A drug is a substance which has a discernible physiological effect when taken into the body. These chemicals change the functions of the central nervous system (CNS), providing temporary relief from mental, physical and social problems. Usage of a drug over a period of time often results in dependence and tolerance of the drug. The user experiences physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when attempts are made to quit the drug. Tolerance refers to the increased ability of the body to tolerate the drug without ill effects.
Due to drugs having the capacity to enhance performance, they are often used recreationally and abused. This leads to addiction which can potentially destroy lives. Drugs which alter behavior could be categorized as stimulants, hallucinogens and depressants. Stimulants are a class of drug which can alter the way in which someone behaves by stimulating the central nervous systems. In other words, they increase the activity of the brain resulting in increased alertness physical activity, productivity, endurance and motivation. Stimulants include amphetamines, called ‘uppers’, cocaine and nicotine.
Users usually find relaxation and rest impossible and tend to have no appetite. Moreover, side effects may include muscle spasms, chest pain, nausea, and blurred vision due to an overworked heart and the subsequent high blood pressure. During World War II, stimulants were extensively used by soldiers to maintain alertness. By then, various forms of the drug were readily available such as methamphetamine. Today however, due to its side effects and addictive properties, possession and usage have been made illegal and doctor prescriptions have been significantly reduced.
Hallucinogens are a class of drugs which cause an alteration in perception, thought, or mood. Examples of hallucinogens drugs include marijuana, magic mushrooms and cannabis. These drugs distort sensory perception by interfering with the activity of acetylcholine, norepinaphrine, or serotonin. Hallucinogenic drugs are among the oldest known group of drugs used for their ability to alter human perception and mood. Effects of hallucinogens include perceptual distortion, increased heart rate, nausea, weaknesses and hearing, touching and seeing things that don’t exist.
The effects of hallucinogens take place within half an hour and last for several hours. Depressants are a group of drugs which temporarily diminish the function or activity of a specific part of the body or mind. Depressants are described as psychoactive drugs that slow down one’s Central Nervous System (CNS), thus they are referred to as “downers”. These types of drugs are used as prescribed medication as well as illicit substances and can be dangerous. Depressants include alcohol, barbiturates and tranquillizers. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are the two major categories of depressants used as medicine.
Benzodiazepines that are commonly used such as Diazepam (Valium) and Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) were developed as a safe alternative to barbiturates to treat insomnia and anxiety but are now a major category of abused drugs. The prolonged use of these drugs can result in tolerance. In addition, the sudden withdrawal from these drugs by habitual users may result in physical withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, headaches, weakness and blood pressure drops. This may consequently lead to a coma and or death. Drugs which alter behavior could be categorized as stimulants, hallucinogens and depressants.
The use of each type of drug results in an alteration of the Central Nervous System. Stimulants tend to affect the Central Nervous System by stimulating ones brain hence altering ones behavior. Hallucinogens are known to distort one’s senses by causing changes in perception, thought, and emotion. On the other hand, depressants have the opposite effect of stimulants. Depressants tend to temporarily slow down the function or activity of a particular part of the mind or body. Although some types of these drugs are acquired legally, they are often abused.