Before diving into substance abuse, addiction and recovery, you first need to know what type of substance is being dealt with. One of the largest and most common category of medications and drugs are psychoactive substances. There are many different drugs that fall within this category. You may have even used or come across a psychoactive substance and didn’t even know it. Here is all you need to know about psychoactive substances, the different types and the effects they can have on those who use them.

What Are Psychoactive Substances?

A psychoactive substance refers to a chemical substance that affects mental processes such as cognition or affect. This class of drug is also referred to as “psychotropic” as well. They encompasses a whole class of substances that can be both legal or illicit, and do not necessarily result in dependence upon use. They can come in different forms including alcohol, pills, inhalants and herbs.

Psychoactive substances directly alter the functioning of the central nervous system, which is responsible for controlling both body and mind functions. This class of substances can have the ability to increase and decrease the speed of electrical impulses that move along the neural pathways to and from the brain. Thus, they can slow down or stimulate various thoughts, decisions and emotions from being made. Cannabinoids, depressants, hallucinogens, inhalants and stimulants all fall within the category of psychoactive substances.

What Are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that are made by cannabis flowers. Cannabis plants can produce between 80 – 100 cannabinoids. These chemical compounds join with cannabinoid receptors of the body and brain to produce a multitude of effects, like reducing inflammation, nausea and anxiety. There are various types of cannabinoids found in different products. What is important to understand is certain forms of cannabinoids have the ability to produce psychotropic effects.

Types of Cannabinoids

The two main cannabinoids include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, and cannabidiol, also known as CBD. The THC type is known to produce psychoactive effects, while CBD is thought to have anti-psychoactive effects. There are three main consumer forms of cannabinoids: recreational, medicinal and synthetic. Some may use cannabinoids recreationally within their everyday activities, others may use it medicinally to treat chronic pain or symptoms of various diseases like cancer. Synthetic forms of cannabinoids can include oils that are inhaled or vaped, or edibles. Traditional forms use the bud of the cannabis plant.

Effects of Cannabinoids

Knowing what type of cannabinoid is being used can dictate its effect on the body and mind. THC is known to cause a cerebral “high” for those who use these substances. Sometimes it is used to stimulate excitement but this can also cause anxiety for some. The cannabis that is available both legally and illegally may actually include a hybrid of both THC and CBD compounds. Therefore, CBD products may also produce psychoactive effects because it may be mixed with THC cannabinoids.

What Are Depressants?

Depressants are a type of psychoactive drug that work to slow down central nervous system operations. This results in decreased signals to and from the brain and body.

Types of Depressants

Types of central nervous system (CNS) depressants include alcohol, anti-anxiety medications like valium, Librium, Xanax, Prozac and Thorazine, gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Paxil. Alcohol, is the second-most widely used psychoactive substance worldwide, making it have a high potential for abuse. Barbiturates, which are known as “downers,” are a type of psychoactive depressant that can produce a sense of euphoria and relaxation. They can have a significant impact on sleep patterns and also have a high potential for addiction and overdose. Benzodiazepines are another central nervous system depressant that is typically prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. A GHB depressant is another type of psychoactive drug in the depressants category that is sometimes referred to as a “party drug” and is often abused recreationally. It is medically prescribed to treat narcolepsy but outside of medical use, it is illegal to use in America.

Effects of Depressants

These depressants reduce the neuron activity level in the central nervous system which results in lower levels of awareness in the brain. This can lead to symptoms like relaxations, drowsiness, decreased inhibition, sleep, coma and sometimes death. Many people who seek these effects should be aware that this type of psychoactive drug has a high potential to become addictive. Relying on substances within this category can become dangerous when users become reliant on its effects and have trouble detaching from them.

What Are Stimulants

Stimulants are a type of psychoactive substance that works with the central nervous system to accelerate heart rate, elevate blood pressure and over stimulate the body. Central nervous system stimulants can also be very addictive, so knowing what types of substances are considered stimulants can help prevent dependence on them.

Types of Stimulants

Some types of stimulants include cocaine, “crack” cocaine, methamphetamines and caffeine.

Effects of Stimulants

Aside from their physical effects on the body of increased heart rate and blood pressure, stimulants can cause a heightened sense of alertness, energy, excitability, mood and euphoria. When used in excess, effects of stimulants can turn negative and may include irritability, mood swings, hallucination, heart palpitations, chest pain and death.

What Are Hallucinogens or “Psychedelics”?

Hallucinogens are a type of psychoactive substance that can cause distortion of a person’s perceptions of reality. The exact mechanism of action in which these substances work is not completely understood yet, but research shows that they can temporarily disrupt neurotransmission and communication between the brain and spinal cord.

Types of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens can come in various forms including natural forms like in plants or mushrooms or man-made. These two common broader categories are called classic hallucinogens (LSD/acid, DMT, Psilocybin/shrooms, Peyote, Ayahuasca) and dissociative drugs (PCP, Ketamine, DXM, Salvia divinorum).

Effects of Hallucinogens

Because hallucinogens have been connected to altering neurotransmission, the effects of taking them can affect mood regulation, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior and muscle control. Many people who use this type of drug report experiencing intense emotional swings, hearing sounds, seeing images and feeling sensations—all of which seem real but in actuality, are not.

What Are Inhalants or “Deliriants”?

Inhalants are a type of psychoactive substance that come in a breathable form. They produce mind-altering effects by affecting the central nervous system functions and slowing down brain activity.

Types of Inhalants

Many inhalants can actually be found at home or in the workplace and include products like solvents, aerosols, gases, nitrites. Examples of solvents are paint thinners, gasoline and lighter fluid, glue, and felt-tip marker fluid. Aerosols include spray paints, hair and deodorant sprays, and cooking oil sprays. Gases encompass butane lighters, propane tanks and whipped cream dispensers, and nitrite examples include room odorizers, leather cleaners and liquid aromas. When people intentionally breathe in the fumes of these products by sniffing, snorting, bagging or huffing, it is typically considered abuse.

Effects of Inhalants

Effects of abusing inhalants include slurred or distorted speech, lack of coordination, dizziness and euphoria. Users may also feel light-headed, may experience hallucinations or become delusional (having false beliefs). Repeated use can result in vomiting, drowsiness or headache, and long term effects of inhalants could result in brain damage, hearing loss, liver and kidney damage, and loss of coordination.

What are Narcotic Analgesics?

Narcotic analgesics are a type of psychoactive substance that work by binding to opioid (pain) receptors that are responsible for controlling pleasure senses. This ability to affect pleasure and pain can make narcotic analgesics potentially addictive.

Types of Narcotic Analgesics

Types of narcotic analgesics include codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycodone), methadone, hydromorphone, morphine, fentanyl and oxymorphone.

Effects of Narcotic Analgesics

While narcotic analgesics are medically prescribed to treat and relieve pain, the can also induce a sense of euphoria and create mood changes.

Get Help with Psychoactive Substance Abuse

It is important to understand what psychoactive substances are, how they are intended to work and what happens if you abuse these substances beyond their intended medicinal use. There a so many types of psychoactive drugs out there. Many of these drugs and substances have such a great psychotropic impact that they may increase addiction potential. Becoming aware of what they are and how they can impact your brain functions negatively is the first step to separating yourself from their potentially harmful effects.

If you find yourself or a loved one addicted to a psychoactive substance there are many options to address and ways to recover from this addiction. For immediate help call (888) 912-2454. Aion Health Group has addiction treatment programs that can help to separate a person from their addiction and help them through the healing process. For more information on how to move beyond a psychoactive substance addiction contact us, today.

Leave a Reply