Pete Buttigieg has a decent educational and professional background and good command of the English language and some appreciation for facts, which is why I call this choice of words into question and seek a strictly technical answer.

In this recent video1 (08:05) of a discussion with a late night talk show host there is the following exchange (transcribed from closed caption, verified by audio):

BUTTIGIEG: I mean, for one thing, let’s remember that to the best of our knowledge, even as we speak, he is on psychoactive steroid medication, and he’s making policy decision.

TALK SHOW HOST: And he did’t bring enough for everybody!

I understand that taking a psychoactive substance isn't necessarily bad or even remarkable; having a single, good cup of coffee before making a decision would not be considered ill-advised or reckless (I often do that before "deciding" if I should get out of bed each day) and it is correct to say that that person has take a psychoactive substance.

I also understand that some steroid medications can have psychological side effects.

Question: But is calling dexamethasone a "psychoactive steroid medication" correct medical use of the term psychoactive? If so, is that simply because it has reported psychological side effects?

The drug in question seems2,3 to be Dexamethasone

Fictitious "bonus points" for any background information on accepted medical advice given to decision makers when these kinds of medications are prescribed; are there standard cautions?

1The Late Show with Stephen Colbert circa 2020-10-07

2Dexamethasone, remdesivir, Regeneron: Trump's Covid treatment explained

3Which coronavirus drugs has Trump been prescribed?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Carey Gregory
    Oct 9, 2020 at 15:31
  • These are presumably punitive down votes? The question seems fine, if there is something that can be improved please leave a specific, actionable comment. Thanks!
    – user16606
    Oct 13, 2020 at 11:02
  • 1
    I can't remove my downvote unless the question is edited. I've never understood that rule but there you have it. Should I also interpret your lack of acceptance of a +4 answer as punitive?
    – Carey Gregory
    Oct 13, 2020 at 14:31
  • 1
    @CareyGregory ha! :-) I generally let questions go a few days to a week before accepting so as not to discourage others from adding an answer. The problem with that is that I sometimes forget and occasionally it's months later when I go back and find unaccepted answers. A second advantage to waiting is that acceptance bumps a question to the active queue, which provides a second wave of visibility for voting and more importantly for people who may have missed it the first time, and any stragglers to post other or supplementary answers. So maybe now is the optimal time!
    – user16606
    Oct 13, 2020 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


Dexamethasone and other steroids have well-documented psychological effects. There are so many citations available that it's not necessary to pick one in particular.

The definition of "psychoactive" as used in medicine is "affecting the mind or behavior."

Therefore, his usage was correct.

  • @uhoh When the question has remained unchanged for one day I'll reread and evaluate my vote.
    – Carey Gregory
    Oct 9, 2020 at 18:50
  • Thanks! Edits were in response to (ultimately much appreciated and heeded) advice from another user who felt it was unclear. It took us a while to identify what needed to be done, and how to do it without making it a different question, but some success was achieved. I've always felt it's much better to do that straight away than go through a whole close-open cycle which blocks answers and requires the involvement of often almost a dozen users. I'm generally mindful of not making any significant changes to a question once answers begin unless there's prior agreement by answer authors.
    – user16606
    Oct 10, 2020 at 1:25
  • I've just posted this new question. If you have a chance could you give it a quick look to see if it's a clearly written SE post?
    – user16606
    Oct 13, 2020 at 11:15

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