Psychoactive substances are materials that possess the potential to alter a subject’s sensory perception, motor skills coordination, thoughts and emotions at variable levels, depending on a multitude of factors, such as volume and frequency of consumption, among others. Modern neuroscience has allowed us to understand the manner of how psychoactive substance affects us neurologically; and more specifically, to understand the process and pathways behind their effect on our brain and central nervous system.

Despite the fact that psychoactive substances are equally prevalent in alcohol and nicotine based products, we will be focusing more on the marijuana, poppies, cocoa and their derivative substances here today, where the primary trigger substance is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Usage of these products can be classified into the following two categories.


Modern medicine has long understood the value of psychoactive substances in pain management and emotional disorders (depression, insomnia, etc) and has been promoting reliefs using derivatives of these products, which are distributed directly by practicing physicians through pharmacies. Consumptions are regulated strictly through personal evaluation and are subjected to periodic appraisals.

Illicit Use

Marijuana (cannabis, pot, weed, hallucinogens), morphine (heroin, hallucinogens, sedatives), cocaine (opiates, hallucinogen, LSD) have proven to be among the most widespread illicit items on the planet. It has been held directly responsible for a multitude of social and criminal issues, from substance abuse, violence, breakdown of families and even deaths. Despite the coordinated attempts of countries to actively enforce against the distribution and production of these substances, it has managed to penetrate into a whole range of demographics, across a whole spectrum of socio-economic class and has become one of the largest segments of the world’s black economy. Critics have regularly pointed out that the efforts in vilifying these products is directly responsible for its increase in appeal with end users, especially youths, who identifies themselves with these substances notoriety and anti-establishment status.

Cause and Effects: Psychoactive Substances

People mainly use psychoactive substances for the reasons of pleasure or pain management. In addition, peer approval and assertion of individuality can sometimes play a part as well, albeit, to a much lesser extent. Usage comes in the form of inhalation, injection and direct consumption.

Nevertheless, despite the obvious perceived benefits, usage of psychoactive substances is undeniably laden with the prospect for harm, in either the short term or long term. The effect, as noted earlier, is dependent on a variety of factors, with the most obvious coming in the form of overdose, which can lead to immediate deaths. The detrimental effects of psychoactive substances consumption can be summarized under the following.

Chronic Health Effects

Sharing of delivery mediums, such as needles, introduce the possibility of transmission of infectious agents such as HIV and hepatitis C virus.

Immediate Biological Effects

Psychoactive substances impair thoughts process and physical coordination. The resulting effect may escalate to organ failure (heart), accidents (machinery, vehicular) and aggressive behavior (violence).

Social Effects

Users who fail to managed their consumption responsibly are known to face numerous social and interaction issue, involving spouses, families and colleagues, which can lead to relationship breakdowns, economic loss and in some cases, regulatory intervention. This generally occurs to users who have developed psychoactive substance dependence (addiction) and their behavioral changes escalates in direct correlation to either substance consumed, or supply failure (either from economic, social or regulatory reasons). The user’s addiction escalates further despite adverse consequences which might have deterred others who are not dependent, from further use.


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