This Is How Your Favorite Drugs Look Like Under A Microscope

The appearance of a drug has everything to do with its effects since the shape and size of its molecules affects how it looks on a grander scale and what receptors it can fit into inside the human body. By placing your favorite drugs under a microscope, we get to have a nano-size look at the unique molecular structure of each substance and its chemical effects.

A German artist, Sarah Schönfeld, has squeezed drops of various legal and illegal liquid drug mixtures onto exposed negative film for a photography series called, ‘all you can feel’. The series visually reinterprets the physiological and psychological imbalance of substances in the body. By enlarging the chemical reaction of each drug, ‘all you can feel’ portrays the unknown interface between representation and reality.




Caffeine reaches your brain quickly and acts as a central nervous system stimulant. The most noticeable effect is alertness. It can help you feel more awake and less tired, so it’s a common ingredient in medications to treat drowsiness.

Despite the common wisdom of drinking coffee to recover from too much alcohol, caffeine doesn’t actually help your body process alcohol any faster.

If you’re not used to it, caffeine can give you the jitters. If you have an anxiety disorder or sleep disorder, caffeine may make it worse.

Symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include anxiety, irritability, and drowsiness. In some people, sudden withdrawal may cause tremors.

It’s also possible to overdose on caffeine. Symptoms of an overdose include confusion and hallucinations. An overdose can result in death due to convulsions.




Cocaine causes a short-lived, intense high that is immediately followed by the opposite—intense depression, edginess and a craving for more of the drug.

People who use it often don’t eat or sleep properly. They can experience greatly increased heart rate, muscle spasms and convulsions. The drug can make people feel paranoid, angry, hostile and anxious—even when they aren’t high.

Regardless of how much of the drug is used or how frequently, cocaine increases the risk that the user will experience a heart attack, stroke, seizure or respiratory (breathing) failure, any of which can result in sudden death.


Molly (MDMA)

MDMA (Molly)

Molly stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin from brain neurons, producing a high that lasts from several minutes to an hour. The drug’s rewarding effects vary with the individual taking it, the dose and purity, and the environment in which it is taken.

The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.

MDMA can produce stimulant effects such as an enhanced sense of pleasure and self-confidence and increased energy. Its psychedelic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy.

Psychological effects of Molly can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, anxiety, and paranoia, sometimes lasting for weeks after taking the drug. Physical effects can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth-clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure are a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.




Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic; meaning it is a drug that distorts perception of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment (dissociation) from the environment and self.

Ketamine is used in powdered or liquid form as an anesthetic, usually on animals. It can be injected, consumed in drinks, snorted, or added to joints or cigarettes. Ketamine was placed on the list of controlled substances in the US in 1999.

Short- and long-term effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine users can also develop cravings for the drug. At high doses, users experience an effect referred to as “K-Hole,” an “out of body” or “near-death” experience.

Due to the detached, dreamlike state it creates, where the user finds it difficult to move, ketamine has been used as a “date-rape” drug.




LSD, which is often taken in tablet form, gives an intense and altered state, which transforms into disassociation and despair. Often there is no stopping “bad trips,” which can go on for up to twelve hours.

Physical Effects:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Higher or lower body temperature
  • Sweating or chills (“goose bumps”)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors

Mental Effects:

  • Delusions
  • Visual hallucinations
  • An artificial sense of euphoria or certainty
  • Distortion of one’s sense of time and identity
  • Impaired depth perception
  • Impaired time perception, distorted perception of the size and shape of objects, movements, color, sounds, touch and the user’s own body image
  • Severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings
  • Fear of losing control
  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks, or a recurrence of the LSD trip, often without warning long after taking LSD
  • Severe depression or psychosis




When opium is smoked, the drug causes a short-term high that includes relaxation, pain relief, reduced anxiety and impaired alertness and coordination. These effects usually wear off in about 3-4 hours.

Using opium for a prolonged time or using opium excessively can lead to a tolerance of the common side effects of opium and the user may not feel as relaxed when the drug is used. In fact, over time, opium use can lead to heightened anxiety, weight loss, and mental deterioration.

There is even a potential for death to occur as a result of opium overdose though not common unless a derivative of the drug is being used.

Prolonged use of opium can lead to lung disorders including emphysema and cancer. Smoking opium also causes damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and various other organs of the body.




Valium, a popular sedative-hypnotic prescription drug, has numerous effects on the body, many of which can be dangerous when the drug is misused or abused. Valium (diazepam) is prescribed for sleeplessness, anxiety, muscle spasms, and sometimes for the management of alcohol withdrawal.

Valium is in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Valium and other drugs like it act to potentiate the effects of a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system known as GABA—resulting in depression of a number of brain processes. It has historically been prescribed in the short-term for its anti-convulsant and anti-anxiety properties.

Like many of the benzodiazepines, Valium has become popular amongst those seeking to get high as a result of its depressant effects. Many abusers of Valium take it combination with alcohol and/or other substances.




Dopamine (dopamine hydrochloride) is a catecholamine drug that acts by inotropic effect on the heart muscle (causes more intense contractions) that, in turn, can raise blood pressure.

At high doses, Dopamine may help correct low blood pressure due to low systemic vascular resistance. Dopamine is used to treat hypotension (low blood pressure), low cardiac output, and reduced perfusion of body organs due to shock, trauma, and sepsis.

Dopamine is available in only the generic form. Side effects of Dopamine include:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Shortness of breath


Speed (Methamphetamine)


Speed is a potent and addictive central nervous system stimulant, chemically related to amphetamine, but with greater central nervous system side effects. It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.

Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the user experiences an intense sensation, often called a “rush”, which lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use produces euphoria or high, but not a rush. Snorting methamphetamine will lead to effects with 3 to 5 minutes, whereas oral ingestion takes 15 to 20 minutes.

Increased activity, wakefulness, talkativeness, increased concentration, decreased appetite, increased libido, and a sense of well-being are common, immediate effects of methamphetamine abuse. Some users become addicted quickly, and abuse it with increasing frequency and in increasing doses.

As the pleasurable effects of methamphetamine disappear, abusers may use more and more drug to get the same effect. Using methamphetamine many times over a period of several days, usually without food or sleep, is often called a “run”.


Crystal Meth

Crystal Meth

When taken, meth and crystal meth create a false sense of well-being and energy, and so a person will tend to push his body faster and further than it is meant to go. Thus, drug users can experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drugs wear off.

Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability.

In the long term, meth use can cause irreversible harm: increased heart rate and blood pressure; damaged blood vessels in the brain that can cause strokes or an irregular heartbeat that can, in turn, cause cardiovascular collapse or death; and liver, kidney and lung damage.

Users may suffer brain damage, including memory loss and an increasing inability to grasp abstract thoughts. Those who recover are usually subject to memory gaps and extreme mood swings.




Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug. It is used by millions of addicts around the world who are unable to overcome the urge to continue taking this drug every day of their lives—knowing that if they stop, they will face the horror of withdrawal.

Heroin (like opium and morphine) is made from the resin of poppy plants. Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower. This opium is refined to make morphine, then further refined into different forms of heroin.

Most heroin is injected, creating additional risks for the user, who faces the danger of AIDS or other infection on top of the pain of addiction.

Heroin was first manufactured in 1898 by the Bayer pharmaceutical company of Germany and marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as a remedy for morphine addiction.

During the 1850s, opium addiction was a major problem in the United States. The “solution” was to provide opium addicts with a less potent and supposedly “non-addictive” substitute—morphine. Morphine addiction soon became a bigger problem than opium addiction.

As with opium, the morphine problem was solved by another “non-addictive” substitute—heroin, which proved to be even more addictive than morphine. With the heroin problem came yet another “non-addictive” substitute—the drug now known as methadone. First developed in 1937 by German scientists searching for a surgical painkiller, it was exported to the US and given the trade name “Dolophine” in 1947. Renamed methadone, the drug was soon being widely used as a treatment for heroin addiction. Unfortunately, it proved to be even more addictive than heroin.

By the late 1990s, the mortality rate of heroin addicts was estimated to be as high as twenty times greater than the rest of the population.

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how your favorite drugs look like under a microscope