A psychoactive drug or psychotropic substance is a chemical substance that acts primarily… upon the central nervous system where it alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour. These drugs may be used recreationally to purposefully alter one’s consciousness, as entheogens for ritual or spiritual purposes, as a tool for studying or augmenting the mind, or therapeutically as medication.
Because psychoactive substances bring about subjective changes in consciousness and mood that the user may find pleasant (e.g. euphoria) or advantageous (e.g. increased alertness), many psychoactive substances are abused, that is, used excessively, despite risks or negative consequences. With sustained use of some substances, physical dependence may develop, making the cycle of abuse even more difficult to interrupt. Drug rehabilitation can involve a combination of psychotherapy, support groups and even other psychoactive substances to break the cycle of dependency.
In part because of this potential for abuse and dependency, the ethics of drug use are the subject of a continuing philosophical debate. Many governments worldwide have placed restrictions on drug production and sales in an attempt to decrease drug abuse.
Drug use is a practice that dates to prehistoric times. There is archaeological evidence of the use of psychoactive substances dating back at least 10,000 years, and historical evidence of cultural use over the past 5,000 years. While medicinal use seems to have played a very large role, it has been suggested that the urge to alter one’s consciousness is as primary as the drive to satiate thirst, hunger or sexual desire. Others suggest that marketing, availability or the pressures of modern life are why humans use so many psychoactives in their daily lives. However, the long history of drug use and even children’s desire for spinning, swinging, or sliding indicates that the drive to alter one’s state of mind is universal.
This relationship is not limited to humans. A number of animals consume different psychoactive plants, animals, berries and even fermented fruit, becoming intoxicated, such as cats after consuming catnip. Traditional legends of sacred plants often contain references to animals that introduced humankind to their use. Biology suggests an evolutionary connection between psychoactive plants and animals, as to why these chemicals and their receptors exist within the nervous system.
The 20th century has seen governments initially responding to many drugs by banning them and making their use, supply or trade a criminal offense. A notable example of this is the Prohibition era in the United States, where alcohol was made illegal for 13 years. However, many governments have concluded that illicit drug use cannot be sufficiently stopped through criminalization. In some countries, there has been a move toward harm reduction by health services, where the use of illicit drugs is neither condoned nor promoted, but services and support are provided to ensure users have the negative effects of their illicit drug use minimized. This can go hand-in-hand with supply reduction strategies by law-enforcement agencies.
A previous article entitled Antipsychotic Drugs provides information... aggression, agitation ve antipsychotic