Psychoactive substances: what are they and how are they classified?

Psychoactive substances are chemicals (drugs or psychotropic drugs) of natural or synthetic origin that affect the functions of the central nervous system. (CNS), that is, in the brain and spinal cord. Among its effects are pain inhibition, mood swings, altered perception, etc.

While drugs are associated with therapeutic and medicinal use, drugs are often considered for recreational use. These are generally linked to young people, but are in fact consumed by people of very different profiles and different ages.

Psychoactive substances are very versatile and have a wide range of effects. It should be noted that certain psychoactive substances are considered to be drugs and psychotropic drugs. One example is Xyrem, which as a medical use can be used to treat narcolepsy, but in recreational circuits it is called liquid ecstasy or GHB.

You can read more about this substance in our article: “GHB: Drug Rapists Use To Neutralize Their Victims”

Psychoactive substances: their beginnings

Psychoactive substances are not only used by modern humans, but have been used for thousands of years. In fact, there are findings that indicate they had been using it since 3000 BC Data indicates that opiates were already being taken by then. Later it is known that the Aztecs used peyote and some shamans of hallucinogenic substances.

How are psychoactive substances classified

In the following lines, we have made a classification of psychoactive substances differentiating psychotropic drugs from drugs.

Types of psychotropic drugs

There is a wide variety of psychotropic drugs and therefore can be classified in different ways. None of the categories presented below are better than the others, but we have looked at the functionality or usefulness of each group of psychotropic drugs.

1. Neuroleptics and antipsychotics

These are psychotropic drugs used to treat psychotic attacks. Some of these drugs have strong side effects and are often taken, for example, by patients with schizophrenia or paranoid disorder. Among the best known are haloperidol or olanzapine.

2. Anxiolytics and hypnotics-sedatives

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common reasons for psychological consultation, so these psychotropic drugs are also among the most widely used. Some of these drugs, which are included in this classification, are used as sedatives, to facilitate sleep. We can highlight diazepam (valium) or tranquimazine.

3. Antidepressants

These are psychotropic drugs used to treat depression and often increase the presence of serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine in the brain through different actions. For example, by inhibiting the collection of enzymes. Highlights include fluoxetine (or prozac) and sertraline.

4. Mood Stabilizers / Eutimizers

These types of psychotropic drugs are psychoactive substances which are used in the event that a patient is suffering from bipolar disorder, in this way it is possible to stabilize the mood and keep it stable. We can highlight lithium salts or carbamazepine.

  • You can deepen these classifications in our article: “Types of psychotropic drugs: uses and side effects”

Types of drugs

Drugs also have different effects and can be classified in several ways. They are as follows.

According to its legality

According to their legality, drugs can be classified into:

  • Legal drugs: are those that are authorized by the law of a country. These laws can change from country to country. In Spain, alcohol or tobacco are legal drugs.
  • Illegal drugs: are those whose consumption is not authorized in a country. In Spain, for example, we can talk about cocaine or ecstasy. Drug traffickers are responsible for the commercialization of this type of substance, one of the best known being Pablo Escobar. You can read his biography in our article: “Biography and personality of Pablo Escobar, the irreducible narco”

Depending on how they are consumed

Medicines can be consumed in different ways. But what are they?

  • Smoked: tobacco, hashish or “crack” are some examples.
  • Oral: ecstasy, alcohol, LSD
  • Inspired: speed, streaks of cocaine.
  • Inhaled: catch, record.
  • Injected: heroin

Based on its effect on the central nervous system (CNS)

Depending on their effects, drugs can be classified as follows:

  • Nervous system depressants: They produce an inhibitory effect on certain functions of the central nervous system. Alcohol, hypnotics (sleeping pills or barbiturates), anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines, opiates (heroin, morphine, methadone, etc.) or tranquilizers belong to this group.
  • Nervous system stimulants: They produce an effect opposite to the above and are exciting drugs, which cause a feeling of energy and stimulation of the waking state. Amphetamines, nicotine, cocaine or caffeine belong to this group. Psychedelic or disturbing substances: these are substances that cause hallucinations and exaggerated changes in perception. The best known are: LSD, mescaline, ketamine and MDMA

Drug use is widespread today, and the variety of drugs is very remarkable. Some of these drugs are natural, which are produced by nature itself. Others, synthetic, go through a series of chemical processes for their creation. The immediacy of its effects is related to how quickly the active ingredient passes into the blood. In general, injecting drugs have the fastest effects, but also the most addictive.

  • If you want more information about drugs, you can read our article: “Types of drugs: know their characteristics and effects”

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