psychoactive substance | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Drugs

A psychoactive substance is any substance that alters mental processes, mood, or behavior and can include drugs, alcohol, and other substances that have an effect on the central nervous system.

Psychoactive substances have been used throughout history for a variety of purposes, including medicinal, religious, and recreational purposes. The effects of these substances on the body and mind can range from mild relaxation or stimulation to intense euphoria or hallucinations.

Some psychoactive substances are legal and widely used, such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, while others are illegal and highly regulated, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. In recent years, the abuse of prescription drugs has also become a major problem as individuals seek to obtain painkillers, sedatives, and other medications for non-medical purposes.

The effects of psychoactive substances can vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of substance, the amount consumed, the method of consumption, and the individual’s body chemistry and mental state. Some substances, such as alcohol, can have both stimulant and depressant effects depending on the dosage, while others, such as hallucinogens, can cause intense sensory experiences and altered perceptions of reality.

While many psychoactive substances are used recreationally, they can also be highly addictive and can have serious health consequences, including overdose and death. The use of psychoactive substances can also lead to other negative outcomes, such as impaired judgment, risky behavior, and legal problems.

The regulation and control of psychoactive substances is a complex issue, with a range of approaches used around the world. Some countries have strict drug laws and impose harsh penalties for drug offenses, while others have adopted harm-reduction strategies, such as providing access to clean needles and medication-assisted treatment for addiction.

Psychoactive substances are a complex and multifaceted issue that continues to pose challenges for public health and criminal justice systems around the world. While some substances are widely accepted and even celebrated, others are highly stigmatized and associated with crime and social disorder. As such, understanding the effects and risks of psychoactive substances is an important area of study for researchers, policymakers, and law enforcement professionals alike.

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Last Modified: 03/13/2023


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