Archive for the 'drugs' Category

Speaking of cocaine…

June 16, 2009

Here’s the most badass thing I read on my blog vacation, from the Guardian:

“Health problems from the use of legal substances, particularly alcohol and tobacco, are greater than health problems from cocaine use,” they [the World Health Organization (WHO)] said [in March 1995]. “Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common and more severe for intensive, high-dosage users and very rare and much less severe for occasional, low-dosage users.”

The full report – which has never been published – was extremely critical of most US policies. It suggested that supply reduction and law enforcement strategies have failed, and that options such as decriminalisation might be explored, flagging up such programmes in Australia, Bolivia, Canada and Colombia.

And why would this report have never been published?

At the point where mild cocaine use was described in positive tones the Americans presumably blew some kind of outrage fuse. This report was never published because the US representative to the WHO threatened to withdraw US funding for all its research projects and interventions unless the organisation “dissociated itself from the study” and cancelled publication. According to the WHO this document does not exist, (although you can read a leaked copy at www.tdpf.org.uk/WHOleaked.pdf).

Related: Clipse – Keys open doors

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I’ll take my pseudoscience with drugs, please

May 28, 2009

I’ve been looking for an excuse to trash 2012, the New Age Y2K. Now that journalist Ron Rosenbaum has done my work for me in Slate, I am free to take the broader view.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the Mayan “Long Count” calendar is supposed to turn over after a 5,139-year “Grand Cycle,” and the 2012 meme holds that the date will mark a passage to a new, more globally spiritual era. Drug culture superstar Daniel Pinchbeck has helped fuel the whole thing with his book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. (I’m waiting on my copy from the library.)

Rosenbaum links to a nice debunking of the astrological significance of Dec. 21, 2012. Of course, to anyone who believes in 2012 astrology, “debunking” is jerk-speak for “proof.” Which is why Rosenbaum’s trashing is so much preaching to the choir:

The best cultural explanation I found for this flowering of idiocy said that New Age fads like the Hopi prophecy and 2012 are a kind of cultural colonialism in which white people endow the minorities they have wiped out or repressed with mystical powers made more mysterious by their virtual vanishing.

and

Maybe those obsessed with making the world conform to rigid rationalities are the most vulnerable to the shambolic visions of mystics who can “explain” the anomalies and mysteries that elude their “Science of Detection.”

I agree whole-heartedly with the second statement. But if Rosenbaum thinks colonialism is a bad thing, why isn’t he sensitive enough to realize that an impulse toward spirituality, self-integration, connectedness — whatever you want to call it — is a very human thing, and that even if 2012 is a “silly scam,” maybe it’s being abetted by a dominant culture that doesn’t accept spirituality in nonsecular secular [oops] forms? Our culture does seem to have a hard time publicly affirming the value of subjective experience, hence Marianne Williamson’s goofy quantum advice and George Bush’s unwavering convictions. I mean, as much as I disagree with Jenny McCarthy, all she wants is validation of her feelings.

The tension, as always, is between subjectivity and objectivity. First, 2012ers need to accept that modernism isn’t going anywhere. And second, the Rosenbaums of the world should get on board with the judicious, therapeutic use of illicit psychoactive drugs. And then let’s everybody hold hands and be all Kumbaya and shit, ok?

Three drugs Pops Minkel could have tried

April 15, 2009

1. Chantix – for the smoking

“For years now, doctors have been using antidepressants to help people quit smoking, and now a drug that helps people kick their nicotine addiction may be effective as an antidepressant.” (Anti-Smoking Drug Succeeds When Antidepressants Fail | Wired Science)

2. Baclofen – for the drinking

“Finally, convalescing in Paris in 2001…[some guy who wasn’t Pops Minkel] read about a study of a muscle relaxant that had stifled the cravings of a cocaine addict. The drug, baclofen, had also shown efficacy against anxiety and depression. Eager to try it, he prescribed a high dosage for himself. Within a few weeks of starting the regimen, his craving for drink evaporated.” (To Purge Binges, Alcoholic Cardiologist Self-Prescribed an Experimental Drug | Sciam.com)

3. Psilocybin – for the existentialism

“[T]he active ingredient in so-called magic mushrooms[, psilocybin] is believed to affect perception and cognition by acting on the same receptors in the brain that respond to serotonin, a neurotransmitting chemical tied to mood.” (Long Trip: Magic Mushrooms’ Transcendent Effect Lingers | Sciam.com)

Crystal meth may cure lung cancer! (Breaking Bad)

April 1, 2009

April fool’s, jokers! We all know the only thing crystal meth may cure you of is your complexion and a well-integrated mesolimbic reward pathway.

No, really what I want to do is talk to you about this aMAZing TV show on AMC, called Breaking Bad, which is about a high school chemistry teacher who starts cooking crystal meth – he “breaks bad” – after contracting terminal lung cancer.

And just to make it extra brilliant, Walt (that’s his name) is played by Bryan Cranston, formerly Hal, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, formerly Tim Watley, Jerry’s dentist on Seinfeld, and who won an Emmy last year for the role.

I've gotta get out of this apron! Blaaaaaaah!

I've gotta get out of this apron! Blaaaaaaah!

What's that you say about some televisions I can sell for crank money?

What's this about some television I can sell for crank money?

Season two started up this past month. I finished season one last night – you can get it on Netflix or illicitly; don’t ruin it for yourself by watching the webisodes. The style wavers between disturbingly graphic and over the top in its depiction of violence, sex and gore. Which for me works, because I see the story as a fantasy of masculine power. (Big shock there.)

Walt is a former research chemist who somehow missed out on his share of a Nobel Prize, which went to his old research partner instead. Now he’s getting sassed by punk kids and bitched out by his boss at his second job, working at a car wash. Because of the writers’ strike, the show’s first season was only seven episodes. In three of those episodes, the climax hinges on a point of chemistry, which is telling. To this guy, chemistry represents power, and it’s his power.

Or it was until something snapped. As a teacher, he seems pretty desperate to convey his sense of awe at chemistry – “it’s about matter and energy!” – to his unimpressed students. In reality, a class would probably love Walt. He squirts spray bottles over a Bunsen burner flame to show them the vapors turning green, blue, red. I keep waiting for him to launch into a discussion of meth synthesis in class to get them fired up.

One of the ironies of the show is how brilliant but limited Walt’s thinking is. He’s got a hard time asking for help – and don’t we all – but specifically, he seems unable to imagine a future in which he can both provide financially for his family – his wife, who’s with child, and their disabled teenage son – and get whatever treatment or palliative care he needs.

Walt has a business buddy in the game of meth, or methamphetamine – aka “crank,” “ice,” “snappy,” “crystal,” “tina,” “glass,” “P,” “shabu,” “tik” or “yaa baa,” although not “speed,” which is technically amphetamine. Jessie is a hapless, unambitious former student of Walt’s who started slingin’ that tik after high school. The link is forged between them when Walt rides along on a meth lab bust with his brother-in-law, a DEA agent – zoing!! – and spots Jessie fleeing the scene. Later, Jessie comes across an old chemistry test from Walt’s class marked with an “F” and the admonishment, “apply yourself!”

All of which brings us to this nerdgasm scene from episode seven – eat it up, you science proselytizers:

As in The Wire, amid the intense applications of game theory, you slowly learn about the meth trade and culture.

The “smurfs” Jessie mentions are flunkies who buy over-the-counter cold medicines a few at a time to collect pseudoephedrine, the scarce starting point for meth synthesis. (I was dimly aware of this growing up because my dad would complain it had become harder to get his favorite allergy pills.*)

In the clip there, Walt is preparing to switch from what I believe is the “red, white and blue” synthesis protocol – flashy but unsophisticated – to the old-school California biker gang method of reductive amination.

Sadly, none of the characters have said “re-up,” “Hamsterdam” or “pandemic,” so apparently the David Simon of Breaking Bad’s universe never left the Baltimore Sun.

 Other points of interest:

  • cameo (I think) by Pedro from Napolean Dynamite as a drug dealer
  • intro music that bites off Joss Whedon’s Serenity
  • fanciful interpretation of how much hot hot sex a guy can have while fighting lung cancer

Now excuse me while I cook up a bowl of season two.

* Ironically, I once got jacked up on pseudo for a few days by popping too many 12- and 24-hour Sudafeds. I had night sweats and shivers – I shit you not. I thought I was spacing them out, I swear! I was trying to write for Popular Science at the time, too. There was much re-editing. Ah, drugs.