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What Are Psychoactive Drugs? 10 Things You Must Know
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 270 million people globally have used psychoactive drugs in the past year. It is also estimated that drug use results in about 0.5 million deaths annually.
Learning more about psychoactive drugs and how they affect humans could help reduce their negative effects.
What Are Psychoactive Drugs?
Psychoactive drugs have an effect on your mental state by altering your brain and nerve function. Taking psychoactive or psychotropic drugs could produce feelings such as consciousness and perception of your environment. Alcohol, tobacco, and even coffee are classified as psychoactive drugs because they can alter your brain chemistry or influence your central nervous system (CNS).
10 Matters Of Psychoactive Drugs
- Your age
- Route of administration
- Set and Setting
- Poly-drug use
- Refinement and extraction
- Type of drug
10 Things That Matter About Psychoactive Drugs
Psychoactive drugs alter your brain chemistry and function. Psychoactive drugs falling under the psychoactive category are not limited to the big-name hard drugs and you could be guilty of consuming psychotropic drugs daily. The intoxicating effects of psychoactive drugs are why many people take them. Factors such as your age, type, and quality of the drugs could affect how it interacts with your body.
However, there are risks to being widely consumed psychoactive substances because of their interaction with your body. That is why you should never take prescription psychoactive medication not prescribed by your doctor even if you have access to them.
It is common knowledge that lots of drug users start using it in their teens. The average age when people first start using drugs is between 12–14 years when the brain is not fully developed. Starting so early could have negative consequences for your mental health conditions.
During most of your late teen and early adult years, your brain is still developing. Persistent exposure to high doses of psychotropic drugs during your formative years could interfere with proper brain development. Therefore, you could see some harmful effects of psychoactive substance use in adolescents that you might not see with later exposure.
Teens and children who abuse psychotropic drugs might experience cognitive and behavioral issues. These effects of drug use might impact academic performance negatively. Kids this young are also exposed to diseases, accidents, and possible psychoactive drug misuse.
Early exposure to psychoactive substances could also encourage drug dependence in later years.
Route Of Administration
The quicker the psychoactive substance can get to your brain, the more likely it is that it will become an addiction. The route of administration of a psychoactive drug affects how quickly it gets to your brain and neurons.
Injections might seem like the fastest route but they are not. Drugs administered through intravenous injections have to make it through to your heart and your lungs before getting to your brain. This journey through your circulatory system is responsible for the slight delay in response.
However, psychoactive substances taken through intravenous injections are still one of the fastest acting and you could begin to feel its effects 15 – 30 seconds after. Intramuscular and subcutaneous injections might take a few minutes to act.
Inhalation is the fastest route for psychoactive substances and you could feel the effects as early as 7 – 10 seconds after. Smoking, snorting, and inhaling, all fall under this category. However, inhalation could lead to cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate and myocardial infarction. It could also damage your nasal mucosa.
Other examples of routes of administering psychoactive substances include oral, sublingual, and transcutaneous.
It is safe to assume that the purer the substance, the greater its effects on your mental state. This rule applies to psychoactive substances too. Pure heroin has a greater psychotropic effect than heroin mixed with fillers such as talcum powder.
At several points in the supply chain, dealers mix their drugs with fillers to maximize profits. However, users are not usually too happy with this because they require a larger quantity to get high and prevent withdrawal symptoms.
To tackle this challenge of dissatisfied customers, dealers are mixing drugs like heroin with other drugs such as fentanyl. Using drugs like fentanyl to increase the potency of opioid drugs is one of the reasons for the increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose.
Fentanyl is super potent and a tiny amount like a grain of salt can kill a few people. That is why some countries have decided to legalize opioids so people can have access to pure morphine and heroin which is far safer than fentanyl-tainted products.
The half-life of a drug is how quickly it reduces to half of its original concentration in your body. This figure estimates how quickly your body clears the drug from your system.
Other factors such as how often you use the said drug and your body’s metabolism will affect drug clearance in your body. Drugs with a shorter half-life will get cleared from your body quickly while you will feel the effects of drugs with a longer half-life for longer.
Psychoactive drugs with a shorter half-life such as heroin for 2 – 6 minutes and cocaine for about 50 minutes might cause you to crave more much sooner as the effects wear off. They act rapidly to get you high, followed closely by a crash. The crash phase is often the direct opposite of the high.
To keep these effects for longer, users often compulsively seek out such drugs, therefore, it could lead to addiction.
Longer-acting psychoactive drugs due to their longer half-life include methamphetamine, MDMA, and methadone. However, these psychoactive drugs are not without their harmful effects. They might take a little longer to start working and it is not unusual for people to take on more doses or mix it with alcohol to set it off. This practice is dangerous and could be fatal.
You could also experience residual effects of these long-acting drugs such as aggressiveness and hostile behavior.
Psychoactive drugs could be gotten from plants or they could be manufactured in a laboratory.
Plant-sourced psychoactive drugs include cocaine, morphine, codeine, and marijuana.
Years of selective genetic engineering have helped create stronger strains of marijuana. Therefore, marijuana on the market these days contains a higher concentration of THC, the psychoactive component.
Designer drugs, created in labs to mimic the effects of naturally occurring psychoactive drugs, have been increasing fastly, especially among teenagers . These synthetic drugs include bath salts, ecstasy, and spice.
Synthetic drugs known also as legal highs are made to bypass regulations restricting controlled substances. However, behind their colorful appearance and fun names lie a hidden danger.
Set And Setting
Set and setting are factors that affect your response to psychoactive drugs. These factors could be psychological, social, or cultural.
The set includes your preparation, intentions, expectations, and personality. Set also includes biological factors such as your genes that create selective responsiveness to substances. Your brain chemistry and overall body physiology can influence how you respond to drugs.
On the other hand, the setting includes your social, physical, and cultural environment. A better understanding of how the set and setting influence drug use could help reduce drug harm and increase drug efficacy.
Many users of these drugs have no idea what exactly they are taking. Furthermore, their effects can be pretty dangerous especially when combined with alcohol. These effects include aggressiveness, seizures, violence, paranoia, coma, and death.
Many young people are likely to use multiple psychoactive substances simultaneously. Mixing different psychoactive substances is much easier with suspicious drug cocktails available for purchase.
These mixtures can produce a greater high than the component drugs would when isolated. This feature is potentiation. However, these mixtures can be unpredictable and could result in death. A large number of drug-related incidents involve people who combine several drugs and alcohol.
Refinement And Extraction
The extraction and refinement process to produce drugs from their plant source often concentrate the active ingredient.
Therefore, you are likely to have a stronger reaction to crack or refined mescaline than you would if you chewed a coca leaf or took a piece of cactus.
A more potent drug is likely to have a stronger effect on you. The most psychoactive drugs act by stimulating dopamine release in your brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in reward, pleasure, and aversion.
However, you cannot determine the potency of illicit drugs.
Type Of Drug
Psychoactive drugs can be classified based on how they interact with your central nervous system (CNS). The classes include:
- Stimulants. Increase CNS activity e.g cocaine and caffeine
- Hallucinogens. Alter your sensory perception e.g LSD and mescaline
- Depressants. Decrease CNS activity e.g alcohol and opioids
- Others. Do not quite fit into the other categories but have psychoactive properties e.g cannabis and MDMA
Psychoactive substances, that alter a person’s mental state, have several clinical applications. However, abuse of psychoactive substances is a global mental health problem affecting lots of teens and young adults.
When it comes to psychoactive substance use, there are some important factors to note such as how the type and process of making the drug interact with your body. Your environment is also a key player.
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