The Consequences of Dissociative Drug Use

Dissociative drugs are a class of drugs that cause feelings of detachment from reality and distort a person’s perceptions of the world. Common dissociative drugs include PCP (phencyclidine), ketamine, and DXM (dextromethorphan).While many of these drugs cause different effects on users, the health consequences of each can vary from uncomfortable to severe, and in some cases, lethal.
Dissociative drugs work by disrupting the action of the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain, altering one’s perception of reality. One of the most commonly abused dissociative drugs is PCP, often referred to as “angel dust”. PCP was originally developed as an anaesthetic but was made illegal because it was found to cause major mental health problems such as hallucinations, mania, agitation, and distorted thinking. According to Medical News Today, “The psychiatric effects vary widely, but it is considered dangerous, and its use has been linked to violent and aggressive actions, psychosis, and a risk of accidental death. An overdose can be life-threatening.” There are countless horror stories of users acting aggressively and violently after taking PCP.
Another common dissociative drug is ketamine. Like PCP, ketamine was initially promoted as an anaesthetic, but still holds value for its medical uses. However, recreational use of ketamine began to increase in the late 1970’s, leading to many health problems and addiction amongst users. In high doses, ketamine can cause severe respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the most dangerous consequence of ketamine use “ is the helpless and/or confused state the user may be put into after use of the drug. This causes the user to have difficulty with balance, combined with numbness, muscle weakness, and impaired vision.” Other effects include amnesia, delirium, increased heart rate, aggressive and violent behavior, and death from overdose in some severe cases.
DXM, a common ingredient in cough medicines, is also abused for its dissociative effects. The ubiquity of DXM in over-the-counter medications has made it a popular recreational drug for teenagers. A 2008 study found that one in ten American teenagers have abused DXM-containing medications. Dextromethorphan abuse can cause respiratory depression, hallucinations, vomiting, hypo- and hypertension, blackouts, and skin rash, according to Everyday Health. However, DXM can be lethal when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

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