OVER A two-year period Carl (not his real name) was taking four Es, speed and other drugs every weekend. Eighteen months ago, he started experiencing panic attacks, hallucinations and profound anxiety.

"I started to take more and more E because the effects started to wear off quicker. If I had money in my pocket and a pill started wearing off, I'd get another one. I never knew when to stop. But I wasn't having as good a time as I used to have, I'd just sit around in a corner and be miserable.

"One night, we'd gone back to a friend's to chill-out and we took some more in the moming. Suddenly I thought I was dying. I was screaming and all sorts. I thought I was having a heart attack and everything went black. It was horrible. Eventually it faded, though it went on for the majority of the day. I say now it was just a "panic attack". At the time it was bloody awful. I laid off E for a couple of weeks and I was fine. I went out once more and I had panic attacks again. After that they kept happening. Eventually I'd given up drugs, alcohol, everything apart from cigarettes, and I was still having panic attacks quite regularly.

"Holding down my job was keeping me going as everything else had gone completely out of the window. I'd become completely lethargic. I just couldn't get off the sofa. I couldn't cope with many people in the same room, I was frightened of crowds, I was even scared to go down the pub in case I had a panic attack. I was convinced that I was going to drop down dead, and this was several weeks after I'd last touched anything. Eventually I went to the doctor. It took three attempts before I could finally come out with what the real problem was. I thought they'd say, 'You stupid boy, it's your own fault, go away'. I didn't need to be told I was stupid - my body was telling me that. When I finally got it out, the doctor was really cool, really non-judgemental. She didn't claim to know a lot about it and she suggested that I go for proper drugs counselling. I was pretty scared of going there because I thought it was just for smack heads, but they were great.

"They explained that my brain had just become too sensitive, it had screwed up and time would heal it. The guy I spoke to said he was noticing it a hell of a lot in the last year or so. He compared it to people in the Sixties who were going the same way through acid.

"There didn't seem to be any other factors. I've got a good job, no family history. I believe it's purely pills that have done it. Maybe if I'd been a different person taking that amount it wouldn't have had such an effect, but the drugs were definitely the major part of it. I've been 'all right' for the last year. I've been on Prozac and that's sorted me out."

"I've started smoking [dope] again, but not to the same extent. I'm not going to go around saying 'Don't do drugs' because I've done them and I'll do them again. Look out for the warning signs and calm it before it's too late. They're there to be enjoyed, but you've just got to be careful. I was lucky. I got away with it - just."