A Shrink Thinks

Mind-altering drugs

Mind-altering drugs
Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.
16 May, 2024 4 min read

When we talk about ‘mind-altering drugs’ most people tend to think about illegal and anti-social recreational drug use. But there are many other substances which, in reality, alter our minds.

For example, many widely available pain killers have an impact on the mind. Often this won’t be noticeable (though we can measure it in research), but when the doses get larger, we may experience a ‘wooziness’, a light-headedness and awareness that we are struggling to concentrate and think straight.

Other legitimate drugs (e.g. for treating epilepsy, depression, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease) have a direct impact on the mind. Opioids (in many pain killers) have powerful mind-altering effects. Beyond this, very many drugs used for other conditions (e.g. incontinence and cancer) have well-recognised effects on our brains and minds.

Alcohol, even in modest amounts, can have an impact on our mental attention and levels of consciousness. Physical and mental fatigue can have a similar impact. All of this means that most of you reading this article will, whether you realise it or not, have taken some mind-altering substance.

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