How everything looks on drugs

Drugs alter the way we perceive things. Some heighten senses, others dull them.How does the world look if you're on drugs?

Reality Check :Over 18 and drinking orange juice?
Relative normality This is the world as most of us see it,most of the time.But things can soon change if drugs enter the equation...

Clearly, drugs can alter your perceptions - people probably wouldn't take them if they didn't, There are hundreds of stories (many of them apocryphal) of junkies seeing ghastly, overgrown spiders climbing the walls, or "acid heads" leaping out of 10th-storey windows, convinced they can fly.
But what exactly do you see when you've smoked cannabis, say, or snorted cocaine? Is the effect of the drug limited to a wishy-washy sort of euphoria, or does the world actually look different to a drug taker?

How drugs work
Psychoactive drugs work at the junctions between neurons in the brain - synapses - where chemical messages pass over from one neuron to the next. Drugs affect our senses by interfering with this transmission.
Brain activity is a mixture of electrical impulses travelling along nerve cells, and chemical messages jumping between them. An impulse triggers a neuron to release a chemical - a neurotransmitter - which passes through the synapse to lock on to a second neuron, triggering it to fire. The first neuron then reabsorbs the chemical and the firing stops.
Drugs like ecstasy (and Prozac) stop the reabsorption of the neurotransmitter serotonin, causing it to concentrate in the synapse and so aid the firing process. As serotonin levels are strongly linked with mood and emotion, it's easy to see where the euphoria comes from.

How our minds react
Specifically visual distortions - from blurred sight to full-blown hallucinations - are a common side-effect of drugs that act on those pans of the brain concerned with perception.
Light reflected by an object is turned into electrical impulses by light-sensitive cells in the retina. These impulses pass down the optic nerves to the brain. The first stopping place in the brain is the thalamus, which acts as a relay station for all sensory information. From here, the message goes to the visual area of the cortex, near the base of the brain.This is where the brain "sees".
So there are at least five major stages on the journey from retina to visual cortex, and the message could be distorted at any one. But, as far as medical science is aware, most distortion takes place at the beginning or end of the journey. A rose might be the most intense pink on ecstasy - because your visual cortex is over- stimulated. Or pale and insipid on heroin - a result of decreased sensitivity to light. With mushrooms it might turn into a giant prawn - as your synapses fire randomly So drugs affect the perception of the same thing in a range of different ways - as you can see...

I get no kicks from....

Bill and Ben do "Little weed"

Price: £60 a gram
Cocaine causes "whiteout", in which bright colours and objects with sharp contrast cannot be seen - the result of cocaine flooding synapses in the visual system with the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Cocaine is an extract from the leaves of the coca bush, native to Colombia, which have been chewed for at least 2000 years as a stimulant that decreases the desire for sleep and food.
"Crack" is cocaine that has been treated to produce a smokable form of the drug, which is reputed to be very quick-acting. Both cocaine and crack are highly addictive.
Price: £30 a quarter ounce
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of this non-addictive drug, acts on three distinct parts of the brain: the cortex, controlling thought and perception, and the basal ganglia and hippocampus, controlling muscle movement. Cannabis stimulates appetite, sensory perception (especially sound, taste and smell) and imagination, but diminishes self-confidence and drive.
Vision may blur, hindering distance-judgment, but the differentiation of colours heightens. Eyelids tend to droop.

No sleep till Brooklyn

It's E-sy :Ebeneezer Goode

Price: Free
Sleep deprivation can lead to significant visual distortions, such as swirling patterns. These are illusions, not hallucinations. True hallucinations - visual perceptions in the absence of any outside stimulus - usually occur in conditions of sensory deprivation. These experiences are usually accompanied by irritability, disorientation, paranoia and lack of ability to concentrate. However; recovery from sleep deprivation is rapid - at least in a healthy subject. Distress caused by sensory deprivation, such as the Beruit hostages suffered, may linger for a long time, however.
Price: £15 a tablet
A newcomer to the scene, ecstasy, or "E" is a potent drug that is related to both amphetamine, a stimulant, and to the hallucinogen mescaline. It raises levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which makes objects appear to pulsate, and makes colours look more intense. Emotional arousal in other brain areas makes things all the more beautiful.

All mixed up : Ketamine

Bright light,bright light" : A gremlin in your brain

Price: £10-20 a tablet
Used in medicine and on the battlefield as an anaesthetic, ketamine tablets are considered a nasty drug on the streets. It is the only drug known to produce synaesthesia - a confusion of sensory perception.
Seeing sounds, or tasting and feeling musical notes are typical experiences in synaesthesia, which is common in children but rare in adults. So, visually speaking, the world becomes very strange. People on ketamine also report out-of-body experiences. Ketamine is only rated by hard-core takers of other drugs, as a means to "come down".
Price: £100 a gram
Opiates reduce physical sensation and slow down the brain's response to stimuli. So sensitivity to light is reduced and "junkies" tend to have small pupils. People wearing dark clothing become hard to see.
Popular until this century, few people take opium these days; heroin is stronger and more readily available; codeine and morphine are also closely related. Some over the-counter remedies, such as kaolin and morphine, contain opiates. Strong opiates and synthetic copies are widely prescribed as painkillers in terminal cancer, childbirth and rheumatism.

Double vision: Two A's instead of one

Not mushroom for improvement:Liberty and justice for all

Price: From £0.70
The six muscles that hold each eye in its socket are among the most finely controlled in the human body. The contractions of each set are co-ordinated by the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, to ensure that each eye focuses on the same point. Alcohol interferes with the functioning of the cerebellum; after only a couple of glasses of wine you may start to see two images instead of one. A couple more, and muscle co-ordination in other parts of the body becomes faulty and you stagger. Your good health, as they say.
Price: Free
A-ha . . the scene seems to have changed somewhat. Like all plants, magic mushrooms contain a large number of biologically active compounds. Some of these stimulate the visual cortex, making it acutely sensitive to information. Visual distortions, or hallucinations, are the result. These hallucinations may distort what we see, or alter it to something completely bizarre, when imagination and perception blur into one.
Liberty caps, the magic mushrooms that grow in the UK, appear between September and November. They are normally taken in omelettes or as a tea.

Ecstasy is a popular club drug [Metro Feb16,2006] Music 'enhances ecstasy effects'
SCIENTISTS have confirmed what clubbers have known for 20 years - loud music enhances the effects of taking ecstasy.
They gave the Class-A drug to laboratory rats and exposed the animals to rave music at the decibel level commonly found in clubs. By measuring electrical activity in the rodents' brains, researchers found loud noise prolonged the effects of ecstasy by up to five days. Without the music, brain activity returned to normal in just one day. The findings add to mounting evidence from animal and human studies that ecstasy may damage nerve pathways in the brain.
Experts have suggested loud music may also affect higher neural functions. Dr Michelangelo Iannone, from the Institute of Neurological Science in Catanzaro, Italy, said: 'We stress the potential danger of substances popularly accepted as relatively safe owing to their short-term effects.' Ecstasy was first synthesised in 1910 and patented as an appetite suppressant. It came to Britain as a recreational drug  in the 1980s, but has been illegal  since 1977. In the early l990s,ecstasy tablets cost as much as £20. Last year the price had dropped to as little as 50p.
Home Office figures last October showed about 2 million people aged 16 to 59 have used the drug. Ecstasy is blamed for about ten deaths a year in Britain and long- term use has been associated with memory loss and depression. The Italian research appeared in the journal BMC Neuroscience.