Psychoactive means pertaining to effects on mood, thinking, and behavior.


In the psychology context, "psychoactive" refers to substances or drugs that have the ability to affect mental processes, cognition, mood, perception, or behavior by acting on the central nervous system. These substances alter brain chemistry and neurotransmitter activity, leading to changes in consciousness or psychological functioning. Psychoactive drugs can produce a wide range of effects, including euphoria, relaxation, altered sensory perception, heightened alertness, or altered states of consciousness. They can be categorized into various classes based on their pharmacological effects, such as stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, and opioids. The use of psychoactive substances has been a subject of interest and concern in psychology due to their potential therapeutic applications, as well as their risks of abuse, addiction, and adverse effects on mental health.

Application Areas

  • Substance use disorder treatment
  • Psychopharmacology research
  • Neuropsychological assessment
  • Psychotherapy and counseling
  • Pharmacotherapy for mental health disorders
  • Neuroscience and brain imaging studies

Treatment and Risks

  • Treatment: Psychoactive substances are sometimes used in clinical settings as part of pharmacological interventions for mental health disorders. For example, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics are commonly prescribed to manage symptoms of depression, psychosis, and anxiety disorders. However, the use of psychoactive drugs in treatment requires careful monitoring and consideration of potential risks, including dependence, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and adverse reactions.
  • Risks: The misuse or abuse of psychoactive substances poses significant risks to mental and physical health. Prolonged use of certain drugs can lead to addiction, cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders, and other adverse consequences. Additionally, psychoactive substances may interact with other medications or underlying medical conditions, potentially exacerbating symptoms or causing harmful effects. Vulnerable populations, such as adolescents, pregnant women, and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, may be particularly susceptible to the negative effects of psychoactive substances.


  • Alcohol, a widely used psychoactive substance, can induce relaxation, disinhibition, and impaired judgment.
  • Cannabis, or marijuana, produces psychoactive effects such as euphoria, altered perception of time, and heightened sensory experiences.
  • Prescription opioids, such as oxycodone and morphine, are potent analgesics with psychoactive properties that can alleviate pain and induce feelings of euphoria.

Similar Concepts and Synonyms

  • Psychotropic
  • Mind-altering
  • Neuroactive
  • Mood-altering
  • Psychogenic


In psychology, "psychoactive" refers to substances that alter mental processes, mood, perception, or behavior by affecting neurotransmitter activity in the central nervous system. These substances have diverse applications in clinical practice, research, and therapeutic interventions, but they also carry significant risks of abuse, addiction, and adverse effects on mental health. Understanding the pharmacological effects and potential risks associated with psychoactive substances is essential for informed decision-making and effective management in psychology and healthcare.


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