Natures Highs Part 1: Chocamine, the limitless legal stimulant?

Legal Highs are still available in New Zealand

I’m writing a series here on entheogens and legal highs in NZ. It’s been a confusing time since the psychoactive substances act came into force. While the law has not yet provided a scientific path to legal high drug testing (at least not without animal testing), it has however opened up a black market far scarier than what Peter Dunne and the public had ever imagined.

The only two things you technically enjoy
Dopamine and Serotonin

The new law also created some confusion around the definition of a psychoactive substance and what natural plants may or may not fall under the new bill.

Getting high or catching a buzz from your local health store or supermarket in NZ

As it turns out… nature, industry and the majority of middle class kiwis got to keep all their habitual highs, and some of them are pretty good.

The way the law was applied allows for religious, cultural, gardening, food and medicinal exceptions. It quite rightly ignores the majority of herbs that are mild enough to be sold in most major supermarket chains. You’d be surprised that there are a number of effective and useful plants still available to use.

Don’t expect any of these to be exactly like illicit drug experiences, or to replace your current habit, there’s a reason they aren’t banned, most of these are either ‘quirky’ or ‘mild’.

Though most hardened drug users with dopamine-depletion and serotonin synaptic fatigue may not get the “high” that they’re looking for, getting little out of them comparatively, they’re certainly effective both on their own, or to assist with tapering off harder drugs.

They are effective, but in their own way. Alternatives but not in the strict sense.

For the first article in this series, I am going to focus on the stimulant and psychedelic plants, and not those strictly prohibited from processing, like Salvia, Morning Glory, or San Pedro.

Getting amped up on Chocamine, natural legal speed

Chocamine is a stimulant. It’s the concentrated extract of cacao.

It’s mildly sensual, stupefying and very wakeful.

It’s significantly more stimulating than caffeine, it’s central substance Phenylethylamine, was also the main substance in the recent generation of dance pills, and also numerous current workout products.

Legal Speed in New Zealand? Try Phenethylamine
Phenethylamine (PEA)

You can still find those too, and they may provide even more kick than Chocamine alone as they often contain the PEA enhancing hordenine. PEA, gives a tingly strong stimulant effect without much of the euphoria of classical stimulants.

Legal High or Performance enhancing drug?

Both… In a Preliminary clinical study from 2005, a 1000mg dosage in health adults resulted in improved ability to react quickly to alternating auditory and visual commands. It even improved their ability to ignore interfering auditory commands while remaining focused on a visual task.

Chocamine improves information processing speed
Chocamine super drug

In 2009 a clinical study was conducted using an IMPACT Cognitive Assessment tool used by scientists in the field of neuropsychology. They tested 40 healthy volunteers and the results were impressive.

Significant improvement in test assessing short-term memory and visual-motor response speed. Up to 39% improvement after Chocamine consumption. Positive trends in tests assessing reaction time and impulse control.

It’s mildly sensual, stupefying and very wakeful. Chocamine also has mood enhancing cannabinoids and theobromine, which means that Chocamine does actually give a little mood lift as well as extra energy and performance enhancement.

Chocamine, the ultimate natural nootropic… so what’s the catch?

Have too much and it’ll make you shaky and anxious. The doses are small (like a fraction of a teaspoon) so measure carefully, start small and do your research.

Overall a useful substance, especially in a time when good legal festival pick me ups are hard to come by or you need that study drug to get you through exams without all the energy drinks and coffee.

Continue reading Natures Highs Part 1: Chocamine, the limitless legal stimulant?

Non-drug paths to altered consciousness

There’s a number of ways to altered consciousness.

I’ll start with the more everyday changes in conciousness.

Sleep deprivation is the altered state the most people are familiar with. It is anxious,  with tunnel vision, vision disturbances, muddled thinking, and yet in other places it is pleasant, where the cannibinoid Oleylethonalamine is released producing sleepiness, warmth, hunger and ease.

A variety of body caused ‘highs’ can be produced. The body releases its own opiates, the beta endorphins with a variety of things, like food, sex. Also in exercise, where anandamide, natures THC is released at the same time. A good high intensity work out will give you a great clean buzz. Oxytocin, with it’s MDMA like effect on the brain is connected to bonding.

But when talking about altered states, euphoria may not be what people have in mind. A number of physical conditions can produce altered consciousness, such as lack of oxygen, infection or epilepsy. Some epileptics have profound religious like experiences. A fever can in itself produce hallucinations, creating a delirient effect. When I had this, I saw totally realistic snakes slithering over my body! Eww

Trance and fasting

“I achieve an altered state that I can’t explain; I have a secret that I cannot share.” Omar Khayyám

Fasting, a practice used for religious purposes often to this day, results in a lowered blood sugar, which produces a detachment from events and reality.

‘Trance state’ – In trance, a person is in a relaxed state between wakefulness, and sleep- a focused state that is powerfully imaginative, where one may access the subconscious self. A trance state is also used for achieving transcendent spiritual experiences.

It doesn’t matter any scepticism you might have, hypnosis works. Imaginative experiences can feel sometimes real under hypnosis, allowing things like past life regression, or healing visualisations to have a powerful impact on our psyche. Hypnosis can be used for pain relief during brain surgery – that’s how powerful it can be.

“My eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” – Meister Eckhart

For a more egoless spiritual experience, a deep mindfulness or meditation is required. Traditionally, shamans and mystics have used drumming, chanting, mantras and other repetitive sounds, along with focus on the breath. Also mandalas, or simply observation. These day’s we also have technology to enhance trance, such as light and sound machines and binaural sound to help alter the brains state, although traditional tools like tibetan singing bowls are just as popular as ever.

Daydreaming actually works in a similar manner. It is the activation of the ‘default network’, the creativity state, the part of the brain that activates under low stimulus (sometimes under highly practiced tasks). Indeed between this and dreaming, perhaps we can see why altered states in general are so useful – for their role in meta-cognition, to inspire new ways to think about old things.

Visions and loss of self

Staring at a candle or mirror, or another person’s eyes can alter consciousness, and this has been shown in science. It is important the room it dimly lit. For caring for your eyes, I suggest a mirror or person would be better. Another person’s eyes seem to have to most powerful effect. In an experiment on this, staring into each others eyes – subjects describe:

“Higher levels of attenuated colour intensity than controls, with noises seeming louder than they should. Time seemed to slow down and they felt spaced out. Additionally, almost 90% of them said their partner’s face appeared deformed, 75% saw monstrous beings and 15% even saw traits of a relative’s face emerge on their partner.”

There are some methods of altering consciousness that really take all this a step further into the self. Sensory deprivation can induce visuals, as well as, offer deeply enhanced introspection and creative thinking. Joe Rogan is a huge proponent. He like others, mentions that it takes a few floats before you ‘relax into it’, so don’t be disappointed if not much happens at first.

“It shows me all the different issues in my life that I don’t like and that I need to fix ….then it’ll show me some things where I’m on the right track” – Joe Rogan

Pain, can induce a spiritual or ecstatic experience. In BDSM, this is referred to as ‘subspace’, and people often use this form of pain, such as in ‘suspension’, for spiritual rather than sexual purposes. It is described as a feeling of floating, or flying, detachment from one’s body. Clearly I cannot recommend this approach to ‘try at home’ without supervision, experience and knowledge.

When you can’t refuse anything and can’t even move, those voices in your head go silent. All you can do, and all you are permitted to do, is feel.” ― Cherise Sinclair

Are we awake or asleep?

Lucid dreaming. It’s something I do myself on occasion, and it’s something you can train yourself to do. Basically, on some level you become aware it’s a dream. And when you do, you gain control of it – you can manifest objects, fly or express supernatural abilities, change your setting by going through doors, mirrors or pools, summon settings, objects or people by thinking about them.

Asking yourself while awake ‘it this dreamlike’ can help give you a sense of checking periodically, make you subconsciously aware of what to look for, to realize you are dreaming when you are. And if you feel like you are waking from such a lucid dream, prematurely, you can stay asleep by spinning in circles, or by touching something physical in the dream.

“You must learn to control your dreams or your dreams will forever control you.”
― Wayne Gerard Trotman

 

How to encourage a good trip on psychedelics

Now I can’t promise anyone they won’t experience distress on psychedelic drugs, but I can say that it will pass – and equally a drug trip can be life changing, euphoric and beautiful.

The first thing you should absolutely sure of is, what drug you have, and how much you should take. If you are dealing with magic mushrooms for example, you should absolutely stop over at the mushroom forum here on TripMe and get help with the ID, as well as research appropriate dosages for that species. Know your drug.

Mushroom ID forum

It’s hard to emphasize how important some of these things can be to those who haven’t experienced psychedelic states, but please be aware, your inner thoughts and feelings will be large, and your logic and normal capabilities diminished. It’s better to have everything in place first.

Trip Setting

The environment you choose to trip in is very important. You want an environment that is both happy and relaxing to you. Consider carefully how the place you are considering, makes you feel.

It’s a great idea to have good preparation. If you trip outdoors, make sure you have all the comfy warmth and dry. The environmental discomforts can become stronger tripping, so prepare well. Conversely, you will feel the magic of nature profoundly, so when the weather is good, this can be amazing. I once went with a friend to the beach, only to discover when the effects were kicking in that, it was too cold and we were under prepared. Conversely out in warm forests on another occasion, the trees and stars breathed magic. Avoid crowded places unless the vibe is top notch. For many (including myself), crowds and the complex emotional vibe is hard to take in, unless it’s an amped positive crowd like at a psy trance party. If you trip indoors, give the place a good clean, and organise before you start.

Keep great company when you trip – only people that you don’t find abrasive, who will also be in a mellow introspective mood at the time. It’s a huge benefit, especially for a first time, to have psychedelic experienced company – someone who can help you understanding and cope. In general it’s usually more enjoyable to trip with others. Don’t trip with people you don’t know generally.

Having some mood enhancements and diversions is a great idea. Control over lighting, soft relaxing music, or video distractions like light comedy. Set up as much of everything you may need beforehand (dvd, computers, water, warmth, clothes etc), so if you need it, it’s there. Fruit, juice and light food can be good to have on hand, if anyone is hungry. Complex or heavy food can be off putting sometimes on psychedelics. Having some cash on hand can be useful too.

The come-up (the initial period of waiting for the drug to take effect), can be an anxious or an excited time – either way, it can be good to do something fun during this period, to help establish that good mood. Play a game, socialize, deep talk, dance – uplift that group vibe.

Plan time with no responsibilities

It’s a good idea to have at least 24 hours, if not 48 in which you will not be required to do anything. Try to make sure no one will interrupt you. Interacting with sober people, either when tripping, or tired and having come down can be a drag, and having to be up to any complex task can be everything from a bit of a tricky task to impossible or near horrifying. Once I had to go to class the next day, I was still under the effects, and it was, let’s say very intimidating. I wish I had planned better.

One does not want to have to deal with an emergency, or day to day responsibilities and social engagements, generally speaking. So it is important to make the time, apart from all these things. It might be better to put your phone on silent and act as if you are not home.

Avoid dangerous activities! Like driving or swimming.

Good space for tripping

You should try and make sure the day you trip, the week or whatever, that you are in a good space mentally. Don’t trip if you are depressed, or fearful or angry. Whatever even subtle stuff you have going on in there, will come out, and become larger than life. Which can be great, and help you learn, and grow, to transcend it, but you don’t want to be overwhelmed and just be stuck. Don’t trip if you have a history of psychosis.

Psychedelics are not an escape. They are more like a microscope.

Be prepared to help others if they are not having a good time. If someone gets trapped negative thinking, you can both positively reassure, and distract. Changes in location, lighting, music, media, conversational topic can help a person redirect their thoughts.

If you, project confidence that everything is okay, and kindly reassure the person, as well as work to move them about other things if they have trouble letting go, you can often quickly move a bad trip back into a good one. When I used to feel overwhelmed, I would usually dim the lighting, put on some soft ambient music and get under a blanket and talk with friends. That or moving to another location, going for a walk or watching something. Just a bit of a shift. Talking to others helps a lot – if someone is asking you for reassurance – be confident, they are okay. They will feel your confidence.

Now all this said, most trips are entirely or predominately positive, and they all tend to be eye opening, expanding experiences, this is really just to help people prepare well if they choose to trip, so everything is a bit easier! Think of it as just as planning and positive thought.

Look after your friends, know your drug and be safe! 🙂

The Inner Revolution & Micro-dosing LSD

Since the 1960’s counter cultural revolution, modern society has been influenced by a new ‘inner’ culture. Psychedelics and mysticism. The science of which has moved us from a culture of deep scepticism and stoicism, to one that routinely practices  mystic techniques such as mindfulness in psychology/psychiatry, hypnosis and NLP in sports and in business and has established the benefits of many practices like yoga, meditation, floatation and so on. Very recently we have seen a massive recent rise in the use of floatation (sensory deprivation) as a means of enhancing creatively and mental health, especially amongst competitive professionals, and it seems like psychedelics are also having a new revolution right now, as a with a similar set- success seeking millennials such as those in Silicon Valley.

What is Microdosing?

“Micro-dosing” is the practice of taking a ‘sub-perceptual’ dose of a psychedelic, and going about one’s normal routine. It’s said to make people more open, happy,  more productive and enhance creativity and problem solving, also increasing sporting or exercise performance without producing typically mind altered subjective effects that might interfere with one’s normal activities.

Business mysticism, tech and psychedelics

 

It’s a big hit with business leaders and tech gurus. It follows on some business science suggesting that people can better problem solve resistant problems using psychedelics. Essentially these new go-getters are using the brain connectivity of psychedelics, at a level below what is called threshold – the level at which effects are subjectively apparent. Although in saying that these users are reporting a ‘lift’ and more energy in engaging day to day activities, so they still feel ‘something’ it’s just subtle.

A sliver of the offering – How small is a LSD microdose?

Typically, the micro dosage of psychedelics is usually 1/10th or 1/5th of a normal dose: 6-25 micrograms LSD, 0.2-0.5 grams dried mushrooms, 50-75 micrograms mescaline HCL.

Microdosing magic mushrooms

Because the New Zealand mushroom season is starting, I thought I’d make special mention of that. According to what I gather from peoples reports, mushrooms micro-dosed are viable, but tend to be ‘less focused’, more ideal for exercise and creative ventures than day to day office work.  Your mileage may vary. I hear lots of people saying it boosts their exercise, and it grants the same sort of mood boosting and creative benefits as LSD, perhaps making micro-dosing mushrooms more ideal for creative jam sessions, problem solving sessions or extreme sports, or trail running.

Do athletes take LSD?

Indeed, there is a widespread belief amongst athletes that such dosing (with LSD) can enhance endurance and performance.

Micro-dosing as a trend, outside of the original micro-doser Hoffman, is relatively new. There is little doubt that these drugs can in fact boost creativity, and improve mood at more substantial doses and so it follows that something is actually happening here, but as a new trend, it’s hard to quantify or know what is or isn’t happening at these doses. Hoffman originally wanted to market LSD as an anti-depressant, and is quoted as saying that if it weren’t illegal it would be used instead of Ritalin.

Psychedelic chemical culture in New Zealand

The trend might sit somewhere between the sort of shamanic pursuit of inner knowledge and the nootropic trend where many people are attempting to optimize their mood and cognition by pharmacological tinkering – human beings seeking ‘the designer mind’. I would caution people from thinking this way too much, as it tends to avoid the causes of malcontent and poor performance that come from our own psychology rather than any chemical basis. You cannot dose your way into a better you, without also addressing yourself, i.e. doing the work. And in doing the work, quick solutions are not the panacea they might appear to be at all at first.

If the answers truly lie within, to our problems, then we need a better way of accessing that, if we are to truly tap it. Drugs are only potentially a part of that, however powerful they are.

spiritual tripme

Enlightenment or Symptom?

In part this is reactive, and somehow part of the 24-7 heart attack capitalist nightmare. At worst this represents a culture so obsessed with the external, with wealth and recognition, with competition, that it’s stumbled into psychedelics without comprehending the contradiction between self-awareness and the relentless and thoughtless pursuit of external goals. That’s how many media outlets would paint it too – just a substitute Ritalin for stressed professionals. But at the same time it’s a culture that is actively pushing back against the reductive ‘rational’ mind set, in favour of a more holistic understanding, one that is following the bloom in scientific and psychological understanding that started in the 60s.

At best, perhaps this actually speaks to a promising trend in the worldview of public culture –A sort of zen, of modern capitalism – the fermenting of long held truisms about perception and inner strength held in business and sporting communities and centuries ago in mystic temples – the return of the inner arts and self-awareness. And I think the sudden rise of both floatation and micro-dosing at this time, in the last few years, shows evidence of a sort of ‘new wave’ of inner explorers, a continuing emergence of a kind of Renaissance of the self.

The New Zealand Magic Mushroom Season

As the days get colder, and wetter, Psychedelic mushrooms containing psilocybin begin to bloom in damp shaded spaces, and some of NZ’s illicit inner space adventurers will get to some serious tripping. Last week I gave a bit of a background and the effects of magic mushrooms, for those who are interested it’s below this article.

However, as anyone who knows anything about mushroom hunting knows, there are numerous misidentifications that can be actually fatal. You have to be careful out there!

If you need help identifying a suspected ‘magic mushroom’, I would strongly advise you to check with the more experienced people in this subforum on TripMe. They have all sorts of information including hunting guides, it’s a genuinely great resource that people should check out:

http://www.tripme.co.nz/forums/forumdisplay.php?28-Mushroom-ID

If you are unsure if your mushrooms are ‘magic’, absolutely check here and be SAFE. Please DO NOT use the photo’s in this article for ID, post an ID request in the TripMe forum instead.

What are “Blue Meanies” and “Gold Tops”

Gold Tops, which refers to Psilocybe cubensis or subcubensis more globally do not grow in New Zealand. Often Psilocybe subaeruginosa (pictured below) are referred to as “Gold Tops” here. This mushroom is found in often in pine bark, or wood chips.

800px-Psilocybe.subaeruginosa.2

151072[1]

Blue meanies is actually a little bit of a confusing term here in New Zealand. Globally this is generally Copelandia cyanescens also known as Panaeolus cyanescens and these may not grow here (There are references to it, but it’s in dispute).  Many blue bruising mushrooms are referred to as ‘blue meanies’ in New Zealand, which can make the term confusing when used in conversation. There are many other varieties here in New Zealand such as Psilocybe aucklandii.

So far as dosage goes, one of the good things about magic mushrooms, is you can take a meaningful low dose very easily next to LSD or anything else. A low dose can make for an experience that is mind expanding, but not overwhelming. If it’s your first time and you insist on eating magic mushrooms – check the ID guide, be sure, and don’t be a hero, go low on dose (look up your particular mushroom for dosing advise and get help ID’ing it in the forum). You’ll be glad you did.

Where do people find magic mushrooms?

A common place to look is damp shaded areas, such as light bark beneath trees (not the thick stuff used in gardens, the more natural kind). However, you will find such mushrooms growing in many damp environments, including in open fields, deeper into the colder days. Pine forests and pine needles tend to be also places where they grow. If you pick from some way up the stalk, rather than the whole mushroom, the patch will keep growing next year. Picking magic mushrooms is illegal, as is possession, so I do not advise anyone to do this!

Incidentally if anyone is interested in a legal mind expanding experience, there is an option. There is a floatation place in Auckland, and they have multi-float deals. Listen to Joe Rogan on the topic, and you’ll realize this is actually a mind expanding experience, if you do it a few times and ‘let yourself into it’. Essentially, similar to psychedelics you are magnifying the inner, and diming the outer. And it’s 100% legal.

Lucid dreaming, and dream enhancing herbs are another alternative area, as is meditation and trance if you are dedicated enough. There is much to be learnt from the inner mind, and drugs are not the only way in.

How do people consume magic mushrooms?

Typically, people either eat the fresh, or dried, or preserved mushrooms, or make a tea. The active ingredients are soluble in hot water, and the mushrooms aren’t the tastiest kind, they have a strange subtle hard to describe taste. In teas, people often add tea, honey, or instant coffee to make the drink more enjoyable although the taste is really not too bad, nothing to freak out over. They don’t need to be boiled for long at all. Sometimes people add lime or lemon to increase the effects, although I would not advise this personally, as that just makes the strength less predictable. Predictable strength is one of the main benefits of natural drugs over street drugs, particularly mushrooms and it seems foolish to remove that benefit. And magic mushrooms are also preserved by some by storing the mushrooms in honey in a sealed container. I can’t advise this either, because that is possession of an illicit drug!

Sure, we should be given more legal options in terms of psychedelic experiences, in safe dosages and environments – but in the meantime if you wish to explore this space, you are on your own safety wise – it’s mostly up to you to know your drug, protect yourself from misidentifications, bad dosing, and difficult experiences – and look after your friends. Look before you leap.

Next week, I’ll look at how to prepare for, plan, and have a good trip.

Magic Mushrooms

With magic mushroom season approaching, I thought it might be nice to talk about their history, and what they do. As much as describing mushrooms, is like describing travel!

Ancient evidence suggests that shamanic use of magic mushrooms stretches back far into our history, how far no one knows.  The mushrooms were used extensively across ancient Mesoamerica, especially in the Aztec culture – which it must be said, was very driven by psychedelic thinking.  There are hints of their use in other places, such as the symbolism and language surrounding NZ’s Weraroa mushroom. The suppression of the fungi’s use by the Spanish, calling it a means of summoning evil spirits, pre-dates the beginning of prohibition, much like the taboo surrounding the use of Kava in missionary settled pacific communities. Indeed, this cultural oppression, and xenophobia, manifests much like the reefer madness did – as a in-group, out-group intolerance – and perhaps that is the true origin of prohibition.

Before I get into what is happening to your brain, and what the potential positive sides are regarding those effects- let me describe briefly what it is like for those that don’t know. It’s very hard to describe a psychedelic experience to the uninitiated, but I will try. First you feel a certain ‘body load’, perhaps like you’d eaten an overly greasy meal. This gives way often to a surprising and sort of incoherent giggling – you may laugh but you don’t know why. They the visual and mental changes start to creep up on you – breathing walls, colours brighter than you can imagine, a blurring of distance vision, patterns, and even more significantly a changed state of mind that starts to experience the world in a more emotionally sensitive, symbolic, connected and dream-like manner. One’s inner life, plays out in the senses. It has a certain levity compared to LSD, much like the other natural psychedelic mescaline, it’s more slow paced, and serious emotional moments are broken by euphoria, and laughter. It’s sort of vulnerable, sensory, giddy and profound. The peak lasts typically about 3-4 hours.

So what is going on here, in the brain, during this sort of experience?  Well with psychedelics in general, they seem to do two things – one they dampen areas of the brain typically more active, and two, they increase connections between parts of the brain that normally talk less. In layman’s terms, they turn up the volume of all the things that are normally beneath the surface, and down the volume of the things that are normally on the surface.  The above picture illustrates the connectivity of the brain under the influence of psilocybin, the psychedelic component of the fungi.

Visit the TripMe magic mushroom identification forum here

Now it’s worth saying that psychedelics can produce anxiety, and exacerbate confusion in those without good inner balance. It’s a trialling experience sometimes. The advice usually give is ‘set and setting’, that if you plan to use mushrooms, that you should be in a good state of mind, balanced, grounded, and well – and use them in a location that is not negatively stimulating, or overwhelming. Moderate consumption with friends in a quiet natural location for example is far probably preferable to large doses taken on ones own, in a challenging environment.  If you have any family history of mental illness, feelings of derealisation, anxiety, or just a powerful imagination – be aware – increased brain connectivity may just give life to things within you, and new neural connections, like bad experiences, are a genie let out of a bottle.  While many people find inspiration, or self-realisation, others find confusion or challenge especially in over use. Psychedelics are powerful tools, they are not toys – they will make your inner life bigger, and it’s important to consider whether or not you have the inner resources to deal with that. And whether you can cope with it or not, even in controlled settings 22% of people have challenging experiences while on the drug.

If you ever find someone dealing with a bad trip, just treat the person like someone who is overwhelmed, and stuck in mental loops. Gentle reassurance helps a great deal, as does a pleasant and calm environment. A change of scene, or the subtle influence of music, or some non-challenging media, may help shift the mood – as may things that serve as a source of joy, such as play or humour.

Many people report new insights, personal insights, or even profound spiritual experiences from using psychedelics like magic mushrooms. This ability to ‘shift perception’, presumably related to the increased connectivity, is the cause of numerous potential medical benefits.

Despite the risk in some people, for increased fear, or bad experiences, overall, people taking magic mushrooms report increased wellbeing for months later. That is to say, there appears to be an anti-depressive effect.  They also appear to help migraines.

There have been studies showing that magic mushrooms strongly assist people grappling with their mortality, ie terminal patients. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest they are helpful for breaking addictions, whether it be alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs. The efficacy of this anti-addictive action, like with fear of death, is very high. As well as potentially being anti-depressant, magic mushrooms appear to have uses in treating OCD. These psychological benefits are indeed profound. And they do really beg the question why, magic mushroom use is not permitted for use by psychiatrists and other health professionals, in a highly controlled manner.

Now if people are going to do what they are going to do, I’d be irresponsible not to offer some advice. Identify your mushrooms very carefully, some are poisonous.

Whether a psychologist administering a drug like this, or a shaman doing a healing ritual, the ideal conditions for psychedelic experiences are very controlled. Typically, someone else is sober, or more sober, or a lot more experienced when a person is taken on a first trip, so they can be objective, and calmly guide the person along. The person in question is mentally prepared for it, and in a good space, and the setting is one in which the focus in not on events, or the environment, but mood, conversation, beauty – the inner world.  Now, I understand that people out there are not going to replicate these conditions exactly every time – but because the effects of psychedelics are profound, it’s genuinely worth everyone’s time, to just consider how close to ideal conditions the experience can be made. And just as importantly, consider who your first trip is with. If the people you trip with are cavalier about it, it might be worth waiting to find some other people who show more respect for the power of the magic mushroom.

Take care of yourselves out there this mushroom season. I’ll see you in the dream world!

Visit the TripMe magic mushroom identification forum here

The NZ Drug Harm Index Study & Prohibition Mentality

The stated goal of the New Zealand Drug Harm Index study, released in April, was “to measure the impact of government intervention”. I really think they failed to do that at all, but let’s first have a look at how these studies work.

A drug harm index study collates ‘social and personal harms’ using somewhat subjective criteria for calculating costs. You end up having complex calculations projecting populations onto estimates. It can be hard to pull apart because they use other studies data (which in this case I don’t have access to). You’ll see in a minute though why such studies are sort of making things up as they go along.

So the first thing that is wrong minded in this study is the assumption that ‘interventions’ are in fact lowering harms associated with the drug. This is particularly ironic, given the inclusion of ‘lost taxes’ and related crime, as considered costs associated with the drug, not consequences of prohibition.
When one factors in ‘loss of profit and taxes’ as a cost associated with prohibition, as well as reduction in police costs, court costs and crime – it’s pretty clear that any perceived costs could be easily covered in actual fact. And that is what I mean about this study being prohibition minded – it fails to recognise ‘the impact government intervention’ can be negative, and that it too can have costs associated with it.

If we brush aside for a moment the subjectivity of the cost calculations, lost taxes, related crime, and loss of profit are not costs associated with the drug, but with intervention itself. And taxes collected via a liberalised drug market could easily pay for any programs to counterbalance any actual costs.

Then there are the little points within this subjectivity, that seem on the face of it questionable. For example cannabinoids are credited with 32 deaths per year, and significant shortening of life. Now they have included synthetic cannabinoids, but even still I really doubt their are 32 coroners reports that attribute deaths to synths, let alone any evidence of shortening of life. Even including synthetics with regular cannabis is misleading. Of course without the data, I can’t really comment further.

Another problem with the study is that such harms are not considered on a by user basis. In the harm index section for example, it clearly labels cannabis as one of the least harmful drugs in terms of expert ratings, and describes cannabis as one of the most popular drugs – but the cost calculation does not reflect that a very large number of people are using cannabis, so the per user cost is in fact very low compared to other drugs. Similarly, there is no point of comparison, no control – we do not have cost calculations for alcohol or for tobacco. Indeed without this context, the illicit drug categories listed are just floating in a bubble. It seems likely that alcohol and tobacco would outstrip them all by many factors.

For comparison by the way, The US’s total year on year profit, estimated for 2020, is 22 billion, with just four states in which in is legal, and really only two of them where it is properly for sale. Even with New Zealands small population, I bet our year on year profit could be somewhere between 3-4 billion eventually, and we could easily collect 25% of that in taxes and licensing, let alone the positive effects on tourism and the economy. That 1 billion could easily cover any programs to mitigate negative effects, and save the government a lot of money on interventions that don’t actually really work in the sense of lowering harms.

The other element that is thoroughly missing, is the reduction of harms. We know that many of these drugs are medicines. That is established in science. Now, what harms are these drugs reducing, or mitigating within society? For example what pharma drug costs and hospital costs are being saved by cannabis, and what addiction or psychology problems are being resolved by psychedelics. Again, prohibition minded. These drugs have established benefits, and it would seem fitting to fold these into any real harm comparison.

Now I really can’t get much into analysing the merit of their cost calculation techniques, and to do so wouldn’t really prove anything people don’t already know about these kinds of studies – but the prohibition mindedness of this study prevents it from being useful for its stated goal of ‘assessing the impact of intervention’.
If they really wanted to do that, they would compare NZ with countries with various forms of different interventions, and count costs that are consequences of prohibition, such as crime and lost taxes, as part of the cost of the intervention, not of the drug itself. Ie, they would have a control, or a series of controls, with which to compare NZ’s spending and outcomes. They would also include alcohol and other legal drugs AND factor in costs saved, or economic benefits delivered such as increased spending, medical expenses saved and so on. Instead of having all this data floating inside a vaccum where it means relatively little. But such a mentality would be one that is open to different models, and free of perceptual bias – and this is our government we are talking about!

Although it would indeed be interesting to see a real study of this nature.

For those that are interested, here’s the study.

What’s In My Baggie? – Full Documentary about misrepresented substances

“What’s In My Baggie?” is a documentary on the rise of misrepresented substances, as well as a critique of ineffective drug policy.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, over 250 new drugs have been discovered since 2009.

There are so many different psychoactive drugs floating around that people don’t even realize the complex nature of the current situation.

To document our findings, we filmed substance test kit results at music festivals, as well as interviews with harm reduction organizations, law enforcement officials, and distributors of these illicit substances.

We quickly discovered that most of the time people were surprised to find that their bag of drugs was not what they paid for.

For more info, visit whatsinmybaggie.com