3 main types of psychoactive drugs
There are certain drugs that alter moods, emotions, and perceptions, these drugs are called as the Psychoactive Drugs. Psychoactive drugs fall into three major categories; the Depressants, Stimulants and Hallucinogens.
There are certain drugs that alter moods, emotions, and perceptions, these drugs are called as the Psychoactive Drugs. Psychoactive drugs fall into three major categories; the Depressants, Stimulantsand Hallucinogens.
Depressants have the capability to reduce the activity of the central nervous system. It slows down reactions and reduces the strength of response. It can also cause drowsiness; sleep or it can even cause death depending on the dosage taken. Drugs such as barbiturates, narcotics, minor tranquilizers and alcohol fall in this category.
There are serious social problems involving depressant drugs. These are the use of Alcohol and Heroin. The used of alcohol in beverages are widespread in our society. Many people are addicted to the point where these people suffer from actual physical reactions, sweating or tremors when deprived from using these drugs. Heroin is also a serious problem which causes misery, crime, and deaths from overdoses. This drug is used to relieve pain; it produces feeling of well-being and freedom from worry, exhilaration, and extreme physical pleasures.
Alcohol addiction can be cured by psychotherapy and some form of aversive conditioning. Heroin on the other hand can be cured through successful treatment that includes both physical and psychological approaches. Another method of treating heroin addiction is by maintaining the addiction to heroin or by substituting drugs like methadone. This drug cannot cure the addiction but it can eliminate the need to illegally obtain the drugs as well as it allows a gradual controlled reduction in dosage. Stimulants have opposite effect to those of the depressants. These drugs increase the activity of the Central Nervous Systems. It also speeds up reactions; produce a feeling of light headedness, alertness and euphoria. Drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine belong to this category.
Stimulant drugs have the capability to improve performance on many tasks as well as in keeping someone awake in a period of time. Continued use in these drugs may lead to a cycle of arousal. It will be then followed by depressions in the time that the effect of the drugs wears off. There are cases that individuals who take these drugs will develop increase dependence on the drugs making larger and larger dosage or intake as necessary.
Hallucinogens have the capability to produce perpetual and temporal distortions. The tropical morning glory plant, the psilocybin mushroom and cannabis hemp, all contain substances of hallucinogens; others have been produced synthetically. These drugs affect the perception and thinking by producing distortions. The distortion that is produce might be pleasurable or it may be upsetting and frightening. Hallucinogens cause negative psychological effects and anti-social behavior. Users of these drugs also face legal consequences.
How these drugs affect your brain?
Psychoactive drugs alter communication between brain cells. Individual brain cells (neurons) communicate with one another through a series of biological messengers called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are released from the neuron sending the message and bind to receptors on the neuron receiving the message.
Some psychoactive substances are able to mimic the effects of neurotransmitters. Others interfere with normal brain function by blocking it, or by altering the way neurotransmitters are stored, released, and removed.
The human brain is organized into a number of different regions with highly specialized functions
Source: HOPES, Stanford University
- The hindbrain is vital to staying alive because it controls breathing and wakefulness.
- The midbrain is involved in learning and reinforcing behaviours — such as eating and drinking — that lead to pleasure and to life preservation. This area thus plays an important role in drug dependence.
- The forebrain is very complex and its outer layer (the cerebral cortex) controls the ability for abstract thought and planning.
Moreover, some other parts of the brain have been shown to work abnormally after drug use or dependence.
Different psychoactive drugs have different ways of acting in the brain to produce their effects. They bind to different receptor types, and can increase or decrease the activity of neurons through a range of mechanisms. Consequently, they have different effects on behaviour, different rates of development of tolerance, different withdrawal symptoms, and different short-term and long-term effects.
The most common psychoactive drugs can roughly be divided into four groups:
- Depressants, such as alcohol, sedatives/hypnotics and volatile solvents, that diminish the activity of the central nervous system.
- Stimulants, such as nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy, that increase the activity of the central nervous system.
- Opioids, such as morphine and heroin, that relieve pain, dull the senses, and induce sleep.
- Hallucinogens such as PCP and LSD, that can distort perceptions to induce delusions or hallucinations.
Despite their differences, psychoactive drugs do share similarities in the way they affect regions of the brain involved in motivation, which is relevant to the development of drug dependence.