Drugs and Conciousness

By: Jackie Robledo, Jacob Plata, Daniel Whiteman


There is controversy about whether hypnosis uniquely alters consciousness, but there is little dispute that drugs do. An altered state of consciousness is a brain state where one loses the sense of identity with one's body or with one's normal sense perceptions. A person may enter an altered state of consciousness through such things as sensory deprivation or overload, neurochemical imbalance, fever, or trauma. One may also achieve an altered state by chanting, meditating, entering a trance state, or ingesting psychedelic drugs. Psychoactive drugs are chemicals that change perceptions and moods.

Dependence and Addiction

Addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive use of one or more substances that results in physical, psychological, or social harm to the individual and continued use of the substance or substances despite this harm. Addiction has two possible components, physical dependence and psychological dependence.

Physical dependence– A state of becoming physically adapted to alcohol or other drugs. There are two important aspects to physical dependence:

  • Tolerrance – The need for higher and higher doses to achieve the same effects.
  • Withdrawal – The appearance of physical symptoms (e.g., nausea, chills, and vomiting) when someone stops taking a drug too quickly. Its the discomfort and distress that follow discontinuing th euse of an addictive drug.

Psychological dependence– A subjective sense of need for alcohol or other drug, either for its positive effects or to avoid negative effects associated with no use.


Misconceptions About Addiction

  1. Addictive drugs quickly corrupt; for example, morphine taken to control pain is powerfully addictive and often leads to heroin abuse.
  2. Addictions cannot be overcome voluntarily; therapy is required.
  3. We can extend the concept of addiction to cover not just drug dependecies, but a whole spectrum of repetitive, pleasure-seeking behaviors.

Psychoactive Drugs
There are three categories of psychoactive drugs:depressants, stimulants, & hallucinogens.

Depressants are drugs such as alcohol,barbituates (tranquilizers), and opiates that calm neural activity and slow body functions.

Temporarily excite neural activity and arouse body functions. Stimulants are used to stay awake, lose weight, or boost mood or athletic performance. Your morning cup of coffee is a stimulant for example. (Ex: Nicotine, Cocaine, Ecstasy)
Aphetamines is a drug that stimulates the neural activity causing the body functions to speed up and associated enery and mood changes. Methaphetamines are a powerfully addictive drug that stimulates the central nervous system, speeds up body functions just like aphetamines; but over time, appears to reduce baseline dopamine levels.

Hallucinogens distort perceptions and evoke sensory images in the absence of sensory input and is also called psychedelics, meaning mind-manifesting. Some of these drugs are marijuana & LSD.

Influences on Drug Use
*Biological Influence (ex. Genetic predispositions, variations in neurotransmitter systems.)
*Psychological Influence (ex. lacking sense of purpose, signifiicant stress, psychological disorders such as depression.)
*Social-Cultural Influences (ex. urban environment, cultural attitude toward drug use, peer influences.)

Exploring Psychology: Seventh Edition by David G. Myers

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License