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Psychoactive substances are substances with mysterious names, such as methaqualone and ibogaine, as well as commonly known caffeine and alcohol. The group of psychoactive substances includes many illegal substances, however, products with some psychoactive substances can be found on the shelves of every store. Read what psychoactive substances are, what they do, and find out which ones are legal.

Psychoactive substances (SPAs)have been in the circle of human interests for a long time - there is even evidence that they were used already 10,000 years ago. In ancient times, psychoactive substances contained mainly in plants were used, nowadays humanity still uses SPAs derived from natural products, but many synthetic psychoactive substances are also produced.

Psychoactive substances - definition

According to the general definition, a psychoactive substance can be considered a substance that directly affects the brain function, leading to a variety of changes in mood, perception, awareness and behavior.In the narrow sense of the group Psychoactive substances include, first of all, a variety of drugs, in a wider one they also include a whole range of psychotropic drugs - after all, preparations such as antidepressants or antipsychotics also have a direct effect on the function of the human nervous system.

Breakdown of psychoactive substances

In fact, psychoactive substances can be divided differently - grouping individual psychoactive substances, taking into account, for example, the effects of their use. The following psychoactive substances are listed in the ICD-10 classification of diseases in Poland (in the section devoted to disorders related to the use of psychoactive substances):

  • alcohol;
  • opiates (these include, for example, opioid painkillers, such as morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone);
  • sedatives and hypnotics (including benzodiazepines);
  • cannabis (which includes marijuana);
  • cocaine and other psychostimulants (such as caffeine);
  • tobacco (the psychoactive substance in this case is nicotine);
  • volatile solvents;
  • hallucinogens.

Psychoactive substances are also so-called power ups. These types of agents contain a variety of components that affect the activity of the nervous system. The risk associated with them, however, is extremely high due to the fact that legal highs often contain newly synthesized substances, which even their producers do not fully know about. Just as doctors know how to deal with patients who take opiates or benzodiazepines, they can be helpless in the case of legal highs due to the lack of antidotes to the substances they contain.

Psychoactive substances - action

Just as there are many different psychoactive substances, there are many different effects of these drugs. Some psychoactive substances, after taking them, lead to psychomotor agitation, concentration improvement or mood elevation - we are talking about psychoactive substances from the group of psychostimulants.

Other psychoactive substances - belonging to the group of hallucinogens - can lead to completely different phenomena, such as euphoric states or the emergence of hallucinations and delusions of various contents in patients. The action of other psychoactive substances may, in turn, have a relaxing and calming effect.

How a given psychoactive substance works depends on which specific receptors and neurotransmitters of the nervous system the agent acts on. For example, cocaine (a stimulant) reduces dopamine reuptake, the psychedelic psilocybin acts on serotonin receptors, and the sedative benzodiazepines affect GABA receptors.

When discussing the effects of psychoactive substances, it is impossible not to mention that the regular use of many of them may lead to addiction, as well as to the withdrawal syndrome associated with this phenomenon, which occurs when you suddenly stop taking addictive psychoactive substances.

Legal psychoactive substances

It is well known that cocaine and amphetamines in general are illegal substances. However, it's not that all psychoactive substances are banned - in fact, we come into contact with them every day.

Psychoactive substances can be found in coffee, tea or cola - after all, these drinks contain caffeine that stimulates stimulation. Theobromine, which is also a psychoactive substance, is found in … in chocolate.

Meanspsychoactive substances are also used in medicine. Probably everyone has heard about opioid painkillers, antidepressants or sleeping pills, and fewer people may already be aware that, for example, amphetamines are also used in medicine. These types of drugs are used, inter alia, in in the treatment of one of the typical childhood psychiatric ailments, which is ADHD.

Other psychoactive substances that are widely available are alcohol and tobacco products. In their case, of course, certain regulations apply (regarding the possibility of legally buying and consuming them only after the age of 18), but no one needs to be convinced about the prevalence of these psychoactive substances.

Legal psychoactive substance is not necessarily safe for he alth

The fact that legal drugs containing psychoactive substances can be purchased without much trouble does not mean that their use is not associated with any risks. There is much talk about the harmfulness of tobacco smoking - this behavior promotes lung cancer, but also cancers of other organs (including the esophagus or the breast), as well as various other diseases, such as, for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, where smoking is the root cause of this unit).

The fact that alcohol is harmful is also well known. Its abuse leads to damage, e.g. liver or nervous tissue. Phenomena such as alcohol psychosis can also be associated with excessive alcohol consumption. The statistics presented by the World He alth Organization can unequivocally convince you how dangerous the abuse of this psychoactive substance is. According to this organization, each year more than 3 million people in the world die as a result of harmful drinking of alcohol.

For these reasons, psychoactive substances should be approached with caution. One glass of wine, drunk once in a while among friends, can provide us with a nice evening, while a little black cup eaten in the morning can stimulate our mind to work. However, an excess of psychoactive substances, even legal ones, can definitely harm our he alth - so the safest thing is simply moderation.

About the authorBow. Tomasz NęckiA graduate of medicine at the Medical University of Poznań. An admirer of the Polish sea (most willingly strolling along its shores with headphones in his ears), cats and books. In working with patients, he focuses on always listening to them and spending as much time as they need.Probe

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