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Psychoactive Drugs

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Abstract: all drugs affect the mind but psychoactive drugs are a specific type of drug that is specifically made to affect the brain’s chemistry in order to correct an imbalance or abnormality. They have many medicinal uses, beneficial to humans, yet people use them recreationally. Former athletes used them primarily for medicinal uses but most soon fell into addiction or abused them on others. They have various effects on us as humans, creating altered states of consciousness that causes us to even forget what we are doing and hurt ourselves. Fortunately, there are rehabilitation centers and drug organizations that help spread awareness and provide drug abuse help.

In January 2012, Former NFL Darren Sharper filed a worker’s compensation claim in California that described health problems including sleep, in which he was given prescription Ambien, a brand name of Zolpidem used to treat insomnia, by his doctor. He was a frequent user, going through 70 pills in 65 days in January 2014 ("Darren Sharper case spotlights sleep drug's dark side", 2014). January 12, 2014, he was found with 20 pills when arrested by Los Angeles officers as a suspect for two rape cases. He is also suspect for at least 4 other cases in various states throughout the United States. Sharper is not the only person who has turned to Zolpidem for sleep treatment. In fact, he is one of the growing numbers of former and current NFL players who use Zolpidem, even to the point of addiction, just to help them sleep, due to the head injuries gained from playing in the NFL. Although it is not the #1 drug out there, it is “among the top 15, with over 43.8 million prescriptions dispensed every year, according to IMS Health” (Darren Sharper, 2014). The effects of Zolpidem is even more effective than Rohypnol, a precursor insomnia treatment drug, because it has a stronger impact but due to the way it is made to function, it has a short half-life.
Meaning that although the medicine has a stronger effect, it leaves the body and is untraceable after 24 hours of being administered, which is the opposite of how most drugs work. Normally the stronger the dose, the longer the effects, but to prevent unnecessary accidents and prevent the prolonged amnesia state the medicine creates, it leaves the body fast, which is why it is undetectable.
I talked about this instance to show how the effects of medicinal drugs. Not only is this a medicinal drug, but it is also a psychoactive drug, meaning that its first function is to aim for the mind. Zolpidem alters the subconscious and conscious mind greatly of those who take it. Users usually suffer depression, confusion, hallucinations, and even memory loss or memory problems. As a sedative, it is among the most effective ever created and disperses rather quickly.
Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the brain functioning, causing changes in behavior, mood and consciousness (The Body, "Psychoactive Drugs"). Psycho- stands for “psychological”, or having to do with the mind, and -active means what it works actively on. While these drugs can be used therapeutically to treat both physical and psychological disorders, they are also used recreationally to alter mood, perceptions and consciousness.
All psychoactive drugs are classified under two main categories: stimulants and depressants. Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drug that increase activity in the brain. These drugs can temporarily elevate alertness, mood, and awareness. The drugs give the user a rush of adrenalin which is closely followed by a crash. While some stimulant drugs are legal and widely used, all can be addicting. Stimulants share many commonalities, but each has unique properties and mechanisms of action. Drugs that are classed as stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, and prescription drugs.
Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, found in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate candy, and soft drinks. While caffeine has several positive effects such as increasing energy and mental alertness, heavy use can cause symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. Caffeine is physically addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, and irritability. Nicotine is considered one of the three most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world, despite the fact that there are few, if any, medical uses for the drug (Types of Drugs, "Types of Stimulants"). During the early to mid-twentieth century, smoking was considered fashionable. Reports of the adverse health consequences have led to cigarette use being increasingly shunned. However, the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that approximately 66.5 million Americans over the age of 12 (or 29 percent of the population) used a nicotine containing product in 2001.
Cocaine is an illegal psychoactive drug made from the leaves of the coca tree. During the late 1800s, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud advocated the use of cocaine as a therapeutic treatment for psychological disorders, but later realized the addictive properties of the drug. During the early 1900s, cocaine was legal in the U.S. and could be found in many over-the-counter medications. Cocaine is rapidly absorbed from any administration point, including being snorted, inhaled, injected, or taken orally (Foundation for a Drug-Free World, "The Truth About Cocaine"). The drug reaches the brain quickly and is then distributed to other tissues throughout the body. Cocaine is rapidly metabolized by enzymes in the liver and plasma in approximately 30 to 60 minutes, but can be detected in urine tests for up to 12 hours after administration.
Amphetamines, sometimes referred to as "uppers," are a group of psychoactive drugs that affect the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system. Some of the effects of using these drugs include tremors, vasoconstriction, restlessness, tachycardia, insomnia, agitation, and loss of appetite. Amphetamines were once widely used in obesity and weight loss treatments, but their addictive properties have caused them to be rarely used today. Today, methamphetamine, also known as meth, is one of the most commonly used illegal amphetamines. Meth is extremely addictive and destroys tissues in the brain, which can lead to brain damage.
Depressants are the opposite of Stimulants. Depressants are drugs that inhibit the function of the central nervous system (CNS) and are among the most widely used drugs in the world. These drugs operate by affecting neurons in the CNS, which leads to symptoms such as drowsiness, relaxation, decreased inhibition, anesthesia, sleep, coma, and even death. Therefore, instead of increasing brain activity and heightening the senses, depressants slows down brain function and dulls the senses. In cases like insomnia, sedatives are used in order to bring the user to sleep. The most commonly used sedative/depressant to treat insomnia is benzodiazepines (The Body, "Psychoactive Drugs"), but barbiturates such as Zolpidem are used also. All depressants also have the potential to be addictive. While CNS depressants all share an ability to reduce activity in the central nervous system and lower levels of awareness in the brain, there are important differences among substances within this drug class. Some are safer than others, while others have more potential for use for medicinal purposes. Common drugs that are classed as depressants include: Ethyl alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines.
Alcohol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is the second most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world (caffeine is number one). While alcohol is a legal drug, it also has a high potential for abuse. One survey conducted in 2002 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that nearly 70 million over the age of 12 reported participating in binge drinking or heavy drinking . Alcohol use and abuse also has high social costs. According to the American Psychiatric Association, in 2000, approximately 50 percent of all assaults, homicides, and highway deaths involve alcohol .
Barbiturates, sometimes referred to as downers, are a type of CNS depressant that causes euphoria and relaxation when taken in low doses. During the early half of the 1900s, barbiturates were viewed as a safe depressant, but problems with addiction and deadly overdoses soon became apparent. Barbiturates have a dramatic impact on sleep patterns, resulting in suppressed REM sleep. Because the potential for addiction and misuse is so high, barbiturates are commonly replaced with benzodiazepines to treat anxiety and sleep problem.
Benzodiazepines are a type of central nervous system depressant widely prescribed to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. In 1999, four different benzodiazepines were among the top 100 most prescribed drugs in the U.S. Because of their low toxicity and high effectiveness, benzodiazepines have been popularly used as a short-term treatment for anxiety problems and insomnia. However, their potential for dependency makes them a less preferred long-term treatment for such things as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders, and panic disorders.
Throughout history, drugs have always been used, for colds, sicknesses, cuts, and burns. Although psychoactive drugs were not as potent back then, in today’s age, it has its uses. On the positive side, it helps treats mental and psychological problems that affect people everyday. They help treat insomnia, anxiety, psychosis, mania, to name a few (The Body, "Psychoactive Drugs"). On the negative side, many people become dependent, addicted and cannot live without it in some cases, or even use it for recreational purposes, opposite to its proper function, and hurt themselves. Also, the side effects of which they inflict upon the user is mind-altering to say the least, creating an altered state of consciousness which is not safe at all, as indicated by the article “Darren Sharper…”. Even then, the degree of effect depends on the person.
Slowly humans are becoming habituated with drugs, so much so, that we have to create new ones because we are getting used to the ones already present. As we evolved and got used to them, we made more and more. To help people with drug problems and addictions, there are rehabilitation centers and support groups like Beachway Therapy Center in Florida and Alcoholics Anonymous, respectively. For drug awareness and prevention, the top informational organization is Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Psychoactive drugs are not harmful, but the way we use them are.

Reference Page
Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) drug. (n.d.).RxList. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.rxlist.com/ambien-drug/patient-images-side-effects.htm
Darren Sharper case spotlights sleep drug's dark side. (2014, March 26).WUSA 9. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.wusa9.com/story/news/2014/03/26/darren-sharper-case/6937649/
Psychoactive Drugs. (n.d.).TheBody.com. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.thebody.com/content/art4989.h
The Truth About Cocaine. (n.d.). Official Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/cocaine.html
Types of Stimulants. (n.d.). Types of Drugs RSS. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://typesofdrugs.org/types-of-stimulants/

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