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No reaction from drugs or booze
May 11, 2009 8:52 PM   Subscribe

I have enjoyed recreational drugs for many years. Loved coke. Enjoyed grass. Had great results from speed,percocet,demerol. This was in my thirties. I had no problems with the drugs. Now I am in my 60's and on anti-depressants (that work) My question: Now I get no reaction whatsoever from coke,grass,booze or E. Anybody know what's up with my chemistry?
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not a doctor, but do have experience with everything you've listed there; my first thought would be something along the lines of "the antidepressants are keeping your head in a place the drugs used to take you" but I don't have the neurochemistry background to back it up.

Personally, I recently switched to a new antidepressant, and it's working so well that I don't care that I'll never be able to drink alcohol again. Maybe your body's trying to tell you, in a way, to be thankful for what you've got :)
posted by jtron at 8:58 PM on May 11, 2009


A couple things that I remember from neurochemistry. If you really want more info on this, feel free to memail me and I can probably locate the abstract and journal articles for some of this:
• There is a theory that some people use drugs/alcohol to self-medicate, so perhaps you have found the underlying psychiatric condition and it is treated appropriately.
• Some drugs do change your neurochemistry. It may be the up- or down-regulation of receptors (eg, antipsychotics have been shown to change the expression of the gene and hence number of dopamine receptors on the neurons of rats), so perhaps taking the either the drugs or the medication has changed the way that your brain cells respond to the drugs over time.
• There is also evidence that dopamine decreases as one ages (think Parkinson’s disease as a dramatic example, or some papers claim that subtle changes in personality reflect this). Many drugs probably work via this pathway, so less dopamine=less likelihood of responding to the drug. Could correlate with your age.
posted by Wolfster at 9:06 PM on May 11, 2009


Wellbutrin is associated with reduced craving for some drugs — nicotine and cocaine are the ones I've heard mentioned in connection with it, but there may be others. It's also marketed as a quit-smoking drug, under the name Zyban.

(My own experience is that taking it not only made me crave cigarettes less, but also made smoking a cigarette much less pleasant. Less happy soothing nicotine buzz, same nasty smoke flavor. I can't speak to other drugs, but maybe some other folks here can.)

But Wellbutrin is also an oddball among antidepressants. Most of the others currently on the market in the US don't have that effect. It would be helpful to know which one you're taking — if you contact one of the moderators, they can post followup information anonymously for you.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:31 PM on May 11, 2009


Literally no reaction? Do you really experience no change at all from the drugs or are they just no fun? And which anti-depressent are we talking about?

If I were to take a wild guess, it would be that aging may affect dopamineurgic neurons or the density of dopamine receptors in your brain. Although the mechanism is still somewhat mysterious, Parkinsons Disease is a common disorder in aging adults that involves diminished dopamine signalling in the substantia nigra, and it may be that we all experience diminished dopamine signaling as we age. It's a weak correlation and it doesn't imply much causation here, so it's really just a wild guess.

Anecdotally, many of my friends (in their 20s and 30s) don't drink on SSRIs because the booze hits them too hard.
posted by ladypants at 9:37 PM on May 11, 2009


Drugs work less when you are older.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2009


The anti-depressants are balancing your dopamine chemistry artificially. Recreational drugs affect the same dopamine system in different ways. My guess is your anti-depressants are propping up your dopamine levels and they don't waver or change when you take drugs, so no effect.

I took Lexapro for awhile, like two months. I had the impression of a kind of light ramping up in my brain. That's the only metaphor I have for the sensation. Kind of like chemical brightness going on upstairs. Ultimately too weird for me and I quit. I've found ways to compensate that work better for me than chemicals like that.
posted by diode at 11:29 PM on May 11, 2009


SSRI's kill the effects of MDMA, this is well documented - it's due to their effect on serotonin, not dopamine (I'm at work and don't want to go to a site that would confirm this, but try erowid.org for some good reading). The Wikipedia article backs up my comment but doesn't have a lot of detail.

Surprised that you're getting no effect from alcohol; my experience (again anecdotal) was that it hit me harder when on SSRI's; I've had doctors say that this can happen, too.

Can't comment on coke or grass.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:16 AM on May 12, 2009


Drugs work less when you are older.

Source? I know lots of 60+ year olds who get just as high as college-age kids.

SSRIs kill the effects of MDMA, this is well documented

+1 on this. And on alcohol being potentiated if anything by SSRIs.

We really need to know what drugs you are on though. Maybe you aren't taking an SSRI?

Also, have you been out of the game since your thirties or have you only just noticed that drugs are no longer effective since you've been on the meds? If it's been a while since you've used recreational drugs, you might no longer be familiar with what the effects are meant to feel like or your connects might not be so good any more - do the same batches of MDMA, coke and pot get others high?
posted by turkeyphant at 4:29 AM on May 12, 2009


You might want to try staying away from them anyway if you're in your 60's. With the exception of grass, MDMA is no longer pure MDMA - it's filled with all sorts of horrible stuff that is extremely toxic. Same thing with coke - unless you get it straight off the boat - you're likely snorting speed mixed with it. None of this is good for anyone's health, but you're really putting yourself at risk as an older adult. I wouldn't worry so much about what they're not doing and I'd worry more about why you're doing them.
posted by debbbie at 5:34 AM on May 12, 2009


Please ignore all the ill-informed tripe about dopamine in this thread.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:41 AM on May 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Please ignore all the ill-informed tripe about dopamine in this thread.

All right, inform us! I'm not trying to start an argument, just genuinely curious — if you know something we don't, let's hear it.

posted by nebulawindphone at 7:21 AM on May 12, 2009


Erowid (whose data is primarily anecdotal, mind) suggests that SSRIs have been observed to decrease of effectiveness in LSD and possibly MDMA.

Note that many recreational drugs have structural similarities to serotonin or to dopamine/norepinephrine/epinephrine. (MDMA falls into the latter category.) Others are thought to interact with the serotonin system less directly (cannaboids.) Metabolism of drugs (primarily involving liver enzymes) is another area that both drugs and anti-depressants might either act on or compete for. Unfortunately, human research on the biochemistry of recreational drugs is very sparse these days, and we still don't know enough about how many anti-depressants function, so no one can say for sure what is going on. It is fairly probable that - to put it very vaguely - many recreational drugs and anti-depressants are tinkering with some of the same pathways, receptors, and enzymes. However, at this point, we really have no way of knowing, and more specific explanations (implicating certain compounds and receptors) are more or less wild guesses.

Furthermore, depending on what anti-depressant you're taking (MAOIs, tricyclic anti-depressants, SSRIs, SNRIs, less common drugs like anti-psychotics, some mix thereof...), the identity and purity of your recreational drugs, and your own quirky neurochemistry (being less sensitive to booze is pretty rare on many common anti-depressants), your results may indeed vary.
posted by ubersturm at 7:37 AM on May 12, 2009


The anti-depressants are balancing your dopamine chemistry artificially. Recreational drugs affect the same dopamine system in different ways. My guess is your anti-depressants are propping up your dopamine levels and they don't waver or change when you take drugs, so no effect.

Well, the anti-depressant is most likely an SSRI (that's Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor), so while it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the brain's neurochemical network is part of a delicate balance involving both dopamine and serotonin (quick, name some other neurotransmitters!), it is far more foolish to suggest that the reason the OP isn't getting as high as he'd like is because his "dopamine chemistry" is being artificially balanced. "My guess" kind of statements about neurochemistry seem to be to be pretty pointless in my opinion, and I propose that speculation borne of a NYT-based knowledge of neurochemistry is bad for AskMe.

I am not a neuropharmacologist (though I feel confident that my competence with the subject rises beyond the "Ooh, I read an article about dopamine!" level), but even if I was, it would be damn difficult to explain why someone isn't getting the same subjective effects from recreational drugs that he/she did decades ago. Hell, my subjective experience with drugs of all forms varies on a day to day basis. Set and setting are critical, even with something as innocuous as a cup of coffee.

I'd imagine that the OP's mental set (as is being modulated by both age and the anti-depressants) and his/her surroundings are significantly different than they were in the good ole days, but without even telling us what the anti-depressant in question is, there's absolutely no way of even making an educated guess. Wild speculation about neuroscience continues to piss me off.

With the exception of grass, MDMA is no longer pure MDMA - it's filled with all sorts of horrible stuff that is extremely toxic.

It's a real bummer that you're having trouble finding good clean drugs, but I'm afraid that 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine is, barring unforeseen changes in the nature of chemistry, still 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:54 AM on May 12, 2009


MDMA is no longer pure MDMA - it's filled with all sorts of horrible stuff that is extremely toxic.

Utter crap. It's perfectly possible to obtain MDMA that's easily 95% pure. Only morons consume pills. Even then, the adulterants are rarely if ever "extremely toxic".

Same thing with coke - unless you get it straight off the boat - you're likely snorting speed mixed with it

While coke purity is at an all-time low, it's rarely cut with amphetamine and amphetamine is hardly more harmful that coke itself either.

None of this is good for anyone's health, but you're really putting yourself at risk as an older adult.

I assume the OP is abundantly aware of the relevant health risks and is happy to accept them. Why shouldn't he?
posted by turkeyphant at 9:23 AM on May 12, 2009


Addicts often quit feeling the effects of the drugs they take. Example, my alcoholic father swears he can drink 2 six-packs and not feel anything. Of course, everyone around him can tell the second he's had beer #2, because he becomes a belligerent asshole.

So my question is, do you really get no reaction from the drugs, or do you just feel like you get no reaction from the drugs? Those around you might have an opinion different from your own (or they might not -- who knows?)
posted by coolguymichael at 12:10 PM on May 12, 2009


Utter crap. It's perfectly possible to obtain MDMA that's easily 95% pure. Only morons consume pills. Even then, the adulterants are rarely if ever "extremely toxic".


I agree with most of this. Anecdotally, though, it seems that the quality of pills is going down. As you say, "only morons consume pills" - but 10 years ago, you could easily get good quality pills. It's possible that the OP is getting very poor quality pills - those with low or no MDMA content, or containing piperazines or caffeine or similar. That said, I suspect that the use of antidepressants is the key factor here. Here is a good, if dated, FAQ on antidepressants and recreational drugs.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:26 PM on May 12, 2009


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