Although psychopharmacology is a joining of the words psychology and pharmacology , it is now recognized that understanding how drugs effect human behavior requires knowledge about social and environmental factors as well.
For example, reported drug experiences vary depending on whether the user is alone or with other people and how comfortable they are in the drug-taking setting.
By origin – Examples are drugs that come from plants such as the opiates from the opium poppy with the “pure” (nonsynthetic) compounds such as morphine and codeine and semisynthetic compound, heroin. Because the classification distinguishes only the source, a given drug class may include many drugs that have different chemical actions, i. e. LSD would also fall in this category.
By therapeutic use, or according to similarity in how a drug is used to treat or modify something in the body – For example, amphetamines are classed as appetite-suppressants (therapeutic effects) but when taken nonmedically, it is usually for their stimulant effects. Morphine prescribed as a painkiller but taken as the street user for its euphoric effects.
By site of drug action, pertains to where in the body the drug is causing physical changes – For example, alcohol is called a depressant drug because of its depressant action on the central nervous system (CNS), and because of its CNS stimulant properties, cocaine is a stimulant. The Utility of this system is limited when a drug affects several different sites such as with cocaine which also has anesthetic (pain-reducing) effects or when drugs that differ widely in chemical structure or mechanism of action may affect the same body site.
By chemical structure – For example, the barbiturates ( such as phenobarbital, Amytal, and Seconal) are synthetic compounds derived from the chemical structure of barbituric acid
By mechanism of action, or how a drug produces its drug effects – A good system in principle and ongoing research in pharmacology is specifying mechanisms of actions of an increasing numbers of drugs
By street name – Comes from the drug “subcultures” and the street drug market and often reflect actual drug effects. For example, amphetamines are called “speed” and drugs such as barbiturates or depressants are called “downers”
Placebo – In pharmacology, a chemically inactive substance. Sometimes the belief that a drug will produce a certain effect is enough to experience the effect even when the person has ingested a chemically inactive substance such as a placebo.
Setting in which a drug is used
Laws pertaining to drug use in the community where the drugs are used
National Household Survey - A survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on individuals 12 years of age or older including households in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Provides the best single description of frequency and quantity of drug use among a broad age range of people in U.S. society
Prevalence – General occurrence of an event, usually expressed in terms of percentage of some population. Another common statistic in survey studies is incidence, or the number of first-time occurrences of an event during some time period
For overall prevalence of use in the last year and the last month for different drugs, alcohol leads the use list for legal drugs while marijuana and hashish head the list for illicit drug use
Drug use differs with characteristics of people. Age, gender, race, and the user’s environment may play a role.
Individuals in the age range 18-25 have the most prevalent substance use with 3 of every 4 respondents reporting alcohol use in the past year and more than 1 of every three reporting at least one occasion of illicit drug use in the past year
Surveys administered to over 27,000 individuals, ages 14-54, in seven countries/cities: United Sates; Fresno County, California; Mexico City, Mexico; Ontario, Canada; the Netherlands; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Munich, Germany
Lifetime use of alcohol or other drugs occurred at a higher rate for men than women in all countries with highest rates of alcohol use by country in the following order: Netherlands, Canada, U.S., and the lowest rates in Mexico City
Cannabis use was the second most prevalent behind alcohol for all countries but varied considerably. For example, highest prevalence was in the U.S. - 33% men and 24% women compared to 3% men and .6% women in Mexico
Lifetime use of other drugs or drug classes were highly variable but generally at a low level, with the exception of cocaine or other stimulants and anxiolytics in the U.S.
Overall lifetime drug use, excluding alcohol and cannabis, was highest (19%) in the U.S. and lowest (2%) in Mexico.
CONTEMPORARY ISSUE BOX 1.5 Drugs, Criminal Activity, and Aggression
Some types of drug use are associated with criminal activity.
As drug use in a community increases, so does the occurrence of certain types of crimes, depending on the drug.
Most research on drugs and crime has been concerned with heroin and street crime such as burglary, larceny, and assault addicts commit to get money to buy more drugs.
Alcohol is associated with assaultive type crimes committed with intent to harm the victim.
DSM-IV – Published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual has a section called “substance-related” disorders that includes definitions of ”substance dependence” and “substance abuse”.
Addiction – In reference to drugs, overwhelming involvement with using a drug, getting an adequate supply of it, and having a strong tendency to resume use of it after stopping for a period.
Loss of control – Inability to stop or reduce drug use for any length of time, if that is the intention.