How Can Drugs Affect the Spinal Chord?

Drugs that affect the central nervous system (CNS), or spinal cord and brain, are used to treat several neurological (nervous system) and psychiatric problems: 
  • Antiepileptic drugs reduce the activity of the over excited brain area to reduce or eliminate seizures. 
  • Antipsychotic drugs are used to regulate neurotransmitters which do not function correctly in people with psychoses (major mental disorders often characterised by extreme behaviours) and hallucinations (as in schizophrenia). 
  • Antidepressant drugs can help reduce mental depression.
  • Whilst anti-manic drugs can reduce excessive mood swings in people with manic-depression. 
  • Anti-anxiety drugs (tranquilizers) treat anxiety by decreasing the activity in the anxiety centres of the brain.
  • Narcotics relieve pain by acting on receptors located on nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord.
  • Non-narcotic analgesics (e.g. aspirin, ibuprofen) reduce pain by inhibiting the formation of nerve impulses at the site of pain.
  • General anaesthetics depress brain activity, causing a loss of sensation throughout the body and unconsciousness.
  • Local anaesthetics are applied directly to a specific area of the body, causing a loss of sensation without unconsciousness, preventing nerves from transmitting impulses signalling pain.

The effect of drugs varies greatly, depending on the type of drug, the amount, the user's previous experience of it, what they want and expect to happen, the environment or social situation in which it's taken, and their mental state. The same person may react differently to the same drug at different times.

They may become tolerant of some drugs, which means their body gets used to having it, so that higher doses are needed to maintain the same effect. Withdrawal is the body's reaction when it doesn't get the drug it's adapted to. The effects of withdrawal can be stopped, either by taking more of the drug, or by stopping using it completely (sometimes called cold turkey), which may take up to a week.