Classifications of Drug Actions on the Human Body

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A drug is a substance that changes the brain chemistry, central nervous system or the body functions.  Drugs are classified into different categories depending on the extent to which they affect the normal functions of the body. Drugs can be classified as stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and narcotics. This paper offers a comparative analysis of the four major classifications of drugs and how they affect the body.

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Stimulants are also known as psychostimulants, and they increase the activities of the body. Stimulants are drugs that are invigorating and pleasurable (Iversen et al., 2012). These drugs also have a sympathomimetic effect. Stimulants can increase sociability, vigor, and libido and may elevate a person’s mood. Stimulants are used in various social constructions either as prescription drugs or without any prescription.

Caffeine is an example of a stimulant, and it belongs to xanthine class which is a chemical component found in tea, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate. The stimulant is sometimes found in energy drinks as well as soft drinks. Caffeine is used as a psychoactive drug. It is imperative to underscore that caffeine is sometimes included in some medications as a consequence of enhancing the primary ingredients. The effect of caffeine is different from the other stimulants because it inhibits the adenosine receptors. Adenosine receptors are drivers of sleep as well as drowsiness. Caffeine is not addictive, and it is stated that it has lower risks of cancer (Iversen et al., 2012). Caffeine also has a protective effect on cancer and Alzheimer disease.

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Depressants are drugs that lower the neurotransmission levels that reduce arousal or stimulation of the brain. The depressants also lower the levels of arousal when taken. While the stimulants tend to increase the mental functions, depressants lower the arousal effects. Depressants can be used as prescription drugs (Klosterman, 2006). On the other hand, the depressants can also be used as illicit substances. Some of the effects of depressants include pain relief, ataxia, and cognitive impairment among others. Depressants can be used medicinally to deal with symptoms such as anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and depression.

Alcohol is an example of a depressant. Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, which is an anesthetic used as a psychoactive drug (Klosterman, 2006). Ethanol can have negative effects such as alcohol intoxication. Excessive consumption of alcohol can be addictive. The use of alcohol can also have negative health effects on a person. Alcohol can cause euphoric tendencies, reduce anxiety and raise the moods. Moreover, it increases chances of sociability.


Hallucinogens are psychotic agents that cause perceptual anomalies, hallucinations and changes in emotions, thoughts as well as consciousness (Mehling, 2009). Hallucinations can occur as a consequence of abusing the stimulants. There is a criterion that can be employed in determining whether a drug is hallucinogenic. The drug must not cause memory or intellectual impairment when used. Second, in hallucinogenic drugs, changes in moods, perceptions, and thoughts should be the dominant outcomes. The excessive use of the drug should not have excessive stimulation. Moreover, the drugs should not have mild effects on the central nervous system. Finally, hallucinogenic drugs should not have addictive tendencies.

Mescaline is one of the drugs that fall into the category of hallucinogens. Mescaline is found in the peyote cactus. The peyote cactus has been used for many years for religious purposes in Mexico (Mehling, 2009). Mescaline has a number of uses, and that includes treatment of depression and alcoholism. Mescaline has psychedelic effects (Mehling, 2009). When mescaline is used, it causes recurring vision, and that includes angular spikes, stripes, and multicolor dots among others.

Mescaline causes distortion in kaleidoscopic experiences. Mescaline works like some of the psychedelic agents. It activates and binds the serotonin receptors with a high affinity. The process involves the arousal of the neurons found in the prefrontal cortex (Mehling, 2009). The excessive use of the drug or increased dosage builds tolerance. It also causes cross-tolerance when used with other psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD. Some jurisdictions have made illegal the use of this drug. For instance, the substance was made illegal in the US in 1970. Internationally, the drug was made illegal in 1971 (Mehling, 2009). However, mescaline can be used for religious purposes or in the scientific studies. The drug has been banned due to its effects on the well-being of the people.

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Originally, a narcotic was defined as any psychoactive compound that has sleep-inducing properties. Narcotics are depressants of the central nervous system that reduces pain, induces sleep, as well as euphoria (Glass, 2000). The drug has become associated with opioids and opiates. The ‘Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs’ of 1961 limits the export, manufacture, use, and possession of these drugs due to the scientific and medical purposes of narcotics (Glass, 2000).

Narcotics are primarily used as analgesics for pain-control purposes during surgical procedures, temporary pain relief or during menstrual cramps. The intravenous narcotics are sometimes used in palliative care primarily to relieve pain. Opium is one of the narcotic drugs. Its effects depend on how it is administered in the body. When smoked, its effects are quickly escalated. The effects are, however, slow when eaten (Glass, 2000). Mescaline causes the user to experience an extended time of relaxation, less anxiety, and relief from any physical pain. Overdose or excessive use can lead to addiction.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Glass, G. (2000). Narcotics: Dangerous painkillers. New York: Rosen Pub. Group.
  2. Iversen, L. L., Iversen, S. D., & Snyder, S. H. (2012). Stimulants. Boston, MA: Springer US.
  3. Klosterman, L. (2006). The facts about depressants. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.
  4. Mehling, R. (2008). Hallucinogens. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea.
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