How do drugs affect your mind and body?
How a drug affects someone depends on many things, such as what type of drug it is and how much is taken. The same drug can affect you differently depending on how you feel when you take it and who you’re with.
Some drugs are stimulants – they make you feel more alert and energetic. Examples are cocaine, crack, ecstasy, poppers, speed, and tobacco. People taking cocaine usually feel wide-awake and confident, but the effects don’t last that long (around 20-30 minutes for snorted cocaine). This means people are often tempted to take more and their use of cocaine can increase rapidly. High doses can cause convulsions, breathing difficulties, or heart failure. The risk of overdosing increases if you mix drugs. Drinking alcohol and taking cocaine together can be particularly dangerous because the substances interact in the body to produce a toxic chemical that can damage the liver and heart.
Some drugs slow you down and can make you feel calm and sleepy, such as alcohol; cannabis; gases; glues and aerosols; GHB; and tranquillisers. Drinking alcohol in small amounts can make people feel more relaxed and sociable. Too much alcohol can lead to slurred speech and blurred vision, clumsiness, headaches and dehydration. Binge drinking can make you more vulnerable to risky situations, like having unprotected sex, being the victim of assault, or getting into trouble with the police. Long-term excessive use of alcohol is linked to a range of cancers.
Some drugs affect your mind and distort the way you see, hear, feel, and smell things. Drugs that have these effects are cannabis, ecstasy, ketamine, LSD, and magic mushrooms. Ketamine usually comes as a grainy white powder which is snorted or bought as a tablet. It can make you hallucinate for up to three hours (depending on how much is taken). It stops you feeling pain, so you are in danger of injuring yourself without realising you’ve done it.