Psychopharmacology

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Psychopharmacology (from Greek ψῡχή, psȳkhē, "breath, life, soul"; φάρμακον, pharmakon, "drug"; and -λογία, -logia) is the study of drug-induced changes in mood, sensation, thinking, and behavior.[1]

The field of psychopharmacology studies a wide range of substances with various types of psychoactive properties. The professional and commercial fields of pharmacology and psychopharmacology do not mainly focus on psychedelic or recreational drugs, as the majority of studies are conducted for the development, study, and use of drugs for the modification of behavior and the alleviation of symptoms, particularly in the treatment of mental disorders (psychiatric medication). While studies are conducted on all psychoactives by both fields, psychopharmacology focuses primarily on the psychoactive and chemical interactions with the brain.

Psychoactive drugs may originate from natural sources such as plants and animals, or from artificial sources such as chemical synthesis in the laboratory. These drugs interact with particular target sites or receptors found in the nervous system to induce widespread changes in physiological or psychological functions. The specific interaction between drugs and their receptors is referred to as "drug action", and the widespread changes in physiological or psychological function is referred to as "drug effect".

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Historical overview

The use of psychoactive drugs predates recorded history. Hunter-gatherer societies tended to favor psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, and today their use can still be observed in many surviving tribal cultures. The exact drug used depends on what the particular ecosystem a given tribe lives in can support, and are typically found growing wild. Such drugs include various psychedelic mushrooms and cacti, along with many other plants. These societies generally attach spiritual significance to such drug use, and often incorporate it into their religious practices.

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