hemp studied
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What's addictive?.

Ecstasy and other 'Designer Drugs'


'At first you can't really say what's happening after you ingest these substances. Then suddenly everything is a little brighter, conversation is a bit more relaxed, the music is just right and you slowly begin fitting into the new environment. It's a fabulous feeling.' Dr Alexander T Shulgin, Californian Chemist.

All these new drugs are psychedelics which have been synthesized by researchers. They should not be confused, as the press does in its ignorance, with other 'designer drugs' which are dangerous narcotics, eg. MMMP ('synthetic Heroin') which was produced with an impurity (MTMP) that caused Parkinson's disease. The new psychedelics are mainly manufactured from crossing a mescaline-type structure with amphetamine ('speed'). There are hundreds of these chemicals many of which seem to be safe psychedelics when correctly used. There are other new psychedelics related to tryptamine and also a more potent analogue of LSD. This has not be tested in humans to the best of my knowledge.

Some have been manufactured for the black market in North America, particularly in Canada. They are very rare and but they are all likely to become more popular, as they represent an advance on LSD. The drugs seem to have similar effects, which are highly dosage dependent and they are best used in low doses where many have been described as empathogens -- non-hallucinogenic psychedelics, which promote empathy between people and remove fear in the same context. Some say there are subtle differences in effects between these drugs, however there is little reliable information at the present time. Despite the potential usefulness of these drugs they were listed in the UK in 1977 as class A and banned in the USA in 1988 under sweeping rules.

MDMA ('Ecstasy')

CH2/ \___
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                      3      The N-methyl analogue of MDA
'It can be compared in its effects to marijuana, to psilocybin devoid of the hallucinatory component, or to low doses of MDA.' A T Shulgin.

'I found it entirely pleasurable and very enlightening. It's a diffused sensuality. Everybody became very open about their feelings.' American User.

' ... Grinspoon, who has tried the drug himself, said recently that it may prove to be 'the first pharmacologic agent that actually gives a patient the capacity for insight. It enhances positive feelings of love and trust and seems to facilitate the retrieval of early memories.'' David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 December 1987

'Ecstasy, also called MDMA, is methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (whew!), a drug synthesized in 1914 as an appetite depressant ... It is a short-acting psychedelic that doesn't give bad trips or flashbacks, and does reduce anxiety. BUT, although it may not be as lethal as crack, like any drug it is intense and dangerous if used in a risky way, such as snorting it or injecting it intravenously.' Beth Winship, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 June 1988

'A psychedelic drug nicknamed Ecstasy, invented in laboratories in the 1970s and outlawed in 1985, is enjoying a vogue in nightclubs in downtown Manhattan, where it is attracting a young and arty following and even sparking a wave of Ecstasy theme parties, T-shirts and music ... In Ecstasy, a combination of a synthetic mescaline and an amphetamine, users believe they have found a mildly hallucinogenic stimulant that amounts to the perfect drug ... It is difficult to determine how many people are now experimenting with Ecstasy across the country. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration says most of the drug is made in clandestine laboratories in Texas and California ... Ecstasy, a bitter white powder also called MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxy methamphetamine, is a chemical variation of mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug obtained from the mescal plant, and amphetamine, or speed, a drug that stimulates the central nervous system.' Lisa W. Foderare, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 December 1988

'Ecstasy, for example, which is known chemically as MDMA, has been ruled by the federal Food and Drug Administration to be useless medically and dangerous, although it has been used for many years by a few psychiatrists to help their patients talk more freely ... And it can in fact lead researchers to important insights into the way the mind operates, according to Dr. Reese T. Jones, a psychiatrist at the University of California in San Francisco who has conducted government- sponsored studies of psychedelic drugs including marijuana, LSD, mescaline and cocaine ... Although human studies with MDMA are banned, Jones and Dr. Stephen J. Peroutka, a Stanford neurologist, noted that some psychiatrists have confirmed its value in inducing a sense of serenity in mental patients, an increased sense of self-esteem, and a closer, more confident alliance with their therapists ... No one knows just how MDMA works. But Jones insisted the drug has shown no long-term adverse effects when it is used moderately. ... As for using Ecstasy to study how the mind operates under the stimulus of profound human emotions, Jones commented: 'There's just no way I can study love and lust in a rat, and I'd like to study how MDMA works in humans, but it's just not worth the hassle with the FDA.' David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 January 1989

MDMA is a weaker and less toxic version of a very similar drug MDA which is taken in similar doses. It is available in a number of forms, usually caps, tablets or a white powder. It has been made in the UK but is more commonly manufactured in Holland or America. It was first produced for the black-market in America in the early 1970s as a then legal substitute for MDA. In 1985 it started to attract media attention. It was declared illegal in the USA in the same year. Californian psychotherapists, typically of Jungian persuasion, had been using MDMA or 'Adam' as they called it together with 2CB and Ketamine. Adamson (1985) contains much information on therapeutic use.

When used in normal doses of about 100mg it has very mild effects like a combination of very low doses of LSD and speed ,but with no hallucinations or chance of a bad trip. It causes enhancement of the senses (like all psychedelics), a loss of inhibitions, empathy and openness between people and lasts about four hours. Despite its mild effect it can leave the user with a slight but persistent hangover for the following two days! And it is somewhat toxic, unlike cannabis or LSD, and can cause sickness and, like speed, a feeling of tension in the jaw and grinding of teeth. High doses (200mg+) seem to result in LSD-type effects. Doses of 500mg+ of MDA can be fatal. MDA has be eclipsed in publicity by MDMA, which is ironic since much MDMA may actually be MDA. MDMA is thought to be less toxic than MDA. MDA is slightly stronger and lasts longer than MDMA. There are an estimated half million users in the UK.

'E' has become a popular accompaniment to dance music despite its cost of around twenty pounds for a dose of about 100mg and despite (or perhaps because of) much adverse and inaccurate publicity, particularly in the down-market papers. Quarter tabs of acid are also used as a far cheaper, but poorer and less reliable substitute. The police made 90 seizures of E in 1988 and 570 in 1989. There was one bust of 900,000 tabs in Amsterdam during the summer of 1989. In 1990 5,500 tablets were seized in London. In 1991 this number had increased to 66,200. This suggests European supplies to be increasing. Certainly E is cheaper now than when it first reached the UK in the early 1980s and demand is very much higher. Black market MDMA might actually be MDA or a mixture of the two as they appear in the same forms. Also, MDMA has been mixed with speed. And beware, very cheap E is more likely to be a cocktail of other drugs, probably including speed, than the genuine article.

Experiments in rats show MDA and MDMA lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Even although the rats recover and there is no evidence that low serotonin levels are dangerous in humans this had led many journalists to spread the 'Ecstasy causes brain damage myth'.

Of course you can get screwed up (severe anxiety, depression and paranoia) on even a relatively safe drug like Ecstasy if you try really hard (10-15 doses per day like some idiots in San Francisco did) and taking it as often as three times a week is probably abusing it. A very small number of people have died in a heat-stroke reaction after taking MDMA, because they were allergic to it. Although, allergic responses can be a problem with common medicinal drugs, e.g. aspirin or even peanuts, this will no doubt be used as propaganda against E. Another media favourite is to describe MDMA as a sex drug, in fact a side effect of the drug is to make ejaculation difficult. In Adamson users describe it as a 'love drug' which can make intercourse unnecessary. Perhaps it is the ideal drug for the post-AIDS generation.

Many people seem to use MDMA together with LSD. In general, mixing drugs is a bad idea since many have a synergistic effect on each other (2+2=5) but this is said to be a good combination. I would expect very strong trips to be the result.

MDE ('Eve') is the N-ethyl analogue of MDA and has been available in the USA. It is even shorter in action than MDMA and is believed to have sedative rather than stimulant effects.


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       CH O
This is the phenylethylamine analog of DOB but it is safer, only lasting about 8 hours. It is very similar to MDMA, but it is stronger with mild visual effects more common and probably fewer of the amphetamine-type side effects. It is supposed to enhance all the senses. By 1987 it was available in the USA as 'bromo-mescaline'(sic) or 'Venus'. According to The Face magazine it has been found in London. It has been described as an 'aphrodisiac' (well it would be, wouldn't it?). A dose is about 10-20mg.

DOB ('Bromo-STP')

4-Bromo, 2,5-Dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine

This drug first appeared in the UK in the summer of 1973. It is a stronger version of the famous 1960s drug DOM (or 'STP'). The drug was being sold then as an LSD substitute. DOB commonly appears as drops on blotting paper, just as LSD does, since it is so potent. Like DOM some producers have been producing dosage units containing massive overdoses of the drug, which can last between 24 and 36 hours. There have been reports from the USA of really huge overdoses (e.g. 75mg) causing ergotism (see Fly Agaric section). However, DOB is active at less than 1mg and is, therefore, not toxic and likely to be safe at the correct dosage level.

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