Drugs have been used recreationally for thousands of years. Over the past century, new technology has made several new classes of drugs available to consumers. Some drugs are minimally addictive, while others are highly addictive. The addictive qualities of a drug are based on how they interact with the human nervous system. Drugs that change or alter the reward system of the human brain are usually the most addictive.
The human brain and nervous system uses several chemicals to create a sense of pleasure in the body. These neurotransmitters are called serotonin and dopamine. They reward the body for certain behaviors, such as eating food, maintaining health, and sex. When someone eats a delicious meal, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin, creating a sense of pleasure in the person eating.
Different types of drugs interact with the human reward system in different ways.
Depressants are one of the oldest classes of drugs. Depressants include alcohol, benzodiazapines, Z-drugs, and sedatives. These drugs create a sense of relaxation and euphoria in the user. Depressants often cause the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that induces sleep and relaxation.
Depressants are highly addictive, and can have dangerous side effects. Withdrawal from depressants can cause insomnia, irritability, depression, anxiety, and sometimes death. Alcoholics should never quit ‘cold turkey’ due to the risk of seizures.
Stimulants work in the opposite way of depressants. Stimulants cause a massive release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine inside the brain. They increase heart rate, cause a sense of euphoria, and are often used as performance enhancement drugs.
Mild stimulants include drugs like caffeine found in coffee. Stronger stimulants include amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and phentermine.
Many stimulants can cause cardiac problems. Stimulants increase the metabolism of the human body, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Many stimulants will reduce one’s appetite.
Stimulants can be extremely addictive. Since many stimulants cause a massive release of serotonin and dopamine, they create a sense of pleasure in the user that is not found naturally in nature. Many users report that the high they get from methamphetamine is the best feeling they have had in their lives. Stimulant use can damage the reward system of the user, creating a permanent type of depression in the user known as anhedonia.
Opiates are a class of drugs used for treating pain. They include prescription drugs like codeine, hydro codeine, morphine, and demerol. They also include street drugs like heroin, desomorphine, and illicit fentanyl.
Opiates can be extremely addictive. They create a physical dependence in the user that can be challenging to break. Withdrawal symptoms for opiates include flu-like symptoms, depression, anxiety, diarrhea, and severe depression.
Before quitting any drug, talk to a healthcare professional. Some street drugs have dangerous withdrawal effects.