Okay. So now we’re going to get
into something around drug taking
and we’re going to focus on
consciousness altering drugs.
So you can have whole different types
in categories of drugs that are taken.
We’re going to focus on
sort of four broad bins --
depressants, stimulants, psychoactive
drugs, and hallucinogens.
We’ll start with depressants
because these are probably the
ones that are the most common,
most commonly used, and they
include things like alcohol,
barbiturates, and opiates.
So like the name implies,
depressants actually depresses
overall neural activity.
Now, your reflex might be,
well, wait a second, you know,
you’re thinking of alcohol, you think of
a party, you think of people being loud,
but fast forward your night.
So let’s take a look
at your last weekend.
You start the night
You seem like you’re partying and dancing.
You’re like how is that a depressant?
Look at the end of your night.
If you were to continue to consume alcohol,
how does your night typically end?
It usually ends with you passing out
on the sofa or being extremely tired,
because at the end of the day,
if you look at the process of your
drug taking in the end result,
it’s usually, almost always,
results in you sort of passing out or
falling asleep or being depressed.
Not in the mood, but depressed
in neural activity.
So how is your brain
So what it does is depressants stimulate
and increase the levels of something
called GABA, which is a type of
neurotransmitter, and dopamine in the brain.
More specifically, we’re going to hone in
on GABA because that’s much more prominent.
And what GABA is, is actually
an inhibitory transmitter.
So I’m going to simplify this
for you and say we have sort of
excitatory and inhibitory
neurotransmitters in the brain.
And the end result of behavior or
even neural activity is dependent
upon that delicate balance of
excitation and inhibition.
So an analogy I like to use is the gas and
the brakes, with excitation being gas
and inhibition being the brakes.
So GABA being inhibitory, think in
your mind brakes of a speeding car.
So typically, neural activity
is a combination of how
much gas and how much of the
brakes are being applied.
Well, now you’re drinking
alcohol for example
and we’re increasing
the amount of brakes.
So GABA is inhibitory and what it actually
does is it reduces things like anxiety.
So what do you do when you’re
asked to perhaps give a speech
or you’re going into a “stressful
situation” like a first
date or a dinner party with
people you don’t really know?
You kind of tend to
go for that drink.
“I have to go give a speech, let me
have a quick drink before I head up
to calm me down.”
So what we’re saying here
is in anxiety situations
and stressful situations
where excitation is high,
you drink some alcohol, it
increases levels of GABA,
which is the brakes, and it
lowers levels of anxiety.
So I hope that analogy
makes sense for you.
So, sort of a take home,
lowers level of activity
of neural activity.
Now, also in the mix is dopamine
and we’ll talk about dopamine a little bit
more in some of the other drug classes,
levels of dopamine,
levels of dopamine
is associated with happiness
and that I am feeling good.
I’m feeling euphoric.
So any drug you take where you’re
increasing levels of dopamine,
that’s going to lead to you wanting
to take more or take it again.
So it’s behaviorally reinforcing,
that’s a term you should know,
and that means that your behavior is
reinforcing that drug taking behavior
because it makes you feel good, and what’s
mediating that behavior is dopamine.
Another thing that these depressants
can do is suppress REM sleep.
Now, REM stands for rapid eye movement sleep
and it’s a phase of sleep that we have.
So we’re not going to get into
the whole lecture on sleep,
but basically, you have four
stages of sleep, plus REM.
The newer versions have
three stages, plus REM.
And REM is that stage where
you do your dreaming
and it’s thought to be the restorative
stage of sleep where you actually,
your brain is quite active, but
it’s allowing you to feel rested.
So those who don’t get REM sleep
will wake up after their eight hours of
sleep, but not having REM being really tired,
versus those who have their eight
hours of sleep plus their REM,
they feel much more rested.
Okay, so anytime you’re impacting
or influencing or messing with
the amount of REM sleep you’re
getting, that’s not a good thing.
It’s also why when you drink a lot, you don’t dream.
And so, what ends up happening is,
you know, after you stop drinking,
you’ll notice that the
following night you might have
exaggerated or longer or more
frequent episodes of dreaming.
So we also know that if you don’t
have good REM sleep or proper
phases of sleep, it can actually
impact your short-term memory.
So during this phase of sleep and the
deeper stages of sleep, that’s where
short-term memories are assimilated and
they’re converted into long-term memories.
So memory, as a whole, gets impacted
if you lose a good quality of sleep.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the
other depressants that you can take.
So alcohol is one.
Barbiturate is another,
and barbiturates is an older medication that
was used for a lot of different purposes.
It was used as an
it was used as an agent to
help people go to sleep
that were having trouble
but of them, whether it’s
alcohol or barbiturates,
they actually depress the
sympathetic nervous system.
And if you recall, that’s the system
that has the fight or flight response,
or mediates that fight
or flight response.
Now, in the past, barbiturates
were used commonly as sleep aids,
but they really no longer are.
They’re a pretty out of date drug.
Now we use benzos in
certain situations are
more specific hypnotic
agents we call them.
And so, these barbiturates have this
effect of depressing respiration
and are a depressant,
as they’re called,
and they have something called a
synergistic effect with alcohol.
So what that means is
barbiturates alone will
cause some depression
and alcohol alone will
cause some depression.
But you put the two together,
it’s like oil on fire or gas
on fire, and we have this
synergistic or exaggerated effect.
And so, an individual who
maybe has a couple of
barbiturates and then has a
couple of glasses of wine --
no, normally the two barbiturates
will just help you sleep,
and normally two glasses of wine
would make you feel relaxed.
But the two of them together
can be catastrophic
and can actually kill you
because they depress your
respiration to a point
where you stop breathing.
This is actually one of the theories
behind what killed Marilyn Monroe,
the big movie star from
the ‘50s and ‘60s.
She had taken some barbiturates and they
found alcohol in her blood as well,
and one of the theories
is that she ended up
mixing the two and having
that synergistic effect.
Opiate is another one and this includes
agents like morphine and heroine,
and these are typically things that
are taken to help manage pain.
And so what they do is they actually
mimic our normal endogenous
opioids that are released which
help us normally deal with pain.
Living in, you know, the
year 2016, we typically
feel any pain and we go for
something to manage that pain,
morphine and heroine
are one of them.
And they’re quite tricky because
they have a really, really -
really, really low threshold for
addiction, meaning that it’s --
you don’t need to take much
in order to get addicted.
With heroine, being pretty much
at the top of that pyramid,
is one of the most addictive
substances that you can take.
Morphine is quite high as well,
but heroine is pretty much the
top of its class in terms of
being highly, highly addictive.
So we know that chronic use
of opioids, of morphine,
heroine, can lead to
dependence and addiction.