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Commonly abused drugs and how to recognize them

Penalties for possession of illicit drugs are typically steep. However, they can vary based on the type of drug and how potent it is.

Different drugs may have attributes in common. The New Jersey State Police identifies drugs commonly abused in the state and explains how to identify them.


Ergot is a fungus that grows on grains such as rye. It produces a substance called lysergic acid, an ingredient in the manufacture of lysergic acid diethylamine. LSD is a mood-altering hallucinogenic drug. Tabs of LSD are small squares torn from a larger sheet of brightly colored blotter paper.


Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant drug. It works by flooding the central nervous system with dopamine, a pleasure-enhancing neurotransmitter. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the high from using meth can last for hours, which is part of the reason for its popularity. Meth is slightly yellow or white and has a crystalline appearance. It can come in powder that looks like shards of glass or large chunks that look like rocks.


Cocaine is a stimulant drug like methamphetamine, meaning that the effects of each are similar. Cocaine is more likely to produce a rush of euphoria rather than a prolonged high, as meth does. Cocaine comes in two forms. Crack is a rock-like crystal that is the smoking form. Cocaine also comes in a powder that people consume by snorting.

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify a drug, and that can be dangerous as well. For example, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that, while potent on its own, is also an ingredient used to cut cocaine or heroin. There is no way to tell that the drugs contain fentanyl without special testing, and because fentanyl is so potent, a very small amount can result in an overdose.



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