Joint pain. Poor digestion. Hair loss. Erectile dysfunction. No libido. These are just a few of the lasting symptoms experienced by Kim Dong-hyeon, a bodybuilder in South Korea, after using over $3,000 of black-market steroids per month for many years. In this video he tells an Asian Boss reporter that he injected himself with steroids 20 times a day and that 98% of bodybuilders in South Korea take steroids. Read the rest
More than 2,500 years ago in western China, people in mourning gathered at a cemetery for a ritual that involved getting high from cannabis plants burning in wooden pots. It's likely that they were trying to communicate with spirits. From Science News:
Evidence of this practice comes from Jirzankal Cemetery in Central Asia’s Pamir Mountains, says a team led by archaeologist Yimin Yang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Chemical residues on wooden burners unearthed in tombs there provide some of the oldest evidence to date of smoking or inhaling cannabis fumes, the researchers report online June 12 in Science Advances....
East Asians grew cannabis starting at least 6,000 years ago, but only to consume the plants’ oily seeds and make clothing and rope out of cannabis fibers. Early cultivated cannabis varieties in East Asia and elsewhere, like most wild forms of the plant, contained low levels of THC and other mind-altering compounds.
Yang’s team identified a chemical signature of cannabis on charred plant material from 10 wooden burners, or braziers, found in eight Jirzankal tombs. Chemical signs of an unusually high level of THC were found inside nine braziers and on two stones that had been heated and used to burn plants in the braziers.
image: Xinhua Wu
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Oakland, California is now the second city in the United States, following Denver last month, to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms. Oakland City Council unanimously passed the resolution on Tuesday. From NPR:
Oakland's resolution is broader than Denver's. Denver's initiative decriminalized the use and possession of mushrooms containing the compound psilocybin, whereas Oakland's refers to "entheogenic plants" in general, which includes the mushrooms and other plants and fungi containing psychoactive substances.
The resolution says city money will not be used "to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties for the use and possession of Entheogenic Plants by adults." It says that investigating people for growing, buying, distributing or possessing the substances "shall be amongst the lowest law enforcement priority for the City of Oakland...."
(The substances') possible therapeutic effects were highlighted in an agenda report filed to City Council by the resolution's sponsor, Council member Noel Gallo.
"For millennia, cultures have respected entheogenic plants and fungi for providing healing, knowledge, creativity, and spiritual connection," the report states, saying that these plants may be beneficial for conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety and PTSD. "This initiative aims to empower the Oakland community by restoring their relationship to nature."
These substances are currently not legal under federal and state law.
"Oakland City Council Effectively Decriminalizes Psychedelic Mushrooms" (NPR)
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Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis component that doesn't get you high but seems to have countless other benefits, has now been shown to reduce heroin cravings and the anxiety that's triggered when jonesing for the opioid. Researchers at the Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ran a randomized, controlled, double-blind study with several dozen addicts who have been abstaining from use. From their scientific paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry:
Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue–induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.
And from Scientific American:
The anxiety reduction isn’t specific to opioid-related cues and could generalize to other situations, says neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd, first author on the study and director of the Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It’s just that this particular anxiety leads someone to take a drug that can cause them death, and anything we can do to decrease that means increasing the precious chance of preventing relapse and saving their lives.”
image: "Ball-and-stick model of the cannabidiol molecule." X-ray diffraction data from P. G. Jones, L. Falvello, O. Kennard, G. M. Sheldrick and R. Read the rest
After police have proven unable to dissuade drug dealers from congregating in Berlin's Görlitzer Park, the manager of the park spray painted pink lines around designated areas for them to hang out and hawk their wares. The hope is that the dealers will no longer intimidate visitors throughout the park. From The Guardian:
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“This method has purely practical reasoning behind it,” (park manager Cengiz) Demirci told local radio station RBB. “It’s not that we’re legalising the selling of drugs.”
Demirci said a much more effective solution would be if authorities gave the dealers work permits. The majority of them are asylum seekers who are not allowed to work while waiting for their claims to be processed. He added: “If they did that then 90% of them would stop what they’re doing immediately.”
Police chiefs criticised the move. “What is needed to ensure that the park is drug and crime free, is a constant police presence and judicial resolve,” Benjamin Jendro from the Berlin branch of the police trade union GdP told Bild...
The sharpest remarks came from Germany’s national anti-drugs tsar, Marlene Mortler, of the conservative Christian Social Union, who told the Funke Mediengruppe: “If this is true then it marks the capitulation of our constitutional state. We should not be issuing the dealers with a licence to deal.”
In a Bolivian rock shelter likely used 1,000 years ago for religious rituals, archaeologists found a collection of drug paraphernalia that still contains traces of psychoactive plants. A pouch made from three fox snouts likely contained a stash of leaves and seeds. From New Scientist
(The items) include a 28-centimetre-long leather bag, a pair of wooden snuffing tablets, a snuffing tube, a pair of llama-bone spatulas, a textile headband, fragments of dried plant stems and a pouch made from three fox snouts stitched together. The snuffing tube and tablets feature ornate carvings of human-like figures.
Melanie Miller at the University of Otago, New Zealand, and her colleagues used mass spectrometry to analyse samples from the pouch and plant stems. They detected five psychoactive compounds: cocaine, benzoylecgonine (BZE), bufotenine, harmine and dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
The presence of these drugs suggests the pouch may have belonged to a ritual specialist or shaman with extensive knowledge of plants and their psychoactive properties, and used to hold leaves, seeds and other plant matter.
More in the scientific paper: "Chemical evidence for the use of multiple psychotropic plants in a 1,000-year-old ritual bundle from South America" (PNAS)
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Is it LSD o'clock yet? This far out Timothy Leary wristwatch from 1970 is up for auction on eBay. In more than 20 years of looking at Leary memorabilia on eBay, this is only the third time I've seen one of these. I bought the first that came up for myself and only wear it at, er, the right times.
The starting bid is $600, which is hundreds of dollars more than the selling price of previous examples. Read the rest
Tatsunori Iwamura, 61, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Japan's Matsuyama University, was busted for teaching his students how to make MDMA (aka Molly/Ecstasy) and 5F-QUPIC, a cannabinoid agonist. At some point, Iwamura had a license to manufacture illegal drugs for academic purposes but it had expired. From The Guardian:
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Local drug enforcement authorities believe 11 students produced the drug (MDMA) under Iwamura’s instruction. Four students, along with an assistant professor, have also been referred to prosecutors, Kyodo said.
The university said it would discipline Iwamura and the assistant professor once the investigation had ended.
“We sincerely apologise for causing serious concern to students and their parents,” said Tatsuya Mizogami, the university’s president, according to Kyodo.
On April 20 (4/20, duh), Carl's Jr. will sell a cannabidiol (CBD)-infused burger at one of their Denver, Colorado locations. It's called the Rocky Mountain High: CheeseBurger Delight. Of course, CBD actually doesn't get you high but can provide other benefits as an analgesic, to reduce inflammation, alleviate anxiety, etc. Anyway, the fast food chain insists this isn't a publicity stunt but the beginning of an actual market test. From CNN:
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"It is something that feels right for the brand," (Carl's Jr. senior vice president of brand marketing Patty Trevino) told CNN Business. "We are all about innovation..."
The chain first decided to explore CBD in January, after introducing a product based on another trend. Earlier this year, the chain announced a plant-based alternative to its signature burger in partnership with Beyond Meat.
"I was sitting down with our head chef Owen Klein, and we were talking about trends," Trevino said. After the Beyond Meat launch, they came up with a wish list that included a CBD product. "We looked at ourselves and said, you know what, let's try."
Starting small, in a market where cannabis regulation is "really strong," will allow Carl's Jr. to figure out how to move forward. Testing CBD could give the company an edge over competitors, because most of its locations are in Western states, where recreational cannabis is legal.
British Columbia -- ground zero for the opioid epidemic in Canada and long a principal point of ingress for heroin -- pioneered the harm-reduction approach with the world's first safe injection sites; now addiction researcher and MD Mark Tyndall wants to go further and end accidental overdoses from fentanyl and other additives by giving registered addicts access to an armored, biometrically controlled "opioid vending machine" that dispenses prescribed amounts of hydromorphone pills without subjecting addicts -- whose lives are often chaotic due to homelessness and the need to steal or prostitute themselves to avoid dope-sickness -- to a bureaucratic process at a pharmacy or clinic.
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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.
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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:
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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.
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:
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"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."
Good luck escaping from this one.
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
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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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.
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