Tag Archives: overdose

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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Naysha: San Pedro, part 2 – The Ceremony

San Pedro ceremonies start early in the morning. Normally you don’t eat the night before and you won’t feel hungry during the day. If you start to feel hungry it is because the effect of the medicine is starting to disappear.

Huachuma, ready for preparation by lance and ines khoury on Flickr.
Huachuma, ready for preparation by lance and ines khoury on Flickr.

The shaman serves everyone the preparation. It can be fresh liquid San Pedro or San Pedro in powder which is mixed with water. In areas where it is available shamans always offer liquid San Pedro.

When everybody is ready the shaman opens the ceremony. Some are really strict and like to sit in circles that they don’t want you to move far from. The other way, which I prefer better, is that the participants can choose an area they want to be in after the ceremony is opened. For these ceremonies it is really good to be in an open area such as a big garden.

Different shamans view singing and music differently. Some sing and others let the participants sing or play instruments.

How it works?

San Pedro works approximately 12 hours. You begin to feel it work after 30 minutes if it is fresh or 2 hours if the San Pedro is in powder form. During that time you need to try to keep the medicine inside. The effects goes up until middle day and then slowly goes down. If the person needs healing it is really good to do such work around midday.

Water makes the San Pedro energy increase. If you take a shower you will feel it stronger afterwards. Don’t freak out.

You can drink water during the ceremony. It will help you to vomit. Yes you will vomit. It’s a medicine, not apple juice.

Watching the sky is very beautiful while in a San Pedro ceremony.

Dose

The dose is different from person to person and has nothing to do with body size or weight. It has to do with how sensitive we are and our energy level. The shaman will read you while serving the San Pedro.

Why isn’t it recommended to take it alone for the first time?

The limbo effect. If you didn’t take enough of the cactus preparation you can get stuck in what I call the limbo effect. You don’t feel normal but you don’t feel entirely in the San Pedro energy either. This is a very uncomfortable experience that can be solved by taking more San Pedro, but when you do so you will again need to wait until it starts working and you will have more than 12 hours of the San Pedro effects.

Overdosing. You won’t die of San Pedro, but taking too much will be very intense. If you are alone and start to freak out you have a long journey ahead of you, because the effects last up to 12 hours. This is a very serious plant to take alone.

Naysha Silva Romero

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Trapped in an unhealthy system of healing

We seem to be trapped in an unhealthy system of healing. We are so set on modern Western medicine having all the answers that we don’t see what else is out there. Alternative and traditional healing methods are being kept away from the public under the pretense of science, but with time there is coming overwhelming evidence that there are often far better treatments out there. But even with evidence the best treatments are often being opposed because they don’t fit in to our way of thinking.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say that we have a patient that is suffering from severe chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia. And let us say that we have four treatments which might help.
A. Painkillers.
B. Massage.
C. Cannabis oil.
D. Ayurveda.

Painkillers are a wonder of modern medicine and I think we should be truly thankful that we have them. When they work they are a great relief, but there are several very serious drawbacks to them. One is that they don’t always work, especially when it comes to more complicated conditions that modern medicine yet doesn’t seem to fully understand, such as fibromyalgia. While modern painkillers might be effective, they are far from 100 percent so. Another one is that these modern medicines come with a long list of side effects which are often worse than the ailment that they were first used to treat. Yet another one is that these medicines are addictive and possible to overdose and die from. People die every year from either unintentionally overdosing or mixing medicines which aren’t compatible, but also from intentional overdosing when committing suicide.

Some drawbacks are much less in alternative therapies, or altogether non-existent. Massage for example has much fewer side effects and counter indications, and I still haven’t heard of anyone killing themselves by overdosing massage. Hands on physical therapy is often effective for treating fibromyalgia, but the availability within the system of the modern Swedish health service is at best patchy. Many doctors will outright refuse to refer you to such treatment or even take your condition seriously. I have met a practitioner within the health care system that will give such treatment, but who will disguise it as something else in the paper work. And I have met others that are true miracle workers with their hands, but are written off as quacks by the health care system and thus excluded.

When the legal options are exhausted a few courageous people take matters into their own hands and try therapies and medicines which are illegal. Just yesterday I published a text by Andreas Thörn, a man who broke his neck and was paralyzed at the age of 15. He has suffered since and after having gone through the entire stock of modern medicines, except Methadone, he chose to try Cannabis. It turned out that it worked wonders for him, in a way that modern medicine hasn’t been able to for the last 20 years. Another person that I have featured here is Jens Waldmann who overcome his severe depression with the help of Cannabis. The doctors wanted to give him Bensodiazepin instead, fully aware that he had abused that medicine before and that it would not solve the underlying problem. Coming back to the subject of chronic pain Cannabis and Cannabis oil are well known for their ability to relieve pain, even such pain that painkillers won’t touch. In my experience smoking Cannabis is addictive, but definitely much less so than for example opiate painkillers. It might also have counter indications, but is less toxic than most medicines. It is actually physically impossible to die from a Cannabis overdose.

Ayurveda is a different thing all together. Food is the basic medicine in Ayurveda, since most (if not all) of our imbalances are a result of or can be alleviated with food. When you eat right you heal and stay healthy. It is a way of healing which requires dedication, but which also teaches you a great deal about yourself and how you can function better. Lifestyle changes are often fantastic medicine.

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Going back to what I was first saying – there seems to be an unhealthy emphasis on one way of healing. When modern medicine doesn’t do the trick, we are left hanging with no help. And even then we are openly discouraged to seek other healing methods.

There is no one system which works for all. No one truth that holds true for all. The painkillers might work for some of the patients, but what kind of healing system seeks to heal some of the patients while leaving others stranded? By bringing in alternative and traditional therapy we could be healing close to everyone. We just need to find out what works for them.

Of course there will be areas where Western medicine will still keep its dominance, simply because it is superior. One such area is acute physical trauma. But there will also be areas where Western medicine will be obliterated, simply because it is inferior. An area where Western medicine would probably quickly lose credibility is mental health, since it has a great lack of knowledge about people’s inner workings. Why else would the system be mass drugging us with such medicines like anti-depressants, even though they don’t do much more than put a lid on things and lower our motivation to heal?

For the sake of the people who need to heal is time to get rid of this dominance that Western medicine has had, but to do so we will also have to overcome our white egos, our bullying tendencies and the paternalism that has come with it.

Photo: Lost in Field by Rudolf Getel 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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A better tomorrow with drugs

Today’s repressive drug laws are at a dead end. The war on drugs harms society and citizens in a multitude of ways, of which I listed some in yesterdays blog post. Ironically it also prevents effective treatments for such things as addiction. But where can we go from here? Let’s imagine that all substances are legal. How can we organize the community to limit the damage and help addicts?

Legalizing all drugs would of course not mean that you could buy them next to the sweets at your local supermarket. And everything doesn’t just fall into place because they come under government control. There would probably need to be a combination of solutions, some of which already exist and others that don’t. Here are some possible parts to such a system.

State control.

hug me by jo marshall on Flickr
hug me by jo marshall on Flickr

In the current situation the entire drug trade is a black economy that is largely controlled by criminal organizations. If all substances were legalized they would become part of the regular economy, where it becomes possible to set up rules for manufacturing and quality control products. The substances would be provided with a table of content, just like any other commodity. The goods may additionally be provided with other labels, such as organic and fair trade.

Those working in the trade would have the same rights as other workers, would have the support of existing labor laws, would have the right to organize themselves into unions and would become tax payers.

Sales could take place within established models, such as the state control (pharmacies/tobacco sales) or as a state monopoly (in Sweden all alcohol is sold by the state run Systembolaget). Age limits could be imposed on substances and they could also be differentiated, so that one would have to be older to purchase some of the more potent compounds.

Taxing substances.

When drugs come under government control it is possible to steer people away from more harmful substances by levying heavier taxes on them. It’s would be easy to see which substances are economically costly for society and adjust the taxes accordingly.

Possibility to withdraw the right to use certain substances.

People should be able to lose their right to use certain substances if they commit crimes or harm themselves or others when they use them. I think it is strange that those who repeatedly get into fights drunk, drive intoxicated or get wasted on the verge of dying, still have the right to buy as much liquor as they can pay for.

When one shows that they aren’t able to handle a certain substance, it should be possible to revoke that person’s right to do so, in the same manner that one can lose ones driving license or license to practice medicine.

The possibility to exclude oneself from certain substances.

40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr
40+30 Tutorial by bark on Flickr

Many people are very aware of which substances they should not take. For example I know many who say they have no problem drinking beer, but go berserk if they drink hard liquor. It’s the same with all substances. What is pure bliss for one, can be hell for another. What one is able to take a couple of times a year without developing a craving for, another becomes addicted to after just a few doses.

But then again, many people know perfectly well what substances are dangerous for them. It could be made easy for them to take responsibility with the choice to voluntarily waive the right to use certain substances. They could also be able to set limits for themselves, by specifying how much of a substance they may purchase during a certain time period.

Many addicts will arrive at the point where they want to break free from their habit. During a certain period the window of change is open. The problem is often that they relapse because the substance will continue to be available to them. If they can exclude themselves from the right to buy certain substances, such as if an alcoholic does not allow him/herself to buy liquor, it would effectively help in the recovery process.

Licenses to handle certain substances.

With some particularly heavy drugs such as heroin, it would be possible to introduce a license allowing an educated person to handle the substance. For most substances it would probably be enough with basic education in school and a little everyday common sense, but with substances that carry serious consequences, it is important to be sure that those who use them have proper knowledge about risks and safety. The education for such a license may contain things like responsible management, how to use in a safe manner to prevent spread of infection, and how to deal with accidental overdoses. Such a license may be revoked if the person is irresponsible and for example sells substances to other people or uses them in an unsafe manner.

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In addition to the distribution itself – what can we do to get control of the situation regarding different substances?

Universal education in dealing with drugs and addiction.

I often wonder how drug education in schools can be allowed to be so absolutely worthless. The “education” is basically designed solely to scare people not to try anything. As a teenager I was an exchange student in the United States and the school that I went to worked in exactly the same way when it came to sex education. There was no information about STDs, contraception or sex. The whole message was only “you should not have sex until you get married”, and it was really crammed down the teenagers throats. It is a dangerous kind of indoctrination that creates ignorant and bigoted citizens, while increasing the actual risks.

Instead we should have a proper drug education, which includes such themes as:
∙ What is an altered state of mind and how you can you work with it?
∙ How to use drugs safely.
∙ What to do if you or someone else feels bad under the influence.
∙ How to manage an overdose.
∙ How to identify and get rid of substance abuse.

Use tax revenues for addiction treatment and prevention.

Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr
Libby hugging Tomoko by Loren Kerns on Flickr

A legalization would generate tax revenue that I think primarily should go to addiction treatment and prevention. Even more money is now being spent on hunting, harassing and punishing people.

If we add a substantial part of those resources to create good addiction treatment, we will soon have the best addiction treatment the world has ever seen. Health care should be accessible and able to quickly help addicts who express a desire to receive care. Addiction is a disease and addicts should be treated as patients, not criminals.

There will always be addicts, but it is my firm belief that the addiction is to be found in the person – not in substance. People flee into abuse because they are fleeing from themselves, from the traumas they try to forget or from situations that are unbearable. Good prevention work builds on this understanding and aims to help people face themselves, help them process past trauma and to make their lives bearable. It helps them to stop fleeing and encourages them to take responsibility for their own lives. Much of today’s preventive work lacks this basic understanding.

Make substances available for scientific research, therapists, health care workers and healers.

There are many substances that are currently incorrectly classified as drugs with no medical value. This applies above all to psychedelics that are proven to be extremely effective in curing such things as addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress, empathy disorders and death anxiety. There are lots of stories about absolutely miraculous healing taking place with these substances, and they are at the same time very safe when used correctly.

Another substance that is being discussed greatly right now is cannabis and not only in its mind-altering form, but also as tinctures without the mind-altering properties. It is used with good results for such things as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, depression and end of life care. There seems to be some evidence that it also has cancer fighting properties.

These substances need to be made available to those who need the help and for the professionals who are working on this – from therapists, to regular health care workers, and also in alternative treatments. Today there are plenty of alternative therapists and traditional healers such as shamans, who have the knowledge and who have been passing it on for thousands of years. Here are exciting cross over’s to be made, when traditional methods of healing meet western medicine. Such work is already taking place. To fully take advantage of this scientific research needs to get started as soon as possible.

Making up for abuse committed by the state.

While the intention has probably been good, many people have been abused and badly treated under the current legislation. The current drug laws have stigmatized people, forced them into alienation, punished them, led people into a criminal lifestyle, actively withheld health care for sick addicts and has also led to many unnecessary deaths.

There is a need for redress and reconciliation. The very least the government should do is to apologize for the abuse that occurred under the current legislation.

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This blog post has been inspired by, among other things:
∙ A challenge from a friend who is a politician to show how legalization could work.
∙ The TEDx talk by James Leitzel that does just that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Px4nYbJoQ
∙ Organisations and initiatives such as Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org/) and Transform (http://www.tdpf.org.uk/).

Main photo: Love by Nicola Romagna on Flickr

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The effects of todays drug laws

At any point in time there are ideas that are so taken for granted that we find it difficult to imagine that it could be otherwise. They are so deeply ingrained in us that we are provoked if anyone questions them, even if the questioning is fully rational.

Drug legislation is such an idea. When weighing in all good and all bad that it brings, there is only one reasonable conclusion: the law is foolish. But say that out loud in Sweden today and you will be mocked, booed and threatened. All sense and logic seems to take a vacation whenever the subject comes up, and otherwise seemingly intelligent people suddenly behave like hateful narrow-minded bigots.

But all such ideas eventually collapse. We call it a paradigm shift. There is such a shift on its way right now. The USA, that has been aggressively active in what has become a war on drugs, is changing direction. Right now cannabis is being legalized, and as more and more amazing results in scientific studies of psychedelics are published, it is only a matter of time before substances like psilocybin (mushrooms), LSD and MDMA are also legalized.

This week I will try to show some of the worrying problems with the current situation, give you some users perspectives on certain illegal substances and propose some measures that I think should be taken into consideration in a future legalization.

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When the first steps were taken to create the drug laws we see today, the aim was mainly to minimize addiction problems. The aim was to use the law to steer people away from getting caught up in addiction, destroying their lives and committing other criminal acts. There have been other, more shady reasons also, such as racism, but I want to see the good in people, so let’s say that is the primary reason.

So what has been the outcome of the criminalization of drugs?

Criminal organizations have become immensely rich.

The black market on drugs funds a wide array of criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, mafias, paramilitary organizations, biker gangs and suburban gangs. This lucrative market finances other criminal activities, such as acts of terrorism and militarization.

Violence has increased many times over.

In addition to the criminal violence that drug profits are used to finance, there is plenty of violence at all levels of handling drugs, from the producers down to the final consumer. There is an outright war against drugs today, and parts of that war are being waged with military strategy and equipment. The majority of the violence takes place abroad and just as in other wars, many of the victims are innocent civilians. Drug conflicts are destabilizing entire countries and regions.

Police and other resources are being wasted.

'Hard Stop' conducted by the Armed Garda RSU by Secretive Ireland on Flickr
‘Hard Stop’ conducted by the Armed Garda RSU by Secretive Ireland on Flickr

There are vast resources spent on combating drugs, resources that could have been used better. If all those resources that are now being spent on chasing and punishing people who use drugs, were instead spent on helping addicts, we would have the most amazing addiction treatment the world has ever seen. We spend much more on fighting and punishing, than we do on helping or treating addicts.

More criminals are created.

When drugs were outlawed that instantaneously created a large new group of “criminals” whose only crime is that they like certain substances more than others. The vast majority – more than with alcohol or nicotine – don’t have and will never have any problems with the substances they use. The only contact many of these people will ever have with a criminal underworld is when they buy drugs. Even so, they will be treated as criminals and addicts if they get caught and will get a ticket to the same prison as other criminals. Through the legal system they are stigmatized, forced into debt and are given more criminal contacts, which in the worst case is a gateway to a criminal lifestyle.

The laws are used to harass people.

Drug laws are used by the police to take people with a certain appearance, taste in music, or ethnic background into custody without any realistic suspicion. Many of the drug laws have racist roots, reflected in today’s application of them. People are also indirectly harassed through the exclusion that they are forced into and the stigma they face. The system embedded hypocrisy in all of this is especially noticeable when many of the ones being hunted use significantly less dangerous substances than the legal alternatives.

Addicts are prevented from getting proper care.

No name by Daniel Oines on Flickr
No name by Daniel Oines on Flickr

Addicts are sick, but are treated as criminals, and authorities can at any time deprive them of any security and impose unreasonable demands on them. Even those who voluntarily seek government help to get rid of their addiction are treated as a criminal and are often given late and inadequate assistance, if any at all, because the resources are rather devoted to controlling and punishing the person. This creates a high amount of stress among many addicts, which undermines recovery and triggers relapses, with exclusion and alienation as a result.

Creates a black market that wants people to be addicted.

The criminal organizations that control the black market have an interest in keeping people hooked and to attract them back into using. One result is that the market prefers more addictive drugs such as heroin rather than opium.

The lack of quality control is lethal.

On the black market, there is no quality control. Drugs can be diluted with other dangerous substances. They can also be something quite different from what they are said to be, giving the user an experience that s/he didn’t anticipate. Sometimes the substance is much stronger than what the user is used to, which may lead to severe accidental overdoses. Many deaths that occur on drugs are because of accidental overdoses, combined with a fear to seek help.

Research Chemicals harm and kill.

Another dangerous development is that people who want to avoid breaking the law buy so-called Research Chemicals instead. These are new compounds that have not yet been classified, and are therefore legal, but they can sometimes be deadly. Knowledge about dosage and how they react with other substances (such as alcohol) is often virtually non-existent, which is a very dangerous combination. Thus drug users who want to stay on the right side of the law are steered away from well-known and less hazardous substances, to substances which are unknown and in some cases even fatal.

Alternativetreatments are being prevented.

Ironically many of the substances which are particularly effective to help relieve addiction are classified as drugs without medical value. LSD-assisted therapy for alcoholics had, when it was legal, a far higher efficiency than the 12-step program has ever had. Ibogaine, an incredibly powerful psychedelic substance, has been shown to cure heroin addiction in just a few doses. But rather than give heroin addicts access to Ibogaine, we lock them in other addictions, such as with Subutex/Suboxone or Methadone. In the current situation there is no treatment that comes close to being as effective as psychedelic assisted treatment, but these therapeutic tools have been wrongly classified as drugs.

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Now imagine that you step back in time to just before today’s repressive drug laws were first passed. You are a decision maker and it worries you to see the addiction problems associated with some of the drugs. On the table is a proposal to ban a variety of substances and impose severe penalties.

On the table there is also an analysis on what other impact the law would have. Among the consequences you read are: criminal organizations will become immensely rich, violence will increase and even lead to war in several countries, the drug profits will fund terror crimes and wars, police resources will be wasted, more criminals will be created, addicts will get worse care, drug users will be exposed to more addictive substances, the lack of quality control will lead to more deaths, more dangerous substances will be researched and sold in order to circumvent the law and the most promising treatments to cure addiction will be stopped . But despite all this, the number of actual addicts will remain about the same.

Would you vote in favour of such a law?

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This blog post has been inspired by, among other things:
∙ A challenge from a friend who is a politician to show how legalization could work
∙ The TEDx talk by James Leitzel that does just that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_Px4nYbJoQ
∙ Organisations and initiatives such as Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org/) and Transform (http://www.tdpf.org.uk/)

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Education gone wrong

When I was an exchange student in the USA, I was incredibly irritated with the sex education they offered. It basically told the students not to have sex before they got married. They had a textbook packed with advice on how to avoid having sex. It contained abstinent rap songs to sing together, comics and advice to parents on how they should handle things when their children start dating. (At least one parent should chaperone, it should be kept somewhere well lit and among other people, and parents should not leave the young people alone for more than five minutes.) Nothing about STDs and nothing about contraception. None of that would be needed, since none of the young adults would be having sex.

A particularly insulting part was that the girls (I have no idea why this applied only to the girls) had to go in front of the class in pairs, make rings with their fingers and promise everyone there that they would not have sex before they got married. It was voluntary, but if you didn’t do it you would earn the reputation of being a whore. And the ones that did were either convinced (as many in fact were) or forced to being hypocrites.

I think most of you will agree with me that such teaching is awful. The starting point “Do not have sex until you get married!” is alien to reality. Those who have a worldview that includes that they should not have sex before marrying generally don’t need to be persuaded. At least not in school. And the others, the whores of the majority, would not allow themselves to be persuaded. But because the school still clung to the position that no one should have sex, they withheld the students the most basic knowledge about sex. They were not told anything about STDs, how to protect themselves or anything about pregnancy. They were given no room to talk about feelings and intimate relationships, reinforcing the taboo that existed in the community.

It’s easier to see what is crazy in a society when standing on the sidelines and it is especially easy when you have something else to compare with. When you stand in the middle of something it is often much more difficult to see how crazy something is.

The Swedish drug education is strikingly similar to the sex education that I met as an exchange student. It hopes to create a society where no one ever tries drugs, and from that stand point it basically tries to scare people into not trying any illegal substances. Since that it is the purpose the information is severely biased and in large parts outright lies, which undermines the credibility so much that those who later do use drugs and realize the propaganda they have been fed, often reject the whole teaching they received.

It is the same mechanism. Those who are already convinced do not need to be persuaded. Those who have a different experience will not allow themselves to be persuaded. But because society still clings to the position that no one should try illegal drugs, despite knowing that many will, they deprive people of the most basic knowledge on how to face substances. They are given no knowledge on how to handle altered states of mind, how to face tough experiences or what you do in case of an overdose. They are given no room to talk about their own experiences and the thoughts and emotions that they bring, which reinforces the taboo that society places on drugs and the alienation which in turn leads to. Meanwhile society has shattered its own credibility, so that young people are turning to other sources to get better information, which further reinforces the feeling that the school has systematically lied to them.

A teaching worthy of the name does not frighten people. It provides tools to manage fear.

Photo: Teachers union by Kevin Dooley on Flickr

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Common mistakes with psychedelics

Some classic beginner mistakes that people make with psychedelics.

Accidental overdose.

You don’t know how potent the substance is and haven’t been bothered to find out. Without intending to, you take a far higher dose than you thought.
Solution: Ask the person you are buying from. If it is a new substance that you feel uncertain about, start with a low dose.

“I don’t feel anything.”

You are impatient and don’t wait for the substance to get started before taking more. Many things can delay the effect, including how you take the substance, what you ate before and how conscious you are in the moment. The time it takes may sometimes differ more than an hour.
Solution: Be patient! It can be good to determine a dose and stick to it. If that dose gives little or no effect, it’s was supposed to be that way. Accept and be grateful for it.

Insecure surroundings.
tryps 4 by honeymoon music on Flickr
tryps 4 by honeymoon music on Flickr

A common error among inexperienced psychonauts is that they take the substance in an environment or with people they do not feel safe with. If something happens or they are forced to face something unpleasant, they cannot handle it because they feel insecure and cannot get help.
Solution: Go tripping in a context and together with people that you feel safe with. Take care of each other.

Unstable psyche.

Psychedelics can be tremendously healing for someone who is unstable, but generally you shouldn’t take psychedelics unless you are sure that you are prepared to meet every hardship in your life that you haven’t faced. I’m not saying that you will have to, but psychedelics have the ability to lower your guard and lift your hardest memories to the conscious level. That’s what makes these substances such powerful tools, but in the wrong context, it is also the great danger.
Solution: Don’t use psychedelics if you are mentally unstable or feel that you have things in your past that you are not prepared to meet. Do not use psychedelics in unsafe surroundings. If you are fragile, and want to take psychedelics with a therapeutic purpose, do so with a shaman or guide that you trust and that is familiar with the substance. Don’t use psychedelics if you suffer from schizophrenia, or similar disorders. Don’t mix psychedelics with other substances, such as alcohol or medications.

Photo: World Water Day by Albert Lozada on Flickr

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On 30 hits of LSD

– We are very experienced, his friends assured him.
They were at a German trance festival and he was going to try LSD for the first time, under the wings of his knowledgeable friends.

Liquid LSD.
Liquid LSD.

They had bought a small bottle of liquid LSD, but at home they had only seen LSD in the form of blotter.
– How much do you think it will take, one of them asked.
– I’m not quite sure. 10 drops perhaps? replied the other. *
So guided by his LSD-savvy friends he got ten drops on the back of his hand, which he licked up, and his friends took the same amount.

After approximately half an hour one friend said to the other:
– I don’t feel anything. Do you feel anything?
– No, I don’t feel anything.
– It might not be so strong? Perhaps we need to take more?
So they portioned out another 20 drops on each hand and licked them up. Just after they did, the first ten trip hit them.

When I met him, it had been many years since that first LSD experience.
– It was really heaven and hell, he told me. I would not wish anyone that experience, because I have never been through anything as terrible as when I was in hell. It was purgatory, endless torment and utter hopelessness. But at the same time, I have never experienced anything as amazing as when I was in heaven. Everything was blessed, peaceful and healed.
– The trip lasted for an eternity. I think I landed a couple of days later, but when I came out of it I was in a state of profound peace and gratitude. I really felt like a buddha and remained in that state for many months.

* One drop is a trip. A strong trip may be two or three drops.

Photo: by Evan Brant on Flickr

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