UPDATE: NEW DRUGS
Dissociatives: (such as Ketamine, Dextromethorphan, PCP)
These drugs have absolutely fascinating effects on the mind, but to keep with the theme here, I am only going to discuss the methods by which they induce euphoria or good-feelings. Now, similarly to my post on Psychedelics, these drugs are radically different from the opioids and stimulants as euphoria is NOT their main effect, and in fact, one can have a completely wonderful and meaningful dissociative experience with absolutely no euphoria. It is rather subjective.
However, pharmacologically-speaking, there ARE some things that point to euphoria in these substances. So lets take a look at a new group of receptors in the brain: The NMDA-Glutamate Receptors. These are literally the most common receptors in the Central Nervous System. What they do, normally, is act as a coincidence detector. For a 'positive' signal to pass down the lane in the brain, most neurons utilize glutamate. It is thus an 'excitatory' transmitter. That doesn't mean it excites the person, but simply that it allows for messages to be continuously passed down the lane.
But for NMDA receptors to activate, spilling their glutamate-guts down the lane, not only do they need glutamate to bind to it, but also glycine. This prevents the brain from sending FALSE SIGNALS. I think it is fucking brilliant that the human mind evolved something so clever, but I digress.
How dissociatives work is by antagonizing NMDA receptors. They PREVENT signals from going 'down the lane.' So even if glycine is present, the NMDA receptor WON'T activate since it's glutamate is being tampered with by the drug, say Ketamine. So what does this do (say Ketamine)?
Well, if Ketamine disrupts the brain's normal ability to send messages around itself, some 'funny' things occur. The brain gets rather confused by itself. One reaction is simply to 'depress' brain function leading to a quasi-comatose state (that is why you can o/d on Ketamine AND why they use it as anesthesia) Also, however, the brain can spontaneously 'make up' signals. This is the brain's half-assed way of 'guessing' what the previous neuron was trying to send.
Why this is relevant to euphoria is that in this comatose, guessing-game state, the brain can come up with some pretty intense frameworks. In fact, it allows some subconscious ideas to come to the surface while completely REPRESSING usual, negative thinking patterns. Say you are typically a 'glass-half-empty' person. Your general outlook on life is a bit dreary and depressing.
Well, with NMDA antagonization, your brain is able to "shed" that way of thinking and sort of "re-boot" itself. And in the process, new, more subconscious ways of thinking (for example, better coping skills) can surface. This is the essence of euphoria from a dissociative. It RE-BOOTS your brain.
So, if you weren't a depressive to begin with, little euphoria would probably result. But, frankly, most people now-a-days are negative thinkers, so most people would experience positive mood lift on NMDA-antags. This is being picked up by experimental psychopharmacologists in places like Hopkins. They are giving low dose injections of Ketamine to treatment-resistant depression patients and the results are PROMISING!
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