By his own admission, Daniel Chong planned to spend April 20 like so many other college students: smoking marijuana with friends to celebrate an unofficial holiday devoted to the drug.
But for Mr. Chong, the celebration ended in a Kafkaesque nightmare inside a San Diego Drug Enforcement Administration holding cell, where he said he was forgotten for four days, without food or water.
To survive, Mr. Chong said he drank his own urine, hallucinated and, at one point, considered how to take his own life. By the time agents found him on the fifth day and called paramedics, he said he thought he could be dead within five minutes. […]
A spokeswoman for the D.E.A. said the case was under investigation, but confirmed that Mr. Chong had been “accidentally left in one of the cells” from April 21 until April 25, and that he had not been charged with a crime.
In 2006 two men cooked and ate a fish which they had caught in the Western Mediterranean. Minutes after ingesting the fish frightening visual and auditory hallucinations began to overcome them. These intense visions lasted 36 hours. The fish they had caught was a Sarpa Salpa. A species of Sea Bream which is commonly found off the coast of South Africa and Malta and can induce ichthyoallyeinotoxism, a condition also known as hallucinogenic fish poisoning.
I recently learned that Vice columnist Hamilton Morris is assembling a team to capture and analyze a live sample of Sarpa Salpa. Morris is a writer and filmmaker and expert in anything psychoactive. In his column for Vice, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, he mixes his subjective experiences with insights into pharmacology, neurology and chemistry. In one column he traveled to the Amazonian jungle to have the secretions of a “shamanic” frog burnt into his arm. In another he traveled to Haiti to be dusted with the voodoo “zombie” poison Tetrodotoxin. He is currently working on a complex research project about extremely obscure information related to psychoactive mushrooms.
I e-mailed Hamilton to find out more about his trip.
Stephen Baxendale: Do you have any theories on what causes the fish to be hallucinogenic?
Hamilton Morris: The sea is a rich source of halogens. Scientists have found a variety of marine iodo-tryptophans and chloro-tryptophans in compounds like the plakohypaphorines and some amazing sponge derived tryptamines, like 5-bromo-DMT, which has been demonstrated to have “antidepressant-like” activity in rodents and is possibly psychedelic in humans. It seems that many of the sponge derived tryptamines are of microbial origin and same is true for more complex compounds like TTX and probably the byrostatins. So I think it is likely the fish ingests some kind of a microorganism that biosynthesizes the compound, which may behave as a classical serotonergic psychedelic or may have some messier deliriant effects, based on the case reports either could be possible.
Do you plan on ingesting the fish yourself?
If I have positively identified the species as Sarpa salpa I will carefully ingest it, starting with 1µg of fish and incrementally increasing the dose.
Do you think consuming hallucinogenic fish will ever catch on as a recreational drug?
Well it was already popular in the Roman empire so it’s really a question of whether it will make a comeback.
R.U Sirius interviews Peter Bebergal, author of the memoir and cautionary tale Too Much To Dream: . This interview is a few months old, but I’ve only just seen it:
RU: It strikes me that psychedelics are both an enhancer and distorter of
pattern recognition. It’s like once the mind becomes too conscious and too obsessive about pattern recognition, it becomes delusional.
PB: This is probably the most succinct way of putting it I have heard. It’s essentially what we see happen with Phillip K. Dick. It’s part of the reason why no matter how non-addicting psychedelics might be from a chemical point-of-view, the capacity for the human mind to compulsively search for the same connection/insight over and over again is boundless. This same phenomena can be seen with a certain kind of occultism. Hermeticism can become an exercise in endless connection making and it’s amazing how even the most thoughtful occultists can become conspiracy theorists overnight. Psychedelics, and other forms of non-ordinary consciousness, can readily show that there is more to the human mind, and possibly the universe, than we can perceive normally, but when we lose the ability to critically distance ourselves from these experiences, the danger for delusion is great.
RU: You remain interested in the psychedelic movement even though you feel you can’t risk taking them yourself. What do you hope for people today who take psychedelic drugs in a way that is conscious of set and setting and so forth?
PB: I have come to believe in the absolute necessity of ritual and community, whether it’s the Native American Church or your local OTO lodge. However you can find it, try to access a group of people that share your spiritual/psychological sensibilities and that hopefully have a few seasoned elders and teachers. This is not to say there aren’t those that can handle the solitary journey, but I still think however one can position oneself into a larger context with its own myths and symbols can only be a good thing.
But more importantly I hope that those who use these drugs will see them not as a path but as doorway towards a spiritual/conscious way of life. As Alan Watts is often quoted as saying, “When you get the message, hang up the phone.”
To prevent hoarding of materials and their potential for theft and illicit use, the Drug Enforcement Agency sets quotas for the chemical precursors to drugs like Adderall. The DEA projects the need for amphetamine salts, then produces and distributes the materials to pharmaceutical companies so that they can produce their drugs. But with the number of prescriptions for Adderall jumping 13 percent in the past year, pharmaceutical companies claim that the quotas are no longer sufficient for supplying Americans with their Adderall.
I hadn’t realized that it wasn’t known how these drugs work:
Despite the millions of prescriptions written each year for ADHD, the scientific community isn’t entirely in agreement on how these drugs actually work. Ritalin increases focus and energy through inhibiting the re-uptake of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters then remain in the synapse longer, and their effects are felt in the form of heightened focus and awareness. Adderall, however, works via a slightly different mechanism. While it’s postulated that Adderall also inhibits the re-uptake of these same neurotransmitters, amphetamines also trigger the release of dopamine. This affects the brain’s reward mechanisms, so it’s not only easier to focus on mundane or repetitive tasks, it can also feel positively delightful to do so.
Ritalin and Adderol are commonly prescribed for attention deficit disorder. But a recent study showed that as many as one in four students at an Ivy League university were using one of the two not because they had a diagnosis, but because it helped them study.
And it’s not just the students:
“I’ve had several colleagues say to me, ‘You’re a stupid guy if you’re not using Ritalin to stay up all night.’ You’re much more productive, your career takes off much faster,” says Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.
Zak isn’t sure that those Ivy League students and his college professor colleagues are doing anything wrong.
Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.
One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.
A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.
Not mentioned in the article is that not only does Justin have a felony hanging over his head, if he’s found guilty of a drug related crime he won’t be eligible for federally subsidized financial aid. So he’ll come out of prison at a remarkably young age with fewer job prospects, thanks to a felony record, and have a hard (perhaps impossible) time going to college or trade school to actually get any sort of degree or skills to help him get a job, increasing the chances that he’ll turn to a life of crime. The system if effectively turning otherwise bright kids into lifelong criminals.
Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.
“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.
The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.
Last year Vice interviewed an anonymous chemist/ neuropharmacologist who invented a few new designer drugs similar to ketamine or PCP, most notably methoxetamine which is becoming increasingly popular. Sort of the Alexander Shulgin of disassociatives.
On the medicinal uses of ketamine:
I discovered a long time ago that ketamine and cannabinoids helped my phantom hand. I’m quite convinced these classes work by distorting body image so severely that you phase out triggers for the pain. I have experienced profound proprioceptive distortions after intramuscular PCP injection, as if my whole body were a proportional model of the sensory homunculus. But in a sense, what I feel is not hallucination or a distortion, I actually find dissociatives corrective, that is, they make the phantom disappear. This is not just an idiosyncratic response on my part; there are at least three articles published on the effectiveness of ketamine in treating phantom-limb pain. It’s dished out by British pain-management clinics for just that purpose in the form of a nauseatingly artificial lemon-flavored linctus. Needless to say, the whole lot of it gets squirted up the arse to bypass my taste buds, but even this has its drawbacks… like sticky, sugary bum cheeks!
On being hospitalized after going into a catatonic state while testing 3-MeO-PCP:
And what happened when you were released?
That was the final straw for my partner, and she said she would not sit idly by and watch me self-destruct. When I came home she was gone, Nesbitt was still dead, and all of the arylcyclohexylamines I had been researching had been confiscated and destroyed.
That’s really terrible. Alexander Shulgin always felt that the dissociatives had no use as psychotherapeutic drugs, and John Lilly found that even when you think the effects of ketamine have worn off there is a lingering undercurrent of dissociation that prevents you from reaching baseline.
And despite the fact that I knew all of that, I still ignored what should have been indicators that I was slipping. The arylcyclohexylamines light up too many of the reward systems in the brain, with the dopamine-reuptake inhibition, the NMDA antagonism, and the µ-opioid affinity. They lend themselves to abuse and escape to fantasy. I used to find myself raving about chemicals I had only tried once or twice, saying they were Huxley’s soma or moksha, or Polidamma’s Nepenthe. I’ve come to realize that dissociatives have a really dark side to them that classic serotonergic psychedelics don’t.
The idea that food may be addictive was barely on scientists’ radar a decade ago. Now the field is heating up. Lab studies have found sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior in animals. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters, meanwhile, reveal disturbances in brain reward circuits similar to those experienced by drug abusers.
Twenty-eight scientific studies and papers on food addiction have been published this year, according to a National Library of Medicine database. As the evidence expands, the science of addiction could become a game changer for the $1 trillion food and beverage industries.
If fatty foods and snacks and drinks sweetened with sugar and high fructose corn syrup are proven to be addictive, food companies may face the most drawn-out consumer safety battle since the anti-smoking movement took on the tobacco industry a generation ago.