Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Does Marijuana Withdrawal Exist?

As the controversial new psychological diagnosis manual, the DSM-5, is being debated and discussed by prominent psychologists, many changes have been put into the limelight, including the inclusion of cannabis withdrawal as a disorder. The concept of marijuana withdrawal is a controversial one-- some say it doesn't exist, and others say that it's an important part of marijuana. If it does exist, it is certainly subtle. It seems to be that only opponents of cannabis use acknowledge its existence; actual users deny it. Are cannabis users correct by virtue of experience, or is it a denial based on bias?

In my opinion, to understand cannabis withdrawal, we must look at the reasons we smoke it in the first place. Its most widely recognized medical use is to aid chemotherapy patients in pain relief, nausea control, and appetite revival. It is also prescribed to those suffering from eating disorders (once again, to encourage appetite), anxiety disorders, and depression.

And what are the supposed symptoms of marijuana withdrawal? Irritability, anxiety, and a loss of appetite. Equal and opposite to the benefits that marijuana affords us. In my opinion, this is not withdrawal, but simply a return to sobriety. If you take something that improves your mood and your appetite, and then stop taking it, of course your mood and appetite are going to suffer. This is very different from, say, alcohol withdrawal, which produces muscle tremors and hallucinations. These symptoms (in most cases) were not present before the user became an alcoholic, and therefore, they present a new concern.

In my opinion, cannabis withdrawal is NOT a legitimate disorder and should NOT be included in the DSM-5.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The 4 Types of Hallucinogens

The chemicals in your body are like cars: to be used, they must be "parked" into the correct "garages," called receptors. Each chemical has its own shape, and a receptor which is equal and opposite. When you take a hallucinogen or other mind-altering drug, it has a shape that is similar enough to another chemical to bind to its receptors, blocking the usual chemical from attaching to anything at all. By replacing your normal neurochemicals, these drugs affect your psyche. Hallucinogens can be divided up into four categories; each different type binds to a different receptor.

Serotonin-like hallucinogens have a shape similar to serotonin. Serotonin is a neurochemical that keeps your mood, appetite, and sleep healthy and stable. Not having enough of it can contribute to depression and its familiar symptoms like insomnia and a lack of appetite. This category of hallucinogens includes some of the most popular drugs of choice, like LSD, psilocybin, and DMT, and also ergot, LSA, and bufotenin. If these hallucinogens are mixed with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), a potentially deadly state called Serotonin Syndrome can occur from having too much serotonin in the body.

Norepinephrine-like hallucinogens include mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote), MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), nutmeg, and DOM/STP. Epinephrine (known to most people as adrenaline) is what is activated during a "fight-or-flight" response, and norepinephrine serves to return the body to its un-agitated state, restoring normal body processes like thirst, hunger, and digestion. It is for this reason that dehydration is a danger when using ecstasy, because you just won't feel thirsty.

Acetylcholine-like hallucinogens are much less commonly used recreationally, because their effects are generally extremely unpleasant. Acetylcholine is a neurtransmitter that helps your muscles take action, among other things. These hallucinogens cause an overdose of norepinephrine and adrenaline, leading to panic, high blood pressure, and stroke. This group, which includes atropine and scopolamine from nightshades and mandrakes, can be deadly in high doses, but have been used historically to treat problems like diarrhea. I wrote about these hallucinogens in my post Hallucinogens of Europe.

Glutamate-like hallucinogens (like PCP and ketamine) were originally put to use as anesthetics. Since they render glutamate, an amino acid used for learning, unable to function normally, they can cause blackouts and memory loss.

Having an increased understanding of how each psychedelic works in your body can help you better choose which ones are right for you. We should all have the right to choose, but please choose wisely.

Compact Research: Hallucinogens, by Crystal McCage

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Myth of Bad Acid

A reddit user asked me the other day if I had had any experiences with bad acid, and how to make sure you were buying good acid.

I think most people would define bad acid as some form of LSD that is guaranteed to cause you a bad trip. This is something that a lot of people are anxious about, because no one wants to doom themselves to a horrible experience like that. But if it's defined like that, then "bad acid" does not exist. Pure LSD is only one chemical, and no forms of it are "spoiled" or wrong.

Bad trips are caused by only a few things:
  • bad mindset
  • bad setting and environment
  • a dose that is higher than one is comfortable with
  • unexpected difficulties, whether external or internal
  • NOT "bad acid"
However, just because you are getting "acid" doesn't mean you're getting pure LSD, and this is where the problems occur. Most of the time, your biggest worry is going to be whether or not someone is going to sell you blank paper. This really sucks, but obviously poses no real risk besides disappointment. More rarely, people can and will cut it with other chemicals. (In my opinion, this is more of a danger with liquid LSD because not all chemicals will stick to blotter. If you just bought a pill, it's probably not LSD.) If you are expecting an LSD trip and you're not prepared for what those unknown chemicals do to your psyche, your likelihood of having a bad trip is a lot higher (see bullet point number four). Even if what's in your acid catches you off guard, you can still avoid having a bad trip by staying calm and taking the precaution of not tripping alone. For more information on bad trips, you can take a look at my post How To Avoid a Bad Trip.

So what can you do to help ensure that your acid is legit? I will give you the same advice that I gave the reddit user: always buy from someone you trust. It's cynical, but it's something that must be taken into account for as long as drugs users are forced to engage in the unregulated black market: someone who knows you personally would have to take responsibility for selling you a bad product, and therefore they will usually refrain.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Integration: Coming Down from a Trip

Regular readers know that I often have a problem keeping my mood up during a comedown off of hallucinogens. This period of digestion and returning to sobriety is called "integration" and landing can be a little rough for a lot of people. Depression and hopelessness have a tendency to set in, leaving me feeling sad after an otherwise awesome trip. Obviously, this is related to acid's tendency to screw with your serotonin, but I would still rather avoid the unpleasantness so the fun of my trip can continue into my daily life. Here's how I go about it: 
  • My favorite method of integration is reading poetry. I find that Ginsberg's style and subject matter complement a comedown especially nicely, but I like Rumi and Whitman as well. If you're not into poetry, you can of course opt for some other form of light reading. I love to read on a comedown because it really brings the words alive and gets you involved in the story.
  • If you tripped with others, stay with them and keep having fun until you're fully sober. They will keep you occupied and help you digest your shared experiences.
  • Do something you love with the energy and creativity leftover from your trip.
  • Smoke a bowl to ease yourself into sobriety.
  • Go swimming. There is none of the safety issues of swimming while tripping (I don't trust myself to do it, but then again I'm not a strong swimmer) but all of the sensual delights.
  • Have sex. I find my libido to be nonexistent when I'm on LSD, but afterwards it's all I want to do.
  • Sit quietly and connect with the trip you just had. Connect with anything interesting or enlightening that grabs your attention.
  • Write. Though I write a variety of things, I find that trip reports can be a really interesting way to integrate your acid-mind into your sober thoughts.
  • Once you're sober, go to sleep and wake up refreshed.
For more information on integration, NeuroSoup has done a really good series about it. Links are below.

Do you have trouble integrating your hallucinogenic experiences into your daily life? How do you go about returning to reality?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

How to Buy Weed for the First Time

1. Ask around for a contact. Be discreet-- only ask people that you already know smoke weed, and only ask through a private medium (like texting or a discreet conversation).

2. Get a number, preferably of someone you already know. Agree on a meeting time and place that isn't too sketchy. Don't tell them you're a noob if they don't already know, because many people will unfortunately try to rip you off. 

3. Ask how much it is for a "g" (slang for a gram). Really good weed will go for about $20 most places, but since you are obviously not yet a good judge of quality if you are reading this guide, ask for "10 a g." Buy either a "dime" (one gram, for ten dollars) or a "dub" (two grams, for twenty dollars). Keep it simple.

4. CONTINUE to be discreet during the deal.

5. If you can, watch them weigh it out for you.

6. Don't just take the bag, pay, and run. Smell it first. Weed does NOT smell like oregano. It might smell "skunky" or any of a variety of other scents, but it should be a pretty strong smell. Take a look at it too-- orange or purple mixed in with the green is a very good sign, as is visible little crystals, but both these traits are unlikely for average-quality weed. It shouldn't be too dried up or too wet. As you gain experience you will gain a sense of this.

7. Don't settle. The underground market is used to bargains. If you think you're not getting what you're paying for, refuse it or express disbelief about the price.