From Cannabis to Crystal Meth and their Effects on the Mind

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5-most-common-illegal-drugsAn article published on the NHS website explains the effects of popular drugs on the brain both in the short term and long term. It makes for some interesting reading so we thought we'd break it down and post it here.

(Original research carried out by noted neuroscientist, professor David Nutt and Martin Barnes of the charity Drugscope. Quotes present are from their original transcript).

Cannabis (Marijuana, weed, dope, skunk)

Short Term: Although widely regarded as a soft recreational drug, cannabis is a very addictive substance and a real threat to people's mental capabilities. Users often use cannabis for relaxation purposes, however it can cause forgetfulness and anxiety in the short term.

"If you use a lot of cannabis regularly, you’re putting yourself at risk of some temporary problems, such as confusion or delusions," says Barnes.

Long Term: "It’s possible that cannabis might trigger long-term mental health problems, including psychosis, schizophrenia and depression," says Barnes. "Evidence suggests that cannabis users who come from a family with a history of mental health problems may be particularly susceptible to these symptoms.”

Acid (LSD) & Magic Mushrooms

Short Term: As hallucinogenics mushrooms and LSDs effect the user's senses making them experience their surroundings differently. As their surroundings are intensified or distorted users can become panicked and have bouts of paranoia. Acid can produce effects for up to 12 hours and there is no knowing whether the 'trip' will be usual or extremely frightening.

Long Term: Long term and heavy LSD users can experience unprompted flashbacks. "Sometimes people may experience psychosis or paranoia, believing or seeing things that aren't really there," says Barnes.

day-against-drugHeroin (smack)

Short Term: Designed to slow down the bodies functions and stop or dull pain and emotions, heroin is a highly addictive substance; users are continually searching for as good a high as the one before but never achieving it. Professor Nutt commented, "users find they need to take more and more heroin to get the same effect, or even feel ‘normal’. Taking a lot can lead to coma or even death."

Long Term: Heroin is notoriously difficult to quit both physically and mentally. "The withdrawal from heroin is really unpleasant," says Professor Nutt. "Long-term heroin users are often depressed because of their overall lifestyle."

Those who wish to quit usually need the support of professionals in residential drug treatment centre in order to avoid relapse. If you know someone or are trying to quit yourself there is plenty of help available, they/you needn't struggle alone.

Ectasy (E)

Short Term: Ecstasy is the substance of choice for many party lovers. It leaves the user feeling relaxed, 'loved up' and with plenty of energy. However for people who are overly anxious and take high doses in order to relax effects can be acute paranoia and hallucinations. Those with partners may also find it hard to perform under the influence.

Long Term: Sleep loss, tough 'come-downs' resulting in extremely low energy levels, depression and anxiety are all side effects to long term use. Research shows that taking ecstasy can reduce a users serotonin levels with lasting effects on certain areas in the brain.

(crack) Cocaine

Short Term: Similar to ecstasy, cocaine is a stimulant and will give the user confidence, energy and a long lasting high. These feelings can quickly alter however to anxiety, panic and paranoia. The come-down will often leave users feeling tired and depressed.

Long Term: Like heroin, cocaine can be a difficult habit to kick, residential drug treatment centres are often the only effective remedy to long term addicts.

Ketamine (K)

Short Term: As an anesthetic ketamine makes the user feel relaxed and high, however it can be unpredictable - "It’s like drinking a whole bottle of vodka: you don’t have any control over what you’re doing," says Professor Nutt. "The biggest danger is wandering off in a daze and having an accident or getting lost and staying out all night, resulting in hypothermia." Ketamine can leave the user feeling detached from his environment and extenuate existing mental health problems.

Long Term: Again, similar to heroin, ketamine users develop a tolerance to the drug leading them to take more and more of it to achieve the desired effect.

"The longer term effects are more difficult to pinpoint, but may include flashbacks and losing your memory and ability to concentrate," says Barnes. "Occasionally, people get psychotic symptoms, while evidence is growing that long-term use of ketamine can severely damage the bladder. Some people find it hard to stop taking Ketamine."

Speed & Crystal Meth (amphetamine and methamphetamine)

Short Term: Speed can quickly make you feel energetic and confident but, with the high, can come panic, irritability and a paranoid sense that everyone is looking at you. Smoking a version of speed called methamphetamine (crystal meth) can give an intense and prolonged high but a severe comedown, when feelings of hopelessness and sadness are common.

Long Term: There’s no research on the long-term heavy use of speed. Professor David Nutt of the psychopharmacology department of Bristol University has seen users, especially those who have injected speed regularly, who appear to be permanently depressed. They have difficulty thinking straight, remembering things, problem solving and coping with their emotions.

Los Olivos is a private rehab clinic situated in the Spanish countryside. Secluded yet with in-house professionals to support those in recovery, Los Olivos is a residential drug treatment centre dedicated to helping those looking to quit come off and stay off drugs.