Timothy Regan Robert Saporito Revised by Andrew J Homburg

Cognition Psychoactive Drugs of abuse, used for their perceived mind-altering effects, often have additional cognitive effects of which the drug user may not be aware. A cognitive effect is an impact on mental functions—including processes of learning, perceiving, imagining, remembering, feeling, thinking, reasoning, knowing, and judging.

Psychoactive drugs produce cognitive effects by causing chemical changes in the brain. These effects are mostly short-lived and correspond to the duration and intensity of the chemical changes in the brain. However, cognitive effects can persist after the drug has been eliminated from the body, and some can be irreversible. The common cognitive effects of some psychoactive drugs of abuse are summarized below.

ALCOHOL

Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol) is the drinking Alcohol of Beers and Brews, wine, distilled spirits, or medicinal compounds; it acts by depressing or reducing cognitions. Initially, alcohol reduces inhibitions, and this results in more spontaneity or impulsivity and a feeling of relaxation. As the amount of alcohol acting on the brain increases, the ability to perceive, remember, reason, and judge is progressively impaired. Further increases in the amount of alcohol can depress the brain and cognitions to the point of loss of consciousness. Due to cognitive impairment, the person may not perceive the impairment (e.g., "I'm not drunk'') and take undue risks (e.g., DRUNK Driving, indiscretions).

Alcoholic blackouts are impairments of memory for events that occurred while one was conscious but under the influence of alcohol. Such black-outs are not limited to chronic alcoholics. Long-term use of alcohol can lead to subtle impairment of perceiving, responding, and remembering that may not be detectable without special psychometric tests. A particular form of impairment of memory, called the amnestic syndrome, has been seen in alcoholics; they are unable to remember recent events although memories from long ago remain reasonably intact. By contrast, in alcoholic dementia, deficits in all cognitive functions are seen. Some deficits may persist for life even if the person stops drinking.

Paranoid states of unfounded suspicion or jealousy may manifest or be aggravated under the influence of alcohol. In alcoholic, HALLUCINATIONS people can have vivid but unreal perceptions while awake; these typically occur as a result of neuro-chemical changes in the brain when alcohol use is abruptly discontinued after periods of excessive drinking. Even after months have elapsed since their last drink, alcoholics can have cognitive deficits, especially in visual-spatial abilities, hand-eye coordination, abstract reasoning, and new learning.

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