What Are Psychoactive Drugs?

What Are Psychoactive Drugs?

Are you wondering what are psychoactive drugs? From stimulants such as cocaine to opioids such as prescription drugs, psychoactive drugs cover a wide range of drug types and can lead to addiction.

Psychoactive drugs are specific substances that affect someone’s psychological state when consumed. They work by interacting with the body’s central nervous system and can alter mood, perception, behaviour and way of thinking. It’s important to remember that not all psychoactive drugs are illegal or even harmful in the UK.

In fact, some are used for medical reasons and are regularly prescribed during operations and for certain health conditions. However, all psychoactive drugs must be used responsibly as their misuse of them can result in serious physical and mental health conditions.

Here, we explore everything there is to know about psychoactive drugs as well as the risks of psychoactive drug misuse. Read more to find out what are psychoactive drugs.


What Are Psychoactive Drugs? The Science

Psychoactive drugs are officially described as psychotropic drugs that alter someone’s mood, behaviour, cognition or consciousness by affecting the nervous system function. They can change the way someone sees the world, thinks, feels and makes decisions but it’s important to remember that this will depend on the psychoactive drug taken and how much is consumed. As well as recreational use, psychoactive drugs can also be used in medical settings.

Some of the most common medical uses of psychoactive drugs include anxiety, sleep and pain management.


Types of Psychoactive Drugs

When we talk about psychoactive drugs, typically they can be broken down into four main categories:

  1. Stimulants – Drugs which as the name suggests stimulate someone’s attention, energy and alertness. These types of drugs also elevate blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Some of the most common types of stimulants include nicotine, caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines. Stimulants are most commonly prescribed to treat conditions like ADHD as well as narcolepsy but there is a risk they could be abused and result in stimulant addiction which requires treatment due to the euphoric effects of the drug.
  2. Depressants – In contrast to stimulants, depressants suppress stimulation in an individual. This means they slow down the body’s central nervous system and basic functions and are often prescribed to help with anxiety or sleep. Some of the most common types of depressants include alcohol or benzodiazepines such as Valium.
  3. Hallucinogens – These types of psychoactive drugs affect the body’s mood, perception and cognitive processes. It includes LSD and magic mushrooms and can lead to incredibly intense experiences which users often call trips. These trips can either be pleasurable or very scary.
  4. Opioids – These drugs are either manufactured to mimic the effects of painkillers or derive from the opium poppy, and include the likes of morphine, heroin and some prescription drugs. Medical professionals sometimes prescribe them for pain management but also come with a high potential for opioid addiction which requires detox and rehab.

Latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that nearly 1 in 10 adults aged 16-59 had taken a psychoactive drug in the last year, which equates to around 2.9 million people. What’s more, just over 2.5% of adults said they had used cocaine, which makes it the second most commonly used drug in the country.


The Effects of Psychoactive Drugs on the Brain and Body

It is important to note that drugs can provide different experiences and effects depending on the person consuming them, and individuals can also have different experiences at different times using the same drug. In the case of psychoactive drugs, when ingested they create a number of neurochemical changes in the brain. They work by either stimulating or suppressing the brain’s natural release of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers.

In the short term, an individual might experience euphoria, heightened senses, a feeling of increased sociability, relaxation, and a change in perceptions. There are also physical effects associated with taking psychoactive drugs including changes in blood pressure, heart rate and coordination. Long-term these psychoactive drugs can also cause persistent changes in the overall structure of the brain and its function.

This can result in severe effects including memory loss, mood changes, mental disorders and cognitive deficits. Prolonged misuse of psychoactive drugs can also impact the body’s organs including the liver, heart and lungs resulting in chronic disease and conditions.


The Risks and Concerns: Addiction and Overdose

As with any substance, there is a huge risk associated with the misuse of them. Indeed, whether used in medical situations or for recreational purposes, the risk of dependency and addiction when it comes to psychoactive drugs is a huge cause for concern. Addiction is a serious health disorder that is characterised by the powerful urge to continue to take drugs despite the harmful consequences of doing so.

What’s more, over time, individuals often feel like they must take more of the substance in order to experience the same effect, and they may also struggle to function without the substance. This means the risk of overdose is very high. Symptoms of an overdose include confusion, hallucinations, tremors, breathing problems and even coma. In the worst-case scenario, people can die too.

If you are struggling with addiction or believe someone may be at risk of overdose, it’s important to get medical help fast. This is because early intervention is essential for getting someone onto the path of recovery and it can also reduce the overall long-term risks too.

The latest figures show that every year in England and Wales there are thousands of deaths associated with drug poisoning. What’s more, this number has increased since records began in 1993. Interestingly though, in 2016, the UK introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act which was designed to limit the production, sale and distribution of legal highs, and this saw a reduction in usage. However, as of today, there are still huge concerns about the use of psychoactive drugs and their effects.


Get Help For Psychoactive Drugs at Cassiobury Court

At Cassiobury Court, we know that psychoactive drugs can have serious implications for the individual using them, as well as their family and friends. This is why we’re dedicated to providing guidance and support as well as proven and effective treatment solutions for anyone affected. We’ve helped hundreds of people to get their life back on track and you could be next.

If you’re struggling with an addiction or are trying to navigate life with a family member who is misusing psychoactive drugs, why not reach out to us today? Your path to recovery is closer than you think and we promise you’ll never be alone. Call us on 0800 001 4070 or fill out our contact form.