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Published:March 29th, 2011 16:09 EST
5 Facts About Drug Use and Mental Illness

5 Facts About Drug Use and Mental Illness

By SOP newswire2

Remember the 1938 film Reefer Madness, which depicted marijuana smokers as violent, crazed maniacs? More than seven decades later, brain researchers have found a definite link between illicit drug use and anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and a related condition known as DPD (Depersonalization Disorder), a condition in which the individual feels as if he is outside of his body, alienated from life, and unable to connect with others. These drugs include marijuana and certain "club drugs" -- specifically, LSD, Ecstasy, Salvia, and Ketamine.
Here are some facts teens and college kids should know.
Up to 70 percent of college students have had symptoms of DPD at one time or another. Although DPD was once considered rare, in the last few years the number of cases of DPD has exploded, due in large part to an increase in recreational drugs among this population.
In healthy volunteers, cannabis, hallucinogens, and Salvia can induce DPD. Medical experiments have shown that cannabis can induce DPD, with a large degree of temporal disintegration (time perception disturbances), in healthy volunteers. Hallucinogens have been shown to induce dissociation in healthy volunteers. Salvia is known to induce acute depersonalization in some individuals.
Drugs are more likely to trigger DPD and panic attacks in some people more than others. Scientists have discovered that certain people are predisposed to getting DPD and panic disorders -- including people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; those who have social disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or are undergoing a lot of stress; and young people under 24 whose brains are still developing.
A single use of pot, Ecstasy, Ketamine, or hallucinogens can trigger chronic, or long-term, DPD. Researchers have found that 87 percent of people who experienced drug-induced depersonalization reported that it followed from a single "bad trip" or drug experience, which triggered an initial terrifying panic attack, followed by repeated, unprovoked attacks (like flashbacks) for days, weeks, or months afterwards.
DPD is a serious mental disorder that can last for many years. Depersonalization Disorder is not the same as "feeling paranoid" after smoking a joint. When DPD gets triggered, the person experiences panic but doesn`t "snap out of it" when the high wears off -- and the feelings of fear, alienation, paranoia, and hopelessness can go on for many years, with devastating consequences for a young person`s health, happiness, and success.

By Jeffrey Abugel
Adapted from his new book, "Stranger to My Self"

Jeffrey Abugel runs a nonprofit online community for DPD sufferers at His previous book, written with Daphne Simeon MD, called Feeling Unreal, is regarded as a seminal work on Depersonalization Disorder. A medical journalist who has written hundreds of articles, Abugel is author of a new book, Stranger to My Self: Inside Depersonalization, the Hidden Epidemic, synthesizing the latest DPD research with data gathered while hosting a depersonalization website for nearly a decade.