Just like getting a hangover from drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs can lead to experiencing negative after-effects sometimes known as a ‘comedown’ or ‘crash’, which are the feelings experienced as the drug wears off. The type of effects experienced during this period depend on the type of drug(s) used. They might include feelings of depression, insomnia (inability to sleep), extreme tiredness, irritability, and anxiety just to name a few and this can last anywhere from a few hours to a day or so after initially taking the drug. It is different to withdrawal effects (a sign that a person is dependent).
People can also become physically and/or psychologically dependent on (addicted to) drugs, especially if they use regularly. They can develop tolerance, meaning that they need to take more of the drug to get the same effect.
The lifestyle of many people who are drug dependent (addicted to a drug) is difficult and often stressful and can lead to:
- Problems with school or work
- Losing touch with friends, family, and loved ones
- An inability to pay rent and bills, which can result in homelessness
- Impaired physical health
- Increased mental health problems
- Involvement in crime.
Depressant drugs reduce activity in the central nervous system. Examples include: Alcohol, GHB, Ketamine, Benzodiazepines, Opioids (e.g. Heroin).
See also What are illegal drugs?
Mixing drugs or taking one drug when under the influence of another drug is known as polydrug use.
To find out more, see Polydrug Use: Factsheet
People affected by psychosis may experience hallucinations (e.g. seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there), delusions (strong beliefs that do not reflect reality), and paranoia (feeling extremely suspicious and frightened). If symptoms last for more than a few days, this could indicate that the person may have a more serious mental illness such as schizophrenia.
A life-threatening condition that usually starts within 24 hours of taking the drug. It occurs when the brain is overloaded with a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called serotonin. Symptoms include coma, seizures, shaking, confusion, rigid muscles, rapid heartbeat, and overheating.
These increase the activity in the central nervous system. Examples include: Cocaine, Caffeine, MDMA (ecstasy), Methamphetamine (speed, ice, crystal, crystal meth, base), Ritalin, some new psychoactive drugs such as mephedrone and BZP.
See also What are illegal drugs and Emerging Drugs: Factsheet.
People who are dependent on drugs or alcohol may also experience withdrawal effects when they stop using. Withdrawal effects can last for several days to many weeks, depending on the type of drug and severity of their dependence. Withdrawal symptoms may include feelings of anxiety, depression, restlessness, irritability, and aggression. Withdrawal can also cause muscle spasms, headaches, muscle cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, and cravings for the drug.