Nowadays, there are many psychoactive drugs available to all types of consumers. Whether they are legal in your area or not, they all have the same effect on our brains by disrupting healthy communication between our neurons. Psychoactive drugs fall into four different categories: depressants, stimulants, opioids, and hallucinogens. All of these categories have different effects on the brain, and their psychoactive effects and addiction rates vary. Psychotropic drug use can be traced back to prehistory, dating back at least 10,000 years. This relationship is not limited to humans either, as many animals consume plants with psychoactive properties. A lot of animals have been documented eating fermented fruit, berries, and plants with psychotropic properties. One example of this is the use of catnip by your average house cat. Although the methods of psychoactive drugs vary between countries, they are all consumed with the hope for a specific “end.” They should all be taken with extreme caution and under the supervision of a licensed medical professional.

One class of psychoactive drugs is called depressants, also known as “downers.” This category includes alcohol and sleeping pills. After taking a depressant, some of the short term effects include slowed pulse and rate of breathing, confusion, fatigue, dizziness, slurred speech, dilated pupils, difficulty urinating, and fever. High doses can cause depression and trigger suicidal thoughts memory impairment. Depressants are very addictive, causing the user to need more and more of the same product to achieve the same “high.” This is because your body builds a tolerance to the drug. This specific class of drugs has also been proven to increase the risk of diabetes, weight gain, and high blood sugar. Anti-psychotics, another depressant, in particular, have also been shown to cause heart problems and liver failure. Depressants are the most widely used and readily available drug, making them very easy to access and become addicted to. However, some depressants are used to relieve anxiety, muscle spasms, psychotic episodes, and insomnia. Although there are some benefits to using depressants, please take guidance from a medical professional before indulging in any of these substances.

Psychoactive Drugs

Another class of psychoactive drugs is stimulants, also referred to as “uppers.” This class includes a wide array of drugs such as caffeine, nicotine, and ecstasy. These drugs increase the activity of one’s central nervous system. They can lead to short term effects such as increased heart rate and body temperature, high blood pressure, reduced appetite, euphoria, and extreme talkativeness. Long term effects include severe weight loss, muscle deterioration, cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal problems, and reduced sexual functioning. Stimulants can be obtained with or without a prescription and are used to treat a variety of things. These can include attention-deficit orders such as ADD and ADHD. Stimulants are used as prescription drugs, performance enhancers, and as recreational drugs. Stimulants have a very high effect on the supply of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. This triggers the body’s “fight or flight” reflex, which is usually engaged during moments of high stress. Since stimulants speed up the rate of the baseline functioning of our central nervous system, they can become highly addictive if abused.

The third class of psychoactive drugs is opioids, which are arguably the most addictive of these classes. Opioids act as receptors in the brain, which produce effects similar to morphine. The type of opioids includes illegal drug heroin and prescription pain relief drugs. Prescription opioids are generally safe when prescribed by a doctor and taken for a short time; however, people tend to run into a wide array of problems when they are misused. Short term effects include constipation, nausea, confusion, slowed rate of breathing, and euphoria. Opioids are highly addictive and even deadly when consumed in inappropriate doses. As people build up a tolerance, their bodies learn to depend on the drug and do not know how to function without it. Long term effects of opioid use include uncontrollable tremors, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea, sleep problems, and cold and hot flashes. People who use opioids can feel relaxed and happy but remain in a state of deliriousness, so it is urged that they are taken legally, appropriately, and under the supervision of a trained medical professional.

The last class of psychoactive drugs is hallucinogens. This class includes LSD “lysergic acid diethylamide,” also known as “acid,” Psilocybin, also known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms,” DMT (N-Dimethyltryptamine), and Ketamine, also known as “Special K.” A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent that causes hallucinations, and altered perception of reality and substantial changes in thoughts, emotions, and self-awareness. Short term effects of hallucinogens include distorted thoughts, tremors, numbness, dizziness, mood swings, profound sweating, loss of appetite, and impulsiveness. Although they can be disorienting, the nature of hallucinogens is not delirium. Long term effects of stimulants are not yet known as they are a relatively new class of drugs. However, people have reported “flashbacks” to their experiences while under the effect of psychedelics. Research states that hallucinogens are not considered addictive. Although one might build up a tolerance to hallucinogens, it usually resets fairly shortly after use is discontinued. Since hallucinogens are generally extremely potent, taking too high of a dose can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to a terrifying psychedelic “trip” that scars people typically for life, leading to PTSD in some cases. One model for the experiences brought upon by hallucinogens and other psychedelics is “consciousness-expanding.” Many people have reported that they feel as if their brains can selectively filter out specific thoughts, memories, sounds, and emotions. This expands one’s conscious experiences.

Although hallucinogenics are mainly seen as “party” drugs, they do offer some therapeutic benefits and have been researched for a long time. LSD, in particular, has been shown to increase communication between neurons in one’s brain. Once ingested, parts of one’s brain that usually do not “talk” with each other can be seen engaging in lively conversation. LSD also allows one’s brain to seek out patterns in everyday things, leading to the psychedelic hallucinations typically associated with the drug. LSD has been used therapeutically to treat addiction, PTSD, and other mental disorders. For example, a study on LSD was conducted to see the effect it has on treating nicotine addictions in chronic smokers. In the test, several smokers took therapeutic doses of LSD under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Six months after the study was completed, it was seen that over 60% of the smokers had quit entirely. Only with proper research can the real power of this drug be known. Since not much is known about this drug, professionals highly caution staying away from it entirely unless taken in a therapeutic setting.

Although there are some benefits to taking certain psychoactive drugs properly, they are still extremely dangerous and very addictive in most cases. Medical professionals caution their use in any setting, even when they have been prescribed. The abuse of psychoactive drugs can lead to many health problems and even death if misused. Psychoactive drug misuse has sparked many legal and moral debates. There is a lot of governmental restrictions placed on psychotropic drugs as well. This is to prevent problematic drug use through controlled manufacturing and supply.

On the contrary, there are plenty of campaigns to decriminalize some of these drugs, such as marijuana. Please use extreme caution and do proper research before even considering indulging in any psychoactive drug, also if they are legal. They can have potentially deathly side effects if misused and are extremely powerful. If you or a loved one are suffering from drug addiction or dependence, please refer them to a treatment center so they can obtain the help that they need.