CANTA'S DRUG INDEX
By Roshanah Masilamani
This guide is intended for educational purposes only, and Canta does not encourage recreational drug use. It is important to note that no drug use is safe, but this guide hopes to provide information for those who decide to use. For those intending to use drugs, please do your own research and use with caution. If you find yourself in a bad situation on drugs, stay with a friend and call 111, or get support from the venue. Be honest with medical professionals about what you have taken, and how much, as it will make it easier for them to help you. Check out the recently launched site, High Alert (highalert.org.nz), which is a national early warning system where you can check to see if there are any known bad batches of substances going around.
History: Lysergic Acid Diethylamid (LSD) was first synthesized in 1938 by chemist Albert Hofmann, who was intending to produce a blood stimulant. It was synthesised from ergotamine, a chemical derived from a grain fungus that typically grows on rye. In 1943, Hofmann ingested LSD and discovered its hallucinogenic effects. Because of its similarity to a chemical present in the brain and in certain aspects of psychosis, LSD was used in experiments by psychiatrists through the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Free samples were distributed during this time, leading to widespread use. These experiments continued until the United States officially banned LSD in 1967, however it continued as a popular recreational drug, spurred by counterculture enthusiasts. In Aotearoa, LSD is illegal and classified as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, although recreational use is common. Trials for micro-dosing LSD were approved last year.
What it looks like: In its pure form LSD has no colour, odour or taste. It is typically taken orally via squares of absorbent blotting paper, known as tabs. LSD can also be taken as a sugar cube or in gelatine.
Taste: Pure LSD is tasteless. Assuming you are taking a tab, it will probably taste like paper. Be wary if there is a bitter taste as this indicates that the LSD is synthetic — if in doubt, remember the phrase: “if it’s bitter, it’s a spitter”.
What to expect: LSD is a hallucinogenic drug which produces powerful psychedelic effects. An LSD trip will vary greatly from person to person; however, its main effects include altered thinking, visual hallucinations, and a distorted sense of time. You may sense and feel more and become aware of things normally filtered out by your mind — visual, auditory, sensory, and emotional.
Duration: LSD generally takes 20-60 minutes to take effect; wait at least 2 hours to feel the full effects before deciding whether to take anymore. The primary effects of LSD last between 6-8 hours. For many people, there is an additional period where you are no longer tripping but there is a noticeable difference from everyday reality and it can be difficult to sleep.
How to take safely: LSD is generally accepted to be non-addictive and relatively non-toxic. However, it is a powerful chemical and therefore should be taken with caution. LSD is active at very small quantities and a single dose of LSD can vary widely in strength. A 100-microgram dose (depends on the batch but generally half a tab) is a good starting point if you have never taken LSD before and should provide a calm experience. For a first trip, it is advisable to have a friend act as a ‘shepherd’ or trip-sitter — someone who is sober and who can look after you during your trip. For all hallucinogens, it is about “space and place”, meaning if you are in a bad headspace or not in a safe environment, you are less likely to have a good time. Avoid using cannabis or other hallucinogens (especially if you are wanting to calm down to sleep) as it can be synergistic — which in this case is likely to be overwhelming.
Short-term effects: In the beginning stages of onset, LSD is likely to cause feelings of anticipation or anxiety. As the effects become stronger, a wide variety of perceptual changes may occur; non-specific mental and physical stimulation, pupil dilation, closed and open eye patterning and visuals, changed thought patterns, feelings of insight or confusion, and quickly changing emotions (happiness, fear, giddiness, anxiety, anger, joy, irritation).
Things to look out for: In general, the effects of LSD stop once the trip has concluded. However, some people have spoken of having long-term psycho-emotional effects. Beyond that, some have experienced significant changes in their personality and life perspective —both positive and negative.
AKA: Ecstasy, Molly
History: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a chemical stimulant created in 1914 by Merck, a German pharmaceutical company. However, the first recorded human ingestion of MDMA wasn’t until the 1970s when it was rediscovered by Dr Alexander Shulgin. Psychiatrists heralded MDMA as “penicillin for the soul” and a “low calorie martini”, using it to limit the psychological defences of patients. By the mid-80s, MDMA grew in popularity and was known as ecstasy, frequently sold in pills that also included amphetamine. It has since remained a staple party drug, primarily due to its effects of increased sex drive and euphoric energy. Despite little evidence of MDMA-related harm, the substance was banned by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 1985, and Aotearoa followed suit in 1987. Evidence shows that MDMA is only mildly addictive, and to date, there have been only three MDMA-related deaths in Aotearoa.
What it looks like: MDMA comes in pill or powder form. Ecstasy powder can look like white/grey crystals. Generally, people ingest MDMA in a capsule, though some swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder.
Taste: MDMA has a bitter and unpleasant taste, most notable when snorted or rubbed into gums.
What to expect: MDMA is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception. MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:
- Dopamine: produces increased energy/activity
- Norepinephrine: increases heart rate and blood pressure
- Serotonin: affects mood, appetite, sexual arousal, and other functions. The release of large amounts of serotonin likely causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA
Duration: When taken orally, MDMA usually takes about 30-60 minutes to take effect; shorter if snorted. MDMA’s effects last about 3-6 hours. Effects such as fast heartbeat, anxiety, and insomnia may also be felt for a few hours after you stop feeling high.
How to take safely: MDMA makes you feel like moving so there is an increased risk of overheating, exhaustion, collapsing, or dehydration — drink around 250ml of water per hour and take regular breaks to cool down to mitigate this. Avoid using MDMA if you are on anti-depressants (MAOIs or SSRIs) as they act on the same areas in the brain making the effects unpredictable and dangerous. MDMA is best taken orally, as snorting can be harmful to the nasal passage and reduces your body’s ability to get rid of the drug if you have used too much. It also results in a more intense but significantly shorter high that puts more stress on your body. Use a small amount initially if it is your first time using, and make sure you weigh it rather than visually measuring — 80-100mg is a good starting point (use less if you are below average weight). Avoid re-dosing as it is unlikely to enhance positive effects and increases the risk of neurotoxicity and feelings of a comedown. You’ll find that your jaw begins clenching; chew gum or suck on a lollypop to protect your cheeks. Wait a few weeks between using to ensure your body and brain have time to recover, including rebuilding up stores of serotonin.
Short-term effects: People generally experience feelings of energy, intensity of feelings, confidence, happiness, sexual arousal, dehydration, teeth grinding, overheating, and reduced appetite. Most people experience these effects in waves and describe it was ‘rolling’ with the highs and lows, which level out over time. Too much MDMA can make you confused, anxious, feeling like vomiting, and even hallucinate. If you are feeling overwhelmed, let someone know, get some fresh air in a quiet space, and have a sugary (non-alcoholic) drink. Call 111 if things don’t improve or someone is losing consciousness.
Long-term effects: After use, most people experience a comedown over the next day or two, sometimes lasting a week. This comes with feelings of low energy, difficulty sleeping, feeling irritable and mildly depressed, and having difficulty concentrating and sleeping.
AKA: Marijuana, weed, pot, dope (too many to count)
History: Cannabis is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, used for both recreational and medicinal purposes. Cannabis is indigenous to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, however is now commonly grown throughout the world. The first recorded human use of cannabis is at least the third millennium BC, although archaeological evidence suggests it was earlier. The main psychoactive component of cannabis is THC, which acts on specific brain cell receptors and produces the high effect. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Aotearoa — by the age of 21, 80% of New Zealanders have tried cannabis at least once. Currently, cannabis is criminalised for recreational use (B class for processed and C class for unprocessed), although medicinal cannabis was legalised earlier this year. New Zealanders will have the chance to vote on legalising cannabis on the 19th of September in the upcoming referendum.
What it looks like: Cannabis can be used as a dried plant, resin, or oil form. It most commonly sold and bought as small bushy green nuggets.
Taste: This will differ depending on form and strain, and it is difficult to quantify the taste —essentially, cannabis tastes like it smells.
What to expect: The potency of cannabis depends on its concentration of THC, which is higher in resin and oil than in the dried plant. Cannabis has mental and physical effects, including euphoria, altered states of mind and sense of time, difficultly concentrating, impaired short-term memory and body movement, relaxation, and an increase in appetite (munchies).
Duration: Onset of effects is felt within minutes when smoked, and about 30-90 minutes when eaten. The effects last for 2-5 hours, depending on the amount used.
How to take safely: There are several ways to get high, including smoking (via a bong, joint, pipe etc.) vaping, eating, and oil. Each has its own appeal and everyone has their own preference. In general, eating or CBD oil is preferable as smoking and vaping can cause harm to your lungs. Cannabis is fairly safe and there is no risk of overdosing, but can still result in unpleasant experiences. Be cautious with your consumption as too much cannabis at once can result in the user “greening out”— causing nausea, sweats, head spins, paranoia, and sometimes vomiting. If you’re a first-time user, be aware that cannabis affects everyone differently; stay calm, avoid drinking, be around people you trust, and make sure your pantry is well-stocked for when the munchies hit.
Short-term effects: When smoked, the THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. Almost immediately, the user will begin to feel high. The effects of a cannabis high will depend on the strain; indica will cause a “body high” whilst sativa will cause a “head high”. In general, cannabis will cause feelings of relaxation, forgetfulness, hunger, creativity, happiness, confusion, and sometimes paranoia. Other effects include heighted senses, an altered sense of time, mood changes, impaired reaction time, and mild hallucinations. Many people use cannabis for pain management and attest that it reduces discomfort, particularly for menstrual cramps. Physically, cannabis can affect body movement and cause bloodshot eyes.
Long-term effects: In general, cannabis does not have lasting effects. If you are an occasional user, then you may feel mentally foggy the next day, however will likely have no notable long-term effects. For regular/daily use, however, there is increased mental and physical risk. In particular, regular use of cannabis has been shown to cause long-term harm to the user’s lungs (if smoking), mental capacity, and mental health, among other things. This is exacerbated by sustained use during youth — when people begin using cannabis regularly as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions long-term. In saying this, cannabis research has been historically underfunded (or funded by anti-cannabis lobby groups) so the effects of cannabis are still uncertain.
AKA: Shrooms, mushies
History: Magic mushrooms are wild or cultivated mushrooms that contain psilocybin, a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound. Psilocybin is considered one of the most well-known psychedelics, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations. Studies have shown that when used in controlled settings, psilocybin can act as an anti-depressant, however these studies are ongoing and therefore should be treated with caution. As well as depression, psilocybin is being studied as a treatment for migraines and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In Aotearoa, magic mushrooms are illegal and classified as a Class A drug, however are still used widely for recreational use.
What it looks like: Magic mushrooms are fungus, and grow naturally on the land like other mushrooms. It is therefore important to ensure you are picking the correct mushrooms — do your research properly first if picking your own. Magic mushrooms are often dried and eaten by being mixed into food or drinks (such as tea), although some people eat freshly picked magic mushrooms.
Taste: Pretty much like regular mushrooms, only not delicious.
What to expect: Magic mushrooms are hallucinogenic drugs, meaning they can cause you to see, hear, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. The effects of magic mushrooms are highly variable and are often influenced by environmental factors, such as where you are, who you are with, and your current mental state.
Duration: The effects take 20-40 minutes to begin and can last up to 6 hours — the same amount of time it takes for psilocin to be metabolized and excreted.
How to take safely: Many poisonous mushrooms look similar to magic mushrooms, which makes it easy for pickers to mistakenly ingest non-magic shrooms. People have fallen severely ill or even died from this, so only consume magic mushrooms that have been verified as non-poisonous. While magic mushrooms are often sought out for a peaceful high, shrooms have been reported to induce anxiety, frightening hallucinations, paranoia, and confusion in some. As such, it is recommended first-time users have a friend act as a shepherd during the trip, and avoid using anything else at the same time. As with all hallucinogens, be aware of your surroundings and don’t use near cliffs, water, or other dangerous settings.
Short-term effects: Magic mushrooms can cause euphoria, energy, introspective experience, nervousness, excitement, and a closer connection to the environment. Due to the intensity of the high, many users may feel overwhelmed or paranoid, however this will ebb and flow throughout the trip. The physical effects can include dilated pupils, drowsiness, headaches, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and nausea. Mental effects include distorted sense of time, place and reality, hallucinations (visual and/or auditory), have introspective experiences, paranoia, and psychosis.
Long-term effects: More research is required on magic mushrooms, and there is no current evidence that suggest they have long-term effects. However, some users report lasting personality changes, both positive and negative, as well as “shrooms flashbacks” long after the trip.
Amphetamine/Methylphenidate (for example: Ritalin)
History: Ritalin is a prescription medicine that comes as either tablet pills or capsules. It is a stimulant drug designed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is a prescription-only medication in Aotearoa, and it is illegal to possess or use without a prescription. Ritalin was first made in 1944 and was approved for medical use in the United States in 1955, where it remains one of the most commonly prescribed medications. On a broad potency scale of nervous system stimulants, Ritalin falls somewhere between caffeine and amphetamines. In recent years, Ritalin has been misused for non-prescription use, such as a study stimulant and as a recreational party drug.
What it looks like: Ritalin comes in small pills, about the size and shape of aspirin tablets.
Taste: It has a bitter taste.
What to expect: As a stimulant drug, Ritalin can make you feel very ‘up’, awake, excited, and energised, but they can also make you feel agitated and aggressive. Within the first hour of consumption, users will begin to feel alert and energised, with heightened senses (auditory, smell, visual). When taken with alcohol, Ritalin has a similar effect to MDMA or other party drugs.
Duration: Ritalin comes in both immediate release and extended release, and takes around 20-30 minutes to come into effect. The effects of Ritalin last about 3-6 hours, depending on the dosage.
How to take safely: When taken as intended, and under supervision of the prescribing physician, Ritalin is generally viewed as safe. If intending to take recreationally, be mindful of dosage and regularity of use. Stay hydrated and remember to eat throughout usage, as Ritalin is an appetite suppressant.
Short-term effects: The primary effects of Ritalin are increased alertness and activity, feelings of euphoria, and talkativeness. Physically, it can cause altered heart rate, chest pain, headache, raised or lowered blood pressure, and nausea. Ritalin typically suppresses the appetite, and can also cause you to feel agitated, panicky and cause insomnia and a psychotic episode (this is a mental state when you can see or hear things which aren’t there and can have delusions), which can lead you to put your own safety at risk.
Long-term effects: Taking high doses of un-prescribed Ritalin can give rise to a number of negative effects, including mood and personality changes, and patterns of abuse, tolerance, and addiction.