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24 hours rehab
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24 hours rehab

Call Now for Immediate Confidential Help and Advice 02038 115 619 

24 hours rehab
Immediate Access for help and advice
02038 115 619

Psychoactive Drugs Explained

Psychoactive drugs are used for recreation, spiritual purposes and medical treatment. They cause temporary changes in mood, behaviour, perception and state of consciousness. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are psychoactive drugs.

The peyote cactus contains mescaline, and certain types of mushrooms contain psilocybin. Both substances are naturally occurring psychoactive drugs with hallucinogenic effects. Many psychoactive drugs such as antidepressants or antipsychotics are used to treat mental health disorders, dementia and seizure disorders.

What Are Psychoactive Drugs?

A psychoactive, or psychotropic, drug is any chemical substance that acts on the central nervous system and alters brain function. They are fat-soluble and cross the blood-brain barrier easily. Psychoactive drugs work by altering levels of neurotransmitters in the brain or binding with various receptors on nerve cells.

Volatile solvents are also psychoactive drugs, although they are not intended for human consumption. A volatile solvent

is a liquid that vaporizes at room temperature. These solvents are found in household and industrial products such as glue, aerosol, dusters, paint thinners, gasoline and cleaning fluids. Teenagers are the most likely demographic to use solvents as psychotropic substances.

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Types of Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive drugs are divided into four classifications according to their effects and chemical structure. Depressants, sedatives and hypnotics slow activity in the central nervous system.

They decrease heart rate and respiration. Sometimes opioids are classified as depressants, but no other depressants relieve pain or bind to opioid receptors in the brain.

Hallucinogens and psychedelics make people react to sights, sounds, smells or actions that are not real. LSD and MDMA or ecstasy are psychedelic drugs. Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, cocaine or amphetamines increase heart rate, raise blood pressure and cause increased energy and alertness.

Some psychoactive drugs fall into more than one category. Cannabis has depressant and hallucinogenic properties. Solvents are sometimes classified as hallucinogenics, but they do not fit well in any category. Solvents do not have psychotropic properties. The effects of inhaling volatile solvents are produced by insufficient oxygen and poisoning the body.

Are Psychoactive Drugs Addictive?

Many psychoactive drugs cause physical dependency and may lead to addiction. Recreational drugs commonly bought and sold illegally are psychoactive drugs. Opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates are depressants with high potential for abuse. Cocaine and methamphetamine are stimulants.

Opioids bind with receptors in the brain and cause physical dependency with long-term use. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates cause physical dependency too. It can take years for the brain to return to normal functioning after long-term cocaine or methamphetamine use.

Signs and Symptoms of Psychoactive Drug Overdose

Overdose symptoms vary depending on the type of psychoactive drug. Symptoms of depressant overdose include slowed respiration, low heart rate, small pupils that do not react to light and unconsciousness.

Stimulants increase dopamine, and large amounts may prevent the nervous system from communicating muscle movement. This causes involuntary movements and seizures. An erratic heart rate from a stimulant overdose can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Overdose symptoms of a hallucinogenic drug include memory loss, panic, anxiety, paranoia, seizures and difficulty breathing. Inhaling solvents, often called ‘huffing’, causes hallucinations and a light-headed, dizzy feeling. Huffing can cause permanent brain damage or death during the very first use. Most organic solvents are toxic chemicals that damage the liver and kidneys.

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