Psychopharmacology is concerned with the effects of drugs on animal and human behavior. It encompasses any chemical that influences behavior by a direct or indirect effect on the central nervous system. Drugs can be self-administered to alter normal behavior or clinically administered to control abnormal behavior; they can be administered acutely or chronically; and they can prove toxic in the long term. Psychopharmacology is a relatively new but rapidly developing branch of natural science that evolved from the discovery that organisms do not behave randomly but lawfully as defined by the structure of the environment. In much the same way that antihypertensive drugs modify the relationships of the cardiovascular system and control harmful high blood pressure, so psychoactive compounds result in orderly modifications of behavior. There are a number of outcomes to this discovery: the classification of drugs by their effects on normal animal or human behavior, rather than by physiological, biochemical, or pharmacologic criteria; the use of drugs as tools for probing the normal organization of psychological processes underlying behavior in animals and humans; and a rational use of drugs to control and restructure abnormal behavior.
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