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"Psychoactive drugs" substances that impact brain functioning — slowing it down, speeding it up, and altering the way in which we feel, act, and perceive the things around us. Though many psychoactive medications are prescribed for genuine medical purposes, their recreational use is also popular. People take psychoactive substances to experience anything from euphoria and increased energy to a calmer mental state. 

Unfortunately, these drugs very often have a high addictive potential — and once someone starts experimenting with drugs, they can easily end up with a full-blown addiction that hijacks their brain and effectively forces them to seek more and more, as the drugs become the most important thing in their lives. 

Psychoactive drugs can be:

  • Depressants. These slow down the central nervous system, having an impact on both mental and physical activity. Examples of depressants include alcohol, opioids (including prescription drugs such as morphine and street drugs like heroin), and tranquilizers.
  • Stimulants. These speed up central nervous system functioning, initially causing people to feel more alert. Examples of stimulant drugs include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine. 
  • Hallucinogens. These alter users' perception of the world around them, potentially causing them to see, smell, feel, and hear things that are not there. A drug can induce hallucinations and act as a stimulant at the same time. Examples of hallucinogens include LSD and MDMA (ecstacy). 

Prescription psychoactive drugs

Psychoactive drugs that do have the potential to lead to an addiction are often prescribed for medical reasons. Examples would include sedatives for mental health reasons, opioid painkillers to manage severe chronic pain or post-operative pain, and methadone to manage addiction. Doctors have to be careful when prescribing medications that can be addictive, and stick to the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible. Patients, meanwhile, can ask about alternatives before they begin taking medications that have an addictive potential — and they should always take these medications exactly as prescribed to minimize the risk of, for example, a serious addiction to opioid painkillers

Recreational drugs: Know the danger

Few people begin experimenting with the idea that they will become severely addicted in mind, but addiction creeps up on you. Any time you use a highly-addictive psychoactive substance, whether it's nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, the danger that you'll go from experimentation to substance abuse and addiction exists. 

Many drugs can also do serious long-term health damage and even have fatal consequences.

Alcohol, cannabis, opiate medications and many other drugs belong to the group of central nervous system depressants. In small doses, they work by slowing down the brain and provoking relaxation. They can also negatively affect your coordination and concentration. Large doses of depressants may be responsible for unwanted effects to your health, and may cause vomiting, unconsciousness or even have lethal consequences.

Stimulant psychoactive drugs speed up your brain, causing you to feel energetic and charged. Caffeine, nicotine and ephedrine are known as mild stimulants, while ecstasy and cocaine are much stronger and more dangerous for your health. In some cases, these drugs can provoke over-stimulation of your brain and cause headaches, seizures, anxiety or panic attacks. Paranoid ideas and aggression are also frequent in people abusing certain stimulants of the central nervous system.

There are so many hallucinogens that you wouldn’t know where to start, but some more well-known hallucinogen drugs are LSD and ketamine, and potentially marijuana. The effects of these drugs are hard to estimate, but people abusing them can experience anything from headaches, anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia to euphoria. Hallucinogens can seriously damage your health, because they might lead to cardiac distress, renal failure, or be fatal.

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