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Psychotropic vs Psychoactive Substances/Effects (Cannabis and Pharmaceutical)

A doctor holding a CBD oil filled liquid capsule bottle in one hand and a antidepressant bottle in the other hand, comparing each to their psychoactive and psychotropic effects, respectively.

The complex world of psychoactive substances and psychotropic drugs clearly defined as this article unravels the enigma of Cannabis compounds (CBD and THC) and explores a range of other pharmaceutical drugs.

Table of Contents


Welcome to the intricate realm of psychotropic and psychoactive substances, a topic of great relevance and importance in today’s rapidly evolving conversation surrounding mental health and wellness.

In this article, we delve into the worlds of cannabis and pharmaceutical drugs, illuminating the fine distinctions between psychotropic and psychoactive drugs.

We aim to answer all the questions you might have had and the questions you didn’t know you needed answers for: Are these terms interchangeable? What makes a substance psychoactive or psychotropic? And where do popular substances like CBD and THC fit into the picture?

Prepare for an enlightening journey that will elucidate these intriguing concepts, shatter commonly held misconceptions, and hopefully, provide a deeper understanding of the substances that interact with our minds.

A variety of cannabis products and pharmaceutical bottles arranged on a table.
A variety of cannabis products and pharmaceutical bottles arranged on a table.


Does psychotropic and psychoactive mean the same thing?

No, Psychotropic substances alter various brain functions and the state of the mind while Psychoactive substances affect natural brain functions, but do not alter the state of the mind.
The World Health Organization provides definitions for psychoactive substances, which would apply to both terms, while MedlinePlus offers a definition for psychotropic drugs.

What does psychotropic mean?

The word “Psychotropic” relates to substances or drugs that affect and alters a person’s mental state.

What does psychoactive mean?

The word “Psychoactive” relates to a substance or drug that affects the mind.

Are all psychoactive drugs also psychotropic?

No, not all psychoactive substances are psychotropic. Psychoactive substances affect the brain through activating various processes, while psychotropic substances activate and alter mental states and cognitive function. The World Health Organization explains that not all psychoactive substances are psychotropic.

Is CBD a psychoactive substance?

Yes, CBD is considered a psychoactive substance because it activates the mind and affects the mind’s behavior.
A review from The European Journal of Pharmacology discusses CBD’s psychoactive properties, though it doesn’t produce a “high”.

Is CBD a natural psychoactive substance?

Yes, CBD is an organic psychoactive substance because its naturally derived from cannabis and hemp plants.

Is CBD a psychotropic drug?

No, CBD is not considered a psychotropic drug because it’s not a pharmaceutical drug and it does not cause alterations in perception, mood, functionality, or consciousness.

Is THC a psychoactive substance?

Yes, THC is a psychoactive substance. It interacts with the Endocannabinoid System in the brain and it activates the mind in several ways.
A study from the British Journal of Pharmacology describes THC as a psychoactive component of cannabis.

Is THC a natural psychoactive substance?

Yes, THC is a natural psychoactive substance because it activates the mind and it’s naturally found in cannabis and hemp plants.

Is THC a psychotropic drug?

Yes, THC is a psychotropic drug because Delta-9 THC is classified as a schedule 1 substance and it can alter perception, mood, functionality of the brain.

Is THC a natural psychotropic substance?

Yes, THC is a natural psychotropic substance because it alters perception, mood, and the state of the mind, and it’s naturally found in cannabis and industrial hemp plants.

What are some examples of psychoactive drugs?

Examples of psychoactive drugs include caffeine, nicotine, cannabis (THC and CBD), opioids, hallucinogens (such as LSD and psilocybin), and stimulants (such as cocaine and amphetamines).
The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides these examples of psychoactive drugs.

What are the main types of psychotropic drugs?

The five main classes of psychotropic drugs are antipsychotics, antidepressants, anxiolytics (anxiety-reducing), hypnotics (sleep-inducing), and mood stabilizers.

What are some examples of psychotropic drugs?

Examples of psychotropic drugs include antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, stimulant medications, alcohol, THC, and psychedelic drugs like LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA.
A guide from Harvard Health includes examples of psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics.

What is the most common psychoactive drug?

The most common psychoactive drug is caffeine, found in coffee, tea, and many other beverages.
The FDA acknowledges caffeine as the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance.

What is the most common psychotropic drug?

The most commonly used psychotropic drugs are opioids, antidepressants and anxiolytics.

What is the most common psychotropic substance?

Alcohol is the most common and most-used psychotropic substance.

How does the FDA regulate psychoactive and psychotropic drugs?

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), according to the FDA website is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring drug safety, efficacy, and security, including psychoactive and psychotropic drugs.

What is the safest psychotropic drug?

The safety of a psychotropic drug is highly dependent on the individual’s specific needs, other health conditions, and their response to medication. However, a research study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics discusses the safety profiles of various psychotropic drugs including escitalopram and fluoxetine for depression, lurasidone for psychosis, and methylphenidate for ADHD.

Pyschotropic vs psychoactive two coffee cups by thcgummies. Com.
Psychotropic vs psychoactive substances/effects (cannabis and pharmaceutical)

Defining Psychotropic and Psychoactive: Key Differences and Similarities

The words psychotropic and psychoactive may seem complicated. But they’re easier than you think.

  • Psychoactive substances:
    Substances that activate various brain functions, and can impact your mood, perception, and behavior. Psychoactive products are often used for wellness purposes or for enhancing specific brain functions.
    • Think of coffee, nicotine, and CBD
    • Remember “activate and impact”
  • Psychotropic drugs:
    Types of psychoactive substances that alter the state of the mind and are used to manage mental disorders and for recreational and out-of-body experiences.
    • Think of antidepressants and anxiety meds, and THC and psychedelics, respectively.
    • Remember “activate and impact” and “alter”

Important Fact to Remember

All psychotropic drugs are psychoactive, but not all psychoactive substances are psychotropic.

Common Misunderstandings Between Psychotropic and Psychoactive

A common mistake by most cannabis industry bloggers and reporters are the following:

  1. Thinking psychotropic and psychoactive are the same. They’re not.
  2. Believing all psychotropic and psychoactive substances are bad. They’re not.
A close-up of a steaming coffee cup and a cannabis leaf growing inside a coffee mug positioned side by side.
A close-up of a steaming coffee cup and a cannabis leaf growing inside a coffee mug positioned side by side.

CBD andamp; THC: The Intersection of Psychotropic and Psychoactive

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It’s a compound in cannabis plants that is considered psychoactive, but not psychotropic because it won’t get you high; that’s THC’s job.

CBD infused edibles are mostly used for health and wellness benefits and is purported to assist in the management of pain, inflammation, and anxiety, with proof of treating rare forms of epilepsy. It’s a big deal in the cannabis industry.

Pure CBD vs Broad Spectrum CBD vs Full Spectrum CBD Products

Not all CBD products are pure CBD oil or pure CBD gummies. They can also have other cannabinoids and terpenes too. If a cannabis product has more than just pure CBD or pure THC, they become a broad-spectrum or a full spectrum product.

Additional Cannabinoids Found In Cannabis Products That Impact A Psychotropic or Psychoactive Classification

Other cannabinoids in CBD oils that wouldn’t make the product psychotropic:

  1. Cannabichromene (CBC)
  2. Cannabinol (CBN)
  3. Cannabigerol (CBG)

The cannabinoids that would make a CBD product psychotropic if contained high amounts:

  1. Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆9-THC)
  2. Delta-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (∆8-THC)
  3. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

Each cannabinoid has its own benefits and effects, because of this, is why broad-spectrum and full spectrum hemp products are considered better and more effective.

Science has referred to an effect known as the “entourage effect.” It’s believed that all organic compounds in cannabis work better together and are more effective in supporting your body’s Endocannabinoid System.

It’s a team effort.

History and Purpose of Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive drugs have a long history. They’ve been used for thousands of years for medicine, rituals, and for fun. Here’s a list of what psychoactive drugs are mostly used for:

  • Anesthesia
  • Pain management
  • Mental disorders
  • Recreation
  • Ritual and spiritual uses
  • Military applications

Each use has its own history and its own challenges.

Understanding the Administration and Effects of Psychoactive Drugs

There are many ways to take psychoactive drugs. You can swallow them. Inject them. Inhale them. Even absorb them through your skin. Each method has a different effect.

The Side Effects of Psychoactive Drugs on Neurotransmitter Systems

A lot affects how a psychoactive drug works, such as your:

  • weight
  • sex
  • age
  • genetics

Psychoactive drugs can change your brain, how you feel, how you think, and even how you act. Psychoactive drugs work with your neurotransmitter systems, which are like the mailmen of your brain.

They send messages back and forth.

Psychoactive drugs can change these messages by making them stronger, weaker, or different altogether.

The Legality and Addiction Potential of Psychoactive Drugs

Legal issues can be tricky with psychoactive drugs. Some are legal. Some are not. And some are in a gray area. Like CBD. Or magic mushrooms in some cities.

Addiction is a big risk with psychoactive drugs. Some people can use them safely. But others can’t. They can become dependent. They can’t stop using them. Even when it hurts their lives.


Psychopharmacology is the study of how drugs affect the mind. It’s a big field. And it’s important for understanding psychoactive drugs.

How Synapses and Receptors Control Psychoactive Drug Traffic

Think of synapses and receptors as the roads of your brain. Drugs are like cars. They use these roads to get where they’re going. And just like with cars, there can be traffic jams. Or crashes.

Two brain mri scans on thc and not on thc by thcgummies. Com.
A split image showing a healthy brain scan and a brain scan influenced by psychotropic drugs.

Overview on Psychotropic Drugs

Psychotropic drugs are mainly used to treat mental disorders and for recreational purposes. They can be very helpful, but they can also have risks. Psychotropic drugs are prescribed to help with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more.

Different Classes of Psychotropic Drugs and Their Uses

There are many types of psychotropic drugs. Here are a few:

  1. Anti-anxiety Agents: Used for anxiety.
  2. Various Types of Antidepressants (SSRI, SNRI, MAOI, Tricyclic): Use for depression.
  3. Typical and Atypical Antipsychotics: Used for psychosis.
  4. Mood Stabilizers: Used to help manage mood swings.
  5. Stimulants: Use to stimulate attention and alertness.

Each type has its own benefits. And its own risks.

Risks and Warnings

Psychotropic drugs can have side effects. They can cause weight gain. Or dizziness. Or many other things. It’s important to talk to your doctor about these risks.

Legal issues can be a problem with psychotropic drugs. Some are controlled substances. That means they’re regulated by the government. And if you misuse them, you can get in trouble.

Emergency care can be needed if you overdose. Or if you have a bad reaction. If you’re ever in this situation, call 911.

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A hyper realistic photo of an elderly man with lots of open books that captures the essence of the phrase “to make a long story short. ”

The Bottom Line: Psychotropic Vs Psychoactive

Psychoactive and psychotropic substances are similar but different. They can help people, treat conditions, and be used for recreational purposes. If not used properly, both substance types can cause you harm, so it’s important to use them wisely and understand as much as you can about them.

Remember this:

  • All psychotropic drugs are psychoactive substances, but not all psychoactive substances are psychotropic drugs.
  • Psychoactive substances activate the mind and includes natural substances like CBD and caffeine, but it can also include synthetic drugs and medications that don’t alter the state of the mind.
  • Psychotropic drugs alter the state of mind and affects mood, functionality, perception, and consciousness. Psychotropic drugs are a subset of psychoactive substances specifically used to treat mental disorders and are widely used for recreational purposes.

CBD is psychoactive but not psychotropic like THC. CBD does not alter the minds perception, mood, or consciousness and it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with cannabis products infused with the following various forms of THC:

  1. Delta-9 THC
  2. Delta-8 THC
  3. Delta-10 THC

Did this article help clear the smoke?

Let me know your thoughts and comments below!

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