According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2016 more than 3 million Australian’s used illicit drugs and the statistics are continuing to increase (“Illicit use of drugs Overview – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare”, 2019). The serious consequences of using drugs continues to rise as 1 in 10 people had been victimized due to drug related incidents. It further explained that this continued abuse of drugs was causing disabilities, disorders and in the worst cases, death.
Considering both the initial claim ‘consumed substances greatly impact the internal environment’ and gathered information, a broad research question was developed, ‘how does the consumption of drugs permanently effect the central nervous system?’. The way drugs affect the brain is through disrupting the natural system of neurotransmitters, some drugs even mimic the natural neurons, and this causes abnormal messages to be sent through the network. Additional research explained that there are three main type of drugs, depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Depressants cause a relaxing feeling by slowing down the messages sent to the brain, this also reduces your reaction response to situations. In contrast, stimulants speed up the connection between the brain and neurotransmitters, this can increase the heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, agitation and cause sleep deprivation. Finally, hallucinogens affect emotional and physiological reactions, usually implementing feelings that vary between euphoria, panic and paranoia. With further research on neurological disorders related to drug use and specifically hallucinogens, a refined research question was achieved.
Moreover, one of the most common class of drugs associated with neural functional disorders is psychedelic drugs, specifically Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) (“How Drugs Affect the Brain and Central Nervous System”, 2019). In some cases, after consuming this drug symptoms of Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) appeared, proving itself a sudden and long-term risk of using LSD.
From this detailed information, the following research question was developed: ‘Does the consumption of the psychedelic drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) have a connection to an increased probability of developing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)?’.
LSD is a psychedelic drug that is categorized as a hallucinogen, this drug has a profound effect on the central nervous system, in particular, the brain. Due to similarities between LSD and natural neurotransmitters, this drug specifically affects the serotonergic system (Goodman, 2002). Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating moods, emotions, sleep patterns, memory and digestion (“How Drugs Affect the Brain and Central Nervous System”, 2019). As a result of the similarity shown above, this affects the brain by distorting the senses, irrationalizing emotions and corrupting one’s mentation. LSD was first established in 1938 by a man named Albert Hofmann, at first, he experimented on the drug with a thought that it could potentially provide therapeutic benefits due to its hallucinogenic qualities. However, Albert later discovered the harmful effects when he accidentally ingested the chemical himself (Martinotti et al., 2018). Developing symptoms such as hallucinations and drossiness. At that time HPPD wasn’t considered a disorder and therefore, couldn’t be diagnosed. This continued, and even now, is still easily misunderstood as HPPD can manifest in various ways and cause multiple conditions.
In the following years, this disorienting drug is still in affect. During a 2016 survey conducted by the National Drug Strategy Household, it was discovered that 9.4% of Australians from the age of 14 had experimented with hallucinogens (NSW, 2017). One of the continuing effects discussed about digesting hallucinogens was a potential disorder development, HPPD. This disorder is the recurrence of visual disturbances for inconsistence amounts of time (Halpern, Lerner, & Passie, 2016). It is categorized in two groups, HPPD Type 1 and Type 2. Both varieties cause similar symptoms, however, the difference between each is the amount of time the symptoms last. HPPD Type 1 is a short-term side effect, whereas HPPD Type 2 is long-lasting. Specifically, this disorder induces halos around objects, seeing geometric patterns, size confusion, flashes of color and feelings of uneasiness. These symptoms cause and intensify hallucinations, paranoia and insomnia (Halpern, Lerner, & Passie, 2016). This information suggested that LSD can also cause the increased development of disorders such as HPPD. This disorder can also remain dormant until it is triggered by substances such as alcohol (Halpern, Lerner, & Passie, 2016).
The British Association for Psychopharmacology reported a 33-year-old woman who had developed symptoms of HPPD after using LSD at the age of 18. With a thorough investigation, it was confirmed that LSD is the main causative agent relating to HPPD symptoms. Also verifying LSD’s contribution to the symptom’s further development (Hermle, Simon, Ruchsow & Geppert, 2012).
Cases reporting HPPD symptom’s lasting for a large period of time are becoming more frequent. A study published by the British Journal of Medical Practitioners explain about a man who experienced varying symptoms of HPPD for more than 20 years, as a result of consuming LSD in much earlier years. He reported that these symptoms were affecting his daily life dramatically, such as having an inability to cross the road, reading difficulties, and struggling to determine what was the difference between reality and fantasy. These long-lasting symptoms were described as “it was like drinking alcohol, waking up drunk and being drunk from that point on”. Amongst the symptoms, he also experienced anxiety, depression and lack of coping skills. This report concluded that HPPD is certainly associated with LSD consumption and symptoms of this disorder can have a long-lasting effect on the user (“No | British Journal of Medical Practitioners’, 2015).
There are issues associated with the evidence presented as there are limited sources that have reported on LSD induced HPPD. This is because previously, HPPD disorder has been misunderstood as it comes in many forms, anxiety, depression and therefore, is identified as a rare disorder. Consequently, this provides a limited range of sources and data to potentially study. Therefore, limiting the reliability of this investigation.
The National Survey reporting on the consumption of LSD are not conducted every year because of financial issues and the need for attention elsewhere. This means the survey conducted in 2016 isn’t as current as needed to collect sufficient and reliable data.
The data that’s refers to HPPD Type 2 only consists of male subjects, this limits reliability of the data as it doesn’t provide enough variety to support the claim of the experiment conducted.
Despite LSD being the main drug contributing towards HPPD symptoms developing, there are other substances such as cannabis and alcohol examined. This creates a possibility that other substances are contributing towards the finale diagnosis of the subjects experimented and therefore, decreases the reliability of the data.
In conclusion, the evidence supports the claim, “Does the consumption of the psychedelic drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) have a connection to an increased probability of developing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)?”. During the research process, it was discovered that HPPD can develop very suddenly, due to multiple triggers, after previous intake of LSD and can last for decades. Another significant discovery was that LSD is usually the main drug involved in HPPD development but isn’t the only source. To fully understand the impact of LSD on the development of HPPD, further research is required. This includes various credible sources that provide detailed reports and if possible, survey’s that are more recent.
- How Drugs Affect the Brain and Central Nervous System. (2019). Retrieved August 7, 2019, from American Addiction Centers website: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/central-nervous-system
- Illicit use of drugs Overview – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019, July 25). Retrieved August 7, 2019, from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/illicit-use-of-drugs/overview
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