"This is your brain on drugs."
The tagline of the most famous anti-drug campaign of the late 80s is now the title of a series of beautiful posters created by Duke University senior Meaghan Li. Li majors in public policy and minors in graphic design. This project was created for a psychology class that delved into different aspects of substance use and abuse.
"I intend to use these designs on the backs of small cards that provide basic information about each drug, such as their addictive potential, effects/side effects, drug interactions, active/lethal dose ratios, etc," Li told me in an email. "My approach was that if individuals (and college students in particular) are going to use psychoactive substances, they should have access to as much information as possible to minimize possible drug-related risks and harms."
Li is quick to point out that she's not advocating drug use, and the images aren't meant to convey the full range of a given drug's effects -- especially damaging ones -- on a person's mind or body. "However, what I did want to avoid was fear-mongering and sensationalism," she said. "These tactics have used for decades in nationwide PSAs that we're all familiar with; I think that we're ready for a generational shift in our approach towards drug policy."
Li's work was inspired by other famous intersections of drug use and design, including Bryan Lewis Saunders' series of self-portraits done on different drugs, and Patrick Smith's posters about mental illness. Take a gander at a few of Li's works below.
This is the psychoactive drug that we're all the most familiar with -- nearly 90 percent of American adults have taken at least one sip of booze in their lifetime, 56 percent of us have had a drink in the past month, and nearly a quarter have binge drunk in that same time. "Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways," according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination."
America's quasi-illicit drug of choice, depending on where you live, and a plant that's likely to play a big role in the 2016 presidential contest. 44 percent of Americans have smoked and inhaled it at some point in their lives. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana's effects include altered senses, altered perception of time, changes in mood, impaired movement, and altered thinking.
Ketamine is an anesthetic that's been around for decades. Recreationally, it's used as a club drug that "distorts perceptions of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control," according to the DEA. In therapeutic contexts the drug shows great potential for treating people with severe depression. Last fall, the director of the National Institutes on Mental Health said ketamine "might be the most important breakthrough in antidepressant treatment in decades."
Magic mushrooms put your brain in a "waking dream" state and may have "permanent, positive effects" on the brain, according to a study released last year. About 9 percent of Americans have used magic mushrooms at least once in their lifetime.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that produces "short-term euphoria, energy, and talkativeness," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sixteen percent of Americans have tried it at least once.