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Description and History of Drugs


Listed below are a few of the drugs that we encounter throughout our daily lives, some legal, some prescription and some illegal. The purpose of this page is to give the chemical models of these drugs, a brief history, and the companies that manufacture these drugs. The Periodic Table is provided for the more curious and chemistry minded readers.

Psychoactive drugs can be classified to whether they are natural or manmade, produced by our own bodies or plants, crude mixtures of substances or single, purified chemicals. These differences may influence the relationships people form with drugs and users, especially should be aware of them.

The following information is provided by Rick Strassman MD

Drugs with the most complex and interesting effects on the human mind, they come from plants, mushrooms, and the laboratory. People have used them for thousands of years, including for spiritual and healing purposes.

Psychedelics change our perceptions and senses (mostly vision and hearing); emotions (rapidly shifting, and intense); thinking (faster or slower; new insights or confusion); physical sensations (hot, cold, stronger, weaker); and sense of self (more or less in control of ourselves).

"Classical" psychedelics are: mescaline, LSD ("acid"), psilocybin, and DMT. Effects are similar, but differ in how fast they start and how long they last. Smoked DMT lasts 30-60 minutes, swallowed psilocybin 6-8 hours, and LSD and mescaline about 8-12 hours. They are physically safe. No one has ever died from an "overdose" of these drugs, except for lethal behavior caused by poor judgment. Reports of chromosome damage and birth defects in the 1960's later turned out to be false. Tolerance rapidly develops--taking them every day quickly reduces their effects on you.

PCP ("angel dust") and ketamine ("K") are laboratory-made psychedelics, that in high doses produce unconsciousness. Physical effects can be similar to alcohol: physical looseness, which at higher doses lead to unsteadiness, and inability to move. Some people get very dependent on them.

MDMA (X, Ecstasy) has more stimulant effects (speedy, high energy, euphoria) and less psychedelic ones. Tolerance develops to the psychological effects, but not to the physical ones. MDMA damages certain parts of the brain, and it's not clear that they ever repair themselves. It causes high temperatures and dehydration (loss of water--sweat and urine) that can be lethal if you don^t deal with them. Don't take more and more, which is a temptation.

Positive effects of a good trip include a greater appreciation of nature and of each other, new insights and realizations, mystical experiences, beautiful visions, out of body and near-death experiences (which you may or may not like). These effects may linger and be developed further by applying what you've learned. Many Americans who seriously follow a religious life, both Eastern and Western traditions, got their first idea to do so while high on psychedelics. Psychedelics also may help you decide to get into counseling, and figure out what to do with what you've seen and felt on your trips.

Negative effects include fear, depression, disorientation, acting on confused judgment with possibly injuring yourself (usually accidentally). You can be upset for days or weeks after a bad trip. If you're real frightened of the idea of tripping on a psychedelic, don't take them. "Flashbacks" are emotional and sensory flashes, off of drugs, that are similar to those on a psychedelic--it's best to avoid any and all mind-altering drugs until they've gone away, which they nearly always do on their own.

A less obvious negative effect is thinking you are more advanced than other people because you've tripped and had a big experience--this is based more on wishful thinking than anything else. Psychedelics are no replacement for really doing the work of learning more about yourself and becoming a better person.




Descriptions of the following families of drugs are taken from From Chocolate to Morphine"by Andrew Weil:

Endogenous (In-the Body) Drugs

The human body, especially in the brain and certain glands makes powerful chemicals that affect our moods, thoughts, and actions. We call these substances endogenous drugs, using a term with Greek meaning "made within". Interestingly enough, they resemble many of the external chemicals people take to change their consciousness.

The Discovery of Endorphins

  • Endorphins
    Endorphins are endogenous opioid-peptides which act on specific 'opiate receptors' to produce effects similar to morphine, such as analgesia.

    For years it had been suspected that opiates had specific binding sites in the brain. There were several attempts to locate these sites, but the existing technologies were unable to distinguish between the non specific binding to tissue and the specific binding to receptors. It must be mentioned here that the first attempt to actually measure specific opiate binding was in the laboratory of Dr. Vincent Dole (Ingolia & Dole, 1970). Although the technology was not available at that time he laid the foundations for the discovery of opiate receptors.

    By the early 1970s scientific technology had evolved to the point where the discovery of opiate binding sites seemed almost inevitable. The first to shake the scientific community was Solomon Snyder and his student, Candice Pert of John Hopkins University (Pert & Snyder, 1973). Using a technique developed by Avram Goldstein of Stanford University, Snyder and Pert located the elusive opiate receptor (Goldstein, Lowney & Pal, 1971). That same year two other groups headed by Eric J. Simon of New York University (1973) and Lars Terenious in Uppsala, Sweden (1973) demonstrated specific opiate binding in nervous tissue. The treasure hunt had begun! "For why," Goldstein asked, "would God have made opiate receptors unless he had also made an endogenous morphine-like substance?"

    In the mid-1960s Choh Li of the University of California at Berkeley had isolated a pituitary hormone which he named B-Lipotropin (Li, 1964). He noted that one portion of this hormone had analgesic properties. One year after the discovery of the receptor sites John Hughes at the laboratory of Hans Kosterlitz in Aberdeen, Scotland reported the existence of an endogenous morphine-like substance which they later purified and named Enkephalin for "in the head" (Hughes, 1975a; Hughes, 1975b; Kosterlitz, 1976) The Aberdeen group recognized that the peptide sequence of Enkephalin was contained within Li's B-Lipotropin. Li would later name the other endogenous morphine-like peptides, which also come from his pituitary hormone, Endorphin for "morphine within."

    Today the term opioid is used for all endogenous morphine-like substances, including Dynorphin another brain opioid peptide system found by Avram Goldstein (Goldstein, Tachibana, Lowney, Hunkapiller & Hood, 1979). Other psychoactive peptides have been discovered and isolated using the techniques developed in these laboratories. In 1978 Solomon Snyder, John Hughes and Hans Kosterlitz shared the Lasker Award for their discoveries. Paralleling the discovery of Enkephalins, Endorphins and opiate receptors have been advances in the field of neuroscience. These advances have led to many exciting discoveries and generated a new interest in the functioning of the brain. We have entered a new era in our understanding of human behavior.

    Natural Drugs

    Most psychoactive drugs come from plants,and there are hundreds of plants with psychoactive properties. People have put most of them to work in some part of the world or another at one time or another. Often drugs taste bad, are weak, or have unwanted side affects.

  • Caffeine

  • Nicotine

    Refined Forms

    Morphine, cocaine, and mescaline are all examples of drugs that occur in plants but are commonly available in refined form as white powders, sold both legally and illegally. Some of them, such as mescaline, can easily be synthesized in laboratories, but even when they are, we can still call them natural drugs because the molecules already exist in nature. Others, such as cocaine and morphine, have more complex molecular structures.

  • Heroin

  • Morphine

  • Mescaline

    Semisynthetic Drugs

    Pharmacologists often take refined natural drugs and change their chemical structures to vary their properties. A very simple change is to combine an insoluble drug from a plant with an acid to make a water-soluble salt. In this way the "freebase" form of cocaine, which is usually smoked because it will not dissolve, is turned into cocaine hydrochloride, a water-soluble compound that can be inhaled or injected.

  • Cocaine

    Synthetic Drugs

    Wholly synthetic drugs are nmade from scratch in the laboratory and do not occur naturallu. Valium, PCP, secobarbitol (Seconal) are examples. It may be that synthetic drugs are the most dangerous of all and the hardest to form good realtionships with, but it is risky to make such sweeping judgements.

  • Aspirin

  • LSD

  • Ibuprohen

  • Prozac

  • Ecstacy

  • Photographs of pharmaceuticals

  • Periodic Table of the Elements

  • Entheogenic Database and Community

  • The Lycum was born from the Visionary Plants List (VPL), a now-retired Internet mailing list that was subscribed to by many people with a common interest in the entheogenic experience. We officially opened our doors on June 22, 1996, as a place where people from all around the world could freely exchange and research information regarding visionary plants, fungi, and chemicals. Since that time, we have had millions of visitors and have grown to become one of the Internet's largest hubs of drug information.

    We strongly support the free exchange of information. We regard our plant, fungal, and chemical teachers with the utmost respect. We are watching the World Governments' War on Drug Users crumble before our eyes, and invite you to join us at the dawn of a new Entheogenic Age.

  • Companies, Government Agencies and Organizations
    This is a listing of the companies that manufacture drugs, government agencies involved in the regulation of drugs, and organizations that work for political and social change.



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