Psychedelics

Beyond Psychedelics 2018

I'd like to take a moment to show some support for a wonderful three-day psychedelic conference that is starting in Prague next week—Beyond Psychedelics 2018. This event is a global multidisciplinary forum on psychedelics held in the Czech Republic, a country with a longstanding history of psychedelic research. In their own words, the conference will “review current challenges and risks, explore the basis of safe use and sensible integration, and create new synergies.” Attendees can expect to be a part of a global conversation about “the potential of psychedelics, alternative states of consciousness, and technologies in the current social climate.” There will also be two days of Pre-Conference Workshops on the topics of Integrative HR Psychotherapy and Psychedelic Integration. Please click the links above to learn more about this excellent conference.


The Essential Guide to Mescaline

The Third Wave:

Mescaline is the primary psychoactive alkaloid in a range of psychedelic cacti, including peyote (Lophophora williamsii), San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi), and Peruvian torch (Echinopsis peruviana)—all of which are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can also be found in trace amounts in other regional plants, such as the Berlandier acacia (Senegalia berlandieri).

In its natural state, mescaline has been used for thousands of years in Native American religious ceremonies. It was also the first psychedelic to enter mainstream Western culture, predating the widespread use of LSD and psilocybin. More recently, the extracted compound has shown promise in the medical and psychotherapeutic treatment of substance abuse and depression among other conditions.

Pure mescaline is usually available as a white or brownish crystalline powder, either loose or packed into capsules. It can also be found as a liquid solution or brew. Compared to many other psychedelics, however, extracted mescaline tends to be rare in most parts of the world.

The fine folks at The Third Wave have put together a wonderfully thorough guide that covers this remarkable naturally-occuring psychoactive alkaloid.


Book Review - Dreamland

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The United States of America is in the midst of a widespread opiate epidemic that has devastated hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across the country. The captivating story of exactly how this came to be is expertly told in acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones' fantastic book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic, which was published in 2015.

In Dreamland, Quinones magnificently blends together two seemingly-independent narratives: the overly generous prescription of pain medications during the 1990s (including Purdue Pharma's ambitious campaign to aggressively market and sell OxyContin) and the unforeseen—and unprecedented—arrival of cheap, consistent, high quality black tar heroin from one small county in Mexico. According to Quinones, these developments joined forces in a dangerous synergy that ultimately resulted in America's modern-day opiate epidemic.

The book opens with a ridiculously thorough timeline that begins with the distillation of morphine in 1804, moves on to the invention of the hypodermic syringe in 1853 (did you know that the inventor's wife was the first to die of injected drug overdose?), glances at the release of OxyContin in 1996, and ends with the FDA's 2014 approval of Targiniq ER, which combined timed-release oxycodone with naloxone. This timeline, which provides plenty of insight into what went on in between those four events, sets the stage for the book's narrative and successfully primes the reader for the information that follows.

And the actual book doesn't disappoint, either—as the dust-jacket blurb states, it introduces "a memorable cast of characters—pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents, and Quinones shows how these tales fit together." Sure enough, about midway through Dreamland, the reader begins to see the sophisticated web that was woven by several groups of people who were simply following the capitalist dream (operating in their own best interest in an attempt to make as much money as possible), and the once-hidden connections between the people and places involved become as clear as crystal.

When it comes down to it, Dreamland is the best book that I've read so far this year. The story is compelling and unfolds beautifully, in a masterful manner that constantly tempts the reader to read the next chapter. The level of detail that is crammed into each page is truly impressive, but never overwhelming. Simply put—I enjoyed every single word. The topic isn't necessarily the most popular (for the average reader), so I'm not sure that I would recommend this book to someone unless they're already interested in America's opiate epidemic. However, if you are at all intrigued by the topic, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. It will likely take a while to read, because it is packed so densely, but it will be worth your investment of money, time, and energy. And I will keep an eye out for any future books and articles by Quinones, as his writing is an absolute joy to read.

5/5 stars. 385 pages.

Banner image by jplenio, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Synthetic Weed Is Back

Christopher Moraff, writing for The Daily Beast:

In 2011 and 2012, faced with a spike in emergency room visits, the Drug Enforcement Administration banned a handful of the compounds. Chemists continued tweaking the drugs to skirt ever-evolving synthetic drug laws, but since peaking in 2015, calls to poison centers for synthetic marijuana dropped by more than half. But over the past year K2 has made a comeback; and a recent spate of poisonings has public health officials worried.

"Scary as hell" is right. Crazy to think that although synthetic cannabinoids were relatively unpopular the past few years, they really do seem to be experiencing a full-fledged comeback now—especially among opioid users.


FDA Monitors Social Media for Drug Abuse Trends

Pat Anson, writing for Pain News Network:

The FDA began monitoring social media – what it calls “proactive pharmacovigilance” – about a decade ago, primarily as an early warning system for adverse events involving medication.

I wasn't aware of this online monitoring by the FDA until now, but it makes sense that they're doing it. Maybe the organization has observed the fact that coverage about drugs (including psychedelics) has become more favorable in the media during the last 10 years.

It's also telling that the FDA seems to be going specifically after kratom vendors.