Dangers of Psychoactive Drugs

Among the many drugs used and abused today, those considered as psychoactive drugs are proven to be dangerous when consumed in high doses. Since each drug has different effects and potency levels, it can be addicting to the user and is proven to be dangerous after a period of long-term use. For these reasons, it is important to be aware of the dangers of psychoactive drugs so that you can avoid becoming a victim yourself. 

What Are Psychoactive Drugs?

Psychoactive drugs (also called psychotropic substances) are chemical substances that affect the mental state of a person by changing the way the brain and nervous system works. This can then lead to intoxication, which is the main reason why many drug users choose to abuse these substances. Once the brain chemicals change, it can cause shifts in the person’s moods, perception and consciousness. 

Typically, people use these drugs to alter their mental state, whether for fun or recreation, or to escape negative thoughts, anxiety, depression, etc. Any medicine or drug that is coined as “psychoactive” will not necessarily cause addiction in a person, unless it is used incorrectly, illegally, or over a long period of time in high doses.

Psychoactive drugs are divided into four main groups. They are:

  • Sedatives – these are drugs that can cause slowed reactions or loss of concentration. The user usually feels lethargic and often physically unable to maintain their balance. These drugs have a sedative effect, hence the name.
  • Stimulants – opposite to the reaction of sedatives, stimulants are psychoactive drugs that can cause bursts of energy and increase alertness. This drug usually puts a strain on the nervous system of the user which causes them to feel exhausted once the drug wears off. 
  • Hallucinogens – these substances often cause the user to experience psychedelic reactions. This is also another reason why users will be seen acting erratically to the point that they put themselves in danger. 
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids – this drug is not usually life-threatening IF taken in very small dosages, and many use it recreationally or medicinally with little to no negative affects. However, if the user has taken a large amount, then they can be at risk for unpleasant side effects. This psychoactive drug usually elevates blood pressure, increases the heart rates and even the user’s body temperature. In some cases, users may experience seizures, which can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system if experienced often. 

The Dangers

Those who are not familiar with the dangers of psychoactive drugs are playing with fire that could eventually burn them. Knowing what the dangers of these drugs are will prove to be helpful and could eventually save someone’s life. Here are the risks you should take note of:

Withdrawal symptoms and side effects

Psychoactive drugs are known for their potentially dangerous side effects. Withdrawal symptoms of psychoactive drugs are indeed very real and can be quite severe. Different drugs cause different withdrawal symptoms, and the severity of these effects depends on the person’s tolerance to the drug, how long they’ve been using it, the kind of drug, etc. 

Developing heart problems

Psychoactive drugs, like all classes of antidepressants and some antipsychotic drugs, can cause heart problems. For those who are abusing psychoactive drugs, there are three factors that could put them at risk for sudden cardiac death: Physiological, physiopathological and therapeutic factors. It is even more dangerous if the person taking these substances has other underlying heart diseases, as this can increase the risk of SCD.

Risk of suicide

Since psychoactive drugs are known to change the chemical makeups of our brain, there have been many cases where the user has attempted to take their own life. In fact, studies show that people who have no thoughts of suicide before taking psychoactive drugs have developed suicidal thoughts after taking medications like antidepressants, SSRIs, anticonvulsants, sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs, etc. The suicidal ideation only stopped once they were taken off said-medication. 

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth 

In 2012, a report showed that women who suffer from psychotic disorders (bipolar disorders, schizophrenia etc,) taking medication for their condition are more likely to have complications during pregnancy as well as childbirth. This means that any woman taking psychotropic medications is at risk for miscarriages and perinatal death during the earlier stages of their pregnancy. Because of this, there is an increased chance of terminating the pregnancy, especially if the risk for the mother is too high. They can also cause major malformations in the developing fetus, which can also put the mothers at risk during the term of the pregnancy. 

In case that the pregnancy is successful however, mood stabilizers like lithium can also be harmful to the newborn if the mother is breastfeeding. There is a chance of passing the lithium to the newborn through breast milk, which can result in lithium toxicity. Infants who were exposed to many benzodiazepines and SSRIs are also at risk of experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS. This happens when there is a withdrawal of drugs in the infant’s system after birth. Cases like this usually occur in infants born to mothers who were addicted to psychoactive drugs. 

Early exposure to marijuana, cocaine and cigarettes can also have a major impact on the development of children later on. The time in the womb and in the first year of birth is when the most development of the central nervous system occurs, leaving infants extremely susceptible to these issues.

Worsens mental illnesses

A study explained that psychotropic medications can actually worsen and contribute to the ever increasing mental illness diagnosis rate. In this research, it is believed that certain medications alter the chemistry of the brain in a negative way, and therefore worsens the myriad of symptoms of mental illnesses. It is believed that psychoactive medications like anti-anxiety, antidepressants and antipsychotics disrupt the natural function of the neurotransmitters. Because of this, the human brain must adjust to the change, and sometimes it doesn’t fully adapt. They also found out that many of these medications are only effective in the short- term, but can result in greater issues over time. 

Increased violent behavior

Studies show that people, particularly youth, who take the psychotropic medication atomoxetine for ADHD, exhibit more aggressive behavior compared to those who don’t. While antidepressants help tone down the some of the symptoms, there are cases where suicide and hostile behaviors are common compared to placebo trials. Psychiatrists are urging researchers to run more clinical trials and collect more data to prove than these behaviors are linked with the psychoactive drugs. One published study however, showed that adults with no history of any mental illness are at doubled risk for suicidal and violent behavior while taking and/or withdrawing from SSRIs.

Increases the use of drugs and addiction

Drug use in general puts users at high risk. However, there are some legal psychoactive drugs which are also known for higher rates of drug dependence and uses. Stress and high demands within the working environment often triggers the use of these psychotropic drugs. Substances like anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants and other illegal substances are all habit-forming and often abused to keep up with demanding schedules and therefore can develop into an addiction. 

Weakens the immune system 

Antidepressants and cocaine can alter the immune system by suppressing it. It can also change the chemicals in the brain and inhibit the function of neurotransmitters. Continued use can interfere with the cell that signals the immunity and at the same time hinders the growth of cells fighting infection in the body by inhibiting the growth of T-cells.

Increased risks of car accidents

Research shows that people who take psychoactive drugs are most likely to be involved in car accidents. This is commonly seen in patients aged 65 and above. The higher the dose of the medications they take, the higher the chance of getting an accident. 

Sexual dysfunction 

Impotence is the most common result of abusing antidepressants. About 59% of participants reported that they have formed some kind of sexual dysfunction while using the medication. 

Increased risk of breast cancer


While there isn’t enough evidence to confidently prove this theory, some reports have suggested that the use of antidepressants over long periods of time can lead to the development of breast cancer. It is believed that patients who take SSRI called Paroxetine and TCAs had an increased risk of developing this disease if they are taking the medication for more than two years.

That being said, psychoactive drugs must only be used as prescribed by physicians. Any abuse of these medications usually has long-term effects that could lead to death.