by Syed I H Shahid MD
What is the recreational drug use?
Recreational drug use is the use of psychoactive drugs for recreational purposes rather than for work, medical or spiritual purposes, although the distinction is not always clear.
Psychopharmacologist Ronald K. Siegel refers to voluntary drug intoxication as the "fourth drive", arguing that the human instinct to seek mind-altering substances has so much force and persistence that it functions like the human drives for hunger, thirst and sex.
What is a psychoactive drug?
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, or as a tool for studying and augmenting the mind, or therapeutically as medication.
It is the recreational use of these drugs which is the topic of this discussion.
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 is needed in these circumstances that involves 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
Recreational 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 offence. 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.
How the psychoactive drugs work on brain?
Classes of drugs frequently used recreationally can work the following ways as:
1. Stimulants, which elevate the central nervous system. These are used recreationally for their euphoric and performance-enhancing effects.
2. Hallucinogens, which induce perceptual and cognitive distortions.
3. Hypnotics, which are used recreationally because they induce inebriation.
4. Analgesics, which are used recreationally because of their euphoric effects.
5. Inhalants, in the forms of gas aerosols, or solvents, which are inhaled
How the psychoactive drugs alter the mind?
Psychoactive drugs operate by temporarily affecting a person's neurochemistry, which in turn causes changes in a person's mood, cognition, perception and behavior. There are many ways in which psychoactive drugs can alter the mind. Each drug has a specific action on one or more neurotransmitter or neuroreceptor in the brain. Overstimulating of these neurotransmitter leads to addiction.
It is this aspect (addiction) of the recreational drugs that causes the dangerous consequences for the user (abuser).
Once a user becomes an addict, he loses control of his higher faculties in the brain. He begins to abuse the drug to achieve its beneficial affects in vain. It is at this point when absuser is most vulnerable. If not provided with medical assistance and rehablitation, he/she might succumb to the lethal effects of the drug.
What is an addiction?
Psychoactive drugs are often associated with addiction. Addiction can be divided into two types:
1. psychological addiction, by which a user feels compelled to use a drug despite negative physical or societal consequence, and
2. physical dependence, by which a user must use a drug to avoid medically harmful withdrawal.
Not all drugs are physically addictive, but any activity that stimulates the brain's dopaminergic reward system — typically, any pleasurable activity — can lead to psychological addiction. Drugs that are most likely to cause addiction are drugs that directly stimulate the dopaminergic system, like cocaine and amphetamines. Drugs that only indirectly stimulate the dopaminergic system, such as psychedelics, are not as likely to be addictive.
Because so many consumers want to reduce or eliminate their own use of psychoactive drugs, many professionals, self-help groups, and businesses specialize in drug rehabilitation, with varying degrees of success. Many parents attempt to influence the actions and choices of their children regarding psychoactives.
Common forms of rehabilitation include psychotherapy, support groups and pharmacotherapy, which uses psychoactive substances to reduce cravings and physiological withdrawal symptoms while a user is going through detox. Methadone, itself an opioid and a psychoactive substance, is a common treatment for heroin addiction. Recent research on addiction has shown some promise in using psychedelics to treat and even cure addictions, although this has yet to become a widely accepted practice.
Responsible drug use:
The concept of responsible drug use is that a person can use recreational drugs with reduced or eliminated risk of negatively affecting other parts of one's life or other peoples lives. Advocates of this philosophy point to the many well-known artists and intellectuals who have used drugs, experimentally or otherwise, with few detrimental effects on their lives.
Critics argue that the drugs are escapist--and dangerous, unpredictable and sometimes addictive, and have negative and profound effects not just on the consumer but also on the geographic areas well beyond the location of the consumer.
Next we will discuss the drugs popularly used for recreational purpose and do we really need them?
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Syed I H Shahid MD Dr Shahid received his medical degree (MBBS ) from Punjab University (Pakistan) in 1963. He did his post-graduation in Internal Medicine in UK. After that he proceeded to USA, where he got Board Certification in Family Practice, Psychiatry & Neurology. Dr Shahid also has extensive study in many oth...
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