Sample Essay on Major Classes of Psychoactive Drugs

Compare/Contrast the Major Classes of Psychoactive Drugs

One of the most commonly abused drug categories is psychoactive drugs. These drugs include different categories, such as depressants, opioids, and amphetamines, all of which have an adverse effect on the brain. In essence, psychoactive drugs are primarily substances that when taken, change the consciousness, moods and thoughts of the individuals taking them. Although some of the classes of psychoactive drugs are employable in therapeutic situations, many people abuse the drugs (Tennant, 2011). Additionally, while there are similarities among depressants (such alcohol), opioids (morphine) and stimulants (amphetamines), there are stark difference among these psychoactive classes of drugs. These similarities and differences further have implications in treatment, as well as contraindications to use of the different types.

Among the classes of drugs (psychoactive), opioids, depressants and stimulants are among the most commonly prescribed and abused drugs. In looking at the similarities among the drugs, it is clear to see that they are not only widely used, but also highly addictive. Alcohol as a depressant, for example, is readily available for purchase from specialist and departmental stores, making it one of the most widely used, abuse and addictive depressant, among the psychoactive drugs. Further, as a painkiller, doctors prescribe morphine for the relief of moderate to severe pain. While a prescriptive drug, morphine is readily available and can be addictive. The addiction results from the effect the drug has on the nervous system, as it changes the way the body reacts to pain (MedlinePlus, 2015).Stimulants, specifically amphetamine, are ordinarily used as a remedy for some diseases as well as attention deficiency disorder.

Another similarity among the three classes of psychoactive drugs is the fact that they change the normal functioning of the central nervous system. This change causes the brain to react differently to stimuli, in effect altering the body’s normal functioning. Amphetamine stimulates the functioning of the brain, by increasing the amount of some chemicals in the human anatomy. Through this process, the individuals become alert. Morphine,conversely, changes the brain’s reaction to pain. Through this process, morphine, therefore, reduces the perception of pain by the brain. This becomes the relieving effect of the drug. For depressants (alcohol as an example), they too upset the brain’s functioning. Alcohol, therefore, slows down the central nervous system, and in so doing bringing a calming effect, loss of memory and slurred speech.

All three are additionally drunk. Regularly, alcohol comes in several forms all of which are ingested. Whether as wine, spirit, brandy or beer, most of the individuals taking alcohol ingest the substance (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014).Amphetamine, on the other hand, comes as either tablets or capsules, all of which are swallowed (ingested) according to the physician’s prescription. Like amphetamine, morphine also comes as tablets and capsule, as well as in liquid form injected or taken orally (MedlinePlus, 2015).

However, while almost all depressants are ingested, both stimulants and opioids can be snorted or injected apart from being ingested. Thus, both morphine and amphetamines can exist as powder or injections, factors that differentiate them from alcohol (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Further, while all the three classes affect the central nervous system, they all have different effects on the brain. Thus, while stimulantsincrease alertness and attention, as well as energy, depressants contrastingly decrease brain activity with the production of a calming effect on the brain. On the other hand, opioids affect regions of the brain, breaking down and attaching themselves to brain proteins within the opioid receptors. This changes the brain’s sensitivity to pain. With abuse and overdose, opioids have a relaxing effect on the brain, producing a euphoric feeling.

Another difference is in the classification of the classification of the drugs. According to the Pharmacy Operation and Drug Scheduling Act, drugs have classification from I-V (College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, 2012). From the law, stimulants are classified as Schedule IIdrugs, depressants as Schedule IV and opioids as Schedule II, III. Schedule II drugs have a high probability of abuse with equally potent psychological and physical addiction. Schedule III oppositely, have a lower likelihoodofabuse with relatively modestchances of physical dependence. Schedule IV, on the other hand, has even fewer chances of physical dependence in comparison with Schedule I, II and III.

Given the chances of dependence on the drugs when abused, necessary care should be taken by the medical practitioners to ensure safety in the use of these drugs during treatment. Moreover, some of these drugs have side effects, and may additionally have serious health implications for patients with pre-existing conditions. It is of particular importance that both the patients and the medical practitioners to note that the wrong use of the narcotics cannot only lead to addiction but also overdose and death in extreme cases. The nature of alcohol is such that it lowers judgment and memory as well as instigate slurred speech (WHO, 2004). With the effect of the drugs on the nervous system, physicians should take care not to administer some form of drugs when the patient is under medication from the three classes of drugs. Combining any of the three categories of drugs may have alethargic effect on the patient, and, therefore, the need for caution in treating such patients.

Given its calming effect on the central nervous system, morphine slows breathing, and should therefore not be administered to patients with breathing problems or asthma, paralytic ileus or intestinal blockage. The use of morphine with suchhealth conditions may have dilapidating consequences on the patient. Similarly, as aforementioned amphetamineaffects the central nervous system. This demands caution in the administration of the stimulants when administering treatment. Patients with heart disease, high blood pressure and glaucoma should therefore not use amphetamine. It is important under some circumstances that patients inform the doctor on their medical history before the administration of these drugs.Patients with diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety syndrome and Tourette’s syndrome should advise the doctor before the administration of stimulants. Similarly, patients with lung disease, brain tumor, addiction, liver or kidney disease should also tell the doctor before the administration of morphine (WHO, 2004). This information is vital, as some of these drugs may worsen the pre-existing conditions.

The three classes of drugs offer reprieve and treatment for some health conditions. It is nonethelesssignificant to note that the drugs are exceedingly addictive. Such addictions are both powerful and dangerous. While the drugs make individuals using the drugs for the first time to experience initial “highs,” the yearning for the feeling can easily cause dependence on the drugs. It is, therefore, important for medical practitioners to take care, prescribe the right dosage and ensure strict supervision in the administration of such highly addictive drugs. Moreover, even more care should be taken in the administration of these drugs to patients with some preexisting conditions, which may worsen because of the drugs.


College of Pharmacists of British Columbia. (2012). Drug Schedule Regulation. CPBC. Retrieved from

MedlinePlus. (2015). Morphine oral. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Prescription Drug Abuse. Retrieved from

Tenant, F. (2011). Simultaneous use of stimulants and opioids. Practical Pain Management, 11(1). Retrieved from

WHO. (2004). Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence. Geneva: WHO. Retrieved from