1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Psychoactive Drugs

Overview of Psychoactive Drugs


Psychoactive drugs are chemical substances that affect the brain functioning, causing changes in behavior, mood and consciousness. While these drugs can be used therapeutically to treat both physical and psychological disorders, they are also used recreationally to alter mood, perceptions and consciousness.


Man in bar sipping cocktail
Jetta Productions/ Iconica/ Getty Images
Depressants are drugs that inhibit the function of the central nervous system and are among the most widely used drugs in the world. Drugs that are classed as depressants include alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines.


Image © Henning Birnbaum
Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drug that tend to increase activity in the brain. These drugs can temporarily elevate alertness, mood and awareness. While some stimulant drugs are legal and widely used, all can be addicting. Drugs that are classed as stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines and some prescription drugs.


marijuana leaves
Image © Vita Radenovic
Psychedelic drugs, or hallucinogens, are psychoactive drugs that affect thinking, alter moods and distort perceptions. Drugs that are classed as psychedelics include marijuana, LSD, psilocybin (derived from a type of mushroom) and mescaline (found in the peyote cactus).

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.