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10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Drugs

When we hear the word “drugs,” we likely all make a different connection in our brains. You may be highly educated in the field and know the facts. You may have little to no experience with them. You may have a negative connotation and think of substance abuse. You may think of how they saved someone you love from pain. You may think of the glass of wine that you had with dinner last night. The list of associations to the word could go on and on.

Ultimately, starting at a young age, most of us have been exposed to drugs to some degree. The reason why and how they have affected us or continue to affect us may vary though. Drugs are intricately linked to our inner psychology for a multitude of reasons. Why is that? Let’s dig deeper. Here are 10 Things to Know About the Psychology of Drugs.

Drugs are accessed in different forms and amounts.  

A drug is a medicine or a substance that has a physiological effect when it enters the body. There are many different types of drugs and they are used for a wide array of reasons. Drugs can be taken in many forms, too. These forms may include pills, liquids, topical ointments, etc. The goal is for the drug to safely enter the body to get its job done. Many drugs are controlled and can only be prescribed by a professional. These drugs may be for:

  • psychological conditions,
  • diseases
  • pain
  • infections, and more.

There are also over the counter medicines that can be purchased at a pharmacy. These drugs are meant to relieve the symptoms of the same types of conditions but are less intense in dosing and relatively non-addictive. Recreational drugs, depending on the type, are available for legal purchase in most states but are relatively uncontrolled. 

Mental health disorders can be managed by drugs.

As mentioned above, some drugs are prescribed or bought over the counter for mental health conditions. Their goal is to ease the symptoms and make it possible to live life with these conditions. There are many mental health conditions that require a diagnosis from a doctor or psychiatrist in order to receive the proper medicine. These may include :

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Autism disorder, and more.

The severity of the condition may dictate the type of drug, the dosage, and the frequency in which they are taken. For mental health conditions such as general anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, trouble with sleeping, and so on, there are over the counter medicines that can be purchased without a prescription. 

There are drugs for physical health too. 

Just as there are drugs for mental health, there are also many drugs for physical health. While these medicines are geared towards helping our bodies and not our brains, they certainly affect us mentally as well. Conditions such as pain, swelling, stomach issues, acid reflux, allergies, etc can be treated by over the counter medicines at most pharmacies. However, there is a long list of major physical conditions that require a diagnosis and prescription for medicines. These may include:

  • chronic pain
  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular conditions, an so on.

Dealing with physical disorders can affect our psychological state in many ways. Having a strong and healthy body is a direct representation can be closely tied to our mental health.

Recreational drugs can be taken by anyone and affect everyone differently. 

Drugs affect us by interacting with both our brain and our body to alter our emotions, moods, and behaviors. They can change our brain chemistry in varying degrees, depending on the type of drug and the dosage. For recreational drugs, the person self administering the drug is aiming to alter their perceptions, and see and interact differently with the world around them. There are recreational substances that can be purchased legally depending on each state’s laws and guidelines. These may include:

  • alcohol
  • nicotine
  • caffeine
  • marijuana
  • mushrooms.

However, there are also recreational substances that are not monitored and can be purchased illegally. These may include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD, ecstasy, salvia, and more. 

All types of drugs can be addicting and lead to substance abuse. 

Addiction affects millions of Americans each year. The disease gains control over someone’s life and makes normal activities very difficult to do over time. While there are many things that we can be addicted to, drugs may be the most common. Substance abuse can be a slippery slope. Studies have shown that an estimated 8 to 10% of individuals over 12 years old in the United States are addicted to at least one substance. Crazy…right? From alcohol that we can all buy down the road, to coffees to get through work, to pain killers after an accident, to heroin after falling into the wrong friend group. Substances can quickly take control over someone’s life. All drugs can be addictive and should be monitored to some degree. 

Some schools have programs to teach children about drugs. 

If you went to high school in America, you probably recall being taught about drugs and substance abuse in your health class. Sometimes there is even a program where a professional or a police officer visits classrooms to inform students about drugs. The goal is to ward them away from harm, a troubling path, and substance abuse. Children are very impressionable and love trying new things. This is why educators, law enforcement, and parents strongly encourage teaching children about drugs and how they can affect our lives. The psychological connection we make with things tends to be stronger when learned at a young age.

There are therapy treatments that may include psychedelic drugs. 

When psychedelic drugs first started to make their appearance, they were being used by medical professionals. The goal was so relieve the symptoms or heal their patient’s mental health condition. These conditions may have included:

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • post traumatic stress disorder, and more.

Over time there were a lot of questions about the possible harm these drugs might cause, and many scandals hit the news stands. Ultimately, the drugs were banned. In more recent years, these psychedelic drugs are entering the psychology world again and having mental health professionals performing clinical trials with their patients. 


Why do we all know someone who has been addicted to drugs?

The answer to this question may seem very simple. We all know someone who has been or is currently addicted to drugs. When something is addictive, it is extremely easy to form an addiction. But what causes drugs to be so addictive? And why are the cause of the country’s biggest epidemic? 

The body becomes physically addicted to a drug when the drug is being repeatedly used. This starts to change the way in which the brain feels pleasure. There are actual physical changes to the neurons/nerve cells in the brain. These nerve cells use chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine to communicate with each other. When these neurons change, they start to become dependent on the false versions of these chemicals that the person who is abusing drugs is now addicted to. 

Not all people will become addicted to drugs if they try them. 

Not everyone who takes drugs will become addicted to drugs. We all come in different shapes and sizes. We all have different brains. We all lead different lives. Because of this, some people may react differently to medically prescribed, over the counter, and recreational drugs. Some people are simply born with addictive personalities and drugs may be a big struggle for them. There are also many other common factors that may push someone towards addiction. These may include:

  • a history of trauma in their life
  • chronic stress
  • chronic pain
  • mental illness
  • a family who struggles with addiction, and more. 

There are many options for treatment and recovery. 

Drugs can quickly start to have control over someone’s life. They can be very isolating and lead to a rocky life full of bad decisions. They can also cause pain for family, friends, and partners who have tried to help or do not know how to help. There can be different levels to substance abuse and addiction because as we mentioned earlier, every person is different and has their own story. 

Regardless of the severity or the goals revolving around quitting, there are therapies and treatment methods that have proven to be successful when it comes to overcoming substance abuse disorder. Some people may detox and begin therapy in order to reduce the factors that aided them in becoming an addict. Some people may enter a rehabilitation or wellness center. This allows them to be around people who are also struggling and having doctors nearby at all times. Some people may enter group therapy sessions or seek group meetings such as AA (Alcoholic’s Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous).

Ultimately, there are treatment and recovery options for people who become addicted to drugs, but they must do psychological work in order to get better. 

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