Category Archives: Amphetamine Psychedelics

Drugs, Inc.: San Francisco

Fascinating documentary about speed, crank, meth or methamphetamine in San Francisco. Centers on the Tenderloin, a famous rundown area near downtown. When I go to San Francisco, I like to hang out in a place called SOMA, or South of Market. It’s pretty seedy like the Tenderloin, but it’s not nearly as bad or dangerous. It’s been gentrifying a lot in recent years.

I didn’t know they were rocking meth up to cook it into ice and that the cooking procedure was rather complex. I must say that I have never smoked ice. However, I have snorted methamphetamine about 3 times. The last two times, the crash was so horrific that I said never again. Your whole body feels like a sack of bones and your brain feels like a Vietnamese rainforest after it’s been sprayed with Agent Orange. Screw this drug! Why does anyone take it anyway?

I thought it was interesting that a number of Blacks at least in the Tenderloin are using meth, at least in the form of ice. Blacks have typically used crack cocaine instead of meth, but maybe the fact that ice is smoked like crack makes it more attractive to Blacks. Otherwise, meth has traditionally been a White drug.

Some drugs are White drugs and others are more Black drugs. Whites typically go in for hallucinogens like psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, while Blacks to not like to use these drugs. However, Blacks have always used PCP more than Whites have. Both races go in for heroin at about equal rates as heroin is a pretty big drug in the hood. Cannabis is probably equally popular also among Blacks and Whites.

When it comes to cocaine, Whites have typically preferred to sniff it or ever shoot it, while Blacks have preferred to smoke it as crack. However, for some time now, many Whites have been smoking crack too. In addition, pills like Oxycontin seem to be a White drug. MDMA, ketamine and other club drugs are used by Whites and generally shunned by Blacks.

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Filed under Blacks, California, Cannabis, Coke, Dissociative Anesthetics, Dope, Hallucinogens, Heroin, Intoxicants, Ketamine, LSD, MDMA, Narcotics, PCP, Psilocybin, Race/Ethnicity, Regional, Speed, Stimulants, USA, West, Whites

Alcohol/Drugs and Brain Damage

Repost from the old site.

For those who are worried, I would add a few pointers from my own life. I’ve been using drugs and drinking, one or the other or both, recreationally, for almost 40 years, and my health is superb. Of course, as with all things, moderation is the key.

There were some wild binges of drinking and/or drug use where I thought, “Wow, this time I have definitely damaged my brain for sure!”

At that time, I just stopped using whatever it was that had me worried and waited for a bit, and it seemed that at some point, all my brains came back, and then some. In some cases, I a number of cases, I had to wait for 3-10 days (average ~1 week), but in one case, it took a month to get back to where I was.

After almost 40 years, you would think that I would be getting more and more fried by the year, but it’s just not so. To be quite honest, in many ways, it seems like I am smarter than I have ever been.

Furthermore, no one who meets me or knows me ever thinks I am stupid in any way whatsoever. It is quite the opposite. Not trying to brag here but people regularly say things like, “You’re are one of the smartest people I know.” I don’t think they would say that if I was fried.

When you exercise or play sports, they say listen to your body. With drinking and drugs, that too, but also listen to your brain. If things start seeming foggy, slow down for a bit and see if things clear up. Most if not all cases of permanent damage from this stuff have occurred from people who did not heed the warnings and careened right on ahead.

To summarize my writings on the subject:

Methamphetamine and Ecstasy are terrible for the brain, Ecstasy so bad you should not take it even one time. PCP is quite bad for your brain and probably ketamine is too. You can play around with any of those drugs a dozen or so times in a lifetime (and possibly more), and you won’t suffer any permanent damage. Any more than that, and things get a lot dicier.

Heroin is easy on the brain but nasty in any other way. Opium, and all opiates, are also harmless to the brain but can be addicting. Use must be judicious and occasional, if at all. In particular, don’t mix with other downers. Long term alcoholic drinking permanently damages the brain.

With less heavy drinking, the permanence of damage is much less clear. At low levels, drinking causes no damage whatsoever. The widespread notion, proffered even by many doctors, that each drink “kills brain cells” is utter nonsense.

Cannabis, marijuana or hashish is one drug that can be used even very heavily by adults with minimal permanent effects on the brain. Occasional use by adults seems to be completely harmless to your brain. The question of brain damage by very heavy cannabis use has not yet been resolved, but even if it occurs, most of it seems  to clear up on cessation.

Daily use of small amounts by adults can occur for years with apparently minimal damage. Any damage that occurs has not yet been proven, but if it exists, it seems to be quite subtle, and I am uncertain how significant it is.

Unfortunately, for minors, the question of little to no damage is much less firm, such that I recommend that anyone wait at least until they are 18 to begin using cannabis.

Of all of the drugs of abuse, as far as heavy use goes, cannabis is by far the easiest of them all on your brain.

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Filed under Alcohol, Cannabis, Depressants, Dissociative Anesthetics, Dope, Hallucinogens, Heroin, Intoxicants, Ketamine, MDMA, Narcotics, PCP, Reposts From The Old Site, Speed, Stimulants

Lies About the Drug Burnouts

Repost from the old site.

Dope fries your brain, and all ex-dopers are “permafried,” or damaged by drugs. This condition is both immediately obvious and permanent.

This is one of the staples of the anti-drug line, and it appears that the vast majority of Americans have bought into it, including most drug users and former users.

I think it’s utter nonsense, so I’m going to take it on head-on here in this post.

Simply put, I don’t really think that “drug burnouts” exist anymore than “alcohol burnouts” do. The notion comes from the idea that illegal drug use damages the brain. Hence, after years of use of this, that, or various substances, the brain is permanently damaged, and the person is odd, strange, weird, bizarre, permanently spacey, “permafried,” crazy, nuts or mentally ill in some way or another.

The theory is very appealing in that unfortunately, it is starting to look like most of these drugs, at least in heavy use, are capable of damaging the brain. The jury is still somewhat out on cannabis, but even that does not look really encouraging for heavy long-term users.

The theory is typically used to abuse users of hallucinogens and psychedelics, probably because these are the most feared drugs of them all. There is a serious problem with the “fried brains acidheads” line: the hallucinogens are one of the very few drugs that look pretty clean as far as brain damage goes.

When you come out and say that LSD does not cause general damage to the brain, as I am doing now, people tend to get really upset. After all, if anything damages your brain, it must be LSD! After all, if acid, the ultimate evil drug, doesn’t mess with your brain, then surely nothing does.

The truth is much more strange. It’s now clear that the most popular drugs of all, like cocaine and methamphetamine. can damage the brain, often pretty quickly.

Cocaine begins to cause demonstrable brain damage after as few as 12 uses (constriction of the arteries of the brain). After a few grams a month for a few years, clear brain damage shows up on the P300 test (a general slowing of the EEG). There is now evidence for serious changes in white and gray matter with heavy cocaine use.

Meth is much harder to pin down, but heavy current users often appear scattered and damaged. After 1.5 grams a week for 1-2 years, clear signs of damage start showing up. I believe that damage is also starting to show up on white and gray matter tests.

I can’t emphasize strongly enough what bad news these white and gray matter tests are – they indicate destruction of the neurons themselves and the connections between them.

The damage from meth seems to be to dopamine neurons and their connections and is observable with brain diagnostic imaging tools. Whether or not damage occurs at lower doses over shorter periods of time is not known, but meth is starting to look like nasty stuff for your brain.

I still say you can take meth at least a dozen times or so (and possibly much more!) without any permanent damage. At some point though, you are going to start damaging your brain, and we don’t really know what that point is. Want to try to find out when the damage begins? Don’t bother!

Ecstasy or MDMA, formerly up in the air as far as brain damage goes, is looking worse all the time. The best we can say now is that one dose probably does not cause damage. More than one dose almost surely does, and the damage is cumulative. The drug damages serotonin neurons in certain parts of the brain by killing the connections (axons) between the neurons. The neurons themselves are not killed.

It is a common falsehood about drug abuse and the brain that “drugs kill brain cells.” In truth, actual neuronal death is hard to pin down for a lot of these drugs. Instead of killing brain cells outright, drugs often just damage them so they don’t work quite so well. With MDMA, the serotonin axons grow back, but they do not grow back correctly.

I never did MDMA – it was after my time.

Even heavy cannabis use is looking suspect.

Drinking more than two drinks a day over a period of time causes shrinkage of the brain. The shrinkage increases as the drinks per day does up. Periodic heavy drinking depresses brain cells for up to two years, and chronic heavy drinking actually kills neurons.

Now on to the psychedelics. The hard facts are that we do not have good evidence that LSD, peyote, psilocybin and similar drugs damage the brain in any way that would that reduce your intellect, make you odd, strange, weird, bizarre or crazy, or effect your ability to think and feel rationally.

It is true that LSD, psilocybin and MDMA are capable of causing HPPD. That is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. The result is visual aberrations persisting into the period when one is not using the drug. LSD seems to be the worst offender, but some cases are caused by psilocybin. Until a cure or prevention is found, HPPD is an excellent reason to avoid using psychedelics, LSD in particular.

There is a board on the Net for HPPD sufferers, and if you go there and tell them that you are still using acid, they are going to give you a piece of their mind. They aren’t anti-drug ignoramuses or holier than thou moralistic types. They’ve just been there and done that and don’t want to see you in the same boat as they are.

No one has any idea what is causing HPPD, but a Dr. Abraham in Massachusetts has the notion that it is related to damage to the visual system. All LSD users show damage to the visual system. It’s not apparent to most of them, but it shows up on tests. It has to do with how fast you can adjust to from a totally light environment to a totally dark environment. LSD users do poorly on that.

It’s interesting to note that although all of the tests for LSD and brain damage in animals were negative with the exception of very high doses that would be about the equivalent of 1,000 50 mcg. hits at once, LSD was shown to be hypotoxic to the optic nerve in the bird.

These negative findings for brain damage and LSD go back to the 1950’s. We now have over 50 years of negative tests for LSD and brain damage in animals as well as humans.

LSD does some pretty bizarre things to animals. If you give it to a cat and put the cat in an enclosed area with a rat, the cat will cower in terror of the rat, which it normally would try to kill. Strange.

All tests of intellectual function damage for LSD users have come up negative. Some suggested temporary damage on visual function tests (the Trail-Making B Test), but as the HPPD data above suggests, LSD may indeed damage the visual system. Even this finding cleared up one year post-drug

Damage to the visual system would logically cause HPPD. Would it make a person weird, strange, odd, bizarre, insane and stupid? Why would it? The visual system effects vision. It doesn’t effect psychological stability or the ability to think or feel in a normal way.

That said, there is anecdotal evidence that very heavy LSD is somehow bad for your brain. It seems to go away if you quit, but it’s there nevertheless. There are reports on the net of users who used LSD very heavily – several hits, several times a week, for a year or so. Afterward, they had symptoms of brain damage.

They could no longer do the intellectual work that they could formerly do, and they had a hard time reading. After a year or so off the drug, their intellect seemed to return. The users were not mentally ill at any time.

The notion of mental illness from the use of LSD is very controversial. It seems almost impossible to understand how a drug that has no permanent brain effects outside the visual system could make a person weird, strange, odd, bizarre, crazy, nuts, insane, or mentally disturbed in any way at all. Surely, if it did so, the etiology could not be from actual brain damage but must be in purely psychological terms: psychogenic.

Nevertheless, we continue to get reports of mental illness after LSD use.

The most frightening to me are reports of mental illness after very heavy use. We have reports of individuals who used LSD very heavily (several times a week at high dose) for a year or two. After that, they became mentally ill and had to be admitted to a hospital. They got better and were released and seemed OK on the outside. But then they got into heavy LSD use again and had to be readmitted.

There are other reports of folks in their 40’s and 50’s who used LSD maybe 2,000-3,000 times. They are reported to be mentally ill to some degree or another.

We don’t yet have any good theory to explain cognitive problems or mental illness in extremely heavy LSD users, but nevertheless, based on anecdotal evidence, one ought to avoid this sort of high-risk behavior.

Timothy Leary probably used LSD between 1,000-2,000 times. I have to admit he looked pretty fried the last few times I saw him on TV. He also used all sorts of other drugs.

As a good general rule though, I haven’t met one person yet who is “permafried” from any kind of drugs. My perception has been that if you quit using, after a while you become normal again. Most of the so-called permafried types are still using drugs heavily. It seems to me that no matter how damaged people seemed, if they quit and sobered up, they seemed to be quite OK once they were clean.

I’ve met some folks who seemed damaged from very heavy dope use, but in the one case I can think of, he wasn’t really strange or weird. He could be socially inappropriate, and his basic problem was he didn’t give a damn about anything. You will find this personality syndrome in a lot of very heavy users that otherwise function pretty well – they seem like they don’t care about much of anything.

He couldn’t hold down a job because he was so damaged that he couldn’t even make change. Yet I was at a party with him once and he picked up this gorgeous young blond ten years his junior and fucked her brains out that night. How nuts can you be if you can pull off something like that?

I met another fellow like that on the streets of San Francisco 15 years ago. Smart guy, Masters Degree from a good university, lived off a trust fund, traveled the world, partied his brains out, in his 40’s.

He had that “I don’t give a fuck” attitude, but I don’t consider that mental illness. Hell, I don’t consider most stuff mental illness! He wasn’t ready for corporate America, but he didn’t want to be either, and I didn’t consider him mentally ill in any way, shape or form.

But then I think the whole notion of “crazy” is horribly abused against people who aren’t even nuts at all.

I’ve known many individuals who used drugs heavily for years who are now more or less sober, although some continue to use cannabis. For the life of me, I can’t see how even one of them has been permanently damaged by their drug use. I haven’t met a permafried person yet, but I guess there’s always a first.

I keep meeting people who used cocaine very heavily for 5-10 years, or so heavily as to have to go into drug treatment, or took LSD up to 300 times or so, or have been smoking pot for 20-30 years and still are, now heavily, in their 40’s. For the life of me, I can’t see anything wrong with them now. Some of them have very good jobs and make $100,000/yr or so.

Despite a lot of theoretical support for the “permafried” notion (in that many of these drugs are now being found to actually damage your brain), I haven’t seen much of it in my life. If anyone knows any “permafried” individuals who are now clean and have been clean for a while, let me know in the comments.

Until then, I think the whole notion is ridiculous.

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Filed under Coke, Dope, LSD, MDMA, Reposts From The Old Site, Ridiculousness

Cannabis and Brain Damage: Cannabis Compared to Other Drugs

The original post in its native form was far too long, so I broke it up into seven different posts, in addition to this post. The separate sections are listed below.

The original post, what is left of it, is here.

For an examination of the evidence of whether or not cannabis causes actual structural damage to brain cells, axons or dendrites, see here.

For an analysis of neuropsychological batteries of cannabis users to determine whether or not they suffer brain damage, see here.

For an analysis of EEG testing of cannabis users to discover evidence of brain damage, see here.

For an analysis of studies looking at cerebral blood flow in cannabis users, see here.

For an admittedly impressionistic analysis of whether or not cannabis causes schizotypal symptoms in users, see here.

For a summary of the findings of cannabis and brain damage, see here.

LSD and psilocybin, while not causing permanent brain damage (that we know of so far), can cause HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder), a long-term perceptual disturbance of unknown etiology.

I have HPPD myself from using hallucinogens about 40 times, but “suffering” from HPPD once again is an interesting concept, at least in my case.

All I get are brighter colors, mostly in neon signs and store displays, and only at certain times. Maybe lots of people would love to have this effect, as the world looks so much better this way. I called up an ophthalmologist about it and he laughed me off the phone, saying he doesn’t treat people whose colors improve. It is only my continuing neurosis that causes me to view these changes as frightening instead of integrating them.

LSD does have a deleterious effect on the visual system of the brain – it is hypotoxic to that area in lab animals, for instance, birds – but it doesn’t cause any generalized brain damage at all that we know of, and we have been studying LSD’s effects on the brain for about 50 years or so now.

LSD does cause reductions in 5-HT2 receptors on serotonin neurons. But this is a case of these receptors retreating back into the cell due to LSD’s assault on those receptors. After about a week, the receptors to poke back out of the cell again.

The most recent evidence also indicates that psilocybin (mushrooms) and mescaline (peyote) also do not cause any generalized brain damage, although psilocybin can cause HPPD. Due to the risks of HPPD, this blog unfortunately does not recommend that anyone use LSD or psilocybin even one time, unless maybe if you are dying.

Ecstasy (MDMA) produces comparatively dramatic harm to the brain after only a handful of doses (2-10 doses), with the effects increasing with continued use. The drug causes degeneration of serotonergic axonal terminals, which afterwards do not grow back correctly, if at all.

There are suggestions that there may be hippocampal damage. On intelligence tests there are deficits in working memory, declining vocabulary, impairments in verbal learning, associative learning and attention and increased distraction. There also seem to be some mood changes.

Perfusion deficits and increased delta waves on EEG have also been found, but the same study did not find these in cannabis users. Impairments were also found in the ability to drive a car in Ecstasy users, even after they were abstinent.

However, a recent study found no persistent effects from one dose of Ecstasy.

Therefore, it appears that using Ecstasy one time is possibly safe. However, taking Ecstasy as few as an average of 3.2 times causes noticeable damage in verbal memory. Ecstasy should be taken no more than once in a lifetime, if at all.

Evidence strongly suggests that the heavy use of PCP, ketamine and DXM may cause permanent brain damage and can often cause schizophrenia-like symptoms which may be related to that damage. The theorized damage involves the vacuolization of neurons (basically a hollowing out and death of the neuron) in various parts of the brain.

The evidence comes from rat studies and the dosages have been criticized, but humans are far more sensitive to the effects of dissociatives than rats are, so the differential doses are probably about right.

The rat evidence has now been challenged by monkey studies, so the matter is far from settled. But until it is, extreme caution, if not outright avoidance, seems to be the best policy for these drugs.

PCP can probably be used up to a dozen or so times in life with no permanent damage. Beyond that, things get a lot touchier. Heavy users show an extremely high rate of schizophrenic and psychotic symptoms, along with symptoms of brain damage. There seems to be some recovery with abstinence, but full recovery is by no means assured.

Evidence indicates that ketamine can be used at least once with no permanent consequences at all to the brain. Beyond that, it is up in the air. Ketamine can surely be used at least a dozen times with no risks to the brain. Beyond that, things get hazier.

Heavy DXM users have reported a very high rate of psychosis and schizophrenia-like symptoms, along with symptoms of organic brain damage. Users should approach DXM use with caution, and heavy use should be ruled out.

Heavy methamphetamine use has been proven to cause permanent damage to dopaminergic systems, especially in the striatum, caudate and putamen (at ½ gram a day, 5 days a week, and 2 years of use). Studies have also shown degeneration of axons on serotonergic neurons and loss (cell death) of up to 15% of the neurons of the hippocampus with heavy use.

In the study above, there was some recovery of the dopaminergic system with abstinence, but it was only partial. Meth can probably be used a dozen or so times without any permanent damage. Beyond that, no guarantees. There is some suggestive evidence of chronic psychosis, depression and anxiety directly related to heavy methamphetamine use (over 10 years of heavy use).

Impairments in learning, processing speed, and working memory, along with delayed recall, are found in meth users. Brain dysfunction is often readily apparent in heavy meth users. This is one category of drug user, in contrast to most other drug users, that does sometimes appear “fried.” Much of this “fried” appearance seems to clear up with abstinence.

Methamphetamine can probably be used up to a dozen times or so in moderation without any permanent consequences to the brain. Nevertheless, some users have reported permanent effects from only 2-3 weeks of very heavy use. Meth is nasty stuff, and it’s best to keep away from it.

Heavy drinking can depress neurons for up to two years. With continued heavy drinking, at some point, there is organic damage, which in many cases is permanent, although there is often significant recovery with abstinence. The case of the “wethead” and “dry drunk,” the former alcoholic who is still damaged, psychologically or cognitively, is well known.

Heavy use of barbiturates over many years causes a damage syndrome that looks like chronic alcoholism and that does not completely recover with abstinence.

Even chronic Valium use causes long-term EEG changes of unknown significance.

Sniffing glue has been proven to be possibly the worst thing you can do to your brain short of putting a bullet in it, and the effects do not recover completely with abstinence.

Cocaine, unfortunately, seems to be capable of causing brain damage with as few as 11 doses (constriction of vessels in the brain). At three years of using several times a week, there is slowing on the P300 event related potentials test, that may not recover fully with abstinence.

Recent studies have also shown that chronic heavy cocaine use causes reductions in gray matter in various parts of the brain. This means that heavy cocaine use causes an actual loss of brain cells in parts of the brain. It may also cause white matter reductions, which means a loss of connections in the brain.

There are also impairments in attention, learning, memory, reaction time and cognitive flexibility in cocaine users. It is not known whether these clear up with abstinence.

This blog recommends that lifetime use of cocaine be limited to 10 times or less. Even there, there is a slight risk of sudden death due to perturbations in the heart’s electrical rhythms. These perturbations can cause a sudden heart attack or even possibly a stroke. Vasoconstriction is probably involved.

In many of the above cases, there is some recovery with abstinence, but often not to the previous level.

Experimental use of PCP, ketamine, cocaine and methamphetamine (use up to a dozen or so times for each one) probably does not cause significant permanent damage. Beyond that, you play with matches.

Compared to other drugs of abuse, such as Ecstasy, PCP, Ketamine, DXM, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol, the effects of cannabis on the brain are dramatically less deleterious.

In terms of its effects on the brain for heavy users, cannabis is surely by far least damaging intoxicant of them all, for what that is worth.

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