Speed, LSD, and Ectasy
Amphetamine, also called "speed," is also extremely misunderstood. The recreational version is so closely related to so many common pharmaceuticals that this is an area of particular hypocrisy. Speed was prescribed in the 1930s for asthma and the 1950s for weight loss. Today it’s used for ADD and ADHD. I don’t necessarily approve of all this, but it is odd to think of it as a criminal act in one context and socially approved in another.
Methamphetamine is especially singled out as a devil drug, but consider this: On the streets, the drug was long produced in two chemical forms: D and L Methamphetamine. L Methamphetamine has another name – desoxyephedrine. Desoxyephedrine was for years the active ingredient in Vicks Inhaler. The molecule L-Methamphetamine was illegal – a schedule I drug – but the FDA looked the other way as it was marketed far and wide for people with the common cold.
LSD and Hallucinogens
After Albert Hoffman discovered LSD in the 1930s and, as a scientist in neutral Switzerland, experimented with the substance in the midst of world war, the drug became a key ingredient in biopsychiatry. There is no big risk of overdose, withdrawal or addiction, and the most abusive uses of the substance were probably when the CIA was giving it to unsuspecting subjects as part of the agency’s MK Ultra program.
Dozens of studies have shown the use of LSD to deal with alcoholism, death anxiety and the like. Thousands of patients used it effectively for psychological treatment in the 1950s and 1960s, before it was made totally illegal.
In the 1960s, LSD was accused of causing chromosome damage, a claim debunked in 1971. Other myths include the idea that LSD is typically contaminated with strychnine, speed or PCP, that it causes blindness, birth defects and insanity. Unfortunately, those who possess LSD and punished not by the weight of the substance, but by the weight of the carrier – which is why some people who have been caught with just a few doses of it are now rotting in prison for the rest of their lives. We wouldn’t want them to have a bad trip, after all.
In the late 1990s, ecstasy was the new drug scourge, the new great threat to America’s youth. When did this stuff come about? It was actually first used about a century ago, and only its illegality has made it such a taboo recreational choice.
Ecstasy can cause oxidative serotonin axon damage and it can lead to dehydration in careless dancers and its long-term effects are not completely understood. If scientists were allowed to more freely research it and all drugs, we would know much more.
Much of what’s available on the street is not even really MDMA, or it is cut with DXM – a legally available hallucinogen you can find in cough syrup – although that is, of course, a result of the drug war. But I remember about a decade ago a photograph of a brain supposedly destroyed entirely by ecstasy use. In fact, it was an artist’s fabrication.
For years, ecstasy was used to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, marital counseling, and other psychological therapies. These were made illegal when MDMA was banned. However, in 2005 the Food and Drug Administration allowed for MDMA experimental trials for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to help them deal with flashbacks and reoccurring nightmares. This was its original common use, and yet, whereas some soldiers are apparently allowed access to the treatment, for the rest of us it’s still an excuse to violate the Bill of Rights.