Introduction and Background
Psychoactive drug use is associated with negative consequences, such as a disruption of social relationships, damage to health, and negative financial outcomes (Abadinsky, 2013, p. 7). Drug use leads to the impairment of cognitive performance and affects a user’s ability to stop taking drugs, leading to addiction (Fernandez-Serrano, Perez-Garcia, & Verdejo-Garcia, 2011, p. 377). Despite this fact, many people use drugs to relax, experience various subjective effects, or to escape reality. A large number of hallucinogens, inhalants, and prescription drugs have been created and used for these specific purposes.
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The majority of hallucinogenic drugs are derived from plants, with the notable exception of LSD (Goldberg, 2009, p. 268). LSD is a synthetic drug that has a strong hallucinogenic effect (Goldberg, 2009, p. 268). The hallucinogenic properties of LSD were first described by the Swiss chemist who created LSD as a headache medicine.
The chemist described “a not unpleasant intoxicated like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination” (Goldberg, 2009, p. 269). The use of LSD is typically characterized by vivid hallucinations and a dream-like state of consciousness. LSD is synthesized in illegal laboratories and distributed in small tablets or a liquid form out in the streets and through the Dark Web networks.
Ketamine is a medication used in veterinary medicine to maintain anesthesia (Goldberg, 2009, p. 269). Non-medical use of ketamine, however, is popular among drug users for its dissociative effects. Like LSD, ketamine is a hallucinogenic drug and can produce hallucinations, excitement, and confusion. The side effects of ketamine include skin rashes, nausea, and cardiac arrest, among others. Ketamine is typically diverted from veterinarians’ offices and is sold in the streets and through the Dark Web marketplaces (Goldberg, 2009, p. 269).
Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is another hallucinogenic drug (Goldberg, 2009, p. 36). First created as an appetite suppressant, it became popular in the 1970s as an alternative to LSD (Goldberg, 2009, p. 36). Today MDMA is mostly distributed through nightclubs and at rave parties. The effects of MDMA include nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, and others.
Different kinds of mushrooms are the source of various hallucinogens. The main hallucinogen is psilocybin which is found in Central American mushrooms the Datura and the Amanita muscaria (Goldberg, 2009, p. 95). Psilocybin produces hallucinations similar to LSD and induces an altered state of consciousness (Magic mushrooms, n.d.). The effects of psilocybin also include fear, paranoia, and disorientation. Mushrooms do not typically cause addiction and are legalized in some countries (Magic mushrooms, n.d.).
Oxycodone was created as an opioid pain medication for curating moderate to severe pain (Brande, n.d.). Oxycodone causes addiction, including psychological or physical dependence, and is a common drug of abuse. Addiction to oxycodone leads to dependence and withdrawal symptoms, which severely interfere with a person’s life. The drug is used recreationally for its mood-changing effects, which include a sensation of euphoria and extreme relaxation (Brande, n.d.). Oxycodone has a number of regular side effects, including drowsiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and others.
Valium, or diazepam, is an anxiety medication that is used to treat severe anxiety, alcohol withdrawal, and seizures (Valium, n.d.). The drug causes dependence and individuals who stop taking valium may experience withdrawal symptoms, including “shaking, abdominal/muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, restlessness, seizures” (Valium, n.d.). The dependence is increased when the drug is taken for prolonged periods or in larger doses.
Percocet is another pain-relieving medication that combines oxycodone with acetaminophen (Percocet Abuse, n.d.). Percocet changes pain perception and is used to treat moderate to severe pain, but also has a number of side effects, which are more pronounced when the drug is taken in high doses.
These effects include a feeling of euphoria, extreme relaxation, and pleasure (Percocet Abuse, n.d.). As such, Percocet gained popularity among drug users since they view it as a safer way of getting “high”. In reality, Percocet causes psychological and physical dependence, and the long-term use of Percocet leads to higher tolerance, prompting increased dosage (Percocet Abuse, n.d.).
Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is a medication that stimulates the central nervous system and is typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The effects of Ritalin include increased alertness and productivity, and as such, Ritalin has a high potential for abuse. Ritalin may be abused by students and athletes looking to improve performance (Ritalin Addiction, Abuse and Treatment, n.d.). Increased dosage of Ritalin may induce a feeling of euphoria and hallucinations, causes confusion, nausea and vomiting, and headaches (Ritalin Addiction, Abuse and Treatment, n.d.).
Psychoactive drug use is a complicated phenomenon with a variety of underlying causes and explanations. Various synthetic and natural drugs have long been used to enter an alternate state of consciousness. With many well-known drugs currently illegal, drug users turned to prescription medications to try different subjective effects of intoxications. Sometimes, polydrug use is practiced to experience novelty or for an enhanced effect. Drug abuse can have long-lasting effects on the human body and interferes with an individual’s ability to live a productive life without taking the drug.
Abadinsky, H. (2013). Drug Use and Abuse: A Comprehensive Introduction. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Brande, L. (n.d.). The Effects of Oxycodone Use.
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Fernandez-Serrano, M., Pere-Garcia, M., & Verdejo-Garcia, A. (2011). What are the specific vs. generalized effects of drugs of abuse on neuropsychological performance? Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 35, 377-406.
Goldberg, R. (2009). Drugs Across the Spectrum. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Magic mushrooms. (n.d.)
Percocet Abuse. (n.d.).