The crippling damage drugs cause to the brain has remained unseen - until recently. For the first time scans have shown exactly how these substances mutilate our minds - while psychiatrists deal with the fall-out.
It doesn't matter which drug you try, even if it's only once - you have to know you're playing with fire. The stuff you're smoking, sniffing or shooting up is going to hit your brain with the force of a lightning bolt.
- Midwives are holding babies born with their intestines outside their bodies.
- Policemen are dealing with the victims of merciless crimes.
- Neurologists, with the help of the latest technology, are assessing the extent of the brain damage caused by these drugs.
Effects on the body:
Increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, numbness and weakness.
LSD affects a large number of chemicals in the brain, including the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The drug may also increase the levels of a substance called glutamate in very specific parts of the brain, over-stimulating the brain cells and causing an "electric storm''. Each electric storm causes hallucinations, and can lead to permanent changes.
With a brain Spect doctors can look at the damage done by impaired blood flow caused by various drugs, explains Dr Pieter Botha of the department of radiology at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. Drugs such as alcohol, cocaine or marijuana impair the effectiveness of blood vessels in the brain, constricting blood flow to certain areas. On scans these affected areas show up as "holes" in the brain.