The World Drug Report 2016 estimated that a total of 25 crore people between the ages of 15 and 64 years used at least one drug in the course of 2014, roughly a one-in-every-20 scenario. So since you folks dig into these substances so much, we thought we’d delve deeper into what exactly happens when they enter your body. Read on to find out… 

Marijuana (Cannabis)

Used in the form of weed, hash or opium, this is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. The feeling after consuming it is described as a high, often referred to as being stoned by the user.

Chemical effect: 

The main psychoactive part of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) enters the blood stream, reaches the brain and binds to cannabinoid receptors. This results in the fluctuation of the levels of various neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and norepinephrine, which are closely associated with the acute effects of cannabis ingestion, such as euphoria and anxiety.

What does it feel like: The immediate effects include drying of the mouth and reddening of the eyes. The heart beat also goes up considerably during the high, which lasts for about an hour or two, and there’s an increased awareness of every sensation – from taste to sound. 

Cocaine

Narcos fans need no introduction to this pearly white crystalline tropan alkaloid powder that is derived form coca plants. Cocaine (or crack) can be consumed by dissolving in water or injection/snorting in the hydrochloride salt form.

Chemical effect: Cocaine increases the levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and movement. Cocaine prevents dopamine from being recycled, causing the neurotransmitter to build up and continually amplify the message. The euphoric feelings are attributed to the continual build up of dopamine.

What does it feel like: The highs generally last 10-30 minutes. Cocaine users experience euphoria and energy, including increased heart rate and blood pressure. Side effects might include seizures, abdominal pain, nausea and even death in extreme cases.

Heroin

This recreational drug, called diamorphine among other names, is also available in a white powdered form. It is typically injected into a vein and can also be smoked, snorted or inhaled. 

Chemical effect: Heroin binds to and activates specific receptors in the brain called mu-opioid receptors (MORs). When activated in the reward centre of the brain, these MORs stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine (again!), causing a sensation of pleasure.

What does it feel like: After the initial rush, users will experience a period of drowsiness, alternating between being awake and dozing off. As the brain gets used to the presence of heroin, more ingestion is then needed to obtain the same level of euphoria.

LSD

Popularly called acid, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a psychedelic drug known for its psychological effects. It is derived synthetically from ergot fungus and is an immensely powerful conscious-altering substance.

Chemical effect: LSD mimics the effect of serotonin and produces its effects with a hallucinogenic action caused by a serotonin agonist. Due to an interference on the receptors that control the ion permeability, serotonin LSD suppresses almost entirely the flow of Calcium ions and interferes with the conductance of Potassium ions, according to studies.

What does it feel like: The ‘trip’ lasts for around 8-12 hours and takes you beyond normal perception and then back again. It alters consciousness and screens between the mind and the outside world.

MDMA

Ecstasy or MDMA is a ‘psychedelic amphetamine’, which implies it has properties of both hallucinogen and amphetamine drugs.  When taken by mouth, effects begin after 30-45 minutes and last 3-6 hours.

Chemical effect: MDMA’s effects on the brain are influenced by enhanced activity of at least three neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Like other amphetamines, MDMA causes these neurotransmitters to be released from their storage sites in neurons, resulting in increased neurotransmitter activity.

What does it feel like: Post ecstasy effects include increased feelings of confidence, wellbeing and closeness to others apart from faster heart rate and sweating. Other side effects like anxiety, dehydration, hallucination and insomnia can also be experienced.