, Research Paper
Drugs work by changing chemicals in your brain that control your mood. Most drugs boost or imitate the behavior of chemicals (like adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin) which regulate our mood, well being and energy levels. These chemical messengers are part of what makes us feel happy.
The reason people continue doing drugs or become addicted is to do with a part of the brain called the reward pathway. It?s an area deep in the brain which makes us repeat experiences that feel good, be it having sex, dancing or doing another line. Dopamine is made in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and released in the nucleus accumbens and the pre-frontal cortex every time you have fun clubbing or canning it. (www.encarta.msn.com) Unfortunately, this is also the mechanism through which drugs do damage. Stimulants such as coke and E (ecstasy) raise the levels of feel good chemicals, but also stimulate the part of the nervous system that goes into action when we press the panic button. You?ll be energized, but your blood pressure will rise, pulse will race, pupils will dilate and you?ll get hot and sweaty. Do too many drugs at once and your heart will beat abnormally fast. If your blood pressure rises too high, blood vessels in the brain could pop; causing fits similar to those suffered by epileptics. Hyperthermia and dehydration are also dangers (Drugs & Medical Encyclopedia 1990). Highs are caused by a rise in transmitters; comedowns are the result of a temporary shortage of them. The most drugs you do the greater the lack of transmitters in your brain in the morning and the longer the comedown. The following is a survey covering all there is to know about consumption of drugs, focusing mainly in Britain?s club scene. What are the drugs clubbers use, and what are the effects.
After a month long survey over who is the average clubber, out came the following results. If you hang out in the British clubs, you usually take three to four E?s in a session (average 3.7). In 1999 this was 2.82 on average. You?re 23 years and ten months old. You smoke cannabis every other day, and reckon you?ve smoked 5884 spliffs in your life. You take E to feel euphoric and high. You go clubbing for the music to be with your friends and to dance. Two out of five of you listen to house and garage; two out of five listen to trance. You?ve probably never tried steroids, 2CB, methadone, crystal meth, Viagra, flatliners, heroin or crack. Less than a third of you have ever tried herbal highs, less than a quarter has tried GHB. You?ve been to 9.4 different clubs this year. 10.6% of you have been to 20 or more. You?ve tried speed, poppers, cocaine, acid, base speed (paste) and magic mushrooms, but you haven?t taken of them in the last month. You have a much better time clubbing on stimulants. Only 3.4% of you prefer to go clubbing without drugs. You?ve been clubbing for five years and 11 months. You?ve taken 148.9 E?s in your clubbing career. You take E 3.9 times a month. Last year the average was 4.5. You go clubbing 4.1 times a month. 16% of you go twice a week or more. You always or nearly always take ecstasy when you go clubbing. 47.9% of you always or nearly always drink too. When you get home 42.9% of you always or nearly always smoke spliffs. You?re probably male (61.9% of you are), probably straight and probably white. You?ve probably snorted E and nearly half of you have smoked it. But you?ve never injected any drug. Half of you have tried ketamine, but less than a third have taken it in the last month. You?re moody after you?ve been clubbing. 75.2% of you are in a worse mood 1-3 days after you?ve been out. (Mixmag magazine)
The top ten drugs consumed in the year 2000 are:
1. Ecstasy 84.7%
2. Cannabis 79.9%
3. Cocaine 39.6%
4. Poppers 39.1%
5. Ketamine 29.7%
6. Speed 29.2%
7. GHB 25.8%
8. Paste speed 24.4%
9. Methadone 22.6%
10. Benzodiazepines 21.6%
While at the question ? Which are the drugs you most like to try?? the top ten were:
1. GHB (10.2%)
2. Cocaine (9.9%)
3. LSD (7.8%)
4. Magic Mushrooms (6.1%)
5. Ketamine (5.1%)
6. Crack (3.3%)
7. Heroin (2.6%)
The biggest worries of a clubber about drug taking are:
1. A friend dying from drugs (25.8%)
2. Health problems (15.9%)
3. Overdose (7.5%)
4. Depression (6.7%)
5. Trouble with the police (6.7%)
6. Signs of mental impairment (4.3%)
The most popular questions a drug-use clubber would ask are:
1. What the long-term effects of drugs are on your body and mind? (60.7%). Most of those who replied to this question are confused by the constant conflicting evidence about any possible long-term effects of recreational drugs. Every new scientific paper seems to contradict to the last. Does grass make you forgetful and stupid? Will E give you Parkinson?s disease?
2. What the immediate effects of drugs on your body and mind are? (14.1%). Some of them want to know the short-term side effects of drug use. Others say they don?t trust what they?ve read in papers or in leaflets from drug agencies.
3. What other ingredients are there in pills and what damage they might do? (6.5%). The last decent-sized testing of Es in the UK was in January 1998. Then, 35 pills were tested: 26 contained amphetamine and/or caffeine, 6 contained 60-80 mg MDMA, one a low dose of MDEA and one nothing active at all. A Mitsubishi (a kind of ecstasy pill) tested in March 1999 was nothing but glucose, and in 1999, China Whites (aka White Russians or Technos, another kind of ecstasy pill), were found to contain DOB, a powerful hallucinogen whose effects can last for 24 hours. Sadly, ground breaking website www.ecstasy.org has had problems testing Es since its lab decided to stop carrying out the work. As E testing by the public is illegal, the short answer is, who knows? (Mixmag magazine)Ecstasy is the most popular drug in Britain as we saw. Most Es are pills and should contain MDMA. But MDMA can also be bought in capsules or as a powder, which is snorted or injected. The contents of a pill can vary, and a pill stamped with a well-known logo doesn?t guarantee its quality. For instance, there are 45 different types of Mitsubishis: some contain MDMA, others contain related drugs like MDEA or MDA, others contain nothing or K or caffeine.
The short-term effect of an E will last three to six hours, less for tolerant users. MDMA releases feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine from nerve cells, and the surge in these boosts your energy, causes euphoria, increases alertness and makes other clubbers seem really friendly. It will also make your pupils dilate, your jaw clench and your heart beat faster. This could cause anxiety, panic, confusion and paranoia. The drug will also impair your memory and affect your ability to make rational judgments. You may not be able to remember what you?ve just done, such as the how many pills you?ve taken or if you?ve had any water. The growing number of people taking more and more pills suggests that many users are developing tolerance to E and needing to take more to get the same effect.
Avoiding alcohol and drinking lots of juice or water will help with the come down. Taking pills that help to replace your serotonin (like 5-HTP) is probably no better than eating a decent meal the day after you?ve been out. It may even be dangerous if you do both at the same time. And drugs and anti-depressants don?t mix. Vitamin C helps rats on MDMA to reduce the damage from E (the serotonin), but we have no idea if it has the same effect on people.
It?s hard to single out the long-term effects of E as most users take other drugs as well. But tests show that E users are more likely to suffer subtle memory loss than drug takers who have never done E. Those who take the most Es have the most impaired memories. Studies also show that the brains of heavy users have fewer working serotonin neurones. This deficiency could lead to impulsive, hostile behavior, and MDMA users appear to have altered sleep patterns and bigger mood swings. However, the effects on you will ultimately depend on your lifestyle. Problems with memory loss or lack of attention may become apparent if you?re studying for finals, but not if you?re sitting in a hammock on the beach. Sudden mood swings may be a drawback if you have a young family, but not if you live on your own. Luckily your brain can compensate for a lot of damage before people really start to notice a big change in your behavior. Other organs make up for over-indulgence in the same way. For example, you need to destroy 90% of your liver before it fails. The older you get, the less able the ?reserve? part of your brain will be to compensate for drug use. From the age of 25, brain cells die and are not replaced. If you take E, this ageing process means your brain will detoriate faster than those of non drug users.(www.ecstasy.org)
Andrew, 20, is a student in London. His holiday to Jersey was ruined by bad pills.
?I went away for a weekend break to Jersey with my boyfriend Andrew when term ended at uni. Lisa Lashes was playing at a nearby club, so we went along with a couple of pills that Andrew had bought from a friend. We dropped at about 11:30 pm. I didn?t really come up on my pill but Andrew was quite high. We had a really good time, then at 2:00 am the club shut and we went home. Andrew started to feel a bit dodgy when we got home. By the time we went to bed he felt really bad; he was sitting bolt upright, clutching his head, and had pains in his stomach. This was three hours after taking the pills. I lay in bed with him for ages, watching him in agony, wondering what to do. We started to wonder if it was bad enough for us to take him to the hospital. In the end, he got so bad that we decided to go to the hospital. We were halfway there when we decided that it might do more harm than good and stopped the car. We thought about the consequences of going in. The hospital would ask a load of questions about the pills, and Andrew didn?t want to get his friends in trouble, so we went home again. Andrew was still in a pretty bad way and he didn?t want to go to sleep. We stayed up watching TV for ages. He finally fell asleep, but I stayed up, watching him, to make sure he was OK.
I stayed away from pills for a few months after that. It put me off. We?d bought them from a friend, and you don?t expect your friends to give you dodgy pills. It goes to show that there always be a few dodgy pills in a batch, and you can?t tell which they are until you?ve had them.? (Mixmag magazine).
In the survey, at the question:” What drugs have you tried?? and ?When and what was your first drug use?? the answer is the same. Cannabis comes in many different types – solid hash or strains of grass – and they all work differently on each person. A joint made with resin may contain between three or six per cent THC; skunk may have up to 20% THC. But no matter how you?re affected, you can put it down to the chemical THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), which is similar to a natural chill-out chemical we all have in our brains already.
Cannabis makes the brain slow down. You?re likely to feel relaxed, but could also suffer from short-term memory loss, poor co-ordination and laziness. You may also loose track of time, or become paranoid and self-obsessed, especially if you smoke and drink alcohol together. You may suffer subtle memory loss and have difficulty organizing yourself. About 10% of cannabis smokers become dependent, and often complain of depression, irritability, paranoia and relationship difficulties. One spliff is the equivalent to three cigarettes? worth of lung damage. Not only because people inhale more deeply and keep the smoke in their lungs for longer, but also because of the cancer-causing agents in cannabis. Cannabis smokers could also suffer from mouth and throat cancer. Smoking grass or hash through a bong doesn?t filter out dangerous cancer causing agents; some studies even suggest they concentrate the cancer causing substances in the smoke.
Ketamine hydrochloride, or K, was originally developed in the 1960?s as a medical anaesthetic and today is mainly used on farm animals by vets. Pharmaceutical-grade ketamine comes as a liquid which is injected into muscle tissue, but it?s normally snorted as a powder or swallowed in a pill form. Some people prefer to smoke it after sprinkling it with tobacco. (Drugs & Medical Encyclopedia 1990)
If ketamine was alcohol it would be an alcopop – it?s the thing everybody wants to try. Some people like the drug; some people are freaked out by the experience and never touch it again (most people who have tried K have done so only once). Last year, only one in every 25 clubbers have tried ketamine, and nearly one in five of those K users hadn?t taken it in the last 30 days. Just 12 months later, a magazine?s survey proves what everyone who goes clubbing knows: ketamine is everywhere. In most areas of the country, ketamine costs 40-50 pounds a gram, and a wrap lasts a lot longer than a wrap of cocaine. While many clubbers admit that ketamine is not as much fun as E, it?s more the novelty value of the drug that ?s making it sell. It?s new onto the market in mass quantities, it makes you feel really weird and it?s cheap when you split a wrap with a group of mates.
Ketamine isn?t a new drug – it?s been hanging around some clubs for about five years. But it wasn?t in widespread use until 2000. Often you?d have to buy it from your dealer in liquid form, bake it in the oven and scrape it into wraps before you snort it. It was something that experienced drug users took at home when they wanted to try something different.(www.ecstasy.org).
Steven, 20, from Brixton, fell into his first K-hole by accident. He?s going to stick to E?s in future.
?There was only half an hour left of the night and I was pretty down from my double drop earlier. A mate?s girlfriend offered me an E for nothing, claiming she felt weird. Free pills are like gifts from Gods so I boshed it without giving a second thought to its black crusty appearance. Sometimes just the thought that you?ve dropped picks up, your mood and so for the rest of the night I felt fine. It wasn?t until about an hour and a half later when we were back at my mate?s flat in Brighton having a smoke that everything started going a bit ?chicken oriental?. At first I thought it was the gear, but no solids I smoked were ever this messy. It was only about 20 minutes that I realized it was probably the effects of that weird black pill. At first I was a little worried that the strength of the buzz was going to grow even more intense but it settled into a nice weird buzz that was unique from anything I?ve felt before. I tried to send a text message to a mate of mine who had done a similar pill. But as I was trying to type it, it felt as though the phone screen was the size of a cinema screen and that I was physically jumping from button to button. Then we all went down to Brighton beach to watch the sunrise. I no longer had any perspective and it felt like I could pick up things that were miles away. I kept on thinking that everything that was happening around me was just a film I was watching. As funny and bizarre as the morning was, I?m reluctant to try K again. It was good because it was different, but I would be scared what would happen if I did too much by accident.?(*3)
The unpredictable effects of ketamine can last anything from one to six hours, and it can take up to two days before you feel yourself again. The drug works quite quickly and low doses give you psychedelic hallucinations. You often feel you?ve entered another reality and that you?re mind is separated from your body. Ketamine can make you feel invisible, which is bad news because it?s an anaesthetic and you might not be able to tell if you?ve hurt yourself. You can also feel paranoid and aggressive. Ketamine blocks the nerve pathways, meaning that you might turn into a spaced-out bore, or enter what?s called a k-hole, where you can?t move. Some people have even reported near-death experiences. (Mixmag magazine)
The South American Indians who chew coca leaves say cocaine is a gift from God. Over here you are more likely to snort a white powder which is only 50& pure cocaine. As for crack cocaine, it?s smoked or injected and has a more intense, short lived and dangerous effect.
Like ecstasy, cocaine raises your blood pressure and makes your heart beat faster. It makes people feel more confident and energetic, and is more frequently associated with sex and violence than other stimulants. The problem with coke is that it sends mixed signals to your body. On one hand, it fills you with energy and tells you to get up and dance. But when your heart beats faster and you start to sweat, cocaine tightens the blood vessels leading to your heart and brain, stopping the body getting the extra oxygen it needs. It?s a bit like putting your foot down on the accelerator while pinching the fuel line. This mismatch can lead to angina and even heart attacks and sudden death. The risk of sudden death is rare, but it?s 20 times more likely if you drink alcohol at the same time. Drinking and taking coke produces a chemical which is toxic to the brain and the heart. Other effects are not life-threatening but are painful and embarrassing. Users say cocaine helps them perform marathon sex sessions. But in rare cases you can get stuck with an erection for longer than you want, and you?ll need surgery to puncture the penis and let the blood out.(Drugs & Medical Encyclopedia 1990).
The survey provided some interesting results about cocaine users: One in five respondents first tried coke before they were 18. On average, respondents started taking coke at 20. Regular cocaine use has decreased by 6% since 1999. 39.6% of respondents have taken cocaine in the last month. On average, you won?t take cocaine more than 30 times in your life and you?re unlikely to ever inject it or smoke crack. 84.7% of those surveyed have tried coke.(Mixmag magazine).