, 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).
GHB was first produced in the 1960?s as an anaesthetic and comes as a liquid, powder or crystals. GHB is found in tiny amounts in all of us and in some fruits. Its quality varies depending on where its bought from: a sex shop, a street dealer or over the Internet.(Drugs & Medical Encyclopedia 1990)
More clubbers are taking GHB than ever before. In 1999, only one in 30 clubbers had taken GHB in the last month. In 2000 the figure has multiplied to one in four. GHB was made illegal in the US by the Food and Drug Administration in1990 and major GHB production switched to South Africa, where the drug was commercially available and found its way into the black market in the UK. But in 2000, South Africa made commercial production of GHB illegal. Now there are fears among users that the club scene may be flooded with the low-grade home made products, with no regulation of content or concentration.
GHB was originally developed in the US as a premedication to promote sleep before surgery. Until now, pharmaceutical-grade GHB was relatively easy to obtain for recreational use. It is suspected of being involved in club deaths and illness, but since most clubbers take GHB alongside ecstasy or other drugs, there is yet to be a coroner?s verdict of ?death by GHB? in the UK. Like ketamine, GHB is covered by the Medicines Act in the UK, meaning that it is permissible to possess it for personal use but anyone manufacturing or dealing it, can be prosecuted. Traditionally, it has been available from sex shops, but a number of sex shop owners have been taken to court for supplying the drug, claiming in their defense that they didn?t know it was illegal. A quick search of the net turns up a plethora of companies offering anything from GHB-making kits to high-grade powder, complete with a measuring spoon. One site offers the discerning customer a choice between the ?cheeky taster? 10g powdered GHB sample pack, the ?get your mates round? 25g party pack, the ?have it large? 50g deluxe pack, and the ?greedy bastard? 300g value pack at 199.99 pounds. It will deliver anywhere except the US and accepts all major credit cards. The price of GHB varies massively from 1.50 pounds per capful in a club to 30-50 pounds for a large bottle. The survey showed that 71.5% of the clubbers swallow it as a liquid, 15.4% swallow it as a powder, 10.1% swallow and snort it, and 3% smoke or snort it.(www.ecstasy.org)
Papa Smurf is 24 and lives in South Africa. Until recently, he has legally produced pharmaceutical GHB for health market.
?The first time I took GHB wasn?t great. A friend had some stuff he called liquid E (for empathy, not ecstasy), but it was badly made and after a while I got sick. So I decided to research it further and found that with some basic chemistry knowledge you can make it yourself. I ordered the ingredients over the net. When I tested the first batch, I didn?t have any scales, so I did about eight grams (over double the standard dosage) and was happily bouncing around until I passed out and woke up four hours later puking. That taught me to regulate the concentration. I started selling it to health companies and users on the net. GHB is a clear liquid, but we dye it blue and call it Smurff Juice. The gay market was already using it as a sex aid rather than a clubbing drug. I?ll often take it with my girlfriend and after 20 minutes we?ll be in a state of arousal. My performance improves and my girlfriend orgasms quicker because she?s so relaxed. If I?m clubbing, GHB allows me to dance as if I was on E and I often take it to come down off my last pill. It means I can still be sexually functional after taking an E. If I?m wired it also helps me to sleep. The government here has decided to ban GH?, most likely under pressure from the US. The result has been really low quality stuff in the market. I?ve stopped making it and will probably stop taking it if it becomes too risky. The danger is that unregulated stuff is creeping on to the rave scene where young, uninformed people are taking it as an n E alternative.? (Mixmag magazine)
GHB works quickly, usually taking 15 minutes to kick in. People taking low doses say they feel hyped-up, euphoric and sexy. But some liquid forms can irritate the stomach, causing nausea and vomiting. You may also feel disoriented and a bit pissed. Higher doses can lead to seizures, unconsciousness, coma or death. And there?s a very thin line between a low and a potentially dangerous dose.(Drugs & Medical Encyclopedia 1990).
A very common drug in the club scene, though lately its consumption decreased over 2000 is speed. Amphetamine is a blanket term for many different kinds of drugs including sped and crystal meth. Speed makes your brain cells release dopamine, so you feel happy. Most speed is of very low purity (about 5%) but ?base? or ?paste? is much stronger. Speed is usually swallowed or snorted (and it can also be injected). You?ll feel alert, full of energy, and happy. You won?t want to eat or sleep. Be prepared for endless random conversations. You?ll want to dance a lot; this repetitive movement is also a way of calming some of the agitation speed causes. On the minus side, some people hallucinate and feel anxious, irritable, panicky, paranoid or keep repeating certain movements, behaving like paranoid schizophrenics. There is risk to the heart (high blood pressure and upnormal heart beats), the brain (dopamine levels are reduced, making you miserable) and nervous systems (you may develop twitches). If you use speed often you may suffer from disturbed sleep, weight loss and mood swings.(www.ecstacy.org).
You can never be sure what substances are in the drugs you take. The contents of E?s (by far the most popular drug in Britain) vary widely, and it?s hard to assess the purity or powdered drugs in general. This makes it difficult to know just how much you?re taking. Everybody is affected in a different way by drugs, and your experience will not be the same every time you drop (take E). The amount you take the purity of the drug, how you take it, your mood, the state of your health, where you are and who you are with all play a part at the experience. Your expectations and past experiences also make a difference. Most people remember their first E, but later E experiences can blur into one. Unlike alcohol, there are no safe or recommended limits for drug use. How you take a drug is as important as the amount. Where you choose to take drugs and the people too are with can make a massive difference. When on E, the temperature, access to the toilets and plenty of chill-out space can help you get a grip of things. Friends who will tell you when to take a break and cool off, is also a bonus. The toxic effects of drugs on your body are only half the story. Quite often people are more at risk by what they do when they are on drugs. Driving on drugs is an obvious example. But getting into fights and having unsafe sex when you?re on drugs can also be more risky than the actual drugs themselves.