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Encyclopedia > Psychoactive

A psychoactive drug or psychotropic substance is a chemical that alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, or behaviour. Such drugs are often used for recreational and spiritual purposes, as well as in medicine, especially for treating neurological and psychological illnesses.


Common psychoactive drugs

Note: This overview groups together drugs with different effects and modes of action. Several have properties of many categories.

Ways Psychoactive Drugs Affect The Brain

There are many ways in which psychoactive drugs can affect the brain. While some drugs affect neurons presynaptically, others act postsynpatically and some drugs don't even attack the synapse, working on neural axons instead. Here is a general breakdown of the ways psychoative drugs can work.

  1. Prevent The Action Potential From Starting
    • Lidocaine, TTX (they bind to voltage-gated sodium channels, so no action potential begins even when a generator potential passes threshold)
  2. NT Synthesis
    • Increase - L-Dopa, tryptophan, choline (precursors)
    • Decrease - PCPA (inhibits synthesis of 5HT)
  3. NT Packaging
    • Increase - MAO Inhibitors
    • Decreasing - Resperine (pokes holes in the synaptic vesicles of catecholamines)
  4. NT Release
    • Increase - Black Widow Spider (Ach)
    • Decrease - Botulinum Toxin (Ach), Tetanus (GABA)
  5. Agonists - Mimick the original NTs and activate the receptors
    • Muscuraine, Nicotine (Ach)
    • AMDA, NMDA (Glu)
    • Alcohol, Benzodiazepines (GABA)
  6. Antagonists - Bind to the receptor sites and block activation
    • Atropine, Curare (Ach)
    • PCP (Glu)
  7. Prevent Ach Breakdown -
    • Insecticides, Nerve Gas
  8. Prevent Reuptake
    • Cocaine (DA), Amphetamines (E)
    • Tricyclics, SSRIs

(NT = Neurotransmitter)

- based on information taught in NSC 201, Vanderbilt University

Related articles

External links

  • Erowid (http://www.erowid.org/)
  • Spirit Plants (http://www.spiritplants.com/)
  • Psychotropic Drug Advisory Service (http://www.mhri.edu.au/pda/)
  • Drug Wise Newsletter: A Newsletter on Psychotropic Drugs (http://home.vicnet.net.au/~drugwise/drugwise.htm)

  Results from FactBites:
Psychoactive Drugs: Scientific Facts on Psychoactive Drugs Tobacco, Alcohol, and Illicit Substances (1433 words)
Psychoactive drugs are substances that can alter the consciousness, mood, and thoughts of those who use them.
Tobacco and alcohol in particular are major causes of death and disability in developed countries, and the impact of tobacco is expected to increase in other parts of the world.
A drug-dependent person may experience cravings for the drug and difficulty in controlling its consumption, suffer from withdrawal symptoms when use of the drug is reduced or discontinued, and need increasing doses of the drug to feel its effects (tolerance).
Chapter 4, Other Experiential Approaches (4168 words)
Psychoactive medications are drugs that exert significant effects on mental functioning or behavior by altering the chemical makeup of the central nervous system.
Psychoactive medications are sometimes also used to treat other associated conditions that are not part of autism but are frequently seen in children with autism.
Psychoactive medication may be useful in some young children with autism who have severe behavioral problems that have not responded to behavioral techniques.
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