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Psychoactive Drugs And Their Effect On Consciousness

1093 words - 4 pages

Throughout the history of the human species, we have been always wanted to know three basic questions: why we are here, where did we come from, and where do we go after this life? Whether we were created from an omnipotent being as in many religions, we happened by chance and made it to where we are through evolution, or maybe even something else. Whatever the case may be, humans have always been curious and wondered about our existence and consciousness. Along with these age old questions, also came the use of psychoactive drugs and other mind altering substances. In order to try to understand these questions, humans have experimented with drugs that alter their state of consciousness.
Psychoactive drugs are defined as chemical substances that affect the brain’s functioning, causing changes in behavior, mood and consciousness. There are several different types of psychoactive drugs;, some of these include: stimulants, depressants, and most importantly hallucinogens or psychedelics. Humans have used these different types of drugs since before recorded history. These drugs are used for a variety of reasons such as medical purposes, religious practices, spiritual growth, and even recreation. Worldwide, about 200 million people use some type of illicit drug, most commonly cannabis or better known as marijuana. The use of illicit drugs is more most frequent among males and younger people (WHO).
The brain is protected by a tightly packed lining of cells called the blood-brain barrier. However, some drugs are able to pass through and influence the operation of the brain. These drugs alter consciousness by facilitating or inhibiting synaptic transmission. A synapse is a junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass by diffusion of a neurotransmitter. There are two types of synaptic transmission: agonist drugs and antagonist drugs. Agonist drugs work by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter and antagonist drugs inhibit or decrease the action of the neurotransmitters (Belic et al).
Probably one of the most common forms of psychoactive drugs is stimulants. Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drugs that elevate mood, increase feelings of well-being, and increase energy and alertness. Nearly everybody has tried a stimulant and many people rely on them every single day. The best example of this is the drug caffeine, which is in many of the sodas or coffee we drink. Other forms of stimulants include: cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, nicotine, and MDMA. An additional common stimulant is nicotine, which is found in various types of tobacco. Stimulants change the way the brain functions by inhibiting neurons, which are nerve cells. These nerve cells communicate using neurotransmitters . One of the neurotransmitters they affect is dopamine, which makes people feel good. Dopamine can be released naturally by simply doing something you enjoy such as riding a bike or eating your...

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