The first part of this chapter provides a historical survey of the
pharmacologic and political influences on the use of psychoactive
substances and compulsive behaviors in all civilizations. The second part
presents a system for classifying these psychoactive substances along with
major legislation impacting use of drugs and treatment of addictions.
Throughout the last 10,000 years, humans have used psychoactive
drugs to alter their perception of reality for a variety of reasons. By studying
the history of drug use and abuse, a number of historical themes become
There is a basic need of human beings to cope with their environment
and enhance their existence.
Human brain chemistry can be affected by psychoactive drugs,
behavioral addictions, and mental illness to induce an altered state of
The ruling classes, governments, and businesses have always been
involved in trying to control the drug trade, often using it as a source
of revenue through trade and taxes.
Technological advances in refining, synthesizing, and manufacturing
psychoactive drugs have increased their potency and abuse liability.
Users and researchers have discovered new ways of taking drugs so
they reach the brain faster, thus increasing their abuse liability.
For example, opium was used originally for medicinal and spiritual
purposes. As people found that opium had mental effects because of the
way it manipulated the brain's own natural chemicals especially
endorphins, the body's own painkillers, they used it to change their
mental/emotional state. When people learned to smoke it, when it became
a lucrative source of income for governments and trading companies, when
it was refined to the stronger morphine and heroin, when the hypodermic
needle was able to put it directly into the bloodstream, then legal, social,
and health problems multiplied.
The discovery of various psychoactive plants (opium poppy, coca bush,
and tobacco plants) in the past and the subsequent
synthesis of hundreds of other psychoactive substances, has led to a