Pupil Dilation & Drug Use - What Drugs Cause It?

There are many different signs of drug abuse, some more common than others. Pupil dilation is one of the most common signs of drug abuse

This article will discuss the various drugs that cause pupil dilation and what to look out for if you’re worried that your loved one is abusing or addicted to drugs.

What are pupils?

Pupils are black circles found at the center of each eye. Usually, they constrict (become smaller) or dilate (become more prominent) when the light levels in your surroundings vary. The pupils’ primary function is to direct light to the optic nerve at the back of your eyes (retina), thus allowing you to see.

Eye muscles located in the iris are responsible for pupil dilation. They manipulate pupils and make them adjust depending on the amount of light.

Pupils measure 2-4 millimeters when constricted and about 4-8 millimeters when dilated. Therefore, your pupil size can vary depending on the circumstances.

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What is pupil dilation, and why does it occur?

Pupil dilation after drug abuse occurs when the drugs activate your body’s flight or fight adrenaline response by engaging adrenergic receptors in the brain and serotonin. This results in a chemical reaction that leads to muscle relaxation (mydriasis), making the pupils expand to allow more light in.

Drugs that can cause pupil dilation

Several drugs can alter pupil size since most drug interactions in the body affect neurotransmitters which are your body’s chemical messengers.

Most drugs contain chemicals. Therefore, they cause chemical reactions in your body, affecting neurotransmitters. Since neurotransmitters determine your pupil size, they may dilate after drug use.

There are specific drugs that can cause eye dilation. Most of them are psychotropic substances and stimulants.  

Some common drugs that cause pupils to dilate are:

·       LSD

·       Cocaine

·       Ecstasy

·       Mescaline

·       Amphetamines

·       MDMA

·       Psilocybin

·       SSRI antidepressants

Xanax, a benzodiazepine drug, can also make pupils dilate since it affects the activity of neurotransmitter GABA that relaxes the muscles. Additionally, the stimulant medication used in ADHD treatment, i.e., Adderall and Ritalin, can also cause pupil dilation.

Other drugs, specifically opioids, can cause pinpoint pupils. Pinpoint pupils refer to pupils constricting and failing to respond to light. Sometimes, pinpoint pupils are an overdose symptom. If you notice a heroin user has pinpoint pupils, it would be best to call 911 immediately.

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Marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine cause bloodshot eyes when they expand the blood vessels around the pupils.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has more information on the drugs mentioned above, including the effects of LSD. 

How is pupil dilation determined?

When there is suspicion of drug abuse, there is a unique tool that officers or medical practitioners can use to determine pupil dilation and the most likely cause.

First responders use the Drug Recognition Card to determine whether or not an individual is sober. The International Association of Chiefs of Police invented the chart to quickly determine the pupil size difference between sober people and those high on drugs

The Drug Recognition Card can also help first responders determine which drug is responsible for the dilation. It has a list of various drugs and a pupil dilation scale which helps officers gauge the extent of pupil dilation.

Other possible causes of pupil dilation

Besides light and drug use, pupils can dilate for the following reasons:

·       Pupils can dilate if you focus on objects far away from you.

·       If you get a concussion, one of your pupils may dilate. One of them will appear more prominent.

·       Emotions. How you feel can make your pupils dilate. Most times, pupil dilation is a sign of endorphin release. If you’re happy, your pupils will appear more prominent.

·       Anisocoria. Anisocoria refers to a medical condition where one pupil is bigger than the other.

·       Iritis. Iritis is an eye condition caused by inflammation of the iris.

·       Prescription medication. Some prescription medicines can cause pupil dilation. They include antihistamines, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anticholinergics, decongestants, mydriatics, benzodiazepines, dopamine precursors, and stimulants.

Are there long-term effects of pupil dilation?

If your pupils dilate due to drug abuse, you may wonder whether they would remain that way for good.

The pupils often go back to their original size when the drug side effects fade. However, there are a few instances when the pupils become dilated during the withdrawal period. This is common in individuals who abuse opioids.

Currently, there aren’t enough studies to conclude whether or not drug use can result in permanent pupil dilation.

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How to deal with pupil dilation

When your pupils dilate due to drug use or for any other reason, it can be uncomfortable since the pupils let in more light. Everything may appear overwhelmingly bright, and you may be sensitive to most if not all sources of light.

You may need to wear protective eye gear to shield yourself from light. This way, you will be more comfortable walking around and doing day-to-day tasks. Photochromic lenses and sunglasses will come in handy. Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, while photochromic lenses automatically adjust your light  levels.

If you’re worried about pupil dilation, you can contact an eye specialist who will examine you and advise you on eye health.

Other signs of drug use

Although pupil dilation can be a sign of drug abuse, you cannot conclude that individuals have abused drugs by simply looking at their pupil size.

You may need to look out for other symptoms of drug abuse. The most common ones include; restlessness, unexplained mood changes, loss of appetite, increased heart rate, tremors, high blood pressure, heavy sweating, and change in sleep patterns. The individual’s performance at work or school may also be affected.

If you notice your loved one has any symptoms of drug abuse, it may be time to seek professional help.

Seek professional help

At More Than Rehab, we acknowledge that abusing alcohol or drugs can have many side effects. Drug abuse affects your life and that of your loved ones. You are also likely to develop a substance use disorder.

To start your healing journey, contact us today. Other than addiction, we deal with co-occurring disorders like depression, self-harm, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. We will walk with you every step of the way and help you turn your life

Stuck In A Loop: When Hallucinogens Cause Cyclical Behavior or HPPD

There are instances when individuals who abuse hallucinogenic drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), psilocybin (also called magic mushroom), and LSD experience the effects several weeks, months, and even years after abusing the drug. These effects are commonly referred to as flashbacks and are prevalent in people suffering from HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder).

This article will discuss HPPD in detail. We will look at what HPPD is, its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is HPPD?

Simply put, HPPD refers to the visual disturbances that hallucinogenic drug users experience long after using the drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, visual disturbances range from bright circles and size distortion to blurry patterns.

People suffering from HPPD only experience flashbacks. They do not re-experience any other feeling of being high on the drugs they consumed before.

HPPD flashbacks are annoying, especially if they happen frequently. Although the flashbacks aren’t necessarily full hallucinations, they may result in mental health problems like anxiety.

Scientists argue that HPPD hallucinations are pseudo hallucinations, and those who experience them can differentiate what is real from what isn’t.

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What do flashbacks feel like?

People who experience flashbacks feel like they are reliving something they experienced in the past. Some flashbacks happen after drug use, while others happen after one undergoes a traumatic experience, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  

Both people with HPPD and PTSD experience moments when their sensory information tells them they are experiencing moments they experienced in the past, even though they aren’t.

With PTSD, the flashbacks are more vivid. On the other hand, flashbacks of those with HPPD are not in-depth. HPPD victims only experience visual snows.

If you suffer from HPPD, you will be aware of the flashbacks but won’t experience the high that the drugs you used before gave you. Note that these flashbacks may become frequent over time and can overwhelm you.

Symptoms

The 2016 review revealed that there are two types of HPPD; type one and type 2. Those who suffer from type 1 HPPD only experience brief flashbacks, while those that suffer from type 2 HPPD experience more intense flashbacks.

If you suffer from unwanted hallucinations or cyclical behaviors, you are likely to experience any of the following visual disturbance symptoms of HPPD.

  1. Color flashes- you may notice random flashes of color at random times.
  2. Intense colors- the colors of objects around you seem brighter.
  3. Color confusion- you may be unable to tell the difference between similar colors. For instance, you wouldn’t be able to tell maroon and red apart.
  4. When you stare at objects, you see a glowing halo around them.
  5. Objects may appear bigger or smaller than they are.
  6. You may notice patterns on various objects when in reality, the object does not have any patterns on it.
  7. Items or objects may appear to leave a trail behind them as they move.
  8. You may have a difficult time reading since words on screens or pages appear to be in motion.
  9. You may feel uneasy every time you have an episode since you know that what you are experiencing is not real.

Currently, there is no scientific explanation of when these symptoms manifest. Therefore they can happen to you at any time.

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People experiencing HPPD may also experience mental health issues, including anxiety, panic disorders whose common symptom is increased heart rate and heavy breathing, suicidal thoughts, and symptoms of depersonalization. Despite most people suffering from the disorder acknowledging that they experience these symptoms, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not acknowledge them as possible symptoms. The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders only acknowledges the visual disturbances symptoms we discussed above because it is still unclear whether HPPD directly causes mental health issues.

HPPD causes

Scientists believe that individuals who consume hallucinogenic drugs recreationally are at a high risk of suffering from HPPD. However, they are yet to conclude on the frequency of drug use that causes HPPD.

A recent study revealed that HPPD is common in people who consume more than one dose of LSD. It is also prevalent in people who use other hallucinogens on one occasion or more.

Contrary to common belief, HPPD is not a result of mental disorders or brain damage. It is also not a result of a “bad trip.” This is caused by hallucinogenic drugs and is more often than not, one of the many effects of LSD abuse.

HPPD management and treatment

If you experience any of the symptoms we discussed above, you should visit your doctor. They will ask you several questions before giving you a full diagnosis.

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After being diagnosed with Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, you need to learn how to manage and treat it. Currently, two drugs have proved to be effective in HPPD treatment: lamotrigine and clonazepam.

Lamotrigine

Lamotrigine is a mood-stabilizing medication that is effective in relieving individuals of HPPD symptoms. A case study showed that lamotrigine is effective in the treatment of HPPD. Unlike other medications like antipsychotics, it did not make any symptoms worse.

Clonazepam

Like lamotrigine, clonazepam is effective in treating this disorder. It makes the symptoms less severe and more manageable.

To manage these symptoms, doctors also advise individuals to avoid stressful situations and illicit drugs. Additionally, doctors may give patients a few techniques to cope with the symptoms. For example, your doctor may advise you to use calming breathing exercises every time you have an episode. They may also prescribe rest and talk therapy.

Note that there is no single treatment for HPPD. You will undergo drug therapy. Drug therapy varies with individuals depending on the difference in visual disturbances symptoms.

Most times, drug therapy is successful, and individuals lead everyday lives after that.

Conclusion

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is a serious condition. Anyone who uses hallucinogens can eventually develop this disease.

If you experience any of these symptoms, they may eventually fade away. However, there are instances when the symptoms will persist for an extended time.

It would be best to seek professional help if you notice any of the symptoms above. Your doctor may prescribe drug therapy to treat the condition and other techniques to manage the symptoms and make them more bearable.

What is A Wook? (And Other Drug User Terms)

People use a myriad of names to refer to drugs and alcohol. Some of these names are common, while others are only specific to certain groups. Usually, the more popular the substance, the more slang is associated with it. One popular term these days is "wook" and it's not at all like the Wookiee from Star Wars.

Slang terms come by as a way to communicate in-group, and in the case of substances, they may be for secrecy. People who abuse drugs or alcohol don’t always want their friends or family members to know. They also don’t want to be obvious when in public.

So, they’ll use slang names so that others won’t understand. Slang terms can range from derogatory names such as junkie or doper to nicer ones like a flower child. Some of the terms' meanings hint at what society thinks about drugs. 

Read on to find out what is a wook and other common slang words:

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A Wook

Wooks are people who abuse psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, DMT, ketamine, ecstasy pills, 2CI (a type of hallucinogenic drug), and PCP. 

A wook depends on drugs, and they're usually so intoxicated that they rely on others for survival. Wooks don't have any ambition or motivation in life other than to get high. Because wooks are often addicted to drugs, they mostly need specialized addiction treatment, sometimes more than one type. 

You can quickly spot a wook by the way they dress. Outwardly, they adorn hippyish clothes, long and untidy deadlocks, and a general counterculture fashion. Wooks also borrow anything they can think of, including money, but they can't hold down a job because they're constantly under the influence. You'll find them at the store trying to trade in a tube of toothpaste for something they like better.

A wook will do anything to get money from you - including lying. They'll come up with lies to justify what they want. Their self-entitlement nature makes them take things from other people even when it means stealing. Wooks are always broke and unable to pay back their debts, so they make promises that they fail to keep. 

A Dopehead

Dopeheads are people who live for drugs, and everything revolves around getting high. They depend on drugs to feel good about themselves, whether through smoking pot or snorting cocaine. Dopeheads are usually:

Dopeheads are not just people addicted to heroin but also meth, marijuana, and cocaine. They also tend to have a myriad of health problems - including mental health issues.

A Beatnik

Beatniks were the first generation of counterculture Americans who used drugs to rebel against mainstream society. They believed in authenticity through drug use and felt they were free from the standard rules in life. Most beatniks were intellectuals with a poetic spirit who knew how to express their rebelliousness through their words and music.

Many beatniks abused drugs such as marijuana and heroin, but in time, other drugs such as amphetamines also became popular in beatnik circles. 

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Hippies

The word hippie was derived in the 1960s, and it depicted a person who rejected conventional values, abused alcohol or drugs, had long hair and wore bright-colored clothes.

Hippies were more concerned with quick self-satisfaction rather than making money or following a career path. They lived in communities where addiction, free sex, and hallucinogenic drugs were acceptable. The hippie movement was the antithesis of conservative American culture, which clashed when war raged in Vietnam.

Hippies believed that the mainstream authority was responsible for all wrongs, including the Vietnam war. The movement advocated for love, not war, and members were known as the flower child because of their passion for peace. However, they lived out their mantra of 'make love' literally.

In the 1960s, many young people were empowered by the hippie movement and didn't fear experimenting with drugs. They believed that taking these drugs was a way to expand their mind and experience other states of consciousness. The same period saw the rise to fame of the Grateful Dead, an American rock band whose eclectic style was famous with the counterculture movement. 

The hippie culture is still present today, even in social media. Hippies usually don't own anything, beg a lot, and they love music and festivals. The Haight Ashbury District is a famous hippie area in San Francisco, California, where you'll find the hippie culture alive. Many who refer to someone as a "wook" may be in the hippie category as well.

Cranker

A person who abuses crystal methamphetamine is called a cranker. Some slang dictionaries also refer to them as cranker, meth head, jig head, smackhead, and meth monster. Crystal methamphetamine is commonly referred to as blow clouds, tweaking, and smoking rain.

Meth is highly addictive, and it can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed. The effects of meth are short yet powerful. People who abuse it have the urge to use the drug continuously.

Crankers are usually homeless because their addiction prevents them from keeping a job or being financially stable. 

A Pusher

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A pusher is someone who sells illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine to addicts. Some slang words for a pusher include a chemist, candyman, copycat, herb doctor, peddler, dope peddler, source, square, and trap queen. Pushers are usually affiliated with massive drug cartels or gangs because they need to sell large amounts of drugs to profit. 

Dipper Head

A dipper head is a PCP (Phencyclidine) user, also known as a duster head. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, PCP use is one of the most dangerous addictions as the drug alters the mind leading to hallucinations. It leads to a distortion of one's environment, self, colors, sights, and perceptions. 

Phencyclidine intoxication symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, disorientation, and clouded sensories. PCP abuse also disrupts sensory and time perception and produces inert movement disorders such as catatonia or stupor. PCP has a high potential for abuse and may lead to psychological dependence.

Junkie

A junkie or a cotton shooter is someone who's addicted to heroin. A casual user is a chipper, while those in their 40s and 50s are called dinosaurs.

Heroin use is a problem all over the world. Many people die every year from heroin use and heroin overdoses. In 2016, 948000 people reported using heroin in the USA in the past year. 

Heroin is an opioid drug that gives users a euphoric effect. Heroin addiction symptoms include severe withdrawal symptoms, cravings for heroin, lack of control over usage, and compulsive drug use. Treatment programs are effective for those addicted to heroin.

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Candy Man

A drug dealer who sells heroin laced with fentanyl or some other opioid pain reliever is a candyman. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than Morphine. Other street names for fentanyl include Apache, China Girl, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, TNT, and Cash.

Candy-flipping

Candy flipping is when LSD is mixed with MDMA (ecstasy). The effects of candy-flipping are similar to both drugs, which creates intense euphoria. Some people feel sick after taking this combination. This experience could be a pathway to someone becoming a wook, themselves.

Chippers

Chippers are people who use drugs occasionally rather than all the time. They might even go for months without using any drugs, but they use them in low or moderate doses when they do choose to.

Many people who abuse drugs started as chippers. Chipping is not officially categorized among substance use disorders or addictions, but it can lead to one if users don't cut back their usage over time.

Drug abuse and addiction is a severe problem. Many people are addicted to drugs without realizing it because they might not consider mild drug abuse a problem. The risk factors supersede momentary pleasure. It is recommended that addicts get help from a treatment center to stop addiction and get on the road to recovery.

The Link Between Music and Drugs

A good number of musicians have used drugs to augment their creativity. Their fans, on the other hand, may use drugs to intensify the pleasure they get from music. This has been the norm for centuries, leading to intensive research on the link between music and drugs.

On the surface, music and drugs are like two different worlds. However, the two have a lot in common; including the way they affect the human brain. Drugs and music trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin.

These are the same feel-good hormones that saturate your brain when you have sex, eat junk food, or do something you love. Dopamine and serotonin make you feel happy and contented. They also boost your energy levels and sharpen your sensory perception.

When you combine drugs and music, your brain’s function and the surrounding culture merge to give you a unique and euphoric experience. That’s because the two augment each other to make the experience even better. It’s a good reason why clubs and substances go hand-in-hand. People go to the club to listen to music, use drugs or do both. 

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But the similarity between drugs and music doesn’t stop there. 

Music and drugs – a mutual relationship

As mentioned earlier, drugs and music thrive off each other. But not all music pairs with all drugs. As it turns out, some genres work with some types of drugs. For example, hard rock does well with LSD, while reggae does well with weed.

That’s because of the response this music triggers. When people use weed, they feel relaxed and want to dance to slow jams, like reggae. LSD is quite the opposite – it makes them want to shake vigorously, which explains why they prefer EDM music.

How music matches the effects of drugs

Music can mimic the specific effects of drugs. For example, fast and repetitive music matches amphetamine because users can dance quickly due to the stimulation. Ecstasy gives one a feeling of pleasure through dance and body movement; hence, it matches repetitive music.

The link between music and drugs is a complex relationship. However, there is a rich drug representation in popular music. Studies have shown that listeners of specific music genres abuse drugs more than listeners of other genres. 

Musicians, fans, and drug use

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It is not uncommon for musicians and songwriters to compose lyrics that reflect their relationship with drugs. Others even go all out to promote illicit and prescription drug use. The Acid Queen, by Tina Turner and The Who for example, talks about how LSD makes one more alive. To quote the lyrics:

If your child ain't all he should be now

 This girl will put him right

 I'll show him what he could be now

 Just give me one night

I'm the gypsy, the acid queen

 Pay me before I start

 I'm the gypsy and I'm guaranteed

 To mend his aching heart

Give us a room, close the door

 Leave us for a while

 You won't be a boy no more

 Young, but not a child

I'm the gypsy, the acid queen

 Pay me before I start

 I'm the gypsy, I'm guaranteed

 To tear your soul apart

Gather your wits and hold them fast

 Your mind must learn to roam

 Just as the gypsy queen must do

 You're gonna hit the road

My work's been done, now look at him

 He's never been more alive

 His head it shakes, his fingers clutch

 Watch his body writhe

With such lyrics, it’s easy to see why fans may want to try out this acid, especially it comes from their favorite artists. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, the high availability of molly and ecstasy made house music appealing to the then generation. The same thing happened with LSD and acid rock. Artists performing would take an addictive substance or chemical substances before going on stage for live performances. If you have gone to live music events, music shows, or concerts, you may have seen artists under the influence performing on stage. 

Listening to music while under the influence

Music tends to enhance the “high” effects of drugs. Research has shown that drugs can alter one’s experience of music. For instance, clinical trials that administered LSD to volunteers revealed LSD elevates music-induced emotion, with participants reporting feelings of tenderness, power, wonder, and superiority. Other studies found that LSD modulates music-evoked imagery through changes in parahippocampal connectivity.

Social bonds

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Both music and drugs are tools that strengthen social bonds. They give listeners and drug users a sense of identity. Simply put, music and drugs make people connect, be it socially or politically. 

Most people form peer groups with people they share cultural preferences with. Therefore, it is easy to see why they interlink music with drugs of their choice. Even though people easily associate certain drugs with specific music genres, it is evident that drugs are a minor element of a much broader identity. The drugs distinguish one group from the other.

Does music promote drug abuse?

There is a link between music and drugs. However, you mustn’t assume music leads to drug abuse or drug addiction. 

Lyrics of various songs occasionally refer to drugs and have a drug use culture surrounding them. This raised concerns about the long-term effects music glorifying drug use has on young listeners. 

One study showed that the youth positively associate music with illicit drug use and alcohol abuse. However, the study could not determine whether the listener’s behavior influenced their music preferences or whether their music preferences influenced their behavior.

There is a slight chance that drug use could influence a person’s music choice and vice versa. Whichever way the influence goes, it may lead to drug addiction. Drug addiction can lead to several disorders, including mental disorders and high blood pressure.

If someone you know is battling drug abuse, help them seek medical advice on dealing with the issue. Addiction is a chronic disease, but there are several treatment options available.

Treatment options for drug addiction

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Treatment for drug addiction should help the individual stop using drugs, remain drug-free, and be a productive member of society.

As mentioned, there are several treatment options for drug addiction. They include:

For drug addiction treatment to be successful, one needs to have a tailored treatment program with follow-up options. The patient's follow-up care can be family-based or community-based.

Conclusion

There is a link between music and drugs, but you mustn’t assume that listening to a specific music genre would influence you to take drugs. Those who get addicted to drug use should seek help for them to be rehabilitated.