Psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, RIP

Pioneering psychonaut Ralph Metzner who co-led the seminal psychedelic research at Harvard University in the early 1960s with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and co-authored The Psychedelic Experience, has died at age 82. (Above image, Metzner at left with Leary.) Through his life, Metzner helped a great many people through his psychotherapist practice, spoke frequently on eco-consciousness, and also composed visionary ballads. (Erowid)

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US FDA approved chemical twin of dissociative psychedelic ketamine to treat depression

Earlier today, the FDA approved esketamine (brand name Spravato), a chemical twin of the dissociative psychedelic/anaesthetic ketamine (Special K), as a treatment for depression. Spravato comes in nasal spray form meant to be administered weekly or every other week depending on the severity of the patient's depression.

"There has been a longstanding need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition," said the FDA's acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products, Dr. Tiffany Farchione, in a press release. "Because of [safety] concerns, the drug will only be available through a restricted distribution system and it must be administered in a certified medical office where the health care provider can monitor the patient."

From National Public Radio:

Many doctors who have become comfortable offering ketamine for depression probably won't switch to esketamine, said Dr. Demitri Papolos, director of research for the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation and a clinical associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

For the past 10 years, Papolos has been prescribing an intranasal form of ketamine for children and adolescents who have a disorder that includes symptoms of depression.

"I'm very pleased that finally the FDA has approved a form of ketamine for treatment-resistant mood disorders," Papolos said. He said the approval legitimizes the approach he and other doctors have been taking.

But he hopes that doctors who are currently using ketamine continue to do so. "It'll be a lot less expensive and a lot easier for their patients [than esketamine]," he said.

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Watch Spike Jonze's short film about cannabis

Trailblazing filmmaker Spike Jonze made this short film, titled "The New Normal," about how America's relationship to cannabis has changed from the days when George Washington grew hemp. Co-written and starring Jesse Williams, it's a commercial for MedMen Cannabis Dispensaries. From AdWeek:

"We had a desire to create a commercial with a profound message,” said (MedMen CMO David) Dancer. “Our core value is around ensuring that people can lead safe, happy, healthy lives with cannabis being a part of it. … Here we wanted to not only destigmatize and normalize but really, as you’ll see in the spot, highlight what has been unjust about the treatment of cannabis whether it is stop-and-frisk and unjust criminalization, whether it is this propaganda in Referer Madness, quite frankly leading to the Schedule One classification of cannabis as a federally illegal substance sitting next to heroin."

Dancer said (the film has) been in the works for roughly four months, adding that the company worked to make sure everyone involved with the spot had a tie to cannabis.

"The highly selective criminalization of one plant, with flagrantly harsher punishments for one community, must be acknowledged and left behind for something more reasonable, realistic and fair,” said Williams in a statement. “It’s pretty clear that Americans are ready to exist beyond a few inherited hypocrisies. We deserve the opportunity to make this right. We can do, and feel, better."

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Which prison will house 'El Chapo'? Probably this Colorado 'supermax'

Good luck escaping from this one.

9.5 tons of cocaine and 11 Russian sailors seized by cops in Cape Verde

Quite a bust. And not a great look for Russia. Nearly ten tons of cocaine hauled by 11 Russian nationals on a vessel registered in Panama. The sailors and their 9.5-ton coke stash were arrested in Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), an island nation off the north-western edge of Africa. Read the rest

Inside El Chapo's secret tunnels

Remember when drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, escaped from prison through a tunnel below his cell that was outfitted with lighting, rails, and a motorcycle? In fact, El Chapo built his crime career on top of his tunnels, secret doors, and underground escape routes.

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Dark markets have evolved to use encrypted messengers and dead-drops

Cryptocurrencies and Tor hidden services ushered in a new golden age for markets in illegal goods, especially banned or circumscribed drugs: Bitcoin was widely (and incorrectly) viewed as intrinsically anonymous, while the marketplaces themselves were significantly safer and more reliable than traditional criminal markets, and as sellers realized real savings in losses due to law enforcement and related risks, the prices of their merchandise plummeted, while their profits soared. Read the rest

Mobile app for detecting opioid overdose

Second Chance is a smartphone app developed by University of Washington engineers to detect an opioid overdose. The researchers tested the app at a public supervised injection facility in Vancouver, Canada with encouraging results. From Science News:

Second Chance, described online January 9 in Science Translational Medicine, converts a smartphone’s speaker and microphone into a sonar system that works within about a meter of a user’s body. When the app is running, the phone continuously emits sound waves at frequencies too high to hear, which bounce off a user’s chest. Tracking when these echoes reach the phone allows the app to detect two possible signs of an impending overdose: slow breathing or no breathing at all...

For real-world use, the researchers envision the app notifying a user if it detects breathing problems and sending for help only if the user doesn’t respond to that notification, says study coauthor and computer scientist Shyam Gollakota. The scientists still need to ensure that this setup could reliably alert emergency contacts or medical personnel in time to resuscitate a person.

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Drug-sniffing doggo OD'd at EDM cruise ship checkpoint, given Narcan, will be OK

Jake the police dog was screening passengers boarding the Norwegian Epic cruise ship for the Holy Ship! EDM festival on the ocean. Jake alerted his police officer companion that he smelled something suspicious and then became visibly sick.

"(The dog) started having some problems with balance and had some type of seizure incident of some sort, was showing effects of having inhaled some substance," Tod Goodyear, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, told WFTV. "They administered the Narcan and got (the dog) to the vet as quick as they could."

They gave him Narcan as a precaution as they didn't know what caused the illness.

Meanwhile, police searched the passenger and found "a sedative and other prescription drugs, as well as an amphetamine and Ecstasy," according to WFLA.

It isn't clear what Jake ingested, when, or how. Most importantly though, Jake is expected to make a full recovery. Read the rest

El Chapo went down because his sysadmin sold him out

Here's something to remember come the next Sysadmin Appreciation Day: Mexican drug lord El Chapo was only caught because his systems administrator flipped and started working for the feds, backdooring El Chapo's comms infrastructure and providing the cops with the decryption keys needed to eavesdrop on El Chapo's operations. Read the rest

THE BUREAU: Part Nine, "Your Sandwich Speaks!" — with SBaGen-based Digital Drugs for New Year's Eve

Welcome back to The Bureau. It's the ninth installment and it looks like that sandwich you found in your pocket contains a bossy talking slice of Brain. And man, it's feeding you some gab!

Stench from marijuana farms outrages some California residents

Some communities across California are suing to ban cannabis operations in their vicinity because they claim the smell from the crops is nauseating. I mean, they don't call it skunk for nothing. From the New York Times:

As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint...

“It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house,” said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. “It doesn’t dissipate,” Ms. Guthrie said. “It’s beyond anything you would imagine.”

When cannabis odors are at their peak, she and her husband, Robert, sometimes wear respirators, the kind one might put on to handle dangerous chemicals. During Labor Day weekend, relatives came to stay at the house, but cut short their visit because they couldn’t stand the smell...

“Just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you want to live next to a pig farm,” said Lynda Hopkins, a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, whose office has been inundated with complaints about the smell...

image: Wikipedia/Cannabis Training University Read the rest

Ecstasy pill found in child's Sonic burger meal

In Taylor, Texas an 11-year-old girl helpfully unwrapped her four-year-old brother's Sonic fast food burger and found what she thought was a piece of candy inside. Fortunately, she asked her parents before popping into her mouth. They took the "candy" to the police who determined it was actually an Ecstasy pill. Insert your own "happy meal" joke here. From KXAN:

Officers took the restaurant's manager, Tanisha Dancer, into custody for a felony theft warrant from Guadalupe County. When she got to the Williamson County Jail, police said a female correctional officer searched Dancer and found three ecstasy pills hidden in her clothing...

Taylor police said they notified the Texas Department of Health, the restaurant's local owner and corporate Sonic. Police said the Sonic director of operations told them that they have now fired Dancer.

Two other employees were also arrested -- one for marijuana possession and the other for outstanding warrants.

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Code recreates Pfizer's 1956 effort to procedurally generate drug names

Procedural generation isn't just for video game landscapes and galaxies. The technique for creating vast amounts of realistic but uncannily superficial content goes back a long way. Pfizer used it to generate drug names in 1956, feeding code to an IBM mainframe and getting potential products in return.

James Ryan (@xfoml) posted excerpts from news article from the time (above), and it's fascinating to read how it's described for a mid-1950s lay audience to whom computers and their ways were utterly alien.

Based on the newspaper's description, Hugo (@hugovk) reimplemented the 60-year-old generator, and now you too can generate thousands of realistic but uncannily superficial drug names.

Some picks:

NEW DRUG NAMES

scudyl whirringom reenef entreeic suffuseeta duplexune nickelan raunchyata handbillal gammonasa pluckerel slawax

... IMPROPER FOR A FAMILY MEDICINE CHEST

loraliva crumpledol moralura burnishite smuttyevo sucklingify hagfishat cockpited moralux ballcockose shittyule cocklesex

From the full output list I like "coughedore" -- like a stevedore, but for unloading mucus.

I wonder how long it took Pfizer to realize that procgen is useless. Read the rest

Fancy apothecary-style jars to hold your peyote, hash, LSD, and shrooms

These porcelain druggist jars by Jonathan Adler are certainly conversation starters but do you really want to label your drug stash so obviously?

Expand your horizons with our Druggist Canisters. Dreamy third-eye mindscapes rendered in Delft-inspired blues and accented with real sparkly gold. High-fired porcelain elevates the experience. Stash your secrets in a single trippy vista, or cluster all four to create your own surreal apothecary.

Prices range from $228 to $298 per jar. Read the rest

Study: first drug more likely to be cannabis than nicotine or alcohol

When I was 12 years old, a kid that I thought was my friend but turned out to only be into me for my Nintendo, tempted me to try a little something that he snuck out of his mother's liquor cabinet. We ingested it! We were so drunk! We were full of shit: we'd been eating powdered pina colada mix, trying to convince each other that we were, indeed, hammered. Anyway, booze isn't the problem for young folks that it once was. More times than not, of late, the first experience that young folks'll have with mind altering substances outside of spending too long inside drawing with a Sharpie will likely be with marijuana.

From The Verge:

This trend is not because teens are smoking cannabis more than ever. Rather, the change is because teens are smoking cigarettes and drinking less while the numbers for marijuana have held steady, according to Katherine M. Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University and co-author of the new study, published this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The authors found this by analyzing 40 years of surveys from American high school seniors. For example, in 1995, three-fourths of seniors who used both marijuana and cigarettes had tried cigarettes first. By 2016, only 40 percent had tried cigarettes first. Today, less than half of teens try alcohol and cigarettes before trying cannabis. (The researchers didn’t look specifically at whether alcohol or tobacco came next.) Other studies have found that, in general, teens are doing fewer drugs than ever, except for marijuana.

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Teenagers getting high from sanitary pads

Police in Indonesian cities report that teens have been attempting to get high by boiling sanitary pads (used or new) and drinking the water. According to Adj. Sr. Comr. Suprinarto, head of the National Narcotics Agency's Central Java chapter, the chlorine in the pads is an intoxicant. Of course, ingesting chlorine is an absolutely terrible idea.

“I don’t know who started it all, but I knew it started around two years ago. There is no law against it so far. There is no law against these kids using a mixture of mosquito repellent and [cold syrup] to get drunk,” Jimy (Ginting, an "an advocate for safe drinking," told The Jakarta Post. Read the rest

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