Everyone knows about drugs, everyone knows how to take them and sometimes even where to get them. But are you keeping educated on what is normal to expect when someone is under the influence of drugs and what signs could mean they are in danger? Not staying safe on drugs is becoming a huge issue due to the silence on information, taking the time to be aware of signs of overdose or initial problems and discomfort can hugely help someone around you. Below are some of the most commonly mentioned effects of popular drugs, whilst personal experiences may differ, and some may never experience the symptoms listed, it doesn't hurt to be aware of the possibilities.
Ecstasy / Mdma
Found as tablets or as a liquid, ecstasy is usually taken orally but can also be injected. The effects of ecstasy are known to take anywhere between 30 minutes and just under an hour to kick in, and can then last for 3 to 6 hours afterwards, with some effects occasionally persisting longer than this. Known as one of the most popular party drugs it is used to induce feelings of
- Emotional peace and empathy
- Elevated alertness and energy levels
- Increased focus
- Higher amounts of pleasure from physical touch
- A euphoric state of being
Due to the feelings of increased energy and pleasure from physical touch this drug is commonly taken at music related events, as it allows the user to relax and thoroughly enjoy music and dancing. A downside of this kind of use however is that the drug can mask exhaustion.
As well as its positive effects for the user, and it's unfortunate ability to mask exhaustion, users may also and quite likely, experience negative side effects whilst under the influence of this drug such as
- Slight nausea and fever
- Hallucinations and blurred vision
- Tension in the face
- High heart rate
- Chest pains
Confusion is induced by the drug but also fuelled by the drugs other side effects such as hallucinations and facial tension as the user is likely to not understand the situation as it happens. Sweating should be taken care of by being sure to drink plenty of liquids, but not too much as this can cause problems of its own. Drinking can also help with nausea and fever.
So far no long term effects of ecstasy or MDMA have been verified, however there have been studies that have shown it is common to have eventual damage to serotonin neurotransmitters after extended periods of use. Which can have negative effects on the users ability to sleep and learn, it has also been known to interfere with a person's emotional processes.
Overdose on these substances can happen and frequently do. This is usually due to a user taking too much of the drug or even due to the user being unaware of the purity of their substance, meaning it could have a much higher content of ecstasy than initially thought, or none at all. Signs of overdose on ecstasy or MDMA and need for medical attention usually include
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Loss of consciousness
Extreme heightening in body temperature
Provided in powder form cocaine can be taken orally, intravenously or by inhalation. Depending on the method of use cocaine can take effect either instantly or within half an hour. High from cocaine does not usually last for long periods of time, usually ranging from 15 minutes to an hour, possibly longer for those new to the drug, depending on its potency. It is taken to induce effects such as
- Feeling of euphoria
- Increased energy
- Inflated self-esteem
- Elevated mood
- Temporarily decreases need for sleep
The effects of cocaine usually mean it is treated as quite a social drug, usually taken in high energy environments such as clubs, this is aided by its effects to increase energy and suppress appetite, meaning the user can spend more time in these places enjoying their experience of the drug without having to attend to their other needs as frequently.
Naturally for a drug that masks sleepiness and hunger it has negative side effects that run alongside its perceived positive ones. They are usually a direct result of the drugs other effects in combination with the way users act whilst under the influence of it, these effects include
- Muscle twitches
- Constricted blood vessels
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Increase body temperature
These side effects can quite commonly lead to exhaustion and injury. Both will most likely go on unnoticed whilst the user is still affected by the cocaine, this is in part what leads to the common ‘come down’ of the drug. Which usually induces lethargy and general negative feelings, sometimes including headaches and other pains.
As with many drugs, cocaine does have long term effects that can stay with a user long after they stop taking the drug, such as
- Extreme fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Heart arrhythmias
The more severe long term effects most commonly appear after extended cocaine use, but this does not always have to be the case, occasional use can also produce the same effects depending on the user, dosage and potency of the substance.
Overdoses on cocaine can happen and should be looked out for, medical attention should be seeked if these signs are noticed or are starting to develop
- Cardiac arrest
- Respiratory arrest
Opiates cover a huge range of drugs including both legal and illegal substances. Many opiate drugs are given on prescription and are used to regulate pain, use of these drugs usually spawn from the dependence of using them to medicate, they are not social drugs. Because the term covers such a huge array of drugs, the time opiates take to kick in can range anywhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours and their effects can last anywhere between 45 minutes and 5 hours, depending on the substance and the person's tolerance to it. Effects of opiates usually include
- Pain relief
The appeal of these drugs is usually to self medicate, due to their ability to relieve pain and boost mood, drowsiness is also an appreciated trait as it gives the user a deep release from whatever pain they were suffering with to begin the drug in the first place ( If used for this reason)
To some the ‘good’ effects of opiates such as drowsiness are unwanted and seen as negative. However this is not the only issue with use or even over use of this kind of drug, other issues also include
- Respiratory depression
These symptoms are issues in themselves and added onto any pain can lead to the user taking the drugs again, to rid of the pain so the side effects are once again all that remains which is usually the beginning of the common cycle of opiate dependence.
Dependence on the drug can do large amounts of damage to the body and commonly results in dangerous and life changing long term side effects such as
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal distention and bloating
- Liver damage
- Brain damage
- Drug tolerance
Some of these long term effects are life changing in the fact that they change the way a person functions, whether that may be the way their body acts and functions or the way their mental state changes. Leaving a person with lasting damage.
Overdosing on opiates is common and becoming a huge issue, this is largely due to the body and brain's ability to build up tolerances to drugs. This is especially common in opiates due to their dependence rate, meaning higher amounts of the drugs have to be taken to achieve the same effects as when the user first started taking the drug. Signs of overdose and a severe need for medical attention include
- Mood swings
- Small pupils
- Extreme sleepiness
- Breathing problems
- Stopped breathing
- Cold skin
- Skin discolouration
Usually used as a powerful anaesthetic for both humans and animals during operations, ketamine is commonly used as a drug, found in both powder and liquid form, it can be swallowed, snorted and injected. Effects of ketamine are usually felt within 2 to 10 minutes of consuming the drug, and it’s effects can last from 20 minutes - 1 hour afterwards. When not taken for the purpose of anaesthetic effects include
- An abrupt high
- Out of body experiences
- Reduces sensitivity to pain
The dangers of these effects are that although ketamine takes away pain and relaxes a user, its abrupt and intense high can sometimes lead to accidents and injury. However during injury the user is less likely to feel the pain they are in and not react, sometimes worsening their condition.
As well as the danger of being oblivious to injury, ketamine has more undesirable short term side effects which take place whilst the influence of the drug is still strong, these include
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Ketamine in unmanaged doses can put the body under large amounts of stress, disorientation is usually caused by the out of body feeling anaesthetic is known for. Many people use ketamine for these kinds of out of body experiences despite the large amount of risk it poses.
Ketamine even has some pretty serious long term effects that can lead to serious medical problems when used excessively, including
- Being severely hurt and not realising due to drugs anaesthetic effects
- Severe abdominal pain
- Thickening of bladder and urinary tract
- Kidney problems
These kinds of long term effects can have disastrous consequences for a users health and should be looked out for. Heavy long term use can even make the bladder unusable, resulting in needing surgery.
Overdoses on any drug are incredibly dangerous and the same goes for Ketamine even though it is used medically. Signs to look out for for Ketamine overdose and to seek medical attention include
- Brain-body disassociation
- Visual disturbance
- Agitation, confusion
- Showed breathing
Loss of consciousness
To knowledge the most commonly used drug, cannabis can be found everywhere. It is found as a dried plant that can be smoked and taken orally when used as an ingredient to make food. When smoked the effects of cannabis appear within minutes and wear off after around 2 hours. When ingested, the drug takes much longer to work as it can take from 30 minutes up to an hour to kick in, this method of use usually sees the substance take a couple more hours to wear off than smoking. Effects of cannabis include
- Feeling of well being
- Enhanced emotional experiences
- Vivid sensual experiences such as vision hearing and taste
- Sense of time being slow
- Increased sociability
- Reduction in fear
Many use cannabis simply to relax, it can be used as a social drug, but not usually in the same environments or for the same reasons as substances such as ecstasy or lsd would be. Many use it for self medication for treating stress and reducing pain when other methods fail.
Some people have reported negative effects from the use of cannabis, as the plant has many different forms it can be difficult to know which will give you what positive or negative effects unless it is heavily looked into. The short term effects of cannabis can include
- Sensory distortions
- Changes in respiration
- Increased heartbeat
- Weight gain due to increased appetite
- Sense of loss of control
- Inability to make decisions
- Feeling faint
All of these effects tend to wear off after use has ended, except for the weight gain from increased appetite which can become a long term issue for some users. Cannabis is usually taken in a relaxed environment due it its sleep inducing and relaxing effects.
Long term effects of cannabis can be difficult to track. There have been studies and research that cannabis use in teenagers can affect their brain development as they grow, however this does not yet have validated proof as results are inconsistent.
Although it is unknown to overdose on cannabis it can have negative effects when too much is taken, regulated use is still recommended as it's addictive and negative possibilities have not yet been fully explored.
Another of the most popular party drugs LSD can be found in many forms which can include LSD soaked paper tabs, liquid, microdots and geltabs. It is usually taken at high energy events such as clubs, concerts or festivals as it is known to enhance user's sensory experiences and their encounters with other people. LSD usually takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to start having effect but have a very slow wear off time, sometimes not completely starting to wear off until just under half a day or more later. LSD is popular for its effects including
- Mental and physical stimulation
- Increased in associative and creative thinking
- Mood lift
- Increased awareness and appreciation of music
- Sensory enhancement
- Closed and open eye visual
- Spiritual experiences
- Therapeutic psychological reflection
- Feeling of connectedness to the universe
LSD’s long wear off time can create problems when the user has responsibilities coming up such as work or childcare. It is usually used in social situations or in situations where the user wants to boost productivity as it allows the user to feel like they are accessing their mind and senses in new and different ways, promoting new ways of thinking and new responses from them.
Due to the high level of stimulation it gives off LSD has quite a few short terms side effects for the user whilst under the drug, and most are less than desirable, they include
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Raised body temperature
- Distorted sense of time
- Visual hallucinations
- Intensified smells and noises
- Paranoia, anxiety
- Jaw tension
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
While on LSD the brain becomes highly stimulated, shown by both the positive and negative side effects of the drug. The body can be pushed to its limits, normally this would result in exhaustion and a person sleeping for days, but commonly after taking LSD users find it incredibly difficult to sleep for long periods of time afterward.
With so many short term effects LSD was bound to have some long term ones that stay with users for a while or even longer after small amounts and heavy use. These long term effects include
- Hypothermia or overheating
- Cardiovascular collapse or sudden heart failure
- Persistent psychosis such as hallucinations or delusions
Long term hallucinations usually wear off after taking the drug but can last anywhere up to a year, if they persist that are likely to be an issue for a much longer period of time. Other side effects such as hyperthermia or cardiovascular problems can cause long term health problems for the user that more than likely will never completely go away.
Overdose on LSD is unfortunately very common, due to impurities in the drug, too high doses and even dehydration due to not drinking enough to stay hydrated whilst under the influence of the substance. Signs of LSD overdose that will require immediate medical attention can include
- Irregular heartbeat
- Stopping breathing
- Dangerously high body temperature
- Blood clotting
- Excessive sweating
- Shakes or tremors