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Drugs & Chemicals - Part 2: Synthetic Introduced Chemicals
(drugs, e.g. medications, recreational drugs (manufactured), ‘smart’ drugs, food additives)
In This Section
- Drugs for medication
- ‘Recreational’ drugs [manufactured]
- Other drugs for neurohacking [‘smart’ drugs etc.]
- Drugs where you may not expect to find them [e.g. in your dinner]
Drugs for Medication
Acting on the brain and nervous system (categories are alphabetical):
[drugs used to prevent and treat epileptic seizures and other types of seizures]
Other Anticonvulsant drugs
- Sodium valproate
Anticonvulsants have a direct effect on electrical activity in the brain. A seizure occurs when excessive electrical activity spreads from one part of the brain to other areas, causing uncontrolled stimulation of nerves supplying many parts of the body.
Anticonvulsants reduce these abnormally high levels of electrical activity and thereby prevent or reduce the muscle spasms that are characteristic of a seizure.
Antianxiety Drugs (anxiolytics)
[drugs that are used to reduce and control the symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety]
Types of drugs:
Other antianxiety drugs
Benzodiazepines reduce agitation and so make you feel relaxed, but they should only be used for a short time in order to avoid dependence.
Beta blockers can help reduce the symptoms that come with anxiety, but they are not suitable for long term treatment. The drugs block the actions of two hormones, epinephrine [adrenalin] and norepinephrine [noradrenaline], that produce the physical symptoms of anxiety, reducing heart rate and muscle tremor.
Buspirone is less addictive than the benzodiazepines and has a less sedative effect, but it can take up to 2 weeks to become effective.
[used to treat the symptoms of depression]
Types of drugs:
SSRIs [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors]
MAOIs [Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors]
Other antidepressant drugs
SSRIs are the most commonly used antidepressant . They may also be used to treat phobias and panic attacks. They cause fewer side effects than other kinds of antidepressants and are less toxic if taken in more than prescribed amounts. They work by blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin, leaving more of it around to stimulate brain cells.
Tricyclics interfere with the reabsorption of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. As a result, levels of these mood-lifting chemicals increase.
MAOIs are only usually used as a last resort. They work by blocking the activity of monoamine oxidase [the enzyme that makes serotonin and norepinephrine inactive] in brain cells. These drugs interact badly with other substances including some common foods and you should take care you know what not to eat as the results of a mistake could be fatal!
There are two other drugs, maprotilene and tradozone, that are related to tricyclic antidepressants. Maprotilene is used to treat both depression and anxiety when sedation is required. Tradozone is also used to treat depression when sedation is required.
Venlafaxine blocks the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. It has fewer side effects than most antidepressants.
Nefazodone works in a similar way to SSRIs but also blocks serotonin receptors.
[Drugs to prevent migraine & Drugs to relieve migraine]
Drugs used to prevent migraine
- Sodium valproate
Drugs used to relieve migraine
During a migraine attack, blood flow inside the brain changes. Initially, the blood vessels narrow, reducing blood flow. Then they rapidly widen, and a severe headache develops. Drugs that are used to prevent migraine prevent these changes in blood vessel size.
Triptan drugs and ergotamine relieve the symptoms by returning widened blood vessels to their normal size.
[used to treat schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric disorders]
Many antipsychotic drugs block the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The chemical is released in the brain at higher levels than normal in people with some psychotic disorders. Some antipsychotic drugs also block the action of serotonin and other chemicals involved in regulating mood.
The type of antipsychotic drug prescribed will depend on factors such as whether sedation is needed and your susceptibility to side effects. A low dose will be prescribed initially, then slowly increased until the symptoms are under control.
If you have bipolar affective disorder, Lithium may be prescribed [see mood stabilizing drugs]
Central Nervous System Stimulant Drugs
[used to increase mental alertness and wakefulness]
CNS stimulants act by increasing activity in the brain by promoting the release of neurotransmitters that increase wakefulness and mental alertness. Their main use is in the treatment of narcolepsy (although modafinil is likely to outdate them-2009)
Some CNS stimulants, including methylphenidate, are used in the treatment of attention deficit disorder.
Mood Stabilising Drugs
[used to treat severe psychiatric disorders involving excessive mood swings.]
- Sodium valproate
Mood stabilising drugs are used for the treatment of bipolar affective disorder and less commonly for severe depression.
Lithium is the drug most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder because it can control or reduce the intensity of mania. It may also prevent or reduce the frequency of attacks and lift depression. However, it can have nasty side effects, and you have to be careful what you eat because it interacts badly with salt. It is important to avoid dehydration.
You should have blood tests to monitor levels when on these drugs
[drugs of varying potency that are used to relieve pain]
Common types of painkillers:
- Mefenamic acid
- Aspirin with codeine
- Dextropropoxyphene with paracetamol
- Dihydrocodeine with paracetamol
- Paracetamol with codeine
Painkillers work in two different ways. Some drugs block the nerve pathways that transmit pain signals from a part of the body to the brain. Others reduce the perception of pain by preventing further transmission of pain signals once they reach the brain.
[reduce nerve cell activity in the brain and are used to treat insomnia]
Other sleeping drugs
- Amobarbital sodium
- Chloral hydrate
Benzodiazepines reduce the level of activity in the brain, causing drowsiness. They should be used for short periods only to avoid dependence and in order to ensure sufficient REM sleep.
Chloral hydrate and amobarbital sodium are only ever used nowadays as a last resort, as they have unpleasant side effects.
Zolpidem and zopiclone also reduce the level of electrical activity within the brain. Their effects are brief but they are less likely to cause dependence. It is still inadvisable to use them for long periods.
Lay off sleeping tablets except in an emergency. They are bad, bad news, for your mind.