judgment and reasoning are often side affects as well. Some of the more common all-arounders include LSD, MDMA, mushrooms, marijuana, salvia, K2, bath salts, peyote and PCP.

Prescription Medications

Prescription medications can be very strong and can cause severe, life-threatening emergencies if they are not taken as prescribed, are abused, or used by someone without a prescription. In the past 10 years, the number of people who overdose on prescription medications surpassed the number who overdose on street drugs.

  • Do not take with other medications.
  • Do not take with alcohol.
  • Do not take if you have any medical conditions.
  • Do not take when you are feeling upset, angry, or sad.