Remember when you were a pre-pubescent little shit attending health class and teachers would say that if you take drugs, “Your brain cells will die!” Meanwhile they’re probably passing a bong around the table after hours?
But minus the deceptive scare tactics, what do drugs actually do to your brain? I’m no professional, but let me break down the main drugs and what effect they have on that cranium of yours.
Marijuana aka Mary Jane
Weed – the most controversial drug in politics. Whether inhaled or eaten, marijuana has an effect on our receptors in our brain. These are called our cannabinoid receptors, interesting huh? The main ingredient in cannabis is THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for most effects which you feel from the ‘good kush’, because it engages with the cannabinoid receptors.
The effect these receptors have on our brain is to keep our neurons fizzing, amplifying our thoughts and our perceptions. That’s why when you are high, it’s not the best idea to try to get that essay done, or go to the gym (good luck), or do anything that requires a lot of coordination. This is because the cannabinoids are located in the part of our central nervous system which controls memory, motor function, mood, fear, pleasure and pain. The cannabinoids also take effect on the dopamine in our brains, and that is where the high feeling comes from. Dopamine rewards us and makes us feel good and wanting more, so therefore despite contradiction, you can get addicted to smoking weed if you start to rely on it, as dopamine is the addiction chemical in our brains.
MDMA aka Pingers
The life of the party, otherwise known as pingaz, dingaz, stingaz, ecstasy or just plain old MDMA. It increases the levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain – say what? Basically these chemicals enhance just about everything, from your mood, sleep, pain, appetite and chewing your gums off. Due to MDMA causing a huge release of these chemicals, it causes depressing after effects, otherwise known as comedowns. The ongoing abuse of this drug can have serious damage on your brain cells and happiness upcycle. In other words, it decreases your natural ‘hype’ levels, which may cause memory loss, depression, anxiety and paranoia. Don’t be fooled by those people who say MDMA has “no side effects”.
Cocaine aka Angel Dust
The big baller’s drug is funnily enough produced from the leaves of a coca plant (now I have a weird craving for chocolate). When consumed, it plays with the area of the brain which makes you function, interfering with the ‘happiness’ chemical. Coke increases the speed of these ‘happiness’ chemical messengers, and will have you running your mouth and realising you can’t shut the fuck up. This is due to dopamine either making you feel good and wanting more, or triggering the feeling of panic because you cannot control your impulsive behaviour. Normally this chemical in your brain is reabsorbed through its dopamine transporter, but cocaine blocks this. Therefore when the high disappears, you may feel an extreme low. Like MDMA, coke also alters the levels of chemicals in your brain, hence the effects of increased blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate and respiration.
Crystal Methamphetamine aka Meth
Crystal meth is a highly addictive drug: let me get that crystal clear. It results in a massive release of ‘feel good’ chemicals through the neurotransmitters (these transmit information between the nerve cells in your brain) and that leads to powerful euphoric effects that increase your energy, mood, vulnerability and other psychoactive effects. It takes effect on all areas of the mind. Apparently, meth kills your brain; maybe our health teachers were actually onto something here. Over time the amount of negative cognitive and emotional effects meth has will land you in a mental illness downward spiral. This is due to meth quickly decreasing the functions in your brain which connect to memory, movement, visualisation, attention and problem-solving.Crack Cocaine aka RocksRocks on rocks on rocks (as the rappers say), will fuck you up, and not in the cutesy “I drank five Smirnoffs” way. Rocks has an effect on the brain immediately through stimulating the release of dopamine. This creates an extreme rush which is followed by a huge crash that drives crack addiction and the compulsion to keep abusing the drug. Crack cocaine creates a sense of euphoria in the mind, supreme confidence, as well as paranoia, anxiety and depression from the low it curates. No thank you.
Heroin aka Smack
Your smart ass brain creates opioid chemicals and contains opioid receptors to naturally respond to pain. You stub your toe, BAM, opioid receptors are losing their shit and so are you. Heroin binds those receptors, leading to a release of those ‘happy go lucky’ chemicals and other neurotransmitters to cut out the pain. Once the brain encounters these fake opioids, it will start to stop naturally producing its own, and due to heroin being highly addictive because of its euphoric feeling, this leads users down a rabbit hole of addiction to feel pain-free. The brain builds up an increased tolerance, therefore it is easy to overdose on smack, which then leads the nervous system into delirium, comatose or death.
ACID/LSD aka Tripping Balls
Alright, buckle up for the trip of your life. Acid or LSD acts on a number of receptors in your brain, releasing all the good feeling chemicals. But the actual structure of LSD attaches itself to the receptor in your brain which produces serotonin, and this acts like a mousetrap and holds onto the LSD for as long as it can (clingy boyfriend kinda shit, no thanks). This explains why you could be tripping balls for up to 12 hours after taking the drug. It is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic drug which restrains your conscious decision making, therefore increasing your imagination and creative thoughts. Permanent hallucinations are possible, creating induced psychosis and mental health issues, which there could be no cure to, as of yet.
Synthetic drugs aka K2 The Killer
Just because it is legal, DOES NOT MEAN IT IS SAFE. I am screaming this as I type. Synthetic marijuana acts on the brain like marijuana, but to a stronger and more dangerous extent. The THC found in natural marijuana has been manufactured to be 100 times more potent within this synthetic marijuana. As there are over 200 forms of synthetic marijuana in the world today, they may each have a different chemical or molecular sequence which can have unpredictable effects on the brain, in other words, professionals don’t have a clue what it could do to you. Other synthetic drugs include Synthetic Cathinones, otherwise known as bath salts, which has psychoactive tendencies and are marketed as ‘legal substitutes to meth or cocaine’. A big no-no. It is still unknown how Synthetic Cathinones affect the brain, although they are known to produce effects of paranoia, hallucinations, violence, significant sex drive and increased chat. Apparently some people even start eating other people’s faces while taking bath salts, giving the drug the horrifying nickname, the ‘zombie drug’.
Overall drugs can make you feel fucking amazing, increasing your levels of serotonin and dopamine to give you the high of your life. But they also have insanely negative effects on your brain, mental health and life in general. And they could make you turn into a zombie, so use with extreme caution.
Debate does not wish to encourage nor promote using drugs. We merely wish to explore the science behind them and how they affect the brain.