Sun Sep 14 23:15:24 PDT 2008

Back Street Designer Drugs

Ecstasy

In the 1960s and 1970s interest in psychedelic drugs increased and this led to the realization in some circles that there was money to be made in selling molecules capable of producing altered states of consciousness in the people who consumed them.

At the same time, a variety of relatively simple chemicals from natural sources, like mescaline from cacti, were known to cause hallucinations.

So the combination of large sums of money and increasing chemical knowledge created a unique set of conditions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Back street chemists soon discovered that relatively easily created molecules were also psychoactive compounds. Hence 'designer drugs' were born. These molecules were and still are dangerous. Ecstasy, which is shown above, has been linked with nerve damage in animal studies. MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-4-(1,2,3,6-tetrahydrpyridine)), caused terrible brain damage in people who took the compound intravenously. The victims of MPTP have been left unable to talk and paralyzed. This is a terrible price to pay for cheap chemical euphoria.

Anyone taking any form of illicit drug needs to recognize that they are ingesting materials which have a very uncertain provenance. The people who synthesize such compounds are clearly not overly fussy about purity or preparatory niceties. A typical street drug will be contaminated with solvents and by products and will have been diluted with almost any material in the 'cutting' process.

Ecstasy takers risk permanent neurological damage. The long term effects of ecstasy are not yet fully characterized, though animal studies have indicated that nerve damage is a real possibility. The action of the drug is not understood either. There is currently a theory that ecstasy produces a release of oxytocin; and it is this natural hormone which produces the increased feelings of bonding and relatedness for which ecstasy is famed.

So, those interested in the effects of ecstasy, and also interested in being green and not encouraging criminal activity, might try finding someone to hug. (Apparently hugging produces an outflow of oxytocin into the blood stream).

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