MXE, Maxine or Mexxy: Ketamine’s (Legal Not For Consumption) Younger Sister

8dJpCibMethoxetamine is a drug that started as a synthetic replacement for the popular recreational drug (Ketamine), but soon found a following all its own. When Ketamine became difficult to find, some peeps decided to buy still legal versions of it on the grey market. Lots of places online sell novel psychoactive substances, especially ones that haven’t been picked up or ingested by random users yet. In 2010 people started purchasing it as a cheaper alternative to the dodgy K that was going around at the time. It went from first described to formally identified by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs in 6 months. While it’s certainly not acid, the trips online of the intensity of the experience became legendary. People report intensely disassociative experiences, powerful psychedelic rides & huge problems moving and coordinating their limbs.  Continue reading

Ayahuasca: Buckets, Diapers, Addiction & Trauma.

LfMvhgNThis Drug Fact Friday is one of the big champions of the jungle ones folks. This is a concoction of different chemicals that some of your more groovy/hippie friends may have mentioned at a party once or twice. Ayahuasca (sometimes called yagé) is a powerful psychedelic brew. The brew is created because the DMT containing plant needs a vine that has what’s known as an MAO inhibitor in it. If anyone ever tells you Ayahuasca is one thing, hit them. This concoction of a couple of plants allows the DMT to survive what’s known as first pass metabolism and reach your bloodstream. Traditionally, shamans may also add other plants to the mixture, but the DMT & the MAOI are the two primary ingredients. These brews are traditionally consumed during tribal music & shamanistic ritual. It’s not something that has a lot of festival/club use, as many people report severe nausea, vomiting & diarrhea while on it. If you thought you were going to puke when you took shrooms and went to see Ratatat that one time, this blows that out of the chunky water. Some of my friends in San Francisco & NYC have lovingly referred to it as a “bucket & diaper” drug, for this exact reason. And yes, the purging properties the drug has are referred to as “la purga” (guess what that translates to) in shamanic tradition, so get with it.10628587_10205166622379969_5351340714662551154_nNow that I’ve sufficiently grossed out all the kids, let’s talk about how & why people take this stuff. “Ayahuasca” is a non-indigenous spelling, as the natives of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru & Columbia may prefer ayawaska, and the cultural differences between taking it in the jungle & taking it in a loft in Brooklyn are as striking. Like all other psychedelic experiences, set, setting, goal, community & purpose can mean the difference between a transcendent journey or a nightmarish stumble. The ceremony associated with Ayahuasca helps align people to their goals and can have a tremendously therapeutic, possibly life-changing effect. The plants making the brew, importantly, are not illegal. The chemical, DMT, within the plant is illegal, but the plants from which the DMT is obtained are not scheduled. There are plenty of super positive experiences listed within the Erowid vaults but I’m not going to bore people with “I got so high I saw the galaxy” stories. It’s a much more sophisticated experience, as the research diagram below shows. Even the purging aspect of the drug has a purpose. It was administered traditionally at non-psychoactive doses to vacate parasites & worms from a digestive tract.AyahuascaThere’s been a continuing problem of recreational users doing powerful psychedelics in contexts that don’t require them, or in places where their use is very risky. Whether it’s taking the brew without knowing its potency, doing so because some cute girl is doing it, or even because you’re using it to escape from your life, there are plenty of risks involved with using Aya improperly. The most important is possibly an exacerbation of pre-existing heart conditions. With these hugely potent psychedelic experiences, significant increases in blood pressure & pulse rates have been reported. To stress, no one has died from Ayahuasca per se. The deaths associated with the brew may be due to complications because of medication regimens & the addition of problematic plants & other additives to it.  This VERY tongue in cheek video (oh my God, please don’t yell at me, plant teachers are important, I agree and there are a ton more serious videos on Aya here.) shows a lot of the dark sides of people calling themselves shamans & abusing powerful psychedelics without proper context or motivation. There have been reports of “shamans” exploiting drug tourists, there have been people who died because they didn’t disclose all of the prescriptions they’re taking during their consultations with the shaman.Burns TrippySo, I think it’s important to keep that in mind that what is known about the chemicals clinically is fundamentally different than what is experienced by the ingestion of the brew in a particular place & time. And it can help people in really tangible ways. Ayahuasca has been shown to fight addiction and has a growing following when it comes to its use in processing trauma.   A veteran by the name of Ryan LeCompte took a squad of veterans down to the jungle to have a real ceremony, with a real shaman, and work on some real problems. Not “my apartment doesn’t get enough southern light & my boyfriend can’t commit” level problems. Real veterans, who saw some shit, people who have dealt with things that would make the average basic cry. Lisa Ling from CNN went down to the jungle with them and saw what real healing, post-OIF/OEF looks like. There’s a lot of disputation about whether psychedelics can heal in the academic/ivory tower community. Among Ryan’s comrades in arms, I don’t think that’s an argument they’re having anymore. There is a real potential to help people using this brew, and there are wise people who will watch over you when you do it. If you can find them. This drug is hugely contentious for precisely this reason, so join ravelrie, NY DanceSafe Stay Safe Seattle & I at 4:30pm EST/1:30pm PST for #ayaFF on Twitter to learn more & join in the conversation about it. 

Adderall, Vyvanse & Brain Doping

With 5.3%of college students currently prescribed ADHD medications, Adderall & its newer, “difficult to abuse” progeny, Vyvanse have just been used in massive quantities all over the country to get heads through finals. There’s a beautiful round up of how Adderall is used/discussed in digital spaces by Tazin Karim Daniels here. While plenty of people are going to hem and haw about it, if 47% of 12th graders say it would be “easy” to obtain this stuff, let’s take our heads out of the sand and try and understand why. Continue reading

Nitrous Oxide: 215 Years, From Humphry Davy To Hippie Crack.

largeNitrous oxide, also referred to as Laughing Gas has a particularly interesting history, being one of the only drugs beside cannabis & alcohol that people still use in similar forms/dosages to centuries ago. It’s on the WHO Model List of Essential medicines because of its use in surgery & dentistry, it’s what the NoS tanks in Fast & the Furious cars use for that video game style speed boosts & it’s been used recreationally by half a million people in the UK alone. Nitrous has been shown to be relatively harmless from a neurotoxicity perspective. The issue with most users developing hypoxia is related to their using “whippets” instead of medical grade Nitrous. While medical grade Nitrous has oxygen mixed into it, chargers do not. Hence the potential for harm if you’re getting the stuff you can get at Zabars instead of having it be administered by someone with medical or dental training. But here’s the crazy part, it started out just as a party drug for the British upper class & academia.
Nitrous 1830 Continue reading

Khat, Cathinones & Culture: A Continuing Story

In many cultures around the world, drugs are primarily consumed not by smoking or snorting, but chewing. Coca leaves in Latin America, Betel in Asia, and Khat in the Middle East and Africa. This process is the traditional method of psychotropic substance consumption, especially in places where only tobacco is frequently smoked. In Somalia-land, the Eastern regions of Africa & the Arabian peninsula, Khat is king. This cathinone has amphetamine-like effects, but is significantly less powerful than something like adderall or methamphetamine. However, just because it’s a plant, not a powder, doesn’t mean it’s not still potent & hugely popular in much of the world.

KhatFF graphicThis “herbal stimulant” has followed sub-Saharan migrant workers to Europe, while entrenching deeply within its native Somaliland (an independent autonomous region from Somalia). Approximately 20% of the government’s revenue comes from the sale of the plant. The drug has been seen as a problem for some, while an opportunity for others, and with the government encouraging the sale, a ban or restriction of any kind seems unlikely. The plant is  considered less potent & addictive than powder or pill based concentrates that have made it over to the Western world. Al Jazeera has a great pair of features about the plant and the migrant worker culture surrounding it.

While the West has a terrible history of using racism to make drugs illegal, only Missouri in the USA has made this specific plant illegal. The active substance, cathinone, has gone on to much infamy being associated with “bath salts.” Cathinones are internationally scheduled, but the Khat plant was made illegal in the UK after a long & bitter fight that seemed to occur along racial & class lines (as discussed in those dope Al-Jazeera articles), as the plant is chewed primarily by immigrants. Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle will be joining me to talk about the effects, information on the addictive potential & the positive/negative effects of the plant. Use #khatFF to join in the slightly sped up fun!

 

 

Kratom, Stimulants & Withdrawal: A Developing Story

This week, for #DFF we’re talking Kratom! You’ve probably not heard of it, but if you have, we’d love to hear from you! Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle are joining me to talk about a substance that has both a long history and an entirely new global fanbase. In many places, like the USA, it’s actually still legal, though, as we’ve seen with a lot of gray-area drugs, that may not be the case for long.IMG_1784This drug has the very interesting side effect of essentially replacing methadone for opiate withdrawal. This is something that took me both a review of the research (summed up nicely in this Scientific American article) and a lengthy stay in r/kratom (that’s right, there’s a reddit community about it) to really believe. One of the differences between the article and the concreteness of the sub-reddit is immediately obvious. While the scientists are speculating and wondering about the effectiveness of the drug, there’s an entire underground of people already using it. Not only are they using it the way it’s traditionally used in Thailand, as the organic/natural analog to methamphetamine, similar to Khat & coca leaves in Africa & Latin America (respectively). But it also provides a much smoother withdrawal than when you try and stop using opiates. The only other drug I’ve ever encountered in my research that does this is Ibogaine, but that is a story for another day. This substance apparently replaces the opiate/pain medication usage, but when users try to quit this…they feel like they’ve got a caffeine headache.

The significantly reduced physical dependency potential & softer withdrawal symptoms have gotten people to use it to do what methodone, Narcotics Anonymous & a lifetime of DARE commercials couldn’t. Get them off drugs. Some succeed, a bunch fail, but in this case, they’ve got a leg-up, as dealing with caffeine withdrawal is a zillion (yea that’s a scientific term sure) times easier than weaning yourself off heroin. As any fan of Trainspotting could tell you. The drug isn’t actually scheduled in the USA, but the DEA is watching it like a hawk. There’s a chance that it could be used to help people, but I assume the usual suspects will shit all over that, but the fact that the community exists, is global, and has helped (admittedly self-report & confirmation bias not-withstanding) a lot of people, means there might be something here. Join us on Twitter at 4:30pm to help us figure it out.

Multi-Day Festivals & Safety

 

2hxslecWhile there’s a whole lot of information out there about how to not die when the party lasts 4-8hrs, what the heck do you do when you want to go HAM over a weekend? Multi-day events are becoming the norm, as festival culture to continues to explode. To put this in context, there were over 800 festivals in North America, in 2013 alone. This stuff is the new normal, and they’re quite different from club nights.

IMG_1552My peeps ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle are going to focus on tips for the raver/festival attendee themselves, but I wanted to take this time to directly address fest producers & managers. I worked with the Electronic Music Alliance to develop this Event Safety guide for festival managers. There are a number of tips that most people haven’t thought of, but if ravers are aware of them, they can help mitigate the potential for a bad experience even when the festival is kind of a clusterfuck.

Some of the easiest take aways are:

  • Know where the water/crisis intervention/medical stations are before you have an emergency. This can literally make the difference between life & death.
  • Assume that the water stations will have heavy lines & no one will have extra ear plugs. Bring multiple pairs of those & more than one pair of sunglasses, especially for events with a heavy day component. There’s nothing worse than having your shades break on day one and squinting in 3 days worth of pictures.
  • Know the route from the stage(s) back to your tent in daylight & the dark without relying on too many landmarks. One of the biggest issues newbie Burning Man attendees have is the day after the Man burns, no one can find their way around because they were using “the man” as a guide post to locate themselves.
  • Start consuming gatorade & electrolytes after the 1st day. The water stations don’t take into account the fact that you’ve been sweating & pissing salts out for 24hrs, and the opposite of dehydration can kick on when you don’t have enough salts.
  • Pick up your garbage from your campsite gradually over the weekend, such that you don’t have a massive clean-up task when the event is over.
  • Have a plan to get there AND TO GET HOME. No one wants to be the guy who is hitching a ride away from the festival.

There’s a lot to talk about so join us at 4:30pm EST/1:30 PM PST for #FestFriday on Twitter!