How Your Brain Really is on DrugsIf you are of a certain age, you may remember a public service campaign that depicted a raw egg with the caption “This is your brain” followed by an egg frying in a pan with the caption “This is your brain on drugs.”

While this was a rather powerful image, it did not come close to illustrating the complexity of how psychoactive drugs and the process of addiction actually works.

A psychoactive substance is any substance that has an effect on how your brain functions.  There are many types and levels of strength, but fall into one of these categories: stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids.

  • Stimulants– The most common are caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, and amphetamines.  They are called stimulants because they “stimulate” the body by speeding up certain functions.  They increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rates, and the rate at which certain neurons fire and how much certain neurochemicals are released.
  • Depressants– The most common of these is alcohol, but others include benzodiazepines (like Xanax) and barbiturates (like phenobarbital).  Contrary to what many think, these drugs are not called depressants because they make you feel depressed.  They are called this because they “depress” (slow down) the functioning of the central nervous system.
  • Hallucinogens– These types of drugs (examples would be marijuana or LSD) cause a person to have an altered sense of reality and to sometimes see or hear things that are not there.  They act primarily on the neurochemicals serotonin and glutamate.
  • Opioids– These, as you may have guessed, are those drugs that are either opiates (derived from the poppy plant) or other chemicals that have the same effects.  Examples would be Vicodin, morphine, or heroin.  These types of drugs have both depressant and mildly hallucinogenic properties.

All of these types of drugs have the potential for addiction, but how they are addictive is not always the same.  Some are psychologically addictive, some are physically addictive, and some are both.

There are many different factors that go into addiction.  Some are physical factors: some people are biologically more likely to become addicts than others.  Some are psychological: some people have an overpowering psychological desire to alter their own state in some way.  And some are cultural or environmental: use of these substances could be not just expected but encouraged by culture, or something about one’s personal life may spurn a desire to alter one’s internal psychological state.

Whatever the factors involved, addiction can severely affect a person’s life in an adverse way, and can sometimes even cost someone his/her life if help is not sought.

This is where we come in; if you would like more information, contact Aspire Hospital today.