Complaints after the use of party drugs
If you have used drugs, it is possible that you will develop complaints at a later time. The drugs have left your body for some time already, but you still experience symptoms. You experience the everyday world or yourself in a different way (derealization or depersonalization). Or you have disturbances in your vision. This can be, for example, afterimages (several versions of an object) or noise in your visual field (sensory disturbances). You may have any of the following conditions: Derealization/Depersonalization Disorder, Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), or Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS). We actually know very little about these conditions. It is not known how often they occur.
If you have complaints after drug use, it is not immediately a reason to worry. It happens more often. It doesn’t mean you have brain damage and it usually goes away within a few weeks with enough rest. Every day people report these kinds of complaints to the national medical consultancy for party drugs. In the vast majority of cases, they do not need any help, because the symptoms will go away over time. However, stress, lack of sleep and the use of drugs such as cannabis and alcohol when you have the symptoms can make the symptoms stay longer or get worse temporarily. A little rest, cleanliness and regularity is therefore important. Even if you continuously pay attention to your symptoms and think about them, you can get worse. So seeking distraction or simply not paying attention to the symptoms is also important. If your symptoms persist for a longer period of time and you experience serious problems with them, there may be a disorder or syndrome.
In this article we explain what kind of complaints you can get after drug use and what you can do about it. We first tell you about derealization, depersonalization, sensory disturbances, HPPD and VSS. We then explain what makes your complaints worse and how the national medical consultancy for party drugs can help you. Finally, we give you some tips on how to prevent or reduce complaints.
Derealization and Depersonalization
After effects of drug use that they most often encounter at the national medical consultancy for party drugs are derealization and depersonalization. One experiences the world and/or oneself as unreal. Like living in a dream or being a robot.
Often there is little understanding for this from someone’s environment, because few people know about it and it cannot be seen from the outside. It is also often confused with psychosis, but this is not the case as long as someone does not have delusions. How long derealization and depersonalization last can vary widely. This can be just a few minutes or much longer, in some cases even months. Derealization and depersonalization can occur separately or simultaneously.
In fact, derealization and depersonalization are a kind of survival mechanism. It is part of the fight, flight or freeze reaction. In some situations there is a threat, but fight and flight are not possible. For example, in a car accident. Your body and mind then go into freeze mode to protect you from danger and pain. Derealization and depersonalization are a kind of freeze reaction. Normally, this reaction goes away when the threat is gone, and there is no longer a source of stress. If the reaction is severe and lasts for a long time, even when there is no longer a source of stress, then there may be a derealization / depersonalization disorder. Traumatic experiences can cause this, but also heavy (combination) drug use and lack of sleep.
To someone with derealization, it seems like the world is fake or strange. When you have derealization, it can feel like:
- you’re in a dream or some kind of fog,
- there is a transparent wall between you and your surroundings,
- the world around you is lifeless, muffled or fake.
Depersonalization means that you feel like you are out of your body or have lost the connection with yourself or your body. It often creates a sense of distance from your surroundings.
If you have depersonalization, it can feel like:
- you’re on autopilot,
- you are a robot,
- you are a little man in your head that controls your body (as in Men in Black).
It can happen that your perception is temporarily disrupted after using a party drug, even if the drug has been out of your body for some time. Often these disturbances have to do with stress and fatigue, and they will go away after sufficient rest and relaxation. However, sometimes there is Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). In both HPPD and VSS, it must first be ruled out that the symptoms are due to other causes, such as an eye disease.
Perception disturbances are diverse and can affect all senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting), but most often they are visual disturbances. These disturbances can also occur without drug use. Some experts think it has to do with filtering incoming sensory stimuli. Both drugs and anxiety can cause you to filter stimuli in a different way. In this way your perception can be disturbed.
- Visual hallucinations (visual snow, flashes of color, geometric hallucinations, complex hallucinations).
- Visual Snow (seeing noise through your entire field of view like on an old TV screen without a signal).
- Color flashes.
- Geometric patterns.
- Complex hallucinations.
- Visual distortions
- Trails (seeing several trails of moving objects).
- Halos (seeing a glow around things).
- Palinopsia (seeing afterimages in moving objects).
- Entoptic phenomena (phenomena such as dots or spots on your eyeball that are really there but that you normally filter out).
- Floaters (threads, dots, or spots that slide off your eye ball to the side of your vision when you focus on them).
- Blue field entoptic phenomena (white blood cells appearing as dots best seen in blue light).
- Other visual phenomena.
- Synesthesia (blending of different senses; e.g. ‘seeing’ sounds).
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is specifically about sensory disturbances with flashbacks to your drug experience. A flashback is a brief vivid memory of or reliving that experience. You also really have to suffer from it, for a longer period of time. Only then we speak of the diagnosis HPPD.
Examples of psychedelics that can cause HPPD are LSD, magic mushrooms, truffles and 2C-B. Drugs that otherwise alter your perception such as MDMA (XTC), cannabis, and ketamine can also cause it.
The first time HPPD was described was around 1954. It has been an official diagnosis since 1987; since 1994, this diagnosis has been called HPPD. It is now more known among drug users, and often when people think they have HPPD it is a false alarm.
Visual Snow Syndrome (VSS) is about complaints that can be partly the same as HPPD. One of the characteristics is that one suffers from visual noise (think of the images of an old TV that has no signal).
Other disturbances that you can get with HPPD can also occur with VSS. A distinction with HPPD is that it is not about flashbacks to your trip. To be diagnosed with VSS, you must have visual noise and at least two other visual disturbances. Just like with HPPD, the symptoms have to occur for a long time before you call it VSS.
VSS is not (yet) an official diagnosis, but it is more common and has been scientifically researched. VSS is not necessarily caused by drugs: some people suffer from it from a young age. According to the medical consultancy for party drugs, drugs can be a possible trigger to get this.
What makes complaints worse?
If you suffer from complaints after using party drugs, there are a number of things that can make the complaints worse or prolong:
- Drug use (including alcohol),
- Lack of sleep,
- Being very preoccupied with the symptoms (worrying).
National medical consultancy for party drugs
Many people know little about derealization, depersonalization, HPPD, and VSS. Even doctors often don’t know what it is. If you suffer from complaints that resemble this, it is therefore best to call the Brijder’s national medical consultancy for party drugs. This is free, you don’t need to register and they know how to help you here. If the complaints do not go away on their own, there are various treatments that they can recommend here. You can also visit druginfoteam.nl for more information. Unfortunately this is only available in the Netherlands.
At the Brijder’s national medical consultancy for party drugs, people call daily with complaints after drug use. Many people worry that they are going crazy or that their brains are damaged, but most of the time the brain is mostly just overloaded. Under the influence of drugs, your brains have to work harder to process all the stimuli. Often there is also stress and lack of sleep involved and this can ensure that your brain can no longer handle it. In practice, the medical consultancy often sees that someone also suffers from anxiety. Anxiety symptoms can make the experienced symptoms worse, but the symptoms can also cause more anxiety the other way around.
The best solution for Derealization/Depersonalization Disorder, HPPD and VSS is to avoid getting it. So don’t ask too much of your brain, don’t try to combine drugs and take the time to process the experience. Make sure you don’t have to go to work or study the next day.
Do you have complaints however? Then the following things can help:
- Reduce your stress and make sure you don’t get overstimulated.
- Try not to worry too much about your symptoms and not pay too much attention to them. By worrying you increase the complaints and so you end up in a vicious circle.
- Rest, cleanliness and regularity! In other words, make sure you get enough sleep, don’t use drugs for a while (including alcohol), and just go about your daily activities (in a calm manner). Exercise can help if it feels good, but not too intensive.
After using party drugs, you can suffer from various types of complaints. Derealization and depersonalization are natural responses to stress and overload of the brain, but when they occur for a long time without a source of stress, it is a disturbance. Disturbances in perception can also occur after the use of drugs. It usually goes away on its own, but if it persists and it seriously bothers you in your daily or working life, you may have HPPD or VSS. We don’t really know how often these conditions occur, but people regularly report symptoms. Because there is little knowledge about them, they are often misunderstood. Complaints are often perpetuated and made worse by stress, drug use and lack of rest. But also by paying a lot of attention and compulsively working on it. If you suffer from these kinds of complaints, it is best to get help at the national medical consultancu for party drugs. Most people by far are in complete remission after a while.