Monday, February 2, 2009

Let It Bleed

The Legend:  Using  hallucinogenic mushrooms will cause your brain to bleed.

Status: False

[Gathered from the Internet message boards]
  • Did you know that 'shrooms make your brain bleed? When you see the walls breath it's really the blood running behind your eyes.
  • I heard that LSD can cause blood to drip down from the base of your skull so if you do LSD a lot, you will get this blood drip in the back of your head.
  • Some people around here think 'shrooms make your stomach bleed and then the blood from your stomach bleeding is sent to your brain and that's how it makes you trip.
  • Psylocylobin [sic] (mushrooms) is a poison that clots the blood in the back of your brain and blocks the serotonin in your brain from transferring at the correct speed, which is why some people get depressed afterwards.
  • Somebody I know who has very strange ideas about drugs believes that mushrooms actually cause your brain to bleed and then you get high from that.
  • LSD makes your brain bleed and clogs your veins so certain organs don't get blood circulation.
  • LSD causes your brain to bleed, and then it scabs over, then when the scab falls off you have a flashback.
  • I thought acid made my brain bleed down my spine and like others say burns your spine and leaves scarring.
  • Ecstasy can make your brain bleed.

When your brain bleeds it is called a stroke, intra-cranial hemorrhage, brain aneurysm or a cerebral-vascular accident (CVA). This urban legend is suggesting that using LSD will cause one of these things to happen to your brain. 

This is not a new idea. Intra-cranial hemorrhage has been linked to illicit drug use for decades. You can still find "stroke" or "brain hemorrhage" listed as a possible side effect of illicit drug use in some drug prevention materials. Not all illicit drugs contribute to these brain-based bleeds, but that is never made clear in the older, scare-based drug education materials.

If your brain bleeds, chances are very good that you'll know it is happening and will seek emergency medical treatment. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) is a system for emergency room (ER) data collection. In 2005, the most recent year for which we have data, there were 1,864 ER mentions of LSD, (National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2005). The next question is, were all these LSD users in the emergency room because their brains were bleeding?

20% of young people, age 49 or younger, who suffered stroke had abused drugs. The dominant drugs of abuse were cocaine and amphetamines. LSD isn't mentioned. The real risk factors for stroke are cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, low body-mass index, cocaine use and family history.

In fact, it is possible that just the opposite of a brain hemorrhage will happen when a person uses LSD. Ergotomine, a chemical similar to LSD, has been used in the treatment of migraine headache, as has LSD, because it really does effect the blood flow in the brain. Not by causing a hemorrhage, but by actually constricting the blood flow (Saper & Silberstein, 2006).

Research on stroke, aneurysm or other types of brain bleeds suggest that the only illicit drugs that are connected to brain hemorrhage are cocaine and amphetamines. LSD use is not a risk factor for brain-bleeding events, (Broderick et. al. 2003).