A psychoactive drug or psychotropic substance is a chemical substance that acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness and behaviour. These drugs may be used recreationally to purposefully alter one’s consciousness, as entheogens for ritual or spiritual purposes, as a tool for studying or augmenting the mind, or therapeutically as medication.
Because psychoactive substances bring about subjective changes in consciousness and mood that the user may find pleasant (e.g. euphoria) or advantageous (e.g. increased alertness), many psychoactive substances are abused, that is, used excessively, despite risks or negative consequences. With sustained use of some substances, physical dependence may develop, making the cycle of abuse even more difficult to interrupt. Drug rehabilitation can involve a combination of psychotherapy, support groups and even other psychoactive substances to break the cycle of dependency.
In part because of this potential for abuse and dependency, the ethics of drug use are the subject of a continuing philosophical debate. Many governments worldwide have placed restrictions on drug production and sales in an attempt to decrease drug abuse.