Buzz Drug Products: Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are buzz drugs that alter your perceptions in a wide range of ways. Most of the time, they do not cause actual hallucinations - you normally don't percieve objects in the real world that don't actually exist, but that you think are real. That is the proper definition of a hallucination, if you want to be picky. Deliriants are the only class of hallucinogen that can cause you to see things around you that you judge to be entirely real, and that is one of the reasons deliriants are not suitable for legal sale as a recreational buzz. The other reason is they'll kill you if you take just a bit too much. Psychedelics are another class of hallucinogen. They alter cognition and perception, but do not reduce sensation or cause sedation. Dissociatives, the third class of hallucinogen, have these extra effects, in addition to the effects of psychedelics. Several are used as anesthetic. For our purposes, the key difference between psychedelics and dissociatives is that addiction to psychedelics is virtually unknown, while addiction to dissociatives happens regularly and can be quite severe. Some psychedelics and some dissociatives would be part of the legal system. These two hallucinogen classes have been split into separate sections so that the extra risks of dissociatives can be properly examined. Aside from the potential for addiction to dissociatives, and the extra caution that is wise when using them due to there anesthetic effects, the mental experience of both psychedelics and dissociatives is similar. Before discussing the particulars of the types that are proposed for legalization, let's examine the special nature of hallucinogens in general.
Using hallucinogens is a fundamentally different undertaking than using other buzz drugs. Hallucinating is not useful for reducing stress. If tensions are high enough within you, instead of distracting you from them, hallucinogens animate them as scenes, figures, and ideas that come unbidden seemingly from without. At low doses recreational hallucinogens act on your brain in ways that will lift your mood, but if you take a bit more than that and start to experience the sensory distortions they are famous for, your personal comfort with that sort of lack of control is overwhelmingly what determines whether you enjoy the experience or not. The main thing to remember about hallucinogens is that if you are not okay with having no control over your senses - none at all - don't take them. They require, above all, a certain trust in yourself and the world. Dare i say - a certain faith.
All hallucinogens have a special place in human history, and thus in human psychology. Hallucinogens have always formed an important part of ancient and primitive religions all over the world. Their use during important religious rites is so universal in primitive religion, such use very probably began in the misty dawn of the species Homo Sapiens. Buzz drugs of all kinds have been used throughout human history, and buzzes of all classes have been considered sacred. But only hallucinogen use could make you a priest, and only priests could administer them to others. Why that is, and how hallucinogen rituals were, and are, overseen in order to make them positive experiences, needs to be considered when thinking about how hallucinogens should be regulated. There are many hallucinogens that are very easy on your body - the health risks of other buzz categories, both here and now and long-term, are not a concern with these buzz drugs. The concern is bad trips - buzzes that become negative to the point of being upsetting.
A person who harbours within them an anxiety, an anger, or a sadness of sufficient size can have a gut-wrenching experience on hallucinogens. Mixing hallucinogens with high doses of other buzzes, or perhaps having a rare genetic predisposition, can also lead to these harrowing mind-states. In the worst cases, it is utterly terrifying, or disheartening to the point of despair, and if the person acts on their altered perceptions it can be tragic. It should be said such severe bad trips are rare. When people speak of bad trips, most often it was just a difficult experience, but not debilitating. A severe bad trip can affect the person who had it for weeks afterwards. On rare occasions, it can be the trigger of a mental illness. That can only happen if such an illness was already latent inside them, but it is difficult to know who might fall into that category, even for the people themselves. For this reason, before ever using hallucinogens, ask yourself these things:
- Is there a history of clinical mental illness in my family?
- Have I ever had a mental illness myself?
- Have I ever had an episode of paranoia, or fear, or rage, that I felt overwhelmed by or couldn't control?
If you answer yes to any of these questions.... Do Not Take Hallucinogens. Tripping on hallucinogens may be an option for you in a therapeutic setting, with a properly qualified psychotherapist, but you won't know without getting into therapy. We'll examine tripping as a medical tool shortly.
Buzz drugs don't cause bad trips; they are caused by the environment you are in, your recent experiences, and your personal history. The term Timothy Leary coined for these variables has become generally accepted among researchers of hallucinogens: set and setting. To promote a positive psychedelic experience, it is critical that you ensure that your mindset when you take the substance is open, relaxed, and confident - that is the 'set' - and that your environment feels safe and supportive to you - that is the 'setting'. The final variable - dose - can be very flexible if your set and setting are good. If they aren't, or something goes wrong with them, or you are inexperienced and didn't know what you were getting into and get weirded out, a dose that is low enough will allow you to manage your feelings until the trip is over. If you want to avoid trips with difficult elements, that are taxing, or that may develop into a genuine bad trip, always ask yourself the following questions before tripping:
- Am i upset about anything, or worried, or afraid?
- Do i have any doubts i can manage this experience, or that i will enjoy it?
- Am i uncomfortable at all with the people around me, or the place i am in?
- Is it likely that unexpected and uncontrollable things will happen around me while i'm tripping?
- Is there anything that prevents me from properly limiting my own dose, or from taking the proper steps to calm down if i get upset while tripping?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, delay tripping, correct the situation, or stick to a brief and mild outing. Very experienced people may feel able to handle a less than ideal environment, but any experienced person would tell you to think twice if there is anything you don't feel right about.
This brings us to the subject of dose control. Hallucinogens demand a different approach to this issue. In the case of stimulants and depressants, diluting doses prevents people from getting hurt by ensuring they don't take too much. In the case of hallucinogens, how much is too much depends first on you, and next on your surroundings. If you are in a bad head-space, you can have a nasty time on a mild dose. Diluting doses could prevent bad trips by making a serious trip impossible, but that would mean nobody could have the full experience of hallucinogens (legally), which would negate the entire point of legalizing them. When you bear in mind that the effective dose for a hallucinogen is highly variable from one individual to another, dilution would mean that a lot of people couldn't trip that way at all.
There are two practical ways a legal buzz system could protect against bad trips. The first is to always ask what Jimi Hendrix famously asked so long ago: 'Are you experienced?'.
Trying to ensure people get experience with hallucinogens in buzz bars before they try doing them in unsupervised environments is the best thing legalization can do to reduce risk. You would be strongly encouraged to take your first three trips on any hallucinogen in a buzz bar. Once you know how it feels and how to interact and work with tripping, you should be able to handle those buzzes that would be available in buzz shops on your own. Your server would also teach you about safe tripping. He or she would make sure you understand the priniciples of dose, set, and setting, and how to handle a bad trip, which we will come back to in a bit.
Well considered incentives should convince most people to have their first trips on a buzz in the safety of a bar. Until your purchase record showed you have taken a hallucinogen at least three times in a buzz bar, you couldn't buy it in a buzz shop. That would send a message, but it would be easy to use someone else's purchases. So, to sweeten the pill (so to speak, heh) you could be given a big discount on the purchase of your first trip on any particular hallucinogen. That first trip is especially critical, very much the best idea would be to take it in a buzz bar. Your server would then be able to carefully assess the right dose for you, for a moderate level trip, and note it in your purchase record. For your next two trips on that buzz, you would not be served more - it's better to be sure you have your 'sea-legs' first. Receiving this gentle introduction to hallucinogens is not only important so that you adjust smoothly to the experience; it is also a way to catch people who are highly sensitive to one of these buzz drugs, otherwise such people could find themselves really winging out on a dose that would be mild for the vast majority of people. Even leaving aside sensitive people, how hallucinogens affect different individuals is very highly variable and really ought to be carefully assessed on your first time using something.
The second practical step legalization could take to protect against bad experiences is to ensure doses are precise and fast-acting. Dilute doses taken orally are much slower to take effect. People taking hallucinogens that way would often misjudge their dose, by not waiting until the full impact of what they have already taken is being felt before taking more. Inexperienced people, especially, could really underestimate the effect a dose is going to have on them. Higher doses at some point make trips on many hallucinogens immersive, meaning you lose awareness of the world around you, which is a really different thing and not something you want to happen unexpectedly. So, these buzzes would come highly concentrated, and formatted for quick absorption. In these particular cases that is safer. This would be achieved differently for each of the hallucinogens proposed for legalization because each has unique properties. There are two general approaches - products that give you doses that are staged, so you take them in increments that can be quickly assessed before you choose whether to take more, and products that are only administered by servers in buzz bars, in cases where there is no good way to put dosing in the hands of individuals. The section for each hallucinogen will explain the format it would come in.
What should you do to prepare for the possibility of a bad trip? Anyone who takes hallucinogens will, sooner or later, have their personal issues brought up by the buzz and examined with fantastic allegory and mythic proportion. This can be very healthy in the long run, as long as you are able to digest the experience. But it is taxing while it is actually happening. Besides that, you can never assume you will never have a trip so negative you really want out. You should be prepared for any eventuality. First, a cardinal rule of hallucinogen use is that you should always be with a friend. When only taking amounts known to constitute a mild dose, experienced hallucinogen users might be able to make exceptions. Otherwise, it is the one rule you should always follow. Friends can comfort you and reassure you that you are safe and your feelings will pass. If your nerves are really getting frayed, also you should have a moderate dose of opium or low-THC cannabis at hand, which will soothe you quickly. (THC is what can cause paranoia when buzzed on marijuana, which is definitely to be avoided if you are having a bad trip.) When people who've gotten freaked out while tripping show up in emergency rooms, they get an injection of benzodiazepenes. Inhaled buzz drugs take effect just as fast, opium and low-THC cannibis would be just as calming, and there are no needles involved. If you are really feeling quite freaked, you could also go get assistance in any buzz bar.
Buzz bars would have no problem handling bad trips of any severity. Their chill lounges would serve to give people whose trips start to go south a place to sit down quietly and gather themselves together. The staff would have training in reassuring people in this situation. The lounges would also be designed to be as soothing as possible. A lot of psychological tricks can help with this - calming colour schemes, visual simplicity instead of clutter, soft objects, and such. Hell, they'd provide stuffed animals - why not? Staff could give you a few quick puffs of calming low-THC cannabis or opium, or in the very rare cases where it might be necessary, sedate you into sleep. When you awoke the trip would be over.
As a final measure there would be a 24/7 help line, for a calm, friendly voice to talk you down. Since the whole experience is psychological, someone trained in how to talk to people having bad trips can usually keep the fear at bay and keep you connected to reality. That is how many people who get stuck in this situation cope under the current system. People who work on hotlines like these send someone out to retrieve the people they can't talk down. That would be easier for a caller to accept if they weren't doing anything illegal.
Hallucinogen cafes would be well advised to design their layout carefully in order to maximize positive experiences. The space should really be divided into booths, and each should be visually and auditorially isolated from the other booths. People who are tripping do so best among friends in a space that feels cozy and safe, rather than around strangers in uncontrolled environments. It also helps if people can choose the music and lighting in their space, rather than having to accept whatever the staff chooses for the whole cafe. Sure, plenty of people want to explore when tripping, and feel no desire to just sit around. If you want to, then you easily can, but if you don't want to, it is important that you are accomodated, or your experience could become unpleasant. For good business, such a cafe probably wouldn't want to stray very far from this design.
Fortunately, the selection of hallucinogens suitable for legalization is broad and varied, and present minimal health risks compared to other buzz drugs. The experiences you can taste with the hallucinogens described here cover the whole spectrum in both scope and depth. If you subscribe at all to the view that hallucinogens can give you personal insight or spur creativity, as humanity has clearly believed since the very beginnings of civilization, these buzzes are a well rounded toolbox for that journey.
Medically, hallucinogens have been investigated for decades as a tool to aid psychotherapy. In the first half of the 20th century, over 100 articles on therapeutic applications of LSD appeared in medical journals. By 1961, the number of such articles reached over 1000. Hallucinogens were investigated and considered promising for a wide range of psychological ailments, including personality disorders, addiction, depression, and anxiety disorders. However, the confrontations created in Western cultures by the challenges and excesses of the hippie era, although valuable in other ways, led to the banning of all hallucinogens, and the suppression of medical research on them. At the same time, the CIA covertly experimented with LSD and many other substances as tools to break the wills of interrogation subjects, to surreptitiously influence the behaviour of opponents in order to discredit them, to cause 'assets' to become emotionally dependant on CIA agents, and to generally be the biggest and deepest kinds of assholes. To what extent the techniques developed were actually used in the field may never be known, but there is at least some evidence to indicate they continue to be used to this day. On a more cheerful note, the use of hallucinogens for healing instead of harm is making a comeback. One well-publicized study used psilocybin, and found the majority of 36 healthy test subjects still ranked their experience on the hallucinogen as being among the five most important events of their lives 14 months after the experiment, and described their lives as being more satisfactory than did the control group. None of these subjects had used hallucinogens before, and none knew whether they had been given psilocybin or a placebo during the experiment.
Flashbacks, HPPD, and Outlook Changes
The thing that needs to be emphasized regarding long-term effects of hallucinogens is how little is known about how they work. What they work on, the brain, is hardly understood at all. Seeing fancy MRI images of the brain in action and hearing lots of fancy talk about receptors and neurotransmittors may have given you the impression we know lots about the brain. Well, we do - and yet our ignorance is almost complete. For instance, both of the following theories are considered scientifically valid, as are many other theories on the same subject, and debate regarding them is fervent: a) dreams are random sense impressions that are a side-effect of your brain reviewing the sensory log of the day and deciding what to remember, and b) dreams are one way your unconscious, which is many times bigger and smarter than the ego-mind you can access while conscious, evaluates your life and makes constant decisions regarding it which determine your waking behaviour. Saying we understand the brain at this point would be like saying that because you know how to drive a car you also know how it works.
The hallucinogens we are going to discuss have little effect on your long-term physical health. Using them can occasionally cause a temporary perceptual disorder known as HPPD. Vulnerable people can fall into addiction to the dissociative hallucinogens, but once they kick that there are no lingering health effects. There is one possible serious long-term effect for some heavy users. Such use may strongly affect your overall attitude and way of thinking. Now, as has already been mentioned, changes like these generated by experiences while on hallucinogens can be remarkably beneficial. At the same time, it is worth wondering if there aren't also times when they engender a decline in mental acuity and clarity. There seems to be circumstantial evidence that they may do this, if used too frequently. Or, it may simply be that people with certain mental dispositions are drawn towards them and then use them to deny reality. Let's look first at the relatively straighforward phenomena of flashbacks and HPPD, and then ponder the merit of that idea.
HPPD only highlights how subtle and deceiving the mental influence of hallucinogens may be. Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is a little recognized and poorly understood disorder, study of it is only very preliminary. 'Flashbacks' are a phenomenon well recognized since the term was coined in the '60s, but strictly speaking, the term does not apply to the visual distortions experienced by sufferers of HPPD. Flashbacks will be discussed next in their proper context, as recurrences of emotionally charged scenes and feelings that stem from a trip experience (or a psychological trauma). The use of the term to refer to visual phenomena is so common, though, it will be used here, as 'visual flashbacks'.
The visual flashbacks that occur during HPPD can be one or several of a range of visual disturbances that occur when tripping, and then continue at a milder level, or recur occasionally, for weeks or months following the trip. There are cases recorded where vision problems have lasted years or even been permanent. It is most associated with LSD, but has been linked on occasion to a number of other hallucinogens. Anecdotal evidence indicates that psilocin, the only hallucinogen included in this legal model known to sometimes cause HPPD, does so with a frequency much lower than that of LSD. A study of long-term mescaline use among 500 members of the Native American Church found that none of them had symptoms of HPPD. So far, the evidence seems to show that if you avoid LSD, you greatly reduce your chanced of going through visual flashbacks. Only a very rough estimate of the prevalence of HPPD is possible, using one online survey conducted through Erowid.com and the research of Dr. Henry Abraham, the lead researcher in the area. This estimate is that between 1% and 5% of hallucinogen users experience HPPD symptoms significant enough to be troublesome for some period of time before resolving. (Which hallucinogens the subjects took was not asked in the survey). Further research by Dr Abraham indicates that past use of LSD may affect the vision of perhaps 40% of all users, but be so subtle that they hardly notice it, or don't at all.
Any number of different phenomena may occur. Some people see colours inaccurately and have trouble telling what colour an object really is. Afterimages from looking at objects in high contrast lighting may persist far longer than normal. The visual 'static' that occurs in very low light may be much grainier and affect vision at higher lighting levels. At times sufferers have trouble accurately judging the size of objects, things at rest seem to shift, or scenes that are visually complex seem to contain imagery, such as of faces or figures. Under the right circumstances, any of the above symptoms can make tasks difficult. More to the point, they are very socially awkward, disorienting, annoying, and can cause anxiety. Some sufferers can take the symptoms in stride until they go away, other people find them very disruptive.
These symptoms are somehow caused by hallucinogens changing how light entering your eyes is processed in your brain, before you see it consciously. Some types of processing become too sensitive, others not sensitive enough. All HPPD symptoms are due to one or the other, though. They aren't because of any change in the brain's wiring, just to changes in activity levels at one or more steps along the normal process. For instance, everyone gets afterimages if they look at an object steadily for a short time, and have grainy vision in the dark. If you stare at one point in a complex pattern, other areas of it will start to appear to shift and move. The colours you perceive are heavily affected by nearby colours and the lighting conditions, so if that perception is processed less or more, colour interpretation can change a lot. Sizes are also judged based on context. We all easily see recognizable things in complex visual fields, like clouds - if our brain starts over-analysing that, false positives increase and are harder to discard. If you focus on any of these effects, they will probably increase, not decrease. Your brain works far harder than you normally realize to make sense of what your eyes see. If you overwork that system until it is drained, it will often get a bit wonky, just like you get clumsy if you are physically tired. Most of the time it just needs rest. If you have visual flashbacks, the best thing you can do for yourself is relax about it. Stress and fatigue will tend to make your symptoms worse. So will other buzzes, it might be a good idea to take a holiday from all of them for a while. If you find it difficult to properly function when your visual flashbacks crop up - for instance, the shifting effect may make reading difficult, or driving may be affected by inability to judge size - there are treatments that have had some success in controlling symptoms. Success has been limited and qualified though, so don't accept a treatment if it doesn't feel right, because your symptoms will almost certainly pass in a few weeks.
Flashbacks in the classic sense of the word are a separate issue. If a particular scene or feeling that occurred during your trip manifests repeatedly in some way over the coming days and weeks, something about it has not been sufficiently processed and emotionally resolved, which is a psychological matter. Probably this will have to do with an element of a bad trip, but not necessarily. Work through your feelings about the flashback and its subject, and it will stop. The same phenomenon happens to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, for the same reason - something deeply emotional and troubling accosts the sufferer until he or she finds some way to come to terms with the event. A feeling of unreality is also often reported both by people with hallucinogen flashbacks or HPPD, and people with PTSD... and also by people who have an extremely novel experience (as when going through culture shock), or who meditate a great deal, or who are sleep-deprived. This issue can be chemical, or psychological. Rest, relaxation, and having someone to talk to are indicated treatments. Frankly, if that doesn't work, a good plan would be to take up meditation. People who go through such phases due to meditation also constructively resolve the feeling with continued meditation practise.
With those two conditions discussed, let's consider the indications that more subtle negative effects may also occur due to hallucinogen use. The explosion in the use of hallucinogens during the 1960's is commonly credited with being an important ingredient in the change in outlook of young people during that period, and the changes in European and Europe-derived cultures that followed that. Fifty years later, those changes are widely regarded as having been positive. At the same time, the hippies that formed the kernel of this cultural change were and are generally seen as people lacking in ambition, responsibility, and mental clarity. However you feel about that assessment, the perception is that there is a link between hallucinogen use and these attitudes (and here it should be noted that both cannabis and MDMA have significant hallucinogenic qualities, although that is not their primary effect). Maybe it's just that the philosophy of this amorphous group goes against the general thrust of our cultures. Or maybe excessive or reckless use of hallucinogens tends to cause this kind of attitude, for psychological reasons, physical reasons, or both. All of the scientists who have garnered some level of fame for their hallucinogen research have enthusiastically backed use - Timothy Leary, Albert Hofmann, Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), Alexander Shulgin, Terence McKenna, Rick Strassman, Daniel Siebert, John C. Lilly, and Earth and Fire Erowid. Of these ten researchers, five of them - Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, Rick Strassman, John C. Lilly, and Ram Dass - drifted ever further away from empirical science as their use of hallucinogens continued. They became increasingly speculative, often wildly so, and focussed on philosophical or spiritual pursuits. The others have remained rooted in their analytical minds and have avoided wild musings. A wider examination of hallucinogen researchers reveals a similar split into these two groups - those who stray completely from science once beguiled by hallucinogenic experiences, and ones who continue on a scientific path while valuing the experiences hallucinogens give. All of these researchers who radically change their world view after heavy hallucinogen use will credit the buzz with the change. Why didn't they wonder if their brains had been affected? Of course, outside the scientific community, there are quite a number of groups, including organized religions, who swear that hallucinogens offer a gateway to a larger, literal external reality, and they definitely don't think their ideas are due to their brains being affected.
This brings into the discussion the subject of what value spiritual experiences have when elicited by a buzz drug. The psilocybin experiment mentioned above, where two-thirds of those who took it reported 14 months later that the trip was among the five most significant spiritual events in their lives, really shouldn't be surprising. Humans all over the world used hallucinogens to elicit spiritual experiences for thousands of years before the rise of civilization. They continued to do so for most of the course of civilization too, until the rise of large-scale state-backed religions put that method into disrepute. By the time science rediscovered hallucinogens in the 19th century, European civilization had completely lost touch with them. People in primitive cultures, however, take it as a matter of course that religious experiences are primarily achieved through the use of psychoactive substances, and especially hallucinogens. If not, then they are induced by activities likely to put you in the same trance state hallucinogens do - trials of hardship or pain that cause the organized thinking of normal consciousness to break down, allowing other aspects of your mind to surface. Whether the trip interpretations of shamans and such in organized hallucinogen-using groups have any basis in fact is almost unimportant. The point is the impressions made are powerful enough to cause shifts in your thinking. The background attitudes informing your decisions can be fundamentally changed. Wisdom does not necessarily follow. For best results, trip responsibly and reflect conscientiously upon your experience afterwards. Bear in mind that, unless influenced before tripping by accounts by other members of their tribe, religion, or social group, what people see during full-blown hallucinations is extremely individual. The emotional tone and general theme may cluster around certain experiences for a given hallucinogen, because of the particular way it affects the brain. But the details will be completely different. Experiences of a spiritual or mystical nature are common, but there is nothing to indicate the experience comes from any source other than your own imagination. And there is no reason why that should make them any less significant to you, personally.
But... you can't make conclusions about the nature of reality based on hallucinations. Hallucinations only allow you to draw conclusions about yourself and your own mind, or about the human mind in general. The rest is speculation. Speculation is only healthy as long as it is recognized for what it is.
Because hallucinogens completely change your thought processes and perceptions while you are on them, it would actually be strange if enough repetitions of that didn't cause those changes to persist to some degree in some users. Our knowledge of our brains is wholly inadequate for us to investigate exactly how, and therefore we also can't say what intensity of hallucinogen use risks such changes, or who might be vulnerable. There is certainly enough evidence to propose the hypothesis that hallucinogen use above a certain level frequently compromises your ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The effect on your life of putting your faith in a fantasy is profound. Therefore, be cautious about your hallucinogen use. If you find your hallucinations fascinate you so much that you want to trip heavily more often than, say, once every six weeks, take an extended time away from them, and focus on putting them in context. In the words of Alan Watts, "When you get the message, hang up the phone".
Psychedelics are buzz drugs that distort your perceptions and loosen your thinking, giving you a dreamlike experience. You can't become physically addicted to them. Nor do they trigger emotional dependence in the manner of addictions, although as discussed in the introduction you should still watch that you don't start using them excessively or taking the resulting trips too literally. They generally have very low toxicity, especially the ones included here - psilocin and DMT.
There are a whole slew of psychedelic hallucinogens sold on the street that would not be included in legalization. LSD, in particular, is a glaring omission. LSD has been excluded because of how frequently it causes HPPD. Psilocin trips are quite similar to trips on LSD, but the HPPD risk is much lower. Although HPPD research is in its infancy, the presumption is there is a good reason why people associate visual flashbacks primarily with LSD. The many other psychedelics are not included because they either cause trips that last too long to safely offer them to the general public, provoke negative experiences rather often, adequate dose control is just too difficult, or they are too new and not enough is known about them. Some almost qualify, and a place could perhaps be made for them, but it's just a little too much to take on right now. Some of these psychedelics will be looked at more closely in the 'not offered' section.
Psilocin (Psilocybin Mushrooms)
Psilocin and psilocybin are both found in a large portion of the hallucinogenic mushrooms that grow around the world. Psilocybin is not hallucinogenic, but it is processed into psilocin in your liver, and that is what causes you to hallucinate. The levels of these chemicals found in mushrooms is highly variable and really uncontrollable. Offering pure psilocin instead of mushrooms would allow a vast improvement in dose control, and not only because the amount ingested could be made precise. Psilocin could be offered in a small inhaler, one that releases a fine mist of psilocin suspended in water when you press down the pump. The full effects would hit you within a minute. The right dose is very different for different people, and even at different times, so this way of ingesting it would allow you to work up to an enjoyable dose by assessing the effect of a certain number of puffs and then deciding if you want to take more.
Note: Hallucinogenic mushrooms that don't contain psilocybin instead contain muscimol and ibotenic acid. An example is the famous red mushroom with the white dots that so oddly features in children's picture books and stickers and such - amanita muscaria. Muscimol, especially, could potentially be legalized, except that its effects can last a bit too long, and unlike psilocin it causes stupor and loss of coordination. So basically, psilocin seems to be better for this job than muscimol is, and i've therefore left it out.
There is little data on psilocin specifically. The data below is for psilocybin mushrooms.
|Buzz Effect||Effects of Use on Health||Lethal Dose|
Mental: improved mood, increased emotional sensitivity (which may lead to positive or negative emotions), environment and activities seem
more interesting and engaging, confusion, reduced concentration, sense of time passing more slowly, increased perception of movement in peripheral vision,
starring and rainbow patterns around lights, buzzing feeling in limbs, closed-eye visuals most commonly of geometric patterns, open-eye visuals of more intense colours,
minor distortions, and geometric patterns, sense of personal insight and of ideas flowing, wonder, sense of connection with others.
Physical: pupil dilation, with accompanying sensitivity to light, feeling cold, giggling, slowed reactions, sleepiness, lethargy, minor changes in blood pressure (may be up or down) and heart rate. Possible nausea, gas, and intestinal cramping, which may be reduced or eliminated with psilocin, as this may be the result of other ingredients in psilocybin mushrooms.
Mild flashbacks may occur in the days following use. How frequently this occurs with mushroom hallucinogens is unknown and the phenomenon is poorly studied. It appears to be rare with mushroom use, and when it occurs effects are usually mild and in almost all cases resolve within a month. Occurence does not seem related to amount or frequency of buzz drug used. For a small number of users, this effect is persistent and disruptive enough to be regarded as a medical condition - Hallucinogen Persistent Perception Disorder. HPPD may last only a few weeks, or on rare occasions can last years.
Many users feel improvements in outlook and attitude are a direct result of experiences they had during strong hallucinations. This effect can be dramatic, some feel it has been life-changing for them.
Psilocybin shows promise as a long-term treatment for cluster headaches, which are extremely painful.
|There are no recorded cases of death. Toxic dose is estimated to be at least 1000 times recreational dose.|
|None. Physical addiction is not considered possible.|
Risk Category: Yellow/Red (Some Risk / Take Care)
By offering mix strengths of either mild or strong spray juice, and making one puff a low dose, it would be easy to choose among a wide range of doses while still having the option of taking quite a strong dose. To make sure people clearly understand the difference in the strength of the two mixes the strong puffers would be a red dot product, while the mild ones would be yellow dot. The packaging for each would of course also make them very easy to tell apart. One squeeze of the mild inhaler would be like a quarter gram of the average 'shroom taken orally, and one squeeze of the strong inhaler would be like eating three-quarters of a gram of 'shrooms. For most people, a dose on the threshold of detectability would be one squeeze of the mild mix, and between 4 and 10 squeezes would be a moderate dose. 1 to 3 squeezes of the strong mix would be a moderate dose, on average, and 4 to 7 would be a strong dose. All you have to do is wait at least a minute before inhaling a new puff from the inhaler, so you know exactly how what you have already taken is affecting you. That's easy and makes sense, compliance should be almost universal. Excessive doses should become quite unusual.
Selling inhalers of either strength containing 30 to 40 puffs or so would be convenient and safe. The toxicity of psilocin is extremely low, you could break open a case of such puffers and down all their contents and not even go to hospital - although you would trip awfully long and hard and would probably need assistance for that. So they would be safe, yet several people could enjoy happy tripping on one such puffer.
You could use the convenience of this format to extend your trip, if you wish, by applying an additional mist when effects start to dwindle. 'Bumping' like this isn't usually done with mushrooms because doses are extremely inexact, so users normally just take a certain quantity of 'shrooms and leave it at that. For some people, trying to extend the trip would not be very effective, for others it would be possible. Magic mushrooms are generally considered to cause short-term tolerance that doesn't completely disappear for 5 to 7 days, but anecdotal reports indicate this is highly variable. Pure psilocin may also behave differently. It has never been sold on the street - it oxidizes (breaks down) rather quickly, and selling 'shrooms is way easier. It may be more or less subject to short-term tolerance than 'shrooms. At any rate, bumping of your dose with this product would allow at least some people to optionally choose to extend their trips.
Psilocybin mushroom trips usually cause pronounced effects for 2 to 4 hours, and then the trip starts to tail off quickly, and disappears over the course of 1 to 3 hours. With mushrooms, onset often takes a full hour, but with the proposed psilocin inhalers, it should be complete under a minute after your last puff, so in under 10 minutes total. As psilocin would not need to be processed through the liver before taking effect, and absorption through the lungs would be much faster than eating mushrooms, the trip would be more intense and shorter on the same dose of active ingredient as found in mushrooms taken orally, in whatever format (as a tea, or an extract, or dried 'shroooms, what have you). Even experienced users would therefore be well advised to take it slow at first. Although trips will likely be shorter on average than they are with mushrooms, to maximize a positive experience it would be best to arrange to be in a good tripping environment for at least 5 hours after dosing.
Psilocybin may be useful in treating cluster headaches, as mentioned in the table. Work on this is very preliminary, and there are several possible treatments for this condition. As it is extremely painful, and no treatment to date adequately controls it, psilocybin may prove a valuable additional medical option. Most sufferers in the studies done so far found that psilocybin cut short periods of cluster headaches, and extended periods of remission. LSD also seems to have this effect. Psilocybin has also been investigated as a means of reducing anxiety and depression in terminally ill cancer patients, research which taps into the mystical experiences common in well-planned mushroom use. On a more cautionary note, psilocybin has caused HPPD in some individuals. See the section on this disorder in the introduction. This seems to be quite uncommon and it is very rare for the issue to be severe, but it does happen. Sticking to moderate doses probably lowers your chances of having this problem.
DMT - Dimethyltryptamine
N,N-dimethyltryptamine is a chemical many mammals produce in their bodies, including humans. It can be found in our cerebral-spinal fluid, kidneys, and lungs, and may be produced and used in other parts of our bodies. So far, where and why it is made in us has not been determined. There has been speculation it is created in the brain and facilitates dreaming, but there is no evidence to back that up. At any rate, it is in your body right now, probably. It is also in many common plants, including ones very much like the grass on your lawn.
When smoked, DMT causes a very short-lived trip of 5 to 15 minutes. This makes it appealing as an introduction to hallucinogens - when taken at quite mild doses. The short trip time means that even if the mild trip gets uncomfortable, you only have to deal with that for a few minutes. DMT at a moderate to high dose will cause you to hallucinate so intensely you may well see a totally different environment around you, complete with beings. It essentially stimulates a dream state while you are conscious. Well, sort of conscious. When the effects wear off, you will tend to forget what you tripped, just like with dreams. If you recall your dreams easily, you will probably recall such trips as well. During the trip you will also lose control of your body as you do when sleeping - but you may move quite a bit, like a restless dreamer. What happens chemically in your brain is different than when you dream, though, so what you see and how you experience it is different. Because it launches you so quickly into a kind of waking dream state from a normal waking state, you are more conscious during the trip than you are during regular dreams. It activates a variety of serotonin receptors, so it generally stimulates a happy, loving feeling at the doses that cause the waking dreams. This is a very good thing, because such experiences can be extremely freaky if you are not mentally prepared. Even experienced trippers can find them challenging.
Because of the great intensity of high dose dimethyltryptamine trips, it would not be available as a retail product. It would be a buzz only available at buzz bars. Unlike psilocin, it is very easy to accidentally take a strong dose of DMT when your intention was a milder dose - or to do so intentionally without understanding that is going to get you in trouble. A high dose is only 2 to 3 times a mild dose, and because it is smoked, the effects come on you so fast and are so disorienting there is very little chance to calm yourself down with a dose of opium or cannabis or to seek help. It is questionable whether such measures would even help in the case of a hallucinogen as enveloping as DMT. There is no way to sell DMT as a retail product that wouldn't lead to bad trips becoming rather common, especially since, as with most psychedelics, individual sensitivity is highly variable and really needs to be cautiously assessed during your first trips. So, only in buzz bars for this one. Under the prohibition system, DMT only comes to those who actively seek it and have rather good connections in the illegal buzz underworld. Thus, people who take DMT currently know what they are in for and usually prepare properly. In a legal system this could easily not be the case. When you can just plop it in your shopping basket, people might do so lightly, not understanding that they are about to meet the frog-lords in the paisley mist fountain for a round of juggling giant butterflies with soup. So they would have to go through a bartender who would ensure they do understand, and are prepared, and if they aren't, he or she would insist they try something else. Or maybe try a very mild dose to get their feet wet.
|Buzz Effect||Effects of Use on Health||Lethal Dose|
Mental: at low doses, mild open- and closed-eye visuals. At moderate to strong doses, immersive hallucinations, as
with dreaming. Very complex imaginary environments and a multitude of beings may be perceived, and may seem quite real and independent of the person
perceived as spiritual or regarded as of great personal significance are common. People who have taken strong doses commonly say the experience was so
intense they are not interested in repeating it, even if they also say it was very positive.
Physical: somewhat elevated pulse and blood pressure, pupil dilation.
|There are no known long-term health consequences to the use of DMT. When people have intense hallucinations from taking it, it may take weeks
before they process the experience sufficiently that it no longer preoccupies them. This may occur regardless of whether the experience was pleasant
or unpleasant. DMT is not associated with 'flashbacks' or HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perception disorder).
Many users feel improvements in outlook and attitude are a direct result of experiences they had during strong hallucinations. This effect can be dramatic, some feel it has been life-changing for them.
|Unknown. When smoked, consuming it fast enough to experience serious physical side-effects would be extremely difficult or impossible, due to your loss of physical self-awareness and the speed with which your body processes it. There are no known cases of lethal overdose.|
|None. There are no known cases of DMT addiction.|
Risk Category: Red (Take Care)
In the intro section above it was discussed how people who have intense hallucinogen trips tend to qualify their experience as of great spiritual value. As noted in the above table, strong doses of DMT cause trips that are commonly so intensely moving and overwhelming that the person will describe it as both deeply profound and something they will not do again. Lower doses maybe, but the soul-shaking does not require repeating. What this actually means is of course extremely debatable, but the fact remains that subjectively such people have had an experience they will remember all their lives (fuzzily) and to which they give great weight. Surely it can at least be said that the experience activates the brain in such a way that matters of great psychological relevance are brought to the fore with great force, unfettered by inhibitory mechanisms that normally cause us to ponder and reflect slowly over time, only lightly engaging our imaginative faculties. Let us skip the ontological discussions that normally follow such observations, and think about what this means in terms of the safe use of legal DMT in a legal buzz bar.
Conveniently, a server could give you a very mild dose that would allow even the most innocent people to gently taste what it is like to hallucinate in comfy, bite-size time periods of 5 minutes or so. Because the dose is low your body would process it even quicker than a high dose, 5 minutes would be about it. At low doses, the effects are like a mild dose of 'shrooms, fairly easy to take in. This would in fact probably be the best way to ease yourself into the taking of hallucinogens in general, if you are uncertain. Set and setting still can't be ignored, but since you only have to get through 5 minutes, and all the help of the buzz bar is right there, it's hard to see how such an experience could be very difficult even if a person is ill-prepared. Servers in bars would have the ability to bring your dose up very slowly, as you feel comfortable, and they judge you capable of absorbing it. This example underlines there are many reasons servers need to be highly trained, and need to be the ones who decide what is safe for you, however much you might disagree. The tough thing here is, there is a dosage at which your DMT tripping would stop being a gentle introduction to the pursuit, and quickly become and initiation. A server would need to be able to assess where that line is in your case, stop you well short of it, and tell you that if you want to go further with DMT, you will need to first gain experience with other hallucinogens that don't shade so suddenly into an intense experience - either psilocin, or nitrous oxide. These hallucinogens allow you to slowly acclimatize yourself to greater tripping intensity. Then, if you wish, you could come back for DMT, phase two - the medium and strong dose experience, which is very intense indeed.
A medium to strong dose experience of DMT in a buzz bar would run something like this:
- You book a booth for your trip, a space big enough only for 2 to 6 people, visually and acoustically isolated from the rest of the buzz bar, but monitored by the staff (maybe by camera and intercom). Booking wouldn't necessarily need to be in advance, it could be like getting a table in a restaurant.
- When you book, you would need to verify that you comply with the requirements for tripping, being:
- You have a designated tripping buddy with you - someone you trust, who is sober, and has committed to staying with you while you trip.
- You are sober as well. The servers would test both of you to check this.
- You have not taken a MAOI - a mono-amine oxidase inhibitor. The action of these chemicals will vastly extend the duration of a DMT trip, and intensify its effect. (This will be discussed more after this list.) Checking this would likely be impossible, so you would simply have to swear. However, time in the booth would be charged for, and going over your alloted time would result in a surcharge big enough to discourage cheating on this - for those who aren't impressed by the extreme likelihood that doing such a thing would cause such drastic hallucinations it would scare the crap out of you and you would have to be sedated.
- Your purchase record shows you have sufficient hallucinogen experience to be allowed to take DMT in this dose range. Perhaps it should even be required that a server who knows you sign off that they judge you are ready for such an experience.
- You make yourself comfortable in a recliner or some such thing. A booth might have as many as three, so small groups could trip together, but each person must have a designated buddy. A recliner or couch would be important. At higher doses, people taking DMT don't control their bodies much. It is more like they are in a restless sleep. You have to be in a comfortable position where you can't fall or bang yourself by flailing your limbs or something. It also helps with relaxing, and the whole booth would be designed with relaxation in mind.
- Your server assesses what dose is appropriate for you, and prepares a vapourizer pipe with that dose. Two or three hauls on the pipe would be sufficient to inhale the dose. Your server would stay for the first couple of minutes to check that you have entered a positive trip. If you become agitated, they would stand ready to sedate you. If things are going fine, they leave and your trip buddy is there for you after that. You will have limited or no awareness of your trip buddy until effects are subsiding, but their presence will give you confidence, they may be able to communicate reassurance if warranted, and they will also be able to bring back the server quickly if they think you are having a bad time. Your trip lasts about 15 minutes, and your booth time includes another 15 minutes or so to collect yourself and consider the experience.
- Your server comes around when your time is up, checks in with you about how it went, and notes it in your record in instances where the dose may have been a bit high or a bit low, for future reference. Your booth is monitored, so if they are needed for any other reason they will be right there.
DMT is among the most potent hallucinogens, so this system to safely limit any bad trips will work for anything. Salvinorin A rivals DMT in intensity, but it has a very different feel and is more taxing on the body - it is discussed next. Only deleriants like datura can narrowly beat the intensity of DMT and salvinoin A, but that is only because they have the troubling side-effect of making you think what you are seeing is real. They are also very hard on your body, and for both reasons they would not be offered. You don't need to believe the seven-headed rabbit is real in order to appreciate his words. There are a large number of startling DMT 'trip logs' on a few sites devoted to recreational buzzes. Erowid is the best moderated of these - here's one from there. And another. And a third. However you feel about Terence McKenna or Rick Strassman, their testimony about the profound psychological impact of intense DMT experiences is also worth bearing in mind. As with dreams, what you hallucinate will have tremendous relevance to your own life - after all, it came out of your own mind - and if reflected upon is likely to bear fruit in terms of a changed outlook on things. Something about DMT tends to make its hallucinations have a cosmic tone at high doses, so what you experience may not seem personal, but even if its theme seems very overarching, its form has everything to do with your individual personality. Because of the intensity of such trips, many feel they have no choice but to dwell on it with great frequency in the weeks following the trip, even to brood on it. Others don't really remember it, or their experience doesn't seem so overwhelming or so personal. This is probably partially dose related, and partially has to do with one's personal relationship with one's unconscious. If you want to remember a DMT trip, practise recording your dreams for a while. The rest depends on ineffable factors, so take nothing for granted.
Once you have experience with a medium to strong dose, and that has gone fine, you would be allowed to take larger doses outside of the booth setting - the more-than-mild to medium dose range that was restricted until you had more experience. At this point you would have your 'sea-legs' and wouldn't suddenly get anxious because a slightly higher dose has caused phenomena you weren't prepared for. Such doses would be one haul on a vape pipe, taken while the server is there, to prevent double-dosing shenanigans. A section of the bar reserved for hallucinogen use would be the only area where it could be taken. It would have an environment conducive to the relaxation critical for positive experiences, and servers chosen for their expertise in preventing and handling bad trips.
Currently, DMT is taken a number of different ways by different communities of users. It is the principle ingredient in ayahuasca, a brew first made by the native peoples of the Amazon god knows how long ago. Ayahuasca, or ayawaska, is a sort of tea made with a vine known by that name, and the leaves of one of several shrubs, depending on the region. For the brew to be hallucinogenic, both ingredients are necessary, but the hallucinogen is only in the shrub leaves, and it is dimethyltryptamine. What the vine contains is a MAOI, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor - namely, beta-carboline harmala alkaloids. This is what allows the DMT to be absorbed into the blood stream without being processed by the liver immediately into non-hallucinogenic metabolites. More recently, as the active chemicals of the brew have become more widely understood, a variety of other plant combinations have been used in different parts of the globe to make it. DMT-containing plants are very common, and MAOI-containing plants can be obtained almost anywhere, too. When taken this way, effects last from 4 to 8 hours and are rather different. Sedation is common, as is a variety of flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, aches, diarrhea, sweating and chills. Ayahuasca is a much less controlled experience and for this reason would not be part of a legal system. It plays a central role in the modern shamanistic religions that are the remains of the universal spiritual practises of prehistory. Trained shamans use a wide variety of ayahuasca brews for various intents, adherants are spiritual seekers prepared for the long haul. It isn't appropriate to offer such things in a buzz bar, no matter how professionally handled. It would just be too risky. Also worth mentioning - MAOIs can combine with a very wide variety of other substances to produce possibly dangerous effects on your body. Foods high in tyramine - which is to say, a huge number of foods, without getting into long lists - can cause a hypertensive crisis or serotonin syndrome when combined with a MAOI. That might just make you sweaty or give you a headache, or it might kill you, if you've eaten enough of the right things.
Ayahuasca brews are pretty easy to make, however, and legalizing DMT would certainly not stop people from making them, or from isolating DMT from plants and smoking it. People motivated enough to take the time to do this would be few, and would probably at least understand the risks enough to take appropriate precautions. The best thing to do about this might simply be to allow shamanic religions, like Santo Daime, to freely practise ayahuasca use, so that people interested in this can go to them for proper instruction and supervision when they are starting out. That should mean that most people in this category would avoid problems, and only the intrepid lone wolves would occasionally get into trouble, which is something such people are always prone to.
DMT is also taken intramuscularly, intravenously, and as a snuff. The IV route is similar in intensity and duration to inhaling vapour, but involves needles and is therefore riskier. The IM route (intramuscular) lasts longer, roughly an hour. Such injections can be done with the kind of needles used by diabetics, and are simple. But they are still needles. Snuffs are similar to IM in duration and intensity. They cause a nasty burning in the nose, otherwise they are a safe method - except if you are ill-prepared and the trip goes south, you have to ride out an hour, not 15 minutes. The vapour method is clearly the safest all around. Apparently the vapours have a nasty taste, but a commercial product could probably find a decent solution for that. There would be no need for smoke from combustion, hot enough to damage lung tissue, and with particulate matter that clogs up lung passages. DMT would be extremely easy on your body. One just needs to keep one's mind limber enough to absorb its disorienting full-blast hallucinations, and it can be a very positive experience.
Dissociatives are distinguished by the way they detach you from your senses, especially your sense of touch. For this reason they have been used as anesthetics for almost 200 years. They have a way of making you feel a bit separate from your environment and your own body, as though everything is far away, or you are inside a sort of bubble. At low doses your senses will be distorted, typically by your vision seeming broken up into chunks or smeared, or your hearing starting to echo and frequencies shifting. At high doses any one of them will put you into a dream state that tends to have a primal feel. The dissociation you are experiencing often gives the resulting trip themes like non-existence, merging with specific things or with the cosmos, sensing a primal underlying source, beginning, or end... stuff like that. Other times trips are more narrative, like normal dreams. Dissociatives also make you feel peaceful, calm, and relaxed. Depressants have this effect of muting the senses too, in a different way, and also induce relaxation. Since both depressants and dissociatives share this effect on people, while other hallucinogens will do everything else dissociatives do but don't trigger addiction, perhaps this is why people sometimes become addicted to them.
Being addicted to dissociative hallucinogens isn't as hard on your health as addictions to other classes of buzz drug. The two dissociative buzzes discussed here for legalization do not seem to have any long-term effect on your health. Nitrous oxide can lead to neurological symptoms in people who do not ensure their body's vitamin B12 stores don't get depleted, but that is easy to avoid, and if it isn't avoided, it will still heal.
All types of addiction need to have buzzes legally available that will satisfy them, or you leave such addicted people in the hands of drug gangs. The dissociatives included here should be appealing enough to people addicted to such buzzes for them to be content using the legal options. In fact, the only common dissociatives not on the list are DXM and PCP - 'common' being a relative term here, as only a small number of people use dissociatives of any kind recreationally, and both DXM and PCP are the least favoured of dissociative street buzz drugs. Ketamine substitutes well for PCP, which is good because PCP has many dangers. DXM addiction is rare but real, and extraordinary because it can be legally obtained by buying over-the-counter cough syrup containing it. Salvinorin A bears a strong resemblance to the DXM experience, and hopefully people addicted to DXM could be switched over to Salvinorin A, which is much healthier. Whether this would work remains to be seen because such tactics are not used in today's prohibition world. But, the example of ketamine provides some hope - PCP is now rarely found on the street because ketamine is a superior substitute.
Salvinorin A (Salvia Divinorum)
Salvinorin A is the fraternal twin of DMT - the same, yet different. Like DMT, it is a chemical found in a plant that has been used by aboriginal shamans for untold generations - in this case, in salvia divinorum, a member of the sage family. Like DMT, when smoked its effects are brief and completely immersive at high doses, although after the peak effect of 5 to 10 minutes the effect declines gradually for another 10 to 30 minutes instead of suddenly fading as with DMT. It is completely unlike DMT in the way it works in the brain, and thus trips on salvinorin A have an entirely different feel. It acts principally on the D2 dopamine and kappa-opioid receptors in the brain. Methylphenidate and LSD also act on the D2 receptors, and ibogaine also acts on the kappa opioid receptor. Salvinorin A appears to have no effect at all on the 5HT(2A) receptors that are the principle sites where psilocin, DMT, LSD, and mescaline act (the serotonergic hallucinogens). It is the only hallucinogen that isn't an alkaloid chemical, which makes it a very odd duck, and very interesting to pharmacologists. It has characteristics of both psychedelic and dissociatives hallucinogens, and it isn't hard to argue it deserves to be in a category of its own. For the purposes of legalization, it is most useful to treat it as a dissociative. It has low toxicity, but has the odd effect of causing jerky, ungainly, but energetic sleepwalking when taken at an excessive dose, which the user will completly fail to remember. Here we have the hallucinogen that underlines more than any other how little we know about the brain. And that is saying something.
The use of salvia among the Mazatec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico was first documented in the 1930s, but it was the documentation of its effects on a group of American volunteers by Daniel Siebert in 1993 that caused awareness of this hallucinogen to suddenly rise. Then, when the BBC aired an episode of their short series Sacred Weeds dedicated to salvia divinorum, it really took off. Since then the internet has fueled interest in salvia intensely. The fact that it remains a legal high in most jurisdictions means that internet promotion and sale of it has been an attractive business option for numerous online stores. And of course there is the rash of videos of people's experiences that feed interest in the buzz drug.
Like kava, salvinorin A would actually become more regulated if legalization was implemented, not less. Salvia remains legal in most of the world, and even where it is illegal, prosecution of users or dealers is rare. At the moment anyone can get any quantity of salvia by ordering it online. This legal system would mean you would have to be of legal age, and the vapour version would be available only in a buzz bar. A gum product containing salvinorin A would be available in buzz shops or in buzz bars, but only at a dosage low enough to protect people from getting into an experience that is too intense for an unsupervised environment - which means that a lot of people would feel no effect from such gum at all. Like home-made DMT brews, salvia divinorum is easy to grow and harvest yourself, and there will clearly be people who do this, so that they can experiment with it freely. As discussed with DMT, people determined enough to do this are usually also educated enough to be smart about how they use it, and allowing shamanistic religions the freedom to offer services to such people would help them navigate the deep waters with the preparation and supervision that is called for. Properly approved shamanic centres would be free to offer whatever hallucinogen they see fit, for use on their own premises.
A great deal about salvinorin A remains unknown. Its use has become somewhat common thanks to the internet, but academic study of it lags far behind. The table is thus not as complete as it should be, and further information will be added as it becomes available.
|Buzz Effect||Effects of Use on Health||Lethal Dose|
Mental: at low doses, mild open- and closed-eye visual distortions and patterns, enhanced appreciation of things sensed, like colours
or music, looser thinking, some confusion and degraded short-term memory. At medium to strong doses, immersive hallucinations, as with dreaming.
Very complex imaginary environments and a multitude of beings may be perceived, and may seem quite real and independent of the person tripping.
The experience of becoming an object in the environment is fairly common. A feeling of being pressed down on, pushed, pulled or twisted may occur.
as spiritual or regarded as of great personal significance are common. People who have taken strong doses commonly say the experience was so intense they are not
interested in repeating it, even if they also say it was very positive.
Physical: flushing, sweating, slight increase or decrease in body temperature. Sensitivity to pain is greatly suppressed. A transitory increase in blood pressure and heart rate at the onset of effects has sometimes been observed, and may be dramatic, but does not last long enough to present a risk except to persons with significant circulatory problems. At moderate doses, coordination and balance deteriorate, similar to drunkenness. At strong doses, involuntary movements often occur.
At excess dose: people may 'sleepwalk', walking about, speaking, and doing things, in a jerky fashion, with no awareness of their surroundings, and no later memory of their actions or what they experienced mentally.
|There are no known long-term effects from salvia use.
Many users feel improvements in outlook and attitude are a direct result of experiences they had during strong hallucinations. This effect can be dramatic, some feel it has been life-changing for them.
|There are no known deaths due to salvia overdose, and animal studies suggest its toxicity is extremely low.|
|None. There are no known cases of salvia addiction.|
Risk Category: Blue/Red (Low Risk or Take Care)
Salvinorin A for smoking would be available in buzz bars under the same system used for DMT. For mild to medium doses You could enjoy a pipe prepared for you by a server at the bar station, or you could book a booth for strong experiences. Check out the section on DMT above for details of how that would work. In both cases, the smokeable buzz would not be sold in stores because the difference between a dose with mild visuals and a dose that's a deep plunge into the unconscious is just too narrow. Salvinorin adds the danger that at very strong doses the user may get up and walk around while in a trance state.
The gum sold in buzz shops would be a blue dot product, since it would be designed to offer only a mild to moderate buzz with typical use, and the gum format would allow a high degree of control over your dose. The pieces of gum would be chunky, like bubble gum, such that having more than one piece in your mouth would be awkward and people would usually just use one. If you chewed the gum until the flavour was gone, maybe storing it in your cheek occasionally, it would behave like a small quid of salvia leaves. Salvinorin can be absorbed across the lining of the mouth, but never at the rate it is absorbed when inhaled as smoke or vapour into the lungs. It takes about 15 minutes for effects to begin when leaves are chewed, and then the effect builds slowly over the following 15 minutes or so. The sooner you spit out the leaves, or in this case the gum, the milder the remaining trip will be. That would allow people who aren't enjoying the experience to level it off by spitting out the gum before they have absorbed its full dose. As with leaf quids, the gum trip would have a peak effect lasting 30 to 60 minutes. People with low sensitivity to salvinorin A likely wouldn't feel anything at all from one piece of gum. In that case they could continue with a second piece after finishing the first, or try chewing two at once. People with average sensitivity could also build towards a higher dose level by chewing successive pieces or chewing two at once (three would not be practical). As your dose builds slowly and you can always spit the gum out at any point to level off your dose, unexpectedly strong trips should be a rarity. Getting beyond a medium dose would at any rate involve a couple of hours of chewing several pieces one after the other. A medium dose salvinorin trip will make you see clear imagery when your eyes are closed, give you some open eye visual distortions, like geometric patterning and such, your thinking becomes much more playful and non-linear, and your movements become clumsy. You might find yourself laughing a lot or feel rather confused, but you won't mistake what is illusory for what is real, and what is illusory will not have great impact. It isn't anything intense enough to freak you out. The mild to moderate trip the gum would be meant for is like this, but without the visuals, and less of the rest.
The gradual onset and longer, generally milder nature of orally absorbed salvinorin makes this way of using it more appealing to a lot of people. Within buzz bars, stronger blends of gum would be available for people who prefer that approach. All gums could be made a lot less bitter than the leaves themselves. For the sake of ensuring little Junior doesn't dig through your bag and find a piece of salvinorin gum to chew on while you are in the store, some of the bitterness of salvia leaves would remain in the flavouring.
Salvinorin A has important properties of dissociative hallucinogens, although it is often classified as a psychedelic. This can be seen in the way it makes you insensitive to pain, and the amnesia it causes at high doses. True dissociatives cause unconsciousness at high doses, which salvinorin does not. Addiction to salvia has also never been documented, while addiction to dissociatives is a real risk for people who find their buzz especially appealing. The dissociative aspects of salvinorin might be useful to people who struggle with addiction to dissociatives, especially if their buzz drug of choice is DXM. Of the dissociatives, it is probably most similar to dextromethorphan (DXM), which often causes an experience of becoming an object, like salvia does. DXM is much harder on your body than salvinorin. If DXM addicts found salvinorin sufficiently appealing to use it as an alternative, rotating between use of salvinorin A and dextromethorphan or switching completely, it would help them to preserve their health. It could have other benefits to such people as well - salvinorin highs are much shorter than DXM highs, giving you the option of getting your fix without losing most of your day, and it doesn't cause hangovers. Ketamine and nitrous oxide are less akin to salvinorin, but still similar in some ways. All three are immersive at high doses, and just pleasant at low doses. Ketamine and nitrous, though, both give a feeling of calmness and peace, while salvinorin does not. For people addicted to ketamine or N2O, this may be an important aspect. Whether salvinorin A could help people with addictions to either of these buzzes remains to be seen. It could probably help at least a bit, by giving them an alternative they can use to rotate their dissociative buzz use and thus reduce the buildup of tolerance. Each of these buzzes is discussed in their own sections (in the 'not offered' section in the case of DXM).
Salvinorin A is being investigated for a variety of medical applications, including addiction therapy, depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and HIV. That's a hell of a list, isn't it? The great novelty of salvinorin A pharmacologically opens a number of new avenues of research, it is really quite exciting. Meanwhile, the controversy that always dogs hallucinogens, or any buzz that isn't part of the traditional core buzzes we take for granted, is making salvia divinorum and its extracts illegal in more and more places, which will make research into its medical potential increasingly difficult unless this knee-jerk over-reaction is stopped.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
Laughing gas has been the common term for nitrous oxide since it first started being used at exclusive parties in Britain in the early 1800's, so named for its pronounced tendancy to make you laugh like you just witnessed the most hilarious thing. N2O was one of the first synthetic buzz drugs ever produced, and one of the very first gases to be manufactured by the slowly maturing science of chemistry. It was not until some 45 years after its introduction as a party buzz among the privileged that someone bothered to try using it as an anaesthetic. That worked quite well. Nitrous oxide is still commonly used in dentistry, during childbirth, and by paramedics.
When used recreationally, it gives you a brief buzz lasting 10 or 15 minutes at the most intense dose, and a minute or two at a mild dose. Moderate doses will make you feel very happy and laughing, cause minor sensory distortions, and make you clumsy and unaware of pain. Strong doses will give you what many call an out-of-body experience, where you feel separated from your body, and experience detailed visions, as when dreaming. You lose motor control completely at that dose - you go limp. Considering you can easily bang yourself up even at an ordinary dose because you are clumsy and confused and aren't feeling pain, nitrous oxide is something to be used when sitting, better lying down if there is any chance you could end up at a strong dose. As with DMT and salvinorin, hallucinations of at dream-state doses commonly involve a sense of revelation and great emotion. Perhaps more often than with those others, afterwards the experience is forgotten, leaving only a sense that something cosmic was understood and then it slipped away.
Occasional use of laughing gas presents no hazards, at least not due to the gas itself. The format that nitrous oxide currently comes in has caused quite a number of injuries and deaths, which were all completely unnecessary. A legal system could easily avert these accidents with a little education and a different format. Heavy use of N2O depletes the body's stores of B12 vitamin. This too is a situation that could be well remedied by legalization. With things out in the open you can be told about this risk, and be offered the B vitamin products to prevent that right then and there.
|Buzz Effect||Chronic Heavy Use Effects||Lethal Dose|
Mental: euphoria, auditory distortions or hallucinations, peaceful feeling, sleepiness,
confusion, extreme amusement. At higher doses - sense of time
dilation, feeling of detachment from body or floating, complex dreamlike hallucinations, a sense of meaningful revelation or insight.
Physical: tingling or numbness, especially in extremities, inability to feel pain, reduced blood pressure, increased cerebral blood flow, loss of motor control and balance, nausea.
At Excess Dose: loss of consciousness, amnesia.
Depletion of vitamin B12 in the body, leading to persistent numbness or tingling, beginning in the extremities, and possible twitching. If not corrected
with adequate supplements, this can progress to clumsiness, shaking, muscle weakness, general numbness, and a range of other possible neurological symptoms.
Treatment with B12, other B vitamins, and the amino acid methionine usually leads to complete recovery over several weeks or possibly months.
Permanent neural damage is rare but possible. Women may experience reduced fertility during periods of N2O use. There is a risk of birth defects if
N2O is used during pregnancy.
Among both occasional and heavy users, many feel improvements in outlook and attitude are a direct result of experiences they had during strong hallucinations. This effect can be dramatic, some feel it has been life-changing for them.
|If the nitrous oxide inhaled does not contain at least 20% oxygen, death from suffocation can occur in a few minutes. Where administered mixed with adequate oxygen, there is no known time limit before it is deadly. Continuous administration for longer than 24 hrs is not recommended, as it leads to depression of the bone marrow.|
|No physical symptoms. Addicted people experience strong cravings, but the mechanism for this is unknown and may be purely psychological.|
Risk Category: Red (Take Care)
Under prohibition, unless you are a medical professional with access to tanks of anaesthetic-grade nitrous oxide, you probably get recreational N2O from whipped cream chargers (often called whippits). Whippit sales have skyrocketed as the news has travelled of the pleasures of illicitly inhaling their gas. A case of 600 can be bought from Ebay for $120. It is hard to imagine even the hugest restaurant or catering business going through enough fresh whipped cream to justify buying such huge cases of chargers. Head shops throughout the United States, Canada, much of Europe and elsewhere sell them pretty blatantly for tripping. Yet there are many hazards to inhaling nitrous oxide from whippits. They were never designed for that. They were designed to, in fact, whip cream. The blind eye turned to how they are mostly used in reality is a glaring example of authorities getting stuck in the limbo between knowing it would be wrong to ban a buzz outright (or at least realizing it would be impossible), and having the guts to legalize it properly.
Tiny aluminum whipped cream chargers seem pretty harmless, but they contain a lot of pressure. The proper procedure for inhaling from them is to get a 'cracker', which is a valve for controlling the release of the gas and easily obtained at a head shop (or from Amazon, or eBay). You use it to fill a balloon, and then inhale from the balloon. People who are stoned on N2O, or desperate for a fix, often have trouble with the details of this procedure. They may mistakenly puncture the wrong end of the canister, and have the balloon explode dramatically in their faces, which with that force can easily do eye damage. They may underestimate how freezing cold the brass cracker has been made by the super-fast expansion of the nitrous oxide, and put it to their lips without warming it, which will flash-freeze to them like metal licked in winter. They may lose their common sense and try to inhale through the cracker directly from the canister, which is a recipe for a seriously frostbitten mouth and throat. If someone is so foolish as to try to puncture a whippit with something other than a proper cracker, they create a tiny missile that will leave a nasty bruise on anyone unlucky enough to be in its path. At close range, it could break your nose. But at least nobody is likely to be seriously injured or die from using whipped cream chargers.
Tanks of pure N2O kill people on a regular basis. Usually, someone just doesn't understand how easy it is to suffocate. They put a mask on, thinking they will just take a couple of hauls and then remove it, but the gas knocks them out and the mask stays in place. Or they open the tank in an enclosed space and it squeezes the oxygen out of the room. Or they fill a garbage bag with gas, and when they pass out it blocks their breathing. Such people die in a few minutes. They don't feel the lack of air because the choking feeling that makes you gasp comes from a build-up of carbon dioxide in your system, not from a lack of oxygen. Their body doesn't alert them that they are starved of air. It's a quick, painless death. And completely pointless. If nitrous oxide were legal, these deaths would stop. If governments just keep ignoring the issue, they will continue steadily.
Under the legal system, buzz shops would rent small tanks, about the size of small home fire extinguishers, of 30% N2O, 40% oxygen, and 30% nitrogen, and buzz bars would serve you from similar tanks. The tank would come with a mask that is designed to only release gas if it is pressed against the face - and there would be no strap or anything that would hold it against you, you would have to actively press it to your mouth. You would also have to press a button at the same time to cause the nozzle to open, and it would then release enough N2O for one lungful. Then if you wanted another you would have to press it again. You wouldn't be able to just open a valve and put a mask on like in a dental office, that would lead to all kinds of excessive dosing. To prevent oxygen deprivation, the formula has double the proportion of oxygen found in the atmosphere. Even if you hold your breath for better absorption your oxygen levels shouldn't fall much. Making nitrous oxide only 30% of the mix would make it easier not to inhale more N2O than you can really handle. The best balance might be a little less or a little more of each ingredient. With whippits of pure nitrous oxide, people sometimes slip from the giggly light hallucinatory state they wanted into a full dream state, which can be scary for those who aren't prepared for it. It would take triple the number of lungfuls from the proposed tanks to absorb the same dosage. That at least gives you more time to think about how buzzed you are and whether you should wait a bit before taking more. As with other hallucinogens, individual sensitivity is quite variable. Creating a product that is effective for everyone but won't cause unintentional immersive dream-states for some isn't possible. The packaging and staff at the store where you bought it would educate you on the risk, and if you had your initial experiences in a bar, as recommended, the server would have assessed your sensitivity and told you where the line probably is for you between giggly and plunged into the unconscious. If you end up in a place you'd rather not have, you'll have to put up with that for about 15 minutes, and afterwards you will barely remember it.
Should you choose to partake of it in a buzz bar, you would have some options not available through regular buzz shop tanks. People with an addiction to N2O will need higher concentrations of it after a while in order to get their fix. Tanks with such concentrations would be available if you go to a buzz bar store.
Little cheap vials containing a shooter of B vitamins and methionine would be prominently displayed with the tanks at buzz shops, and be offered at buzz bars. If you were known to have an abuse issue, servers would be free to simply comp you a vial, to be sure you maintain a healthy level of B12 in your body. As long as you don't allow chronic heavy use of nitrous oxide to deplete your body's store of B12, it will do you no harm. Occasional use of nitrous doesn't negatively impact people who have adequate stores of B12 in their bodies. If you tend to have a deficiency of B12, which some people do, tripping on nitrous oxide will cause distinct neurological symptoms, like tingling or numbness in your fingers or toes that continues after the buzz is over, or maybe slight muscular twitches. If you notice anything like that, start taking a good B vitamin supplement - and keep doing that, whether you use nitrous again or not. Vegetarians, in particular, would be better taking a B supplement before using nitrous, and aside from that should just take regular B supplements in general.
The rise of whippit huffing has revealed how much N2O can be abused. Some people become very addicted to it. People who have gone through that say it gave them euphoria and contentment unlike anything else, and they just couldn't resist it. Legal availability of salvinorin and ketamine may help such people, by giving them a way to rotate their buzz use. That would delay their development of tolerance, and help them be more engaged in daily life. Salvinorin gum, in particular, would allow them to take the edge off with a mild buzz that would not prevent them from participating fully in most activities, maybe even working in some cases. It may be that certain depressants, such as kava, could be used to flesh out the rotation. People addicted to dissociatives like N2O could be more amenable than others to the rigours of an ibogaine treatment to halt cravings, since they are already accustomed to hallucination.
The environmental impact of nitrous oxide should be mentioned. N2O is a powerful greenhouse gas, with 310 times the impact of carbon dioxide. It is also now the main chemical responsible for thinning of the ozone layer. On the other hand, nitrous oxide from tanks or chargers - and that's all tanks and chargers, including those used in medicine, the food industry, the automotive industry, and recreational use - currently accounts for less than 2% of the N2O released annually due to human activity. Most of the extra N2O we create is released from the soil in crop fields that have been treated with nitrogen fertilizer, and there are some big sources in industry too. Options are being developed to reduce emissions from these big sources. We can afford the puny emissions due to recreational use. It is hard to say how much legalization would increase those emissions, considering that people interested in this kind of high have had easy access to whippits for about a decade now. Once legalization was in place, programs to offset the emissions impact of nitrous oxide buzzes could be considered. Like carbon dioxide, most of the nitrous oxide in the atmosphere was released through natural processes, not human ones. Therefore, a program that slightly reduced natural release, or sequestered nitrous oxide, would counterbalance the extra N2O released during buzz drug use. Such a program should be created anyhow, whether N2O buzzes are legalized or not.
Ketamine is the anaesthetic most used by veterinarians. It is the preferred anaesthetic in human medicine in situations where its effects of raising blood pressure, quickening heart beat, and dilating the brochii are advantageous. Because of its hallucinatory effects at higher doses it is avoided where other anaesthetics will work. Sometimes it is employed as an analgesic, particularly as part of a cream for local nerve pain, or in low doses by injection for other forms of neuropathic pain. It is being experimented with as a potential treatment for depression. The few trials that have so far been done on this are very hopeful. The most exciting result indicates that people who have not been helped by other antidepressant medications may respond very well to low doses of ketamine.
Ketamine sold on the street comes from supplies officially meant for medical use that have been stolen or diverted (some ketamine manufacturers check up a lot less than others on their clients' backgrounds). Dealing in ketamine for casual use is a crime actively prosecuted in Western nations, a situation that is interesting when contrasted with the sale of nitrous oxide whipped cream chargers. Both these buzz drugs are dissociative hallucinogens, both can trigger addiction, both have pretty limited health risks compared to most other buzz drugs.... why can you stroll down to your local head shop and buy cases of one, but buying the other is a serious crime?
|Buzz Effect||Chronic Heavy Use Effects||Lethal Dose|
Mental: At mild to medium doses: calmness, increased energy, confusion,
distortion or reduction of vision and hearing, sense of time dilation, improved mood. Possible fear and anxiety,
especially for new users or those whose set and setting are inappropriate, which may become severe if not remedied.
Physical: At mild to medium doses:
increased heart rate and blood pressure, impaired motor control, slurred speech, nausea, possible vomitting, numbness in extremities,
reduced perception of pain.
At excess dose:unconsciousness
Overdose risks:ketamine on its own is safe at very high doses. If mixed with depressants, dangerous levels of respiratory depression can occur, and possibly be fatal. Vomitting and vertigo results if mixed with alcohol even in small amounts.
|The long-term effects of heavy use are poorly studied. Current evidence indicates reversible effects are: memory loss, abdominal cramps of unknown
cause among those most severely addicted, occasional HPPD,
and occasional damage to the urinary
bladder. Damage to the bladder is sometimes permanent.
People going through addiction to ketamine have a strong tendency to develop egocentric delusions and/or paranoia. If use ceases, these mental imbalances resolve over the course of a few weeks.
Among both occasional and heavy users, many feel improvements in outlook and attitude are a direct result of experiences they had during strong hallucinations. This effect can be dramatic, some feel it has been life-changing for them.
|Deaths from ketamine alone are extremely rare. Where no other drugs were found in the body, ketamine has been a contributing factor in deaths due to such things as exposure, drowning, or suicide. Estimated lethal dose for humans is 4.5 grams or more.|
|No physical symptoms. Addicted people experience strong cravings, but the mechanism for this is unknown and may be purely psychological.|
Risk Category: Red (Take Care)
Under prohibition, ketamine is usually insufflated (snorted), or injected into a muscle. Snorting small amounts of ketamine powder has worked alright for casual users. It makes your sinuses burn, but the amounts involved are so little, the burn doesn't bother you much. People out clubbing typically snort 30 to 75 mg, an amount about as big as a sunflower seed. That amount of ketamine gives users a mild trippy feeling accompanied by a peacefulness and a mild energy boost that lasts for about an hour. If you start using ketamine heavily and develop tolerance, or if you seek the strong hallucinations of high doses, you could be looking at snorting 250 mg or more, which is not so comfy on the nose. Some heavily addicted users have reported nosebleeds as a result, although it's pretty uncommon. Besides the burn of snorting, street ketamine is expensive and often hard to get, so people with a habit often start injecting. Intramuscular (IM) injections require less ketamine for the same experience, and it comes on harder and faster. This type of injection is less risky than IV due to the easy availability of sterile disposible IM needles. The general public often performs intramuscular injections, principally of insulin. Needle-sharing or repeated use of the same needle is not likely to occur. Some risk of infection still remains, though not to illnesses as serious as can occur through needle-sharing, and there is the usual concern that people are injecting chemicals that may have been cut with nasty stuff, if they bought it as a powder.
Legal ketamine would come in an inhaler, as planned for psilocin. The fine mist would be quickly absorbed by your lungs and hit you fully within a minute or so. The effect of a given dose of ketamine on different individuals is quite variable. Fine-tuning your dose is critical to avoiding an unplanned k-hole. That is a common term for the dream-state experience on high doses of ketamine. At lower doses of ketamine, you remain in touch with your surroundings, though your senses will be highly distorted and include some hallucinated perceptions. At a certain dosage, you suddenly drop into the dream-state, and you experience vivid visions of stuff like separating from your body and flying above the landscape, standing on the edge of the universe, time all merging into one moment, that sort of ho-hum diversion. If that wasn't what you were up for, it could be really intensely unpleasant. But you can't know beforehand exactly what your k-hole dose is.
There would be the usual control measures for this. Ketamine being a hallucinogen, it wouldn't be sold to you unless you had taken your first experiences in a buzz bar, where dose is determined by professional servers. They would establish how sensitive you are to ketamine. The package label would very clearly advise you about k-holes and the doses typically involved. Then the packaging of the inhaler would be designed for further safety. It would come in 10 mg strength at buzz shops, meaning one pump of the inhaler would be 10 mg. After a minute you could judge how you feel and decide if you want another. For the mild funky feeling most casual users seek, the dose would be 3 to 8 pumps, so you could get to the dose that feels right in about 3 to 8 minutes. For a little added safety, each puffer would have only 80 mg total. To reach a k-hole dose requires at least 100 mg. You could get to that dose with two inhalers, but there would be no question whether you knew what you were risking.
Buying inhalers and IM needles would allow you to inject easily, and buying two or three regular inhalers would provide enough ketamine for a k-hole dose for most people. Buzz bar stores would sell inhalers that puff out 30 mg per pump and contain 210 mg per pack, which should mean people wanting to take that road would go there to buy. With that option available hopefully people would choose to use the inhaler rather than inject, since it would be simpler, and almost as fast, especially if they didn't wait for a minute between each puff. As with all yellow or red dot buzzes, the first time you bought ketamine in a regular store, staff would talk with you briefly to ensure you know the ins and outs, k-holes definitely being a major topic. The first time you bought a pack from a buzz bar store, the server would want an honest conversation about what exactly you were planning, and whether you knew what precautions to take before consuming a dose that puts you in the immersive k-hole state.
The thing that really needs preventing is people who have already gotten buzzed on depressants then taking ketamine. That is an extremely bad idea. Mixing ketamine with cannabis or kava use would be okay, but any of the others at any more than very minimal amounts makes you very ill. A strong dose mixed with even a moderate dose of a depressant might kill you, by causing you to stop breathing. It could also kill you by causing you to vomit in a semi-conscious or unconscious state, which would be very likely to then cause you to suffocate unless there is someone nearby to clear your airways. You could be given activated charcoal, but there is a very good chance you wouldn't keep it down. If you drank the depressant recently, the charcoal could be a significant help. If you were puffing opium, you should take the naloxone (or be given it) at which point you would be out of danger. Unless you had another depressant buzz going too, in which case you would really be going for lost cause status.
All ketamine product labels would have a great big warning not to mix it with these other depressants, and if you bought depressants and ketamine together, or even in the same week, the clerk would tell you that, too. Fortunately, the vertigo, nausea and blackouts caused by even minor mixing of ketamine don't appeal to anyone as an improvement on the purely ketamine experience, which is the impression that sometimes motivates addicted people and bingers to mix other combinations despite all warnings. Nobody who is into ketamine has any interest in mixing it like that. Heavy users sometimes combine a bit of cannabis or nitrous to smooth things a little, which isn't dangerous (although it is bad for your health and likely to give you a hangover). Since a legal system would make sure people know the risk, dangerous ketamine mixing would decrease in incidence from what happens under drug prohibition, probably a lot.
If you wanted to have a k-hole in a buzz bar, you would need to book a booth. If you did book a booth for that, you would have the option of receiving an IM injection, at the dose the server assesses appropriate for you. Hopefully, this option would convince people thinking about going into the k-hole dream-state to take the precaution of having their first experience in a buzz bar. Once again, that gives the staff the chance to talk to them about dangers and precautions before they are out there on their own - don't mix, always have a sitter.
A striking difference between ketamine and all the other hallucinogens is that only ketamine has been verifiably linked to the development of subclinical mental illness in addicts. Latent mental illness can be triggered by any number of things, including the use of buzz drugs, but the illness is not caused by getting high. Ketamine is an exception. Heavy ketamine use may cause an addicted person to develop paranoia and delusions of grandeur based on egocentric interpretations of coincidents. A few weeks away from ketamine will correct the problem, fortunately. There have been a handful of occasions where very heavy users have developed full-blown clinical psychosis, as John C. Lilly did during a period of extremely heavy use. This is an aspect of ketamine addiction that places a unique burden on the addict and the people close to him or her.
Ketamine delusions fade away if use of the buzz stops, so they aren't true illnesses, but imbalances somehow created by the buzz drug. It should be mentioned that heavy users of other hallucinogens may, possibly, experience delusions due to their buzz use too, of a nature subtle enough to be counted as eccentric opinions, not mental illness. This was examined in the introduction to hallucinogens above. It isn't a phenomenon that has ever been documented as being a result of hallucinogen use, but informal statistics suggest it may be a risk.
Possibly, people who are clearly starting to use ketamine too much could be helped under legalization with a rotation schedule. Staff in buzz shops or bars could teach them how spreading out their ketamine use, by using nitrous oxide and salvinorin A between uses of ketamine, can slow the development of tolerance. Salvinorin gum, in particular, would allow them to take the edge off with a mild buzz that would not prevent them from participating fully in most activities, maybe even working. Interrupting a developing addiction with ibogaine would be the most effective option for ketamine abusers. We'll look at ibogaine next.
Ibogaine is in a class by itself. There are several things it does that other hallucinogens either don't do, or don't do as well: a) it elicits the reliving of important memories you may not have thought about for many years, b) it maintains you in a more or less conscious state, in which your sense of self is not distorted and you can think clearly, while inducing a waking dream state with complex hallucinations for several hours, c) the dream state is followed by an introspective stage of 8 to 14 hours, during which you find yourself reflecting on things with unique clarity, and d) its trip is followed by an 'afterglow' that can last for a full month. If your purpose in using buzz drugs is self-exploration, ibogaine is the mother of all buzzes.
That said, as is the case with most hallucinogens, individual experiences with the buzz vary widely. You may not hallucinate at all. Tripping on ibogaine still requires planning and commitment. Most people are incapacitated by it for a full day. Movement is difficult, and unadviseable as it will likely make you quite nauseous. Why would someone want a trip like that? Outside of Western Africa, where it has been used religiously for a very long time, mostly for one very special reason. Ibogaine strips away physical addiction. You take it, you trip, you reflect, and when its over, your buzz drug cravings are gone. Not only do you experience no withdrawal symptoms, it is typical for people who were hardened, chronic addicts to feel no desire to get buzzed for weeks or months afterwards. Treatment clinics report varying success rates long-term, but all agree that ibogaine treatment removes the major obstacles to success - withdrawal, cravings, and psychological resistance. Many who don't succeed in permanently reducing buzz use the first time have success on the second or third try.
As if all that isn't enough, at doses well below the level causing hallucination, ibogaine is a stimulant. It was even marketed successfully as a stimulant in France for 40 years, until the hubbub about hallucinogens put a stop to that. That means low dose ibogaine products are worth including in legalization in the stimulant category, too. Cross-tolerance between ibogaine and other stimulants probably doesn't happen because its mode of action is really different, so it would be a helpful additional option for stimulant abusers who need to rotate their use to avoid tolerance. This stuff is just all kinds of good.
Now for the table. Information on ibogaine is still a bit patchy regarding both acute and chronic effects. As more information becomes available, i'll try to update the table. The table lists ibogaine as both a yellow and red dot buzz because of the low-dose drinks that would be sold for use as a stimulant. Those products would most likely qualify as yellow dot. The stronger stuff meant for tripping would be rated red dot, and would only be available in buzz bars. The even higher amounts used in addiction treatment would only be available in clinics.
|Buzz Effect||Chronic Heavy Use Effects||Lethal Dose|
At low doses: alertness, wakefulness
Physical: At low doses: increased endurance
Overdose risk: High doses of ibogaine can be fatal to people with heart, liver, kidney, or gastrointestinal conditions. Such doses should be taken under medical supervision. Ibogaine interacts with a large number of other buzz drugs. No other buzz drug should be taken while on high-dose ibogaine.
|Unknown. High doses of ibogaine are very intense experiences that aren't really over for at least a day - people do not choose to repeat them more than a small number of times. There are no references online to long-term effects from the use of low doses as a stimulant.||Unknown. Some deaths have occurred. These deaths were due to the effect of large doses on pre-existing heart, liver, or gastrointestinal conditions, or the combination of a high dose with other buzz drugs taken during the trip.|
|There are no known cases of addiction or withdrawal. It is documented that in Gabon it is often used as a stimulant, and stimulant use can normally lead to addiction among some users. Further information is needed.|
Risk Category: Yellow/Red (Some Risk / Take Care)
Ibogaine has been mentioned throughout this website because of the uncanny way it undoes addiction. In a legal system, ibogaine would be a key factor in assisting people to overcome addiction. Even under prohibition, ibogaine clinics and treatments have begun to spread quickly as the internet's fresh way of passing around information has succeeded in overcoming bureaucratic and industry resistance to it. Its addiction interrupting effects have been documented many times and are not in dispute. It has been put into human trials approved by the FDA in the United States twice, and both times the trials have been abandoned after the researchers failed to get the funding to complete them. The pharmaceutical industry's non-interest in ibogaine and the controversial nature of addiction in general made funding difficult. Individuals dedicated to the research or treatment of addiction have campaigned hard to make ibogaine more available. The consensus among those individuals is that ibogaine will not become easily accessible unless a network of private clinics succeeds in offering treatments outside traditional medical institutions. Big pharma has no way to make decent money on natural substances, drugs that are administered only once or a small number of times also severely limit profits, and on top of that they are generally leery about anything to do with addiction because the politics and legal issues are just so sticky.
Specialized clinics, however, can definitely make money on ibogaine. Successful treatment depends largely on taking advantage of the enhanced openness and emotional clarity that lingers for a week or more in people who have taken it. Quality intensive psychotherapy during this period makes a big difference. People who have certain health issues also require medical supervision during and after their ibogaine trip. Those things cost money, and people with addictions, or the people close to them, are more than willing to pay. Considering the amount of money they currently spend on programs and treatments that rarely work, its obvious this medical service makes good business sense. The rate at which such private clinics are opening is picking up, and seems likely to accelerate.
Unofficial treatments at a cheaper price have also started to blossom. This route involves one or two people providing the dose and acting as sitters in your home or at a hotel. It saves you thousands of dollars over the clinic options, but the risks must be borne in mind. Between 1991 and 2008, 12 deaths have been documented in which ibogaine treatment was a key factor. In all these cases, a pre-existing medical condition or the use of other buzz drugs while tripping on ibogaine was also a key factor. If you are in good health, are clean when you take the ibogaine, and take nothing else during the trip, you will be fine. But heart problems and liver problems, especially, can exist without you being aware of it. At the very least, you should get a thorough physical exam from your doctor before taking ibogaine doses above 4 mg per kg of body weight. Preferably your doctor should know what you are planning, so he or she will know to include relevant tests like an EKG and measures of liver enzymes. With these basic safety precautions, unofficial treatments are way better than no ibogaine treatment. Better yet? People giving informal treatments should have a heart monitor on their clients, know how to read it, and ensure the treatment occurs close to an emergency care unit. A medical oxygen tank is also a good idea.
Many of these deaths occured at medical clinics with trained staff and proper equipment. The action of ibogaine in the body is extremely complex, human studies of high doses have never been done, and for years only people willing to operate outside the medical system conducted treatments at all. The deaths that were not due to patients sneaking a dose of their buzz of choice can be chalked up to lack of knowledge of ibogaine's ins and outs. Although they can say ibogaine triggered the death, and identify certain health problems as being involved, in many cases coroners have not been able to explain what the mechanism was. Whether or not pharmaceutical companies ever market ibogaine, human trials are clearly needed. But human trials are extremely expensive. The inability of the medical profession to get such studies done when they aren't in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry shows up a fundamental weakness in the system.
Ibogaine is most famous as a treatment for heroin addicition, but it has been used successfully to treat addiction to alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine, as well. The breadth of this selection indicates that ibogaine will work for any addiction. Somehow, it just removes addiction. People talk of it 'resetting' the brain. Whatever tolerance had been developed to whatever buzz before the ibogaine disappears. Study in animals points to a likely explanation for this. Both ibogaine and the active metabolite your liver turns it into, noribogaine, are stored by your body in your fat tissues. This causes them to be released slowly for weeks or months after the initial trip is over. It is this ongoing presence of noribogaine, in particular, in your blood stream at low levels that keeps you free of cravings, clear-headed, and in positive spirits for so long after the initial treatment that you are able to adjust your life to suit non-buzz-dependent behaviour before all those lingering effects are over. As far as the addiction itself goes, the visions you have during the trip engage you emotionally and give you insight into your behaviour, but it may well be the ibogaine's lingering effects that allow you to digest that and act on it.
Two of the doctors who have been involved with ibogaine treatments the longest, Deborah Mash and Stanley Glick, have responded to this information by developing chemicals closely related to ibogaine that don't induce hallucinations, and are designed to be administered over many repeated doses, instead of just one. It is worth noting that this is the approach that attracts funding from pharmaceutical companies, especially since the substances they are based on don't occur in nature and can therefore be patented. People who have been deeply moved by what they saw during the visionary phase of ibogaine treatment (meaning, pretty much everyone who hallucinated) generally disagree that skipping that won't reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. Time will tell, but other options would still be valuable. What about the many people who can't take ibogaine at the doses used for addiction treatment because of medical issues? What about the people who are scared off the idea by fear of hallucinating? For these people Dr. Mash is developing noribogaine pills and patches, and Dr. Glick is developing a close analogue of ibogaine, known as 18-MC, with chemist Martin Kuehne.
Some people take ibogaine because they are interested in it as a means of self-exploration, either on their own or with a therapist. Although many other hallucinogens stimulate visions that are striking in their relevance to your psychology, only ibogaine has the added feature of the introspective period following that. The tendancy to vividly reexperience memories going back to early childhood is also of interest to many of these people. This experience with ibogaine is possible at doses much below those used for addiction treatment, but much higher than the stimulant dose. A dose range between 4 and 10 mg per kilogram bodyweight is recommended, meaning all the safety considerations necessary for addiction treatment are still necessary.
This is the dose range that could be offered in buzz bars, provided careful screening was done first. To be served you would need to provide documentation of a recent physical clearing you for ibogaine use. A server would still have the right to refuse you if they felt there was reason to believe you had buzz drugs in your system or might try to take some during the course of your trip. All the regulations of booth use would apply, as such a buzz would have to be taken in a booth, with a sitter. You would have to be on a heart monitor. The chances of you having heart problems would be very slim, but it is a reasonable precaution. If such a thing did occur, the staff would of course have the training and equipment necessary to respond. You would be required to stay in your booth with your sitter until your visionary phase was over, which would mean you'd be there for 2 to as much as 8 hours. Thus, booths for such things would need to be relatively roomy, plush affairs - if not for you, then for the sake of your sitter. It is fairly unusual for people to seek out trips of this kind, so long and deep. Although such a service would be rather costly, it should therefore be well within the kind of price you could justify spending once or twice for something special, which it would almost certainly be.
Shamanic organizations in the Santo Daime vein would likely also be interested in offering ibogaine to members. This is the best illustration as to why such organizations ought to be required to meet licensing standards. They would need to demonstrate that they are capable of screening people to determine who can safely take ibogaine, and to handle whatever upshot might result. In the case of ibogaine, they ought to be required to have nursing staff on hand for the duration. Such organizations would be the appropriate place for people to go who are looking for deep trips on an ongoing basis, as people do, every now and then. Because ibogaine lingers in your system for weeks, possibly many weeks, people who treat hallucinogens in a quasi-religious manner and trip on a regular basis should still not use it again unless all of the traces of their last dose are entirely gone. Otherwise, they would be setting themselves up to be in a slightly altered state for very extended periods of time, which would amount to a rare and exotic addiction.
So that's ibogaine, last on our list of hallucinogens, and last on our list of buzz drugs proposed for legalization. Indeed it is a prince among buzzes. Let us take a further moment to reflect on what an astonishing molecule it is by listing all the neurotransmitters and receptors it affects in your brain: dopamine, serotonin, NMDA, the mu, kappa, and delta opioids, nicotinic, muscarinic, sigma 1, and sigma 2. It affects three of the four major neurotransmitter systems of the brain - the dopaminergic, serotonergic, and cholinergic. (NMDA receptors are a subclass of glutamate receptor, found throughout the central nervous system, important to learning and memory.) Its very broad field of action in the brain makes it very difficult to figure out pharmacologically. Its chemical complexity means that there are many, many ways the molecule can be tweaked into a slightly different chemical, with different actions in the body, which could lead to all sorts of things. It is mightily refreshing to know a drug can still amaze and confuse medical science the way ibogaine has.
Hallucinogens that Would Not Be Offered... But Maybe Some Could Be In Future...
There are two notable hallucinogens that are not included in this legalization system that deserve some discussion. One is the famous spark that lit the psychedelic culture bonfire of the '60s, LSD. The other is the much less famous dissociative hallucinogen dextromethorphan, notable for its easy peasy availability in over-the-counter cough medicines. Aside from these two, there are a plethora of designer hallucinogens that have appeared over the last couple of decades, and new ones are being discovered at an accelerating rate. There are many examples of these. We'll look at just one, 2C-B, and then review the general situation with designer hallucinogens. There also exists a huge range of hallucinogenic plants and their derivatives which couldn't be part of legalization. Sometimes the problem is only that their effects last far too long, such as in the case of mescaline. Sometimes the risk of deadly overdose and/or a seriously funky bad trip is too great, such as with datura and all the other deliriants. Some almost qualify, such as muscimol, and could perhaps be explored in future. As with all the buzz drugs not included in this legal system, their use would be decriminalized, but it would remain a crime to sell them for profit.
LSD (Acid) - This buzz is similar to the effects of psilocin, which is included for legalization. What makes it unattractive for legalization is mostly that it is strongly associated with Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. Many other hallucinogens can also cause this disorder, which is rarely serious or lasts more than a few months, but LSD seems to do so much more often. When it is serious, HPPD can be very troubling and difficult to deal with. Of the hallucinogens listed here for legalization, only psilocin is associated with very occasional occurances of HPPD. The other problematic thing about LSD is that trips on it can last 10 or 11 hours. This legal system excludes buzzes likely to last longer than 6 hours, because the longer you are buzzed, the more likely it is you will try to do something a buzzed person is in no shape to be doing.
DXM (Dextromethorphan) - This is found in an array of cough medicines. If you down twenty or thirty times the recommended dose for a cough, it is a dissociative hallucinogen. Its effects are roughly similar to ketamine, or salvinorin A, but obviously it is much easier to obtain, and cheaper. Because it is normally consumed from cough medicines, it is hard to determine if some of the common side-effects are due to it, or to other things present in these medicines. However, it is probable that the frequent occurance of nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea or constipation, which can persist for days after taking the DXM, is not due to other factors. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that chronic heavy use leads to mental impairments of various kinds, the permanence of which is unknown. That means that both ketamine and salvinorin A are vastly healthier, and one or both should be sufficiently similar to the DXM experience to make them attractive alternatives to people who become addicted to this buzz.
2C-B - This is a psychedelic hallucinogen with some unique properties. It is sort of the opposite of a dissociative hallucinogen - it makes you very aware of your own body and its sensations, and this is often experienced as sensual. It's toxicity seems quite low, although above a certain dose the trip is likely to be overwhelming and thus definitely upsetting. 2C-B would be a valuable addition to legalization, except for one thing. Dose control is just too difficult. I spent some time trying to figure out how it could be offered in a format that would not involve people very commonly taking too much and having a bad trip, without success. It can't be smoked, snorting it is very painful, and oral doses can easily take over an hour to hit you. Combine this with the fact that a slight increase in your dose will dramatically change its effect on you, and the effect of a given dose is highly variable from one person to the next, and 2C-B just becomes too tricky to offer to the general public. Even placing it under the special restriction status used for MDMA, where your dose is always given to you by a server, wouldn't be manageable, because responsibly establishing your dose would take several hours. Possibly, if 2C-B was formulated as its freebase rather than its salt, which is how it is normally formulated, it could be vapourized effectively and safely. There is very little information on this possibility. It would be nice if it could. There is a lack of range in the selection of psychedelic hallucinogens to be legalized, and 2C-B offers a different kind of experience that would be a better fit for some people in some circumstances than the other buzzes on the list.
There are a bunch of other lab-created hallucinogens in the 2C category. (Thank Alexander Shulgin for all of them.) Too little is known about them to consider them for legalization, and they all also seem to have one problem or another that could make legalization unadviseable. Aside from these there are lots of others - for information on them, try Erowid or UK Chemical Research. Some are or have been sold legally. Little is known about them medically, and many have dangers that buyers are rarely informed of. The problems with designer buzz drugs was looked at more closely in the section on Stimulants Not Offered. The short version is that if they tell you it's safe don't believe them. If they aren't outright lying, in cases where deaths or serious health consequences have been documented for that buzz drug, definitely they don't know. Nobody knows at all if these buzzes may be carcinogenic or lead to birth defects, or what health effects can result from chronic use. At least with the stuff sold online and in headshops you needn't fear nasty cutting agents, or being sold something as one buzz when it is actually something else (very common with ecstasy). Just remember that you ARE risking your health if you aren't careful about your dose or don't take proper precautions, and you CAN become addicted if you are vulnerable, regardless of claims to the contrary. Unless it's a tue psychedelic hallucinogen, in that case you are probably okay.
There are a ton of hallucinogens waiting to be discovered in the lab, and some will certainly prove useful. Not just in terms of providing people with a new kind of enjoyable recreational trip either, but in terms of psychotherapy applications. Aside from the many tryptamines and phenethylamines that remain to be explored, the example of salvia divinorum shows that plant-based hallucinogens still hold big surprises. Many of them remain unexplored. Salvia alone opens the door to an entirely new class of drugs - pharmaceuticals and recreational buzzes both. The internet and the accelerating interweaving of the world's nations and cultures may mean that, on this score, the law makes absolutely no difference at all to how quickly that happens. Finding and producing new buzz drugs is easier and more lucrative than ever. They will churn out of the underground faster and faster. It still would be nice if they were properly tested and actively explored by the medical world, instead of researchers being forced to wait and wait and jump through many hoops before they are given permission to examine them. Many of these buzzes have big medical potential. Some governments seem to be waking up to this, thankfully. Hallucinogens, as is the case with buzz drugs in general, have a bright future once brought fully out into the light of day.