Information About Alcohol & Other Drugs
Any drug that distorts the operations of the central nervous system (CNS) is considered a psychoactive drug. Each of these drugs has the capacity to enter the bloodstream, circulate throughout the body and cross the blood brain barrier, altering the function of the CNS. Many psychoactive drugs become drugs of abuse.
More Information About Drugs
Psychoactive drugs are not new. They have been used as a shortcut to altered consciousness for much of human history. The use of drugs such as alcohol, opiates, marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, cocaine, tobacco, and other mood altering drugs have been documented for centuries in most human societies. Why? Because they work! They seem to take care of problems and they allow us to have experiences that may not be so accessible without drugs. We realized early in our history that drugs could be used…
…as medicines. Some drugs work wonderfully well for pain control, sedation and anxiety relief. Others control diarrhea and cramps or take care of other symptoms of disease. Sometimes they even cure disease.
…as a mechanism for inducing pleasure, even euphoria.
…as an access to religious experiences – for sacred ceremonies and rituals, or to create visions. There are numerous reasons for humans to seek drugs. Drugs have all kinds of effects: some desirable, some not.
- Pain Relief
- Anxiety control
- Competitive edge
- Peer acceptance
- Social grease
- Boredom relief
- To “Solve” Life’s Problems
We usually call those effects that we do not want “side effects.” One of the earmarks of addiction is to tolerate increasingly serious side effects in search of the desired effects.
For our purposes, the categories of drugs we are concerned about are those which cause intoxication, create dependence and can be self-administered. We will borrow and summarize a particularly useful, practical classification system offered by Inaba, Cohen and Holstein in their text, Uppers, Downers, All Arounders (4th. Edition, 2004) which offers a clear overview of abused drugs and their effects.