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The legal high lowdown

Legal highs: Jennifer Choi investigates…

Published on April 1st 2010.

The legal high lowdown

The country’s all abuzz over meow meow - a legal drug/plant fertiliser that's been associated with several deaths and a few horror stories besides - in the last few months. If recent headlines are to be believed, this family of ‘killer’ drugs will be banned before the month is out.

At Ridelow, the bike-cum-replica-swords-cum-insense shop nearby, staff proved knowledgeable, opinionated and outspoken for those enquiring after altogether more pleasant dreamlike sequences.

This inevitable crackdown follows the recent classification of Spice, GBL and BZP after high-profile stories led to public outcry.

There hasn’t yet been any research into the effects of the relatively new drug meow meow, let alone whether there is any causal effect between said plant food and said deaths. With this in mind, Confidential wonders what the more liberal-minded amongst us make of all this, and whether there are any legal highs out there left, that won’t a) cause you to go mad, or b) kill you?

Dr Herman’s head shop was an obvious first port of call. Unfortunately for us, to avoid ‘trouble’ in these uncertain times, the Dr himself has put in a gagging order, and to their credit the staff remained faithfully tight-lipped.

Luckily, at Ridelow, the bike-cum-replica-swords-cum-incense shop nearby, staff proved knowledgeable, opinionated and outspoken for those enquiring after altogether more pleasant dreamlike sequences.

There were clear signs on the display cabinet quoting the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and most contents therein were either marked ‘botanical sample’ or ‘not for human consumption’.

Peter Madden, who has held ten-years tenure at the shop insisted on a clear disclaimer of the above, along with “recommendations” being based on “customer feedback” and not the views of Ridelow.

At the time of the interview last week, Peter appreciated the Government’s need to be seen to be doing something in response to the concerns. He also expressed surprise at the restraint they’ve shown, that is until a few days ago when Alan Johnson caved into the temptation to restock a depleted Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs due to numerous recent resignations in protest, to ban first and ask questions later.

So why the crackdown on methodrone? And Spice? Peter attributed this to their widespread social usage. He pointed to the example of El Salvia - another legal high which has so far escaped media glare thanks to its non-party status.

“It’s not addictive, and it’s not a party drug, but it’s still commonly used” he said.

It’s for this reason that there is less risk of it being consumed with other substances, be it at the hands of unscrupulous manufacturers looking to dilute and drive up margins, or by consumers themselves, commonly already under the influence of alcohol, cocaine or both.

Peter didn’t seem hugely bothered by the plant food scandal, citing that Ridelow only ever carried methodrone in its pure form (as opposed to its manifestation as plant food), and that it was “one of the many products Ridelow carries.”

But does Ridelow have a responsibility as retailers for such legal highs?

“We are not here to make any moral judgments,” Peter said. Still, he admitted that they tend to err on the side of caution - stopping any product lines that do lapse into the grey area.

Moving onto the subject of the inevitable ban and its effect on trade, Peter became very matter-of-fact. “Whatever the legal high, dodgy suppliers will corrupt to drive down their cost and endanger the clientele. It’s simple economics. If plant food is banned, a team of scientists over in Asia will be working on a new drug to cater to demand.” Sure enough, Chinese chemical factories already have several new compounds on the research hob.

Peter was torn about a ban’s societal effects - admitting to the trend that as soon as something is banned, there is a surge in customer demand for it. “It’s in human nature to be curious, especially with the British mentality to want to rebel” he said.

At the same time, some people are more likely to try something due to its legal status. A lack of criminality almost acts as a sanction and can encourage experimentation. So without further ado, here are three, non-addictive 'highs' and a bit about them.

1. Super Skunk

When you get past its sk8boarder moniker, Super Skunk is a popular herbal blend alternative to tobacco, and is meant to have similar (and even more mellowing) effects to cannabis.

2. El Salvia Divinorium

Salvia is a South American sage plant that contains psychotropic molecules not found in European sage plants. It’s traditionally used by prophets or in healing rituals. The leaves can be drunk as a brew, chewed, or smoked in a pipe. YouTube shows symptoms including uncontrollable laughter, incredulity and surprise. The high is momentary. There are no reports of it being addictive.

3. Fly Agaric Mushrooms

Flying Agaric Mushrooms look like a real-life version of the white-dotted bright red toadstools in Mario. Its ritual and prayer uses by Siberan and Norwegian Shamans are well-documented. The Vikings supposedly chewed on them to enter the ‘berserk’ state for battle. Notable trips, which average 10 hours, include cameos of flying reindeers. BUT THIS STUFF IS UNPREDICTABLE: It might be traditional but it might take you places you don't want to go, very hazardous indeed.

Lest you think that Ridelow is away with the fairies, Peter was quick to point out that their single best seller in the entire shop was none other than some lovely pine incense. Ahhh.

And while we’re on the subject, there’s a wealth of science and anecdotal experiences online. The general advice remains: be sensible. Don’t mix it with alcohol, methadone, cocaine etc. Don’t take another 12 hits because you can’t feel anything after a minute. Have a sitter – someone who isn’t taking anything to keep an eye out. And if you’re naturally miserable or otherwise going through troubling times, take responsibility for the consequences should dormant emotions surface.

Bon voyage.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Edward18873April 2nd 2010.


Edward18873April 2nd 2010.

Okay, maybe I'm overstating the case - this is what Wikipedia says: Amanita muscaria contains a number of biologically active agents, at least two of which, muscimol and ibotenic acid, are known to be psychoactive. A toxic dose in adults is approximately 6 mg muscimol or 30 to 60 mg ibotenic acid,[56][57] this is typically about the amount found in one cap of Amanita muscaria.[58] However, the amount and ratio of chemical compounds per mushroom varies widely from region to region and season to season, which further confuses the issue. Spring and summer mushrooms have been reported to contain up to 10 times as much ibotenic acid and muscimol compared to autumn fruitings.[52]

A fatal dose has been calculated at approximately 15 caps.[59] Deaths from A. muscaria have been reported in historical journal articles and newspaper reports;[60][61][62] however, with modern medical treatment a fatal outcome would be extremely rare.[63] Many older books mistakenly list it as deadly, giving the impression that it is far more toxic than it really is.[64] The North American Mycological Association has stated there are no reliably documented fatalities in the past 100 years.[65]

Mario's mushroomApril 2nd 2010.

Just on a journalistic point MDMA is not methamphetamine. They're entirely different drugs with very different effects and associated dangers.
MDMA is 'pure' ecstasy (as much as anything is ever pure) and methamphetamine is otherwise known as crystal meth.
A bit more research wouldn't go amiss if you're trying to give advice on drugs, legal or otherwise.
Also fly agaric deaths are rare at best - but as you correctly said being aware of the dangers of stuff is half the battle.

JennApril 2nd 2010.

Thanks MM, will get that changed.

ExChemistWasterApril 6th 2010.

MDMA 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, so it's pretty reasonable to describe it as a methamphetamine, i.e. one of that chemical group. The hyperactivity / diminished wakefulness effects of MDMA are also characteristic of amphetamines. Sure it's not crystal meth, but don't kid yourself, it's not an entirely different thing, they are closely related in chemistry and pharmacological effects.

Becca10603April 9th 2010.

It's "mephedrone", not "methodrone".

Yet more quality, and well-researched, journalism from Man Con, eh?

Mark MottramApril 9th 2010.

Oh come on Exchemist, it is nowhere near the same in effect. that's like saying hydrogen oxide is like iron oxide. one is water, one is rust. comes from the same chemical group...

Dave SpannerApril 12th 2010.

Shush now, both of you.... because the only oxide you should care about is Nitrous Oxide.

Mark MottramApril 12th 2010.

hahahahahehehehehahahahaheheheheha. hehe.

AgricolaApril 13th 2010.

Ho, ho, ho, ho

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