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Buzz Drug Products: Depressants

Let's look at these first, because this is the buzz family alcohol belongs to. Depressants help you relax. They lower the activity of your central nervous system in some way. Typically, they are calming, reduce perception (most notably of pain), reduce inhibition, relax muscles, and reduce blood pressure. Medically, they are used to treat pain, anxiety, seizure conditions, insomnia, muscle spasms, nausea, and as anaesthetics. They usually improve your mood as a side effect of relaxing you, but if you have thoughts that weigh heavily on you, they might not.

Depressants are the class of buzz drug that cause the acute withdrawal syndromes that are so famous and so dangerous - alcohol, in particular. They are also dangerous if taken in very high doses because they can slow your breathing and heart beat until you die from heart failure. More commonly, people die from vomiting while unconscious, and then choking on their own vomit. When your body notices the chemicals that cause the depressed breathing and heart beat are getting awfully high, vomitting is the automatic reflex, and normally it kicks in before you pass out. Your body isn't dumb. But if you injected or snorted your buzz drugs, or took them in a highly concentrated form, or you have very high tolerance due to addiction, or have been on a long bender, then you are at risk of passing out first, and not waking up to do the puking part. If there are other people around you, there is no reason this should be deadly. Does your buddy remain unresponsive even when you give him or her a friendly smack on the cheek (not the kissing kind)? You should place your buddy in the recovery position, which prevents vomit from blocking the airways. Check on them frequently, and if they do vomit without regaining consciousness, take them to a hospital. If you are a hard partier, or you know hard partiers, it's a good idea to know how to do that.

That said, depressants are by far the simplest buzz drug category to legalize safely. Diluting the ones to be legalized so that lethal overdoses aren't possible is easy. None of them will cause you any permanent damage to your health even if you go through a serious addiction to them. Except alcohol. That stuff is nasty. Most of these depressants also don't cause cross-tolerance - you don't develop tolerance to others when you develop tolerance to one. The exception is alcohol and bretazenil, which is a benzodiazepine. You will have tolerance to both of these if you are tolerant to one. Kava may also be cross-tolerant with alcohol and bretazenil, but only partially. This makes it relatively easy for someone who is vulnerable to addiction to one or more of the depressants to stave off the development of tolerance by rotating through a selection of depressants, maybe with a dissociative hallucinogen or two also in the mix. There aren't even a lot of depressants that can't be legalized because they can't be offered in a safe enough format - only barbiturates and quaaludes. They are briefly discussed in the 'Not Offered' section. Those would be decriminalized for personal use, selling them would remain a crime. But they are not at all popular anyhow because they are dangerous, and safer buzzes feel just as good.

Check the page on dose control to find out how dilution would prevent serious overdoses even where people mix buzz drugs, and the support services section to see how staff can help addicted users minimize the risks to their health through rotation, buzz holidays, ibogaine, and nutritional support.

Cannabis (Marijuana, pot, weed, grass, etc., etc.)

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Blue dot

Mental: relaxation, mild confusion, freer associative thinking, heightened sense of humour, passivity, possible paranoia, hunger, thirst, heightened sensory impact, improved mood, possible euphoria, sense of time dilation, possible drowsiness and sleep.

Physical: increased heart rate, reduced blood pressure, reduced coordination, dry mouth, red eyes, muscle relaxation, hunger, thirst.

At excess dose: mild hallucinations, paranoia, confusion, sedation

Reversible: Short term memory loss, decreased concentration

Permanent: None

Smoking causes lung damage

None (non-toxic) Restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability. Symptoms are mild to moderate, begin after 1 to 3 days of abstinence, and last 10 to 14 days.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

Cannabis sativa botany 
illustration from  Kohler's Medizinal-Pflantzen, published in 1887

Let's deal first with the most popular illegal buzz on the planet. Cannabis would be sold as packets of plant material, with the adoption of vaporizer pipes encouraged, as lung damage from smoking it is the most serious consequence of normal marijuana use. Skunk, the marijuana that has been bred for greatly increased potency, would not be sold. Raising THC content, the most psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, has been the main goal of the breeding of skunk. THC is the chemical in marijuana responsible for the paranoia it causes, as well as its hallucinatory effects (like time distortion and dream-like thinking), but cannabis has other important psychoactive components. Synthetic cannabinoid products contain chemicals that are very similar to THC and act in a very similar way on the brain - but several times stronger. They would not be offered either, as it is reasonable to suppose they also heighten paranoia, and at any rate the chemicals they contain have never been evaluated for safety. The 'original' cannabis would be sold, the leaves and buds that have been smoked for thousands of years. Toking in moderation is much easier with the original, wild cannabis. If it takes you a few more drags to get as high as you want, better that than leaving more sensitive people open to a nasty bout of paranoia and confusion. Cannabis would be available in drinks, too, and in a nod to tradition, as hash brownies.

A lower THC, high cannabidiol version would be offered too, alongside regular cannabis. Cannabidiol is one of the many cannabinoid chemicals naturally found in marijuana. It is a relaxing sedative that counteracts anxiety. This version would offer the relaxation and improved mood of marijuana without the paranoia or the short-term memory loss. Many people would find this preferable, at least on certain occasions. It would be especially useful for people who are addicted users of depressants. Depressant addiction typically is due to a need to reduce tension, so the paranoia effects of THC are often a turn-off for such users. Rotating their depressant use is a crucial strategy for protecting addicted users from physical addiction (keeping it psychological, that is). A cannabidiol version would fit in well with rotation for addicted people who are more affected by THC, or who have hieghtened anxiety.

It would also address one of the possibly valid concerns about cannabis - how it may affect people with subclinical or latent (symptom-free, that is) schizophrenia or psychosis. There is a clear statistical correlation between use of marijuana and these mental illnesses. The debate is over whether people who are predisposed to developing these illnesses tend to use pot, or the pot caused the conditions. It is clear that being predisposed is the main factor, but marijuana seems to contribute to the onset of these disorders (at least at a level that is objectively apparent) and to how they progress. Offering a cannabidiol version means that if people find that regular cannabis causes an upsetting level of paranoia for them, they have a much better option. Some such people are predisposed to psychosis or schizophrenia. In fact, the anxiety-reducing effect of cannabidiol may stave off the development of mental illness for such people - cannabidiol has been shown to be as effective in the treatment of psychosis as common anti-psychotics, without their troubling side effects. It also is only fair to point out that a large number of psychoactive drugs can trigger psychosis, including alcohol and caffeine, and a number of prescription pharmaceuticals.

Cannabis is being classified here as a depressant because it induces relaxation, and its hallucinatory effects aren't strong enough to regard it as a hallucinogen. It is important to mention, though, that cannabis is not a 'classic' depressant. All the other depressants that are on this list (except kava) share a number of common features not possessed by cannabis. They can all be lethal if you overdose, and they would all kill you in a pretty similar way - respiratory and cardiac depression to the point where your breathing or your heartbeat stops. They all cause withdrawal syndromes for addicted users that share a number of common symptoms, such as tremors and nausea. They all give users certain feelings that cannabis may not - in particular, sedation and reduced inhibition. The cannabidiol version would have these effects more, as it is THC that interferes with them. All forms of cannabis are free of the overdose and withdrawal issues of common depressants, making marijuana a very valuable part of legalization for people vulnerable to depressant addiction.

All kinds of health problems have been falsely chalked up to marijuana use over the years. But even quite old anti-marijuana campaigns, if they stuck to facts, could only point to issues when one is actually high (when you obviously shouldn't be doing anything requiring much skill) and the problems of addiction (which is caused by stress, not marijuana). The only issue for which reliable evidence exists is short-term memory loss among current heavy users. The evidence also indicates the loss is reversible, and that if the balance of THC and cannabidiol is right, it does not occur. The debate over other health consequences of cannibis has slowly settled down mostly with confirmation that casual pot use is harmless. Lung disease from smoking marijuana is still poorly understood. As investigation into this subject is on the fringe of the main argument over whether or not marijuana is devil-weed, older biased studies have not delayed accurate understanding like they have with other cannabis health debates, yet solid conclusions are still few. The results seem to show that smoking cannabis causes serious lung damage, but different from that caused by smoking tobacco. However, the picture is still far from clear. Studies are much fewer and shorter than they should be, and are impacted by the illegal status of marijuana. Earlier reports of bullae (blisters in the bronchii) being a standard feature of chronic marijuana use have been challenged. What is clear is that smoking pot damages your lungs. How often that leads to clinical disease, and of what nature and severity, is not known. Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase your chances of cancer or obstructive lung disease, at least. But please, if you take marijuana, and you enjoy smoking it, try using some form of vaporizer instead. Vaporizers would be sold in buzz shops to encourage that.

vaporgenie vaporizer pipe

Some of the cannabinoids (chemicals that are present in cannabis) have been identified as having health benefits for the general population. The research on this is not in dispute, and numerous studies into the medical potential of cannabis are underway. Early results show great promise for cannabidiol. THC also has some health benefits, but mostly for sick people who can benefit from appetite stimulation and suppression of nausea. The many, many other cannabinoids out there waiting to be investigated will probably yield a healthy crop of new treatments. As research into cannabinoids finally takes off after long neglect due to prohibition politics, it has quickly been discovered that the body's own endocannabinoid system is way more complex, affects a much broader range of body activities, and does so more profoundly, than has been previously appreciated. Legalization would create a market for cannabis that would make breeding of varieties with higher levels of beneficial chemicals an attractive business opportunity - an enhancement of the trend alreay created by medical marijuana. By contrast, the illegal marijuana market has seen the development of strains and synthetic imitations of cannabis with deliberately reduced cannabidiol, because it interferes with the psychedelic effects of THC. Illegal cannibis is becoming more health-damaging all the time. Synthetic imitations are true street drugs - high-purity crystals mixed with unknown adulterants. The more the active ingredients in cannabis are hiked up and messed with, the less it can be fairly claimed that there is any difference between marijuana and refined street drugs.

Alcohol

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Yellow/ Red dot

Mental: relaxation, clouded thinking, increased confidence, improved mood, reduced inhibition, possible euphoria, sedation, possible drowsiness and sleep, reduced sensation of pain

Physical: flushed face, reduced sense of balance and coordination, slowed reflexes

At excess dose: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, slurred speech, sensory and motor impairment, 'black outs' (loss of memory), poor perception of pain

At overdose: shallow breathing and reduced heart rate, loss of consciousness, hypothermia, seizures, coma. Potentially fatal.

Reversible: Sleep disturbances, tremulousness, liver damage.

Permanent: Brain lesions, heart damage, pancreas damage, increased risk of heart, lung, and liver disease, and increased severity of those conditions, increased risk of high blood pressure, cancer, hormonal imbalance, dementia, and stroke.

0.4 to 0.5% BAC (blood alcohol concentration) by direct toxicity (where the heart or breathing is stopped by respiratory depression). Death by suffocation on vomit can occur at 0.3% BAC, possibly less if other factors make one more vulnerable to nausea or loss of consciousness

Note: abrupt cessation of alcohol use is dangerous for addicted users. Gradual reduction or a proper detox program ensures mild symptoms.

Mild: headache, nausea, slight tremors, sweaty palms, nervousness, mild sensory disturbances (itching/burning/pins and needles/ numbness, sensitivity to light and sound)

Moderate: moderate to severe headache, vomiting, tremors, sweating, agitation, anxiousness, very sensitive to light and sound, tactile disturbances (itching/burning/pins and needles/numbness), confusion.

Severe: migraine, constant vomiting, trembling, profuse sweating, panic, hallucinations, dementia, seizures (possibly fatal). Withdrawal may cause brain damage.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

Alcohol is legal, so it wouldn't be part of legalization (although it would be available in buzz shops). It is included for the sake of comparison. And what an interesting comparison it makes.

Be honest. If you didn't know what buzz was being referred to in the table above, wouldn't you regard it as dangerous? Maybe even ban it, and encourage people to use other depressants? The only reason it is partially categorized as yellow is because of beer and mixed drinks. Spirits are definitely a red risk buzz drug. Alcohol poisoning can be potentially fatal at a blood alcohol content as low as 0.3% by volume (which is the same as 0.3 permille or 0.3 basis points, for Europeans). What would probably kill you at that dose would be that you pass out and then vomit, and suffocate on the vomit. Normally your body wakes you up before causing you to puke, for that to not work you have to genuinely lose consciousness. Calculating how much liquor you would need to drink to reach this level depends on a number of factors, but on average, a woman of 140 lbs. (63 kg) who drinks 17 oz (510 ml) of 80 proof liquor over 3 hours reaches this level. A man weighing 175 lbs (80 kg) would need to drink 26 oz (780 ml) of the same stuff in the same time.

Spirituosen-im-supermarkt, alcohol in a supermarket

Not hard, right? At least, getting it in you isn't hard. Keeping it in you is the hard part. But because the volume of fluid is so low, if you drink on an empty stomach, and especially if you are thirsty, meaning you are slightly dehydrated, the alcohol would be absorbed so quickly and be so hard to get back out even a healthy person might lose consciousness and then vomit, and then choke. Someone who has been an alcoholic for a while is more likely to pass out then puke, because of the damage done to them by previous drinking. Or, that damage could cause them not to puke, and if they were really tossing it back before passing out, they could die from direct poisoning that stops their heart from just a few more ounces of liquor. And if you can't imagine someone glugging straight liquor like that, well, can you imagine a guy the size of our example above doing 5 tequila shooters at the start of the night, and then having 5 doubles over the next 2 hours? He'd get to that 0.3% level, too. Frankly, the only reason why death from alcohol poisoning doesn't happen way more often is that young rowdies are normally healthy enough that their vomit reflex carries them through. People who die from alcohol poisoning are usually in their 40s, and their bodies just can't deal with the load any more. If you have ever not been able to remember last night, you were at least three quarters of the way to a dose that could have killed you.

Death by alcohol overdose is rare, but it still happens a lot more than people think. 1,356 Americans officially died of alcohol poisoning in 2007. It just doesn't usually receive media attention, except for the rare occasions when something piques the public's interest. Bear in mind that these deaths occur even though alcohol is sold in a relatively safe way, while illegal buzz drugs are sold in the most dangerous way possible.

But we are just getting started, aren't we. A third of all fatal car accidents in the U.S.A. in 2009 involved drunkeness, even after many years of campaigns against drunk driving. Alone among all the depressants, alcohol increases your willingness to take risks and your aggression. For some, it increases violent aggression, sometimes a great deal. All depressants lower your inhibitions and impair your thinking, but only alcohol increases the likelihood you will act on your ill-considered, emotionally laden thoughts. When you are drunk, the odds just balloon that you will do a stupid, stupid thing you will regret for the rest of your life. (And a very large part of the time, that will have something to do with a girl - or a lack thereof.) Then there are the medical consequences of addiction. Let us be very clear about this part - no other buzz drug permanently scars the body of an addict like alcohol does. Heroin? Most of the damage it does is due to drug injection, and the cost and legal repercussions of using it. Methamphetamine? The most deeply compulsive meth addicts go downhill very fast, but all alcoholics sustain damage to various organs that will never disappear. Besides which, the damage done by illegal buzz drugs has a lot to do with their illegality, while alcohol cannot make that claim. Alcohol is the most dangerous buzz in the world.

If buzz legalization could reduce alcohol consumption, as people choose other buzzes to a greater or lesser degree, that would be a very good thing. And it is probably what would happen. The main reason to sell alcohol in buzz shops is to encourage people to make the side-by-side comparisons that clearly show other depressants are safer and healthier (read on to confirm that), and encourage them to choose those other depressants on a regular basis. Another good reason is so that if a customer comes to the counter with both alcohol products and any of a number of other buzz drugs, the clerk will likely advise that customer verbally that mixing alcohol and any of those buzzes is dangerous, so please don't. Anything that helps that message be thoroughly absorbed is a good thing. As things currently stand, most young experimenters don't understand the risks they take when mixing buzz drugs, and hardened poly-drug users (as they are called) are generally given to understand that nobody gives a crap what they do. That lack of communication results in deaths and injury a friendly clerk can prevent.

If you are currently addicted to alcohol, buzz staff might mention naltrexone to you. According to the Sinclair method, by taking a small dose of naltrexone about an hour before every time you drink booze, you slowly erase your inclination to drink it in excess. This treatment needs further study, but may have potential. It works by chemically reducing your enjoyment of alcohol, which may cause a lot of people to lose motivation to continue. On the other hand, since you can still drink unrestricted until you decide yourself you want less, maybe that works well in a lot of cases. The one clinic in Finland where it has been used to treat thousands of cases of alcoholism claims it has a 78% success rate. If that was reproduced at other clinics, then the evidence would be in. At the very least, this should have been tried years ago. The roadblock continues to be that most governments won't approve any treatment method unless the patient has to cease use right away and commit to total abstinence. Naltrexone is now sold as a generic, cheaply, so if you want to try it, it's pretty simple. Usually people take 50 mg an hour before drinking (the dose may need some fine tuning) and continue until their urge to drink has diminished drastically or sometimes totally disappeared. Results usually take a few weeks to several months before being complete.

Benzodiazepines - Bretazenil and Designer Benzos

Now we get into the really controversial stuff. Most people won't be comfortable with the idea of any adult being able to walk into a store and buy benzodiazepines, like Valium or Xanax. But benzodiazepines are a whole family of chemicals, and some are pretty safe, especially when compared to alcohol. The key things to consider when comparing benzodiazepines are: how quickly do they take effect, how quickly is tolerance developed, do they cause amnesia, and how quickly do they wear off. Bretazenil does all the right things here: it takes effect quickly, tolerance develops more slowly than with other benzos, it does not cause amnesia, and it wears off in 2 to 3 hours.

For these reasons, David Nutt (mentioned above, currently an editor of the Journal of Psychopharmacology and founder of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs) mused that bretazenil would be a good drug to work on as a recreational drug intended to compete with alcohol. All benzodiazepines share big advantages over alcohol: they don't cause brain damage or organ damage when abused, and they don't cause aggressive behaviour. Bretazenil has the added advantages that it does not cause nausea, amnesia, or loss of motor control.

Because bretazenil was never put into production, some of it's characteristics have not been established. It turned out to not be commercially viable as an anxiety med or an anti-convulsant, which is what it was being developed for, so it was abandoned. The table data for consequences of heavy use, effects at excess dose, lethal dose, and withdrawal symptoms refers to benzodiazepines in general, as that data for bretazenil isn't available. Bretazenil should be similar, although it may well have effects that are different than, worse than, or better than other benzodiazepines, as it is known to act somewhat differently in the brain. If it does have problematic effects, the search would have to continue among the many variants of benzodiazepines for the most desirable buzz drug. As far as is known, though, bretazenil ought to work nicely.

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Yellow dot

Mental: Calm, relaxation, improved mood, reduced inhibition, possible euphoria, decreased concentration and alertness, drowsiness, sleep, dizziness, sedation

Physical: muscle relaxation

At excess dose: slurred speech, double vision

At overdose: low blood pressure, shallow breathing, loss of consciousness. Potentially fatal. The risk of overdose is greatly increased by combining benzos with alcohol or other depressants (except cannabis or kava).

Reversible: Mild impairment of thinking. Complete recovery may take 6 months or more.

Permanent: None

Lethal overdose from benzos alone is extremely rare, and is usually associated with suicide. Lethal dose not established.

Note: abrupt cessation of benzodiazepine use is dangerous for addicted users. Gradual reduction or a proper detox program ensures mild symptoms.

Mild: dry mouth, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, headache, fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, feeling blue.

Moderate: dizziness, hot and cold flushes, nausea, tremor, sweating, mood swings, sensory hypersensitivity

Severe: blurred vision, numbness, tingling, nightmares, spasms, vomiting, convulsions (possibly fatal), catatonia (possibly fatal), hallucinations, terror, suicide wishes, suicide.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

In medicine, benzodiazepine prescriptions are kept short where possible to avoid physical addiction. Tolerance to some of their effects happens pretty quickly, in particular their sleep inducing effect. If you have tolerance, you will go through withdrawal when quitting, and some withdrawal symptoms may continue for a long time. Daily use by prescription can cause significant tolerance in as little as a month - daily use of any buzz drug is the best way to develop toderance. Withdrawal is usually a mild affair, but tapering of the dose to make it as comfortable as possible may need to continue for months. The horrific severe withdrawal symptoms in the table would only apply to people who had a severe long term addiction and quit cold turkey.

How quickly tolerance develops with bretazenil is unknown, but appears to be slower than in the case of other benzos, and probably no faster than is the case with alcohol. That puts things nicely in perspective. Thus, drinking bretazenil twice weekly moderately, or once weekly heavily, should be something you could do for years without a significant tolerance issue. At any rate, if you find you are developing tolerance to bretazenil, at least you don't need to immediately worry about what effect your bretazenil intake is having on your brain, liver, heart, pancreas, and your chances of developing cancer. If your alcohol tolerance is rising, you should worry about all of those things. And alcohol withdrawal is every bit as difficult.

Bretazenil drinks would be very safe. Overdose would be difficult, and of minor concern. It takes so much benzo to fatally overdose, nobody has even figured out how much. The deaths that do occur are almost always deliberate suicides, so the amount taken can't be used to establish the lethal dose. A simple overdose makes you pass out, meaning that there is no way with such drinks you could down enough to cause serious respiratory depression before that happened. Even in cases where benzodiazepine overdose cases are hospitalized, the treatment is activated charcoal and observation - and the charcoal isn't for the benzos, it's because medical staff know it is likely other depressants were taken at the same time. The antidote, flumazenil, is rarely used, as there is a risk it will cause seizures or other complications, making it riskier than the benzos themselves. It is considered safer to administer the kind of supportive care used in cases of mild poisoning. Patients experience low blood pressure and shallow breathing until the buzz wears off, and then they are fine. Unfortunately, i couldn't find information on what dosage is likely to cause a person to pass out. One presumes it's a lot. It wouldn't sneak up on you though. If you are seeing double and slurring your speech, well, slow down.

Drinking enough bretazenil mixed with other depressant drinks to really get into trouble would involve more liquid than the typical tummy can hold at once. It would also involve not puking, which would be quite a feat to accomplish when lots of highly puke-able fluid and a tummy that says 'poison!' are put together. At the doses put in legal drinks, you would vomit thoroughly long before passing out. Opium use together with bretazenil would be a more difficult problem. Opium would be sold for smoking, which means you could drink lots. This issue with opium is why it would be a red category product, and why purchase patterns of opium and depressants that are dangerous in combination with it would be flagged and addressed. Plus, opium products will always include a puffer of the antidote, naloxone. Once the opium is neutralized, the bretazenil wouldn't be a big concern.

GHB - Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid

This buzz is just way more dangerous sold on the street than makes any kind of sense. It is known mostly among clubbers who use it for an alcohol-like buzz lasting 2 to 3 hours, which some find more pleasant than alcohol itself. It is very easy to synthesize, so there is even more than the usual problem of uncertainty as to potency and contaminants. It makes you forgetful at strong doses, meaning you can easily double-dose. It is new enough that people are ignorant of how dangerous it is to mix it with alcohol. Add that up with the fact that at three or four times the recreational dose it can cause you to pass out and then vomit, and street GHB sometimes kills people just because of simple, dumb mistakes. GHB is the perfect example of the huge difference made by simple things like regulated production, standardized potency, and warning labels.

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Red dot

Mental: improved mood, reduced inhibition, increased sense of empathy and sensuality, sedation, drowsiness, mild confusion, possible euphoria

Physical: loss of balance and coordination, slurred speech

At excess dose: dizziness, nausea, amnesia, poor balance and coordination, sleep

At overdose: vomiting, loss of consciousness for several hours (transient coma), shallow breathing, reduced heart rate, convulsions. Potentially fatal. The risk of overdose is greatly increased by combining GHB with alcohol or other depressants (except cannabis or kava).

Unknown. Little research into long-term GHB use has been done. Preliminary research on rats shows that heavy use may impair learning and memory, but this is no proof that the same happens in humans. 50 mg/kg causes transient coma lasting a few hours; lethal dose unknown, but is above 100 mg/kg. 50 mg/kg is equivalent to a bit less than 4 g for a 75kg person (165lbs.).

Note: Gradual reduction in use or a detox program ensure mild symptoms.

For mild to moderate addiction: Insomnia, anxiety, tremors lasting 3 to 12 days.

Severe cases of addiction have been documented, in which the addict was dosing every 2 to 4 hours around the clock. Abrupt cessation in such cases causes extreme reactions and can be deadly. Delirium, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and elevated blood pressure occur for 2 weeks, in addition to tremors, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, and confusion.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

Gamma-hydroxybutyric Acid has not been studied much as a recreational drug. It has arrived only relatively recently on the rave and club scene, and the addiction research community is still catching up. Recently they deduced the brain must have a GHB receptor. Recreational buzz use has been a major driver of brain receptor discoveries, and this latest one shows that trend is still strong. It is sometimes sold on the street as an alternative to ecstasy, on the grounds it usually enhances sensuality and sociability, but it is really a lot more like alcohol. Interestingly, GHB could be bought in health food stores until the early '90's. When it was realized people were using large quantities to get buzzed, and that killed some people, it was banned.

vials of GHB

The issue with GHB, and the reason it is in the red category, is that the gap between an amount that will make you feel good and an amount that will cause you to pass out is somewhat narrow. And when i say pass out, i mean you actually fall into a brief coma lasting several hours, and then you suddenly wake up like nothing happened. While unconscious, there is a chance you will vomit. The greater the overdose, the greater the chances this will happen while you are passed out. If you haven't been positioned properly so that vomit falls away from your mouth and can't be breathed into your lungs, and there isn't someone there to clear your airways, you will die. Scary.

Dilution to the rescue! The recreational dose for non-tolerant users of GHB is 10 mg/kg, up to a maximum of 20 mg/kg, before most people experience effects of an excess dose, like amnesia, nausea, and falling asleep. The point where transient coma occurs is about 50 mg/kg. With GHB-spiked buzz drinks, crossing that gap between 20 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg would be extremely hard to do because you would either puke it up or fall asleep before you could get anywhere near the 50 mg/kg level. As a concentrate, you can get to that dose in one swallow, but the volume of liquid you'd have to down to get that dose in buzz beverages would be way more than you could possibly keep down once affected by nausea, or get down once affected by sleepiness. The beer-like format of legalized GHB would thus protect casual users very well.

Some users report that with the concentrates on the street market, the euphoria they feel on a strong dose can quickly change to extreme nausea and vomiting, often accompanied by intense dizziness, if they take a little more, another quarter gram or so. It seems that your response to GHB can suddenly shift from super-happy to super-sick over a narrow dose range. Only a portion of users feel euphoria on GHB, so it is possible this is related to their particular physical make-up, or to them developing greater tolerance to GHB because the euphoria motivates them to use it regularly, or both. Other people fall deeply asleep instead of getting nauseous at strong doses. How GHB plays out in people's bodies is still poorly understood, but there are indications that individual reactions to it are more variable than with most buzz drugs, and both hypo- and hyper-sensitivity are unusually common. The dilute, standardized format of legal GHB drinks would be of great assistance in smoothing out the build-up of it in your system, so you could stop when you sense you are near the threshold of a bad place, instead of being bumped into the midst of one, and be aware of exactly how much you have taken.

The unusually broad range of responses to GHB warrants being mentioned on the warning label, to emphasize the importance of taking it slow until you have a feel for how you respond to it. That would be a good place to also state it is dangerous to mix it with alcohol or stimulants. Mixing is always risky, but GHB and alcohol is an especially nasty combination. GHB and amphetamines seems to be a pretty toxic mix too. These combinations are sufficiently noxious that if you tried to buy alcohol or methylphenidate (which is chemically similar to amphetamines) and GHB at the same time in a buzz shop, the clerk would warn you not to mix them. As noted above regarding bretazenil and mixing, dilution reduces the impact of mixing to a level that should be manageable. Still, no point messing around with stuff like this.

Street GHB has sometimes been called a "date-rape drug". It is true that a strong dose will put many people into a deep sleep and make them forget the night's events, and an overdose will give them a transient coma, if you are a twisted guy looking for extra insurance. It is worth noting that the simplest and most common date rape drug is alcohol, time-honored and plausibly deniable. There are a couple of disadvantages to using GHB for such creepiness - it is salty (at least the chemical version sold illegally is) and requires a dose of 2 grams or more before it will reliably knock out some poor young thing. That changes the taste of a drink a lot, although the claim is that this can be masked. It is also just as likely to cause your prey to violently hurl as it is to knock them out. And because of the alcohol, it might very well cause both things at once, in which case you'd better know what to do, or you are looking at manslaughter, not rape. The overarching issue with date rape, though, is people, especially young people, being overly trusting and lacking caution when using buzz drugs. This concern applies to alcohol as well. Most date rapes happen because someone was sucked into willingly doing more buzz drugs than they could handle, and in many cases this is just as true of the perpetrator as it is of the victim. Could legal GHB increase the incidence of this? Well, it is plausible it could increase the incidence of people slumping into a deep sleep when out partying, slightly. It wouldn't have any effect on the number of people inclined to take creepy advantage of that. In fact it might diminish them, because sexual assault is an act of aggression, an emotion augmented by alcohol, but not by GHB or any of the other depressants proposed here for legalization. Legal GHB would also reduce the availability of concentrated street GHB suitable for slipping into drinks, which would thus reduce the options of pathological persons who might do something like that.

There have been assertions GHB burns fat and builds muscle, which is why it was commonly found in health food stores back in the day. There has been a leap of logic between what research shows and the effect being asserted, however. Bodybuilders started taking it because it boosts the production of human growth hormone. That is true, but it does this by extending periods of deep sleep. If you take a dose of GHB big enough to make you go to sleep, you will spend a large proportion of this induced sleep at level 3, slow wave sleep, which is naturally correlated in humans to release of growth hormone. But the GHB will wear off in three or four hours, and cause a rebound rise of dopamine in your system, which will wake you up and leave you sleepless for a couple of hours (see pg 6 of the report here). Unless you dose yourself with something else to make you sleep, you end up with a net loss of sleep. Redosing with GHB at this point would be a bad idea. Bodybuilders might benefit from the increased growth hormone, although how much the difference is is highly debateable, but only if they took GHB after every workout, which could mean 3 to 5 times a week. Two doses nightly that often will make you physically addicted in a few months. Even one dose a night five times a week is pushing the envelope. Then if you want to stop, you have to taper down your dose over time, and even then you will likely experience some withdrawal symptoms. More to the point, taking a psychoactive substance that often is going to distort your emotions and thinking, whether you realize it or not. A better method is to fine-tune how warm your bedding is. Treatments for sleep disorders are being explored based on how GHB induces sleep, but it is hard to see how they could be beneficial in the long run, given the facts mentioned above. The way it see-saws you from deep sleep to sleeplessness is not nearly as beneficial as uninterrupted sleep.

Opium

Yep, that's right. Opium. Heroin's kissing cousin. Fear not. Opium isn't nearly as dangerous as you think. So why do people addicted to heroin suffer so badly so often? Because heroin is illegal. You knew i was going to say that, didn't you. Okay, to be fair, there are other factors. People vulnerable to opiate addiction (which is a small minority of all recreational opiate users) have a hole inside that is just a little deeper and blacker than the hole most addicts are trying to fill. The big euphoria of some opiates, heroin being the best known, results in a spent, hollow feeling when the rush is over that motivates people with that kind of hole to fill it again soon. Because tolerance to the euphoria of opiates builds quickly, it only takes a few months for a user with a developing addiction to need more. And that is when the illegality of heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other opiates really raises havoc.

raw opium resin

Maintaining an illegal buzz habit is expensive. For example, opiate painkillers sold on the street cost about 10 times what those drugs cost in a pharmacy. (What they cost in a pharmacy is also obscenely high in most places, but that is another subject.) Many addicts deeply suffer because of that fact. They soon need to decide between buying buzz drugs or buying things a normal person would see as more important, like groceries, clothing, and such. When you need a buzz in order to cope, it is arguable that it is, in fact, more important, because otherwise you could have a breakdown, which is nasty. But that aside, it eats up your money. At this point, heroin addicts often start to inject it, because you get more bang for your buck that way. Unfortunately, the big dangers of heroin start there. Infections from dirty needles are common, and can be very serious - if they contract AIDS, for instance. Injection overdose is really deadly, a gigantic risk. Junkies can't know exactly how pure their stuff is, they have to guess. In a state of withdrawal, their judgement is impaired. If they screw up and inject too much, they die. Injected drugs hit fast and hard and can't be puked up. Once that plunger goes down, there are only minutes to save someone in that situation. Because these addicts must hide what they do, usually they are too far from medical help, or there is no one with them to do anything at all.

However, in the United States, most opiate overdose deaths now happen when people take too many pharmaceuticals. In fact, this is now such a big problem that the Centers for Disease Control has called it an 'epidemic'. Deaths due to overdose on prescription opiates has gone up 450% since 1990, and there are now 6 times as many such deaths each year as heroin overdoses - but heroin overdose deaths have not gone down. We'll look at that more in a bit, for the moment the main point is that taking pills is also a good way to overdose on opiates, especially if you take them with alcohol, which many of the victims do.

So how could opium possibly be a safe buzz drug? By taking our cue from the Asian nations where it has been a recreational buzz for centuries, and puffing it from pipes, like in the good old days. Natural opium latex, the sticky juice that oozes from cut poppies, is vapourized by users in pipes across places like Iran, Thialand, and India. (It isn't smoked, like joints or cigarettes, because temperatures that high destroy the morphine in the latex.) This is a safe way to use opiates because the high builds gradually. If you get too stoned you get sleepy and lose your inclination to keep puffing, so you can't get up to an overdose. If you no longer need to worry about overdose, then that just leaves the impact on your health to worry about, for those who use it heavily. What are the risks there?

Chinese smoking opium, taken from the 1896 work 
The Mystic Flowery Land, available on openlibrary.org

None. That's right. If you are heavily addicted to opium, you need to take a laxative to alleviate constipation. You are very likely to have trouble sleeping properly, so you would be wise to measure your use so you can have a few puffs at bedtime to help you sleep. Beyond that, as long as you have a steady supply of your buzz, and it isn't costing you an arm and a leg, you're good to go. You think as clearly as anyone else - tolerance to the sedation caused by opiates develops quickly, so addicts aren't dopey on them unless they have taken a large dose quite recently. You are just as physically fit and capable of carrying on all your normal activities. Not to say that addiction isn't going to exact a price - it distorts your emotions, both when you are buzzed and when you are straight, and that is a steep price to pay. But if you overcome your addiction, afterwards you will be as whole as if it had never happened. Which is more than can be said for most buzz drugs. Especially alcohol.

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Red dot

Mental: relaxation, calm, euphoria, reduced sensation of pain.

Physical: constipation, flushing of the skin, dry mouth, muscle relaxation, reduced cough (if you have one), possible drowsiness.

At excess dose: drowsiness, sleep, slowed breathing, nausea.

At overdose: loss of consciousness, breathing and pulse slow dramatically, cold clammy skin, vomitting, breathing may stop, lungs may fill with fluid. Potentially fatal. The risk of overdose is greatly increased by combining opium with alcohol or other depressants (except cannabis or kava).

Naloxone is an antidote to opium. It reverses an overdose quickly.

Reversible: Sleep disturbances. It may be necessary to use a laxative to prevent constipation. Dysphoria (apathy, depression) may persist several months after cessation of use, and may be medically controlled.

Permanent: None.

120 mg to 250 mg in one to two hours

Note: Gradual reduction in use or a detox program ensures mild symptoms.

Mild: flu-like: runny nose, watery eyes, mild achiness, diarrhea, insomnia, fever, nausea, mild depression and anxiety, resolving in a week

Moderate: as above, but more serious. Achiness is painful. Sweating, vomitting, chills, depression and anxiety, nightmares, resolving in a week. Depression persists for weeks or months.

Severe: as above, but severe. Achiness is deeply painful. Kicking of the legs, priapism (look it up). Depression may persist for four to six months. Symptoms like these occur only in cases of very heavy long-term addiction in which addicts detox away from medical assistance.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

So why is opium a red risk buzz then, if it is so safe? Because if people mixed legalized opium with other buzz drugs in high enough quantities, or messed with it somehow to take big doses, overdose would be possible. Even with that risk, opium would be much safer than any opiate currently used recreationally (outside of Asia), and there are several things that can be done to minimize that risk. But since it would be possible, rating it red-risk would ensure the maximum level of assistance and monitoring is applied to opium. Now let's list the extra measures that would be taken.

The latex can be mixed with a mild irritant - chili, perhaps - so if people try to create a concentrated vapor of it in one of those tabletop vaporizers, inhaling that would just make them cough. With normal puffing the irritant would be hardly noticeable. Eating opium results in much less effect than vaping it and takes much longer to hit, so there would be no motivation to do that. Cooking latex into something injectable requires a small pharmaceutical lab, so that wouldn't be a risk, either. People who have developed tolerance because they are using it too heavily would also be able to go to a red-rated buzz bar and get the fix they crave there, as such bars would be permitted to serve stronger stuff in such situations (and preventing overdose is one of the reasons why). That would hopefully undercut temptation to experiment at home in ways that could get dangerous.

Most sorts of mixing that wild types might try with opium wouldn't be too risky. All buzz shop products would be dilute enough that the effects of an excess dose would occur well before those of an overdose, meaning you would either throw up or fall asleep. The one big risk would be people who drink shots and huff back opium at the same time. Hard liquor could combine with opium for enough respiratory depression to be dangerous. For that reason, a puffer of naloxone would be included with every product. Squirting that puffer into a nostril - your own or that of someone who has passed out - shuts down the effects of opium in under two minutes. With that out of the way, the alcohol should no longer present a danger. At worst, you have bought yourself plenty of time to get the person to hospital, to deal with an overdose of alcohol. That puffer would allow people to deactivate the opium element of less dangerous mixes, too, meaning that would help those who get to the point of passing out.

Clearly injecting heroin is just ridiculously dangerous by comparison. Vaping heroin is more dangerous too, because the purity of heroin is so high. The real comparison, however, has to be made to opiate painkiller pills. As mentioned earlier, they now kill 6 times as many Americans as heroin overdoses do. What is that all about? How can that be happening unless all kinds of pain patients are getting addicted and then overdosing?

It has nothing to do with pain patients turning into addicts. It is extremely rare for people who have been prescribed opiates for pain to fall to addiction. The problem is a combination of two things. First, prescriptions of opiate painkillers have exploded in number, as the medical community has decided to stop underprescribing these meds to people with chronic pain. Since 1990, the number of opiate prescriptions has increased by a factor greater than 10, while overdose deaths from such meds has increased by a factor of 4.5. Looked at in that light, these prescriptions result in lethal overdose less than half as often as they used to. That might explain the second problem - instead of informing patients like they should about the risks of opiates, doctors have instead relied on time-release ( Oxycontin) or long-acting formulations (methadone - for pain relief, not heroin addiction). (The opinions of America's Drug Enforcement Administration on opiate prescription is a factor here that distorts the decisions of doctors, to satisfy the policies of people who have no medical training.) If you follow your prescription, these meds should be safer than other opiate preparations, allowing doctors to prescribe higher doses. But if you don't follow your prescription, or if your doctor hasn't properly assessed your other meds, your alcohol use, or your sensitivity to opiates before writing you a prescription, time-release and long-acting opiate drugs are very dangerous. It can be hours before enough of a time-release dose is absorbed to really cause problems. By then it can't be puked up, it has moved along in your intestines too far. In the case of long-acting formulations, they can be the deadly extra ingredient even a day or two after you took the pill(s), because for some people, methadone takes a few days to clear out of the body. If you aren't aware of the risks of these meds, a few mistakes could kill you.

Here's an example of an Oxycontin death. Suppose a 180 lb man (80 kg) gives his 120 lb wife (55 kg) two pills for a toothache she has from an old prescription of his. He doesn't remember that he had only taken one pill at a time on his prescription, and like most people, they don't even consider the fact she weighs only two-thirds what he does. Now she has taken a dose 3 times what he took on prescription. The pills are time-release, but they don't realize that. When she is still in pain an hour later, they figure probably the pills are weaker because they've gotten old, and she decides to take two more. Now she is at 6 times what he took. Then she has two glasses of wine. In a bit they go to bed, when she is finally feeling woozy. In the night, she dies. The lethal dose of most opiates is about 4 to 6 times their recreational dose, and because alcohol is also a depressant, the respiratory depression of the two drugs combines, and her breathing stops. It is extremely common for people to have leftovers of old painkiller prescriptions around, and to give them to others without understanding the risk at all. It is also sadly typical for doctors to not properly inform people about overdose risks, and how to avoid them. The link at the beginning of this paragraph is to a report on deaths in Ontario. Most of those who died had received a prescription for Oxycontin from their doctors less than a month before.

Here is another example of an Oxycontin death. People who have heard it is good for getting high and realize the formula is time-release break open the capsule, crush the tiny pellets inside it, and snort the result. Because the pill was actually meant to last 12 hours, taking it this way is a huge dose. It delivers an amount that was meant to be spread over half a day in 20 to 30 minutes, and there is no way to get it back out of your body. Oxycontin is now formulated differently to prevent such abuse. It took the people on online drug forums about two months to get word out about a way around that. Good old fashioned heroin smoking is relatively safe by comparison. The figures for opiate deaths in Washington state in 2005 and 2006 showed that only 11% of those deaths were due to heroin alone, while 64% involved only a prescription opiate - and most heroin deaths are due to injection, not vaping it.

Methadone prescriptions for pain control in the United States rose by a factor of 8 between 1998 and 2006, and in the same time period deaths from methadone overdose increased by a factor of 7. Methadone must be used very carefully. Methadone is processed at highly variable rates in different people. Some people have half their dose still in their system a day after taking it, some still have half the dose present two or even three days afterwards. If people like this take a double dose or another depressant, like alcohol or a benzodiazepine, during that time, it could kill them. Someone with unusually slow methadone metabolism could well die simply by following their prescription for a few days, and a few people like that probably have.

Doctors should only prescribe long-acting opiate medications when the pain is chronic, and the patient has already been taking regular opiates for a while, meaning their response has been established and they understand the ins and outs of how they work. Even then methadone shouldn't be the opiate chosen, but a time-release preparation, and only for use overnight, not during the day. In the daytime, let people take low-dose pills as often as they want. Pain patients don't get hooked. This is well-established, so give them a break and let them regulate their own dose. This would allow a lot of them to take less and slow their development of tolerance. Worried about people faking pain because they want the buzz? Well, legal opium would solve that problem, but even if nothing was legalized, it's time to stop kidding ourselves that administrative tricks can prevent that. Americans on the Medicaid program who have been identified as addicted or at risk of addiction are often restricted to getting prescriptions filled only by one doctor and one pharmacist. People on this program are 90 times more likely to die of an overdose than other Americans.

Opiate addicts living in a prohibition system would be better served by naloxone puffers being included with all opiate prescriptions. Actually, everybody taking opiates would be greatly helped by that. Taking naloxone is simple and carries no dangers, except that if you are an opiate addict it will send you into withdrawal, which in any case is a lot better than dying. It also elegantly sends a great message about how dangerous your drugs are. At the prices being charged for these drugs, throwing some naloxone into the deal would not be a problem. Big pharma should be ashamed of what they are charging for a bunch of poppy extracts.

There is another possibly valid concern about legalizing opium. Because opium feels so good and the consequences, health-wise, are so small, more borderline people who are just unstable enough to fall into an addiction might in fact do so. Being buzzed on anything alters your thinking enough that only people faltering under a heavy stress load are attracted to the idea of being buzzed a large part of the time, i'll just say that again so we don't lose sight of it. However, a good happy drug that is easy on your body could bump up addiction figures just a bit, that doesn't seem like an unreasonable supposition. The other side of that is opium would replace alcohol as the buzz of choice for people who feel compelled to seek frequent assistance with relaxing. That would be a very, very good thing. It would definitely be a net plus, even if addictions occurred a bit more often. Alcoholics who recover from their addictions bear life-long scars on their brains, livers, hearts, and various other organs that limit them all their lives and often kill them many years later by contributing to cancer, strokes, and heart disease. Opiate addicts can recover completely, without any lingering health problems. They are also capable of holding down a job and functioning fairly normally even in the thick of addiction, as long as they get their stuff. Illegal heroin is so expensive and dangerous you wouldn't know this is true, but it is. Not only that, ibogaine works really well for opiate addicts. It may work well for alcoholics too, but it has been established that for opiates it is very effective at eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Replacing alcoholism with opium addiction would be a tremendous boon to addict health and recovery prognosis.

People with a big addiction issue, who use multiple buzz drugs, sometimes speedball with street buzz drugs. Speedballing is when you combine a depressant with a stimulant in order to overcome some of the downsides of each buzz. Afterwards the higher price you pay in bodily wear and tear rewards you with an epic hangover, but at the time, apparently it can feel pretty great. Unfortunately this craziness is often done with cocaine and heroin. That combination is very dangerous, because cocaine highs are far briefer than heroin highs. If you take too much heroin (or oxycodone, fentanyl, what have you), when the cocaine wears off you will die right quick. The cocaine will counteract the respiratory depression caused by the opiate while it lasts. Once it wears off, your breathing and pulse will nosedive. Your heart could stop in minutes, or you could pass out and die a little later once the oxygen deficit from your slow, shallow breathing is too much for your body to take. Cocaine would not be part of this legal system, methylphenidate would be the strongest stimulant on offer. It compares favorably with cocaine in terms of how it feels, but it laster longer than opium does, which is much safer than the other way around. Buzz shop methylphenidate drinks would also be dilute enough to eliminate the chances of overdose by that medium, and buzz bar speedballing would not be permitted. Buzz shop and bar staff would watch for people trying to speedball, and prevent it as much as possible, but for those who do it anyhow, opium and methylphenidate combos would present a tiny danger when compared to cocaine and any of the current common opiates sold illegally. Opium is the best possible solution in this area as well.

Kava

This is the last depressant on the list of what would be legal under this model of legalization. And it's blue risk. Yay! My thinking is it is helpful to have at least two buzz drugs in the blue category for every class of buzz - depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. I thought depressants would only have one, cannabis, but lo, i stumbled upon kava a few days ago. Praise this relaxing gift of the balmy Pacific isles. Now you have two pretty worry-free depressants to choose from if you occasionally feel the need for some chemically-assisted relaxation, and you need never concern yourself with the complexities of the others, if you don't want to.

Risk Group Buzz Effect Consequences of Chronic Heavy Use on Overall Health Lethal Dose Withdrawal Symptoms
Blue dot

Mental: relaxation, clearer thinking, feeling of heaviness, improved mood, calm, sedation, drowsiness, vivid dreaming.

Physical: slight numbness of lips and tongue, muscle relaxation, impaired muscle control.

At excess dose: sleep.

Reversible: Scaly skin rash. Possible liver stress.

Permanent: None.

There are no recorded cases of lethal overdose from kava There are no known withdrawal symptoms from quitting kava use. There may be psychological symptoms, but there has been no systematic study of this. The Polynesian cultures that have used kava for millenia believe quitting kava does not provoke withdrawal.

All drugs cause unusual side-effects or excessive reactions in some people. When first using a buzz drug, take only a small amount, and have someone monitor you.

There is still a lack of research into the short and long term effects of kava. There was controversy a few years ago after there were several cases of liver poisoning caused by kava herbal supplements, but further investigation showed those supplements contained plant parts other than the root, which they should not have. Since then, two or three studies of traditional kava use, where the root is mashed or powdered and prepared with water, have shown that certain liver enzymes become elevated during and shortly after kava use, but it is not felt that this causes any liver damage. Those who have liver conditions should avoid kava until more is known. There is also one oft-quoted study from 1988 that associates kava with weight loss, malnutrition, and shortness of breath. This study was conducted in an Aboriginal community in northern Australia. It looked only at heavily addicted kava users, in a community struggling with poverty and isolation. Weight loss and malnutrition are features of most severe addictions among marginalized people. Other studies into kava use, although few and far between, have not noted any of these problems - except for a follow-up study done by the same institution in the same community as the 1988 study. People who have been heavy users of kava for at least three months often develop a scaly skin rash. This condition is not serious, and will heal if kava use is reduced.

bundle of kava bush roots

All in all, kava seems to be pretty safe. In the Polynesian nations where it has been an integral part of the culture for centuries, it is considered to be a safe and beneficial social buzz drug. Detailed research on it is definitely needed, though, because it is an odd duck in many ways. The skin rashes mentioned, for instance, occur through a completely unknown mechanism. Also, at moderate doses it is popularly felt that kava actually helps you think more clearly. This is fascinating in a depressant. There is no other depressant that helps with thinking - quite the opposite. That is an effect generally associated with stimulants. All that is known about the pharmacology of kava is that the GABA receptors in your brain are affected. This is also how alcohol and benzodiazepines work, but those buzzes definitely won't help you get any thinking done. The GABA mechanism also doesn't explain why users feel that kava induces very restful, refreshing sleep with dreams of heightened vividness. There are clearly undiscovered things it does in your brain.

The fact that GABA receptors are involved means that kava must cause cross-tolerance with alcohol and benzodiazepines at least to a certain extent. That means anyone with a vulnerability to addiction to alcohol and benzos would also have to watch their kava intake. On the other hand, if such a person drank kava instead of alcohol or bretazenil, that would be easier on their bodies and would also impair their thinking less. So if kava can be plugged into a rotation scheme in place of alcohol and bretazenil, that is a real plus. And it might also have a place in rotation schedules of stimulant addicts, since its effect of sharpening thinking is an action of stimulants. It looks like it would be a great addition to legalization.

Depressants Not Offered

This legal model's selection of depressants is pretty broad, and there isn't much that isn't on the list. Variants on these buzz drugs wouldn't be offered. There are many other benzodiazepines, but bretazenil would give a buzz as good or better than them and also be safer. There would be no reason for users to pine for a different benzo. The same goes for opium, as mentioned in its section. A lot of synthetic cannabinoids have come out in the last few years. The main problems with them are that they are more potent products, and they eliminate many of the chemicals found in marijuana that are beneficial to your health. Natural cannabis has all the effects they have, is more easily used in moderation, and has health benefits they don't.

Barbiturates and methaqualone are the only depressants i could find that would not be offered. Both have an effect quite similar to benzodiazepines, but with increased risk of overdose, quick development of drug tolerance, and a variety of negative side effects not seen with the use of bretazenil. Both cause impairment of thinking and muscle control, increasing the risk of accidents. Barbiturate buzzes can often cause aggression, in a manner similar to alcohol. Methaqualone (quaalude) buzzes impair memory, which can cause a user to dose themselves twice if they are also drinking, and double the recreational dose is an overdose. Acute overdose is often complicated by seizures, and can result in liver and kidney damage. With barbiturates as well, the amount that causes overdose is much closer to the recreational dose than is the case with bretazenil. Overdose on either drug can be fatal. So they won't be sold. Bretazenil will cover that buzz.

What this legal system would offer covers these kinds of buzzes well and safely, there should be no illegal product related to them that could compete with the legal offerings in safety, pleasure, or price. Mission accomplished.

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