A psychoactive drug was a mood-altering chemical substance. It primarily affected the central nervous system by altering brain function resulting in changes in behavior, perception, consciousness, and cognition. Psychoactive drugs induced elation and euphoria, hallucinations, or altered sensory experiences.

While psychoactive drugs could be used for recreational purposes, such as a narcotic, some cultures used psychoactive drugs in the form of herbs for use during spiritual quests or rituals.

Chakotay revealed to Kathryn Janeway that in the past, Native Americans used psychotropic herbs while embarking on vision quests to induce an altered state of consciousness. With the advent of modern technology, however, they moved away from using drugs to induce hallucinations and instead discovered the akoonah, a device that affected one's mind just like the herbs. (VOY: "The Cloud", "Basics, Part I", "The Fight")

One example of a powerful psychoactive drug was the semi-synthetic drug LSD. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

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