Study Drugs' Effects on Behavior in Psychology Program

The effect that drugs can have on behavior is a hot topic in the United States, given the current opiate epidemic and the legalization of recreational marijuana in many states. According to, "Drugs interfere with the chemicals in your brain. This affects the messages those chemicals are trying to send."

Psychoactive drugs can include everything from alcohol to heroin and can have both long-term and short-term effects on a user's behavior. Drugs can also affect pre-existing mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. In the online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program at Louisiana State University of Alexandria, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the effects that different drugs can have on users' behavior.

Short-Term Effects

Different drugs will have different short-term effects on a user's behavior, and it is frequently the short-term effects that are the primary motivator for drug use. For example, according to, "The short-term effects of opium use are mostly related to the euphoric feelings that come from smoking the drug. The user will feel sleepy, drowsy, or relaxed, similar to the feelings that come from alcohol."

The short-term effects of drugs are not always pleasant, however. As points out, some of the negative short-term effects can include "anxiety, mood swings, depression, sleep problems and psychosis." How different drugs impact a user's behavior in the short-term depends heavily on the drug taken, the size of the dose and the user's tolerance to the drug.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of drugs on users' behavior can vary widely depending on the drug and the context of use. Sometimes the long-term effects can be ambiguous. For example, Alice G. Walton writes for Forbes, "... marijuana is linked to increased psychotic symptoms is fairly clear. But again, it's been a chicken-and-egg problem, since it's hard to show whether causation is at play, and which way the connection goes."

According to, "Psychoactive drugs may cause you ongoing mental health problems. It is not clear why this happens to some people and not others. It may be that using a drug has triggered a mental illness you didn't know you had, or the drug changes the way a certain chemical affects your brain functions."

Essentially, the long-term effects of drugs on a user's behavior can be difficult to pinpoint, given the ambiguous line between symptoms caused by a drug and symptoms caused by a pre-existing mental disorder.

An Ongoing Discussion

The effect that different drugs can have on behavior is an ongoing and evolving discussion. As Walton points out on the issue of marijuana, "As more states debate the prospect of legalization, looking to the science may help them make some of the hard decisions. Or, of course, it could make the conversations that much more complex."

A Bachelor of Science in psychology program can help prepare you for this ongoing discussion by giving you the necessary framework to understand the effects that drugs can have on behavior and mental health.

Learn more about the LSUA online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program. LSUA also offers an online Bachelor of General Studies in Psychology program, which is designed for students who have a large number of transfer credits.

Sources: Drugs and Mental Health

NIH: Mental Health Effects

NIH: Drugs and the Brain Short-Term Effects of Opium

Royal College of Psychiatrists: Cannabis and Mental Health

Forbes: What 20 Years of Research Has Taught Us About the Chronic Effects of Marijuana

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