While it is commonly known that alcohol and drugs don’t mix, this is especially true for the class of psychoactive drugs. Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that alter behavior, thought processes, and overall mood. These drugs carry the greatest risks when they are mixed with alcohol.
To best understand how the combination of alcohol and psychoactive drugs can alter a person’s mood, it is necessary to know more about the drugs and the effects that they have on the brain.
Interestingly, alcohol is classified as a depressive psychoactive drug itself, so combining it with any other psychoactive or depressant drugs can exacerbate the effects of both substances.
Psychoactive drugs fall into the following sub-categories: depressants, stimulants, opiates and opioids, and psychedelics.
Depressants depress activity in the central nervous system, leading to sedation and decreased physiological activity throughout the body. Alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines are drugs in this category. All of these can be legal substances, with alcohol being non-therapeutic while the others are considered to be therapeutic.
Stimulants work by stimulating the central nervous system, leading to an increase in physiological processes and motor function. Drugs in this category include drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, caffeine, ecstasy, and nicotine. Cocaine, amphetamine, and ecstasy are all illegal, therapeutic drugs, while caffeine and nicotine are both legal, non-therapeutic drugs.
Opiates and Opioids
Opiates and opioids are pain-relieving drugs that act on opioid receptors in the central and peripheral nervous system, as well as the gastrointestinal tract, to produce effects like those of morphine. This group includes drugs such as heroin, Fentanyl, Vicodin, and Hydrocodone. All but heroin are legal when prescribed and each is considered to be a therapeutic drug.
Psychedelics are known for acting on the central nervous system to alter mood and perception. This category of drugs includes marijuana (THC), LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and phencyclidine (PCP). Each is considered to be illegal except for marijuana, which is legal as a medicinal and recreational drug in some states.
All of these substances can also be considered to be psychoactive drugs as they act on various parts of the brain to produce these effects. Psychoactive drugs typically activate dopamine receptors in the “reward pathway” of the brain.
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