Tag Archives: dangerous

10 questions about drugs

1. Which is the most common rape drug?

2. Which drug is associated with the most violence?

3. Which drug kills most people?

4. What kind of drugs are responsible for the most overdose deaths?

5. Name two drugs that have never killed anyone.

6. Name two drugs that have no or very little addictive properties.

7. Name two drugs that break addiction.

8. Name two drugs that are used to cure depression, trauma and abuse.

9. Which drugs are legal?

10. Which drugs are the most illegal?

 

You’ll find the correct answers below the picture.

Photo: Drug questions by Ano Lobb on Flickr.
Photo: Drug questions by Ano Lobb on Flickr

 

There are obviously legal, country and time specific variations to these answers, but this is the general picture.

1. Which is the most common rape drug?
Alcohol is the most common rape drug. Many think that they need to be wary of people who want to spike their drinks with other drugs, but in the overwhelming majority of cases it is the alcoholic drink itself that is the rape drug. Victims and offenders are often drunk and even when there are other drugs in the mix, alcohol is almost always the main drug.

2. Which drug is associated with the most violence?
Alcohol is involved in most cases of violence. 70 to 90 percent of all violence (wars excluded) is directly linked to alcohol. This is as true for domestic violence as it is for violent encounters between strangers. There are a few other drugs (mainly ego enhancing and consciousness decreasing drugs) that are also associated with violence, but even in cases when other drugs are present alcohol is usually the main drug.

This diagram gives you a hint at how many deaths are attributed to different drugs in the UK 2011. It is however misleading since the tobacco part of the diagram only shows England, while the other circles include all of the UK. In other words, the tobacco circle should be far much bigger than it is in this picture.
This diagram shows you how many deaths were attributed to different drugs in the UK 2011. The very large circle represent deaths due to tobacco and the next biggest one is alcohol. In third place we find opiates and opiate substitutes, which are mostly found in legal medications. In fourth place are legal anti-depressants and in fifth are legal benzodiazepines. In other words, all the big killer drugs except for heroin are legal.

3. Which drug kills most people?
Tobacco is by far the most lethal drug. Tobacco kills more people than all other legal and illegal drugs combined. Alcohol is the second most deadly drug and in third place we find prescription medications. Science is having a hard time putting these in relation to each other, but estimates are that tobacco takes somewhere between two and fifteen times as many lives as alcohol.

4. What kind of drugs are responsible for the most overdose deaths?
Pharmaceutical drugs/prescription medicines are the most commonly overdosed with a deadly outcome. One reason is of course the availability but another very important reason is that medications often are highly toxic.

5. Name two drugs that have never killed anyone.
LSD, cannabis and magic mushrooms are a few non-lethal drugs, but there are certainly more. The doses needed to die from them are simply so ridiculously high that it is physically impossible to consume such quantities of cannabis or mushrooms. In the case of LSD it is probably possible to take that much, but you would need to take thousands of doses and as far as I know that still hasn’t happened. It is of course possible to die in an accident or such while on these drugs, but even so these are not drugs that typically make users accident prone. Science rather suggests that people using these drugs are usually more careful and considerate.

6. Name two drugs that have no or very little addictive properties.

Photo: Hícuri by Mierdamian Rondana on Flickr
Photo: Hícuri by Mierdamian Rondana on Flickr

Psychedelics generally have strong anti-addictive properties and are therefore fantastic for breaking addiction. Some such drugs are LSD, magic mushrooms (psilocybin), San Pedro/Peyote (mescaline), Ayahuasca, DMT, Iboga (ibogaine) and Salvia Divinorum. Another thing that several of the psychedelics have in common is that the user’s tolerance towards them increases rapidly, so even if a user would want to use it several days in a row it would quickly become meaningless to do so because the effects would vanish.

7. Name two drugs that break addiction.
LSD, magic mushrooms and Iboga are all well known in the treatment of addicts, but psychedelics of all kinds can be helpful. Before being made illegal LSD was among other things used to cure alcoholism. AA co-founder Bill Wilson was an advocate of using it specifically to treat cynical alcoholics by giving them a spiritual experience. Ironically LSD had a higher success rate of curing alcoholics than AA or any other program has ever had.

8. Name two drugs that are used to cure depression, trauma and abuse.
Again, psychedelics are fantastic tools for curing depression, trauma and abuse, especially LSD, magic mushrooms, Ayahuasca and San Pedro/Peyote. They make the user more aware of his/her situation and give insights and experiences that help the user deal with past trauma. Within a spiritual context the plants are especially helpful since they actually speak to the user in a way that an isolated substance cannot do.

Western chemical based medicine often uses medications such as anti-depressants but these medicines most often only put a lid on things and sedate the person. These medicines are also highly addictive and toxic, which makes them very dangerous in comparison.

9. Which drugs are legal?
Alcohol and tobacco are legal, although you need to be of a certain age to buy them. Prescription medications are legal as long as you have a prescription.

10. Which drugs are the most illegal?

Contrary to what many think today's drug laws are not based on science but on politics. For example, did you know that the push to make cannabis illegal was mostly based on racism?
Contrary to what many think today’s drug laws are not based on science but on politics. For example, did you know that the push to make cannabis illegal was greatly based on racism?

Class A drugs are defined as drugs that are especially harmful, have a high abuse potential and that have no medical value. Among these you will find heroin, crack, cocaine, cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms and mescaline. Which class a drug is placed in is however a political decision, not a scientific one. From a strictly scientific point of view this classification is utterly absurd. Heroin and crack would definitely fall within the definition of a class A drug, but so would the legal drugs alcohol and tobacco since they obviously are extremely addictive, harmful and lack all medical value. The psychedelics and cannabis on the other hand are proven to have huge medical value and do very little harm, so they would be stricken if the list was based on science. It appears however that drug policies are among the least scientifically based policies today.

Main photo: fififififiesta! by Adriano Agulló on Flickr

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LD50 shows why alcohol is more dangerous than many other drugs

Anyone who wants to talk about how dangerous different drugs are can have a look at the LD 50. LD means Lethal Dose and the 50 indicates the dose which will kill half the test population. The lower the value, the more dangerous the substance.

2006330104938_847Five times the dose of heroin is what it takes to kill half the population, as you can see in this chart from the American Scientist. As most people are aware heroin is a very dangerous drug that claims many lives. One thing that makes heroin particularly deceptive is that it is difficult to determine the quality before you have tried it and it is therefore easy to overdose. The physical quantities needed are also very small.

Alcohol requires ten times the dose before half the population dies. Alcohol has a natural, but for some easily overcome barrier. You simply need to drink very much to be in danger of dying. But each year many people die in drinking games and such. Hard liquor increases the risk significantly, as it requires a much smaller physical quantity.

In contrast to these dangerous drugs, there are a number of drugs that have remarkably high LD 50 values. To have a 50 percent chance of dying from cannabis one needs to take more than 1000 times the dose. Cannabis has a built-in barrier in that it is physically impossible to take such a dose.

LSD and magic mushrooms require the same insanely high doses to reach their LD 50. It is physically possible to take a 1000 doses of LSD, because LSD is so potent, but it is hard to imagine the circumstances when that would happen. You would have to be a very thirsty laboratory assistant who mistook liquid LSD for water and accidentally drink some hearty gulps. That could make a fun plot for a film, but it hardly seems reasonable that it would happen for real. The small dose required when working with LSD does however lead to many accidental overdoses. Such trips can sometimes give the user an experience of dying, but there is no physical danger to the person’s life. Mushrooms also require 1000 times the dose, but there is once again the natural barrier. It is simply unthinkable that anyone could eat that many mushrooms.

That is the scientific explanation to why we have so many deaths caused by alcohol or heroin poisoning, but none caused by cannabis, LSD or mushrooms. So when someone says that alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, LSD or mushrooms, they are scientifically speaking correct. People die from alcohol poisoning every day. No one ever dies of cannabis, LSD or mushroom poisoning.

Read more:
Robert Gable, American Scientist (2006) The toxicity of recreational drugs
Daniel Wilby, wilby.nu (2014) What is dangerous?

Photo: snippets of autumn and music by justine-reyes on Flickr

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Respect yourself more than the system

We had that never ending discussion about the hypocrisy of cannabis being illegal while alcohol is legal.
– I understand that alcohol is a drug too, but things don’t get better if we legalize more drugs, she said.
It was an answer well rehearsed. One could hear that she had said it a hundred times before and since then I have heard many others repeat it. The statement seems logical in a way that shuts down the discussion, since it seems fair to think that more drugs should equal more problems.

But the logic doesn’t hold up.

If people switch from more dangerous to less dangerous drugs there might be big health benefits for the population. Alcohol is related to many deaths, diseases and accidents. Alcohol is the number one rape drug and there is an unmistakable link to violence.

I’m not saying that all problems would disappear if people switched from alcohol to cannabis. There are health issues with cannabis too. People will continue having accidents. People will continue getting addicted. But the negative effects of cannabis are significantly lower than with alcohol.

So let’s say that cannabis was legalized. Every person that switched from alcohol to cannabis would be an improvement to the general health. There would be less drug related death, less disease, less accidents, less rape and less violence. I’m not saying that it would all disappear. I’m just saying that it would be much less. Much, much less.
– Well, you know, I answered. Legalizing more drugs might actually make things much better. Since alcohol is such an extremely dangerous drug, both for the user but also for people around the person using, pretty much anything apart from heroin would be an improvement. If we legalize everything that is less dangerous than alcohol we will see a great improvement as people switch to less dangerous alternatives.

● ● ●

At the moment there is a discussion in Sweden about the “internet drug” Spice. The police and the anti-drug lobby are all upset because young people are buying really dangerous but legal alternatives to cannabis on the internet. And what is their solution?

Well of course… More laws. Harsher punishment. More police. Harass young people. More propaganda. More scare tactics. Have you heard it before? Has it worked?

If cannabis was legal, nobody would have thought of making or using Spice. By criminalizing substances that are massively tested and quite safe, such as cannabis, the drug laws are steering people towards far more dangerous but legal alternatives, such as Spice or alcohol.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

These people that want harsher laws and more police might sound quite logical, but don’t be fooled. They are insane. The system that we have used so far is obviously not working. It is counterproductive, dangerous, hypocritical and discriminatory. It is killing people. More of the same faulty thinking won’t correct the problem. We cannot continue letting insane people dictate our actions.

If the law is wrong – break it. It is better that you work with safe illegal substances, than you risking your life with harmful but legal alternatives. Respect yourself more than you respect the system.

Photo: 50mm by mista stagga lee on Flickr

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What is dangerous?

This is a second answer concerning a question about my blog post about how dangerous different substances actually are.

What do you mean by dangerous, Daniel? Do you mean for the mind or for body, or is it a combination?

I want to start with a disclaimer – I haven’t put a lot of thought into this. There are probably many sharp minds who have, but I can imagine splitting the harmful effects into at least six categories.

1. Physical damage and the possibility of dying.

Portrait #119 - PérineMallory - Friendly smoking - by Valentin Ottone on Flickr
Portrait #119 – PérineMallory – Friendly smoking – by Valentin Ottone on Flickr

Some substances are physically much more dangerous than others. For example, in Sweden 12.000 people die every year from smoking. This can be compared with the number of deaths for all illicit drugs together, which barely passes the 500 mark. This is comparable to the number of suicides, and some of them are of course suicides. Hundreds of people die each year from alcohol poisoning, but we have yet to seen anyone die of cannabis.

If we look at damage caused by substances, I have seen estimates that between 10-25 percent of the hospital beds in Sweden are occupied by someone who is there because of their drinking. And even though nobody is dying of cannabis, there are those who take physical damage, such as with memory impairment. Other physically dangerous drugs are, for example, opiates (including heroin), cocaine and amphetamine.

2. Physical and psychological dependence.

Some drugs are physically addictive, so that users get a strong physical craving for them. Some of the more well known are opiates, nicotine, alcohol and cocaine. From my own experience I can say that cannabis is also physically addictive, but much less so than nicotine.

There are many substances which do not create physical dependence, but people with addictive personalities don’t need a physical addiction to abuse a substance. The addict has a frame of mind where the search for the next high/intoxication is compulsive.

Drug opponents sometimes try to convince us that illegal substances that do not create physical dependence, instead automatically create psychological dependence. That is not my experience when it comes to psychedelics. LDS and magic mushrooms create no physical dependencies, but also seems to have built into the actual experience that people are satisfied and needs time to integrate their insights. Psychedelics sometimes also moderate or often solve addiction problems. Certainly there are addictive personalities looking for highs with psychedelics, but it is more common that people use psychedelics in a moderate manner.

3. Mental harm.

belaDano+drugs by Daniel Depix on Flickr
belaDano+drugs by Daniel Depix on Flickr

Here it starts to get tricky, because discomfort is not the same as harm. Is it mental harm to trigger psychosis or latent disorders? I do not think psychoses always let themselves be categorized so easily, because they can often lead on to something extremely positive. Many addicts have paranoid traits, but is it really a sign that the drug did something with their psyche or is it the result of a long, well-founded fear of the legal system?

Leaving this aside, I think that it is really important to address the “bad trips” reported on psychedelics. This is not to be regarded as mental harm, no matter how ignorantly one discusses the matter.

A bad trip pretty much always stems from the persons inability to handle that which comes up during the trip. It could be a childhood trauma, fear, or pain that you have caused others. When something like this pops up during a trip we can choose to face the problem, or we can try to escape from it. When we try to run away from aspects of ourselves that need healing, we hurt ourselves, which can lead to, for example, depression or psychosis. But the problem is not that we have the opportunity to confront this. The opportunity is really a great gift. The problem is that we do not dare or have the ability to meet these challenges and that we are fleeing from ourselves. Mental difficulties that occur in this way should therefore not be attributed to the substance, but rather the person’s inability to meet themselves. The solution to it all is education, support and guidance; something we get very little of in society today.

Flashbacks on psychedelics is a curious chapter in itself. There are those who suffer from involuntary lingering effects, such as prolonged light, bouncing sound etc. I cannot say much about that. However, there is another kind of flashback, the one where you experience new, but true perception. Example, let’s say you open up the ability to see energy patterns in nature. When the trip is over, the ability stays. It was there all along and just needed to be opened up, jump started. This could also be considered a flashback and for someone who cannot put the ability into an understandable context, it can be misinterpreted as mental injury. But again, the problem is not the substance or what it opened up, but the persons inability to deal with it.

4. Increased risk behavior.

There are substances that are clearly linked to risky behavior. In that sense I have not been in contact with anything more dangerous than alcohol. Example, I have driven a car plastered, really fast on a winding country road in the dark. If I had smoked cannabis instead, I might still have gotten behind the wheel, but instead of driving 40 kilometers over the speed limit, I would likely have driven 40 kilometers below it. When I smoked cannabis, it made me very careful and cautious.

It is no coincidence that drunkenness and violence go hand in hand. Alcohol brings out an aggressive mentality – of course not in all, but in very many – and it ‘s very easy to go out of control on alcohol. It is no coincidence that there is next to no violence at rave parties, where illegal substances are easily accessible. People on cannabis, MDMA, LSD or mushrooms often have a hard time understanding violence, and even more difficulty participating in it.

One myth regarding LSD is that you think that you can fly and jump out of a window. On alcohol, I have climbed scaffoldings and cranes, swum across lakes, thrown myself into channels, gotten into quarrels and driven cars. On LSD, I usually walked around in the woods looking at the flowers and trees, meditated, danced, explained to people how much I love them and felt at one with the universe.

5. Danger to society.

No Sex No Drugs No Rock & Roll Toilet Graffiti by GanMed64 on Flickr
No Sex No Drugs No Rock & Roll Toilet Graffiti by GanMed64 on Flickr

Some things are obvious risks to society, such as violence, abuse and theft. An economist would perhaps also count in sick days and lost productivity as dangers to society. We might with small differences all agree, and I think it is clear which substances are hazardous in this respect.

One issue that I think is interesting is whether there is a danger to society when its citizens refuse to obey unjust laws. I would argue that it is not a danger to society when people ignore the drug laws to seek alternative ways to heal, develop, connect to the divine, or just relax and have fun. It is on the contrary a very healthy challenge that will lead to positive change. Unfortunately, many get into trouble, being prosecuted for things that should not be considered criminal. That is a danger to society.

6. Spiritual danger.

From personal experience I can say that there are substances that connect us to the divine and there are substances that stun and disconnect us. Psychedelics such as mushrooms, DMT, mescaline and LSD have the ability to connect us. Substances such as opiates, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine disconnect us.

When I talk about what is dangerous, this is not what I ‘m talking about. This has its own chapter.

To return to the question: what do I think of as dangerous?

Ourense 15012010 by Foxspain Fotografía on Flickr
Ourense 15012010 by Foxspain Fotografía on Flickr

When I say dangerous, I mainly mean what is physically dangerous – that is what kills, what hurts, what leads to physical dependence, what leads to dangerous behavior and what leads to violence and crime that affects other people. These substances I consider to be the most dangerous and they include drugs like opiates, alcohol, nicotine and amphetamines. Funny enough, these are all in some form legal and readily available, and the deadliest (nicotine) and the most risky (alcohol) are completely legal.

I am not so naive as to dismiss psychological risks, but we should not, as today, exaggerate them. These risks can be minimized with education and guidance. I see two main psychological hazards:
1. Abuse. The abuse is never in substance, but in the person. We need to help people overcome addictions, instead of stigmatizing them. Substance abuse is a sickness and should not be fought with law.
2. People freak out because they do not know how to handle life. We need to give people the tools to process trauma, fear, sadness, anxiety, depression, and similar things, so that they may take control of their lives instead of being caught off guard and freaking out.

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