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10 of the Most Lied About Drugs

The hysteria over drugs like Spice, bath salts and kratom is drowning out the facts.

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4: O-Desmethyltramadol

Given the backlash against doctors over-prescribing painkillers, a legal compound mimicking the effects of opioids might be widely seen as a Holy Grail. O-Desmethyltramadol is the active metabolite of  tramadol—a prescription analgesic painkiller that is weaker and typically less prone to abuse than the likes of oxycodone. Recreational users are beginning to share their experiences  via specialist websites. Some are enthusiastic, while one writes, “It definitely feels like an opioid, but it is very much lacking in that classic opioid euphoria that we all use for.”

I can relate. As a one-time aficionado of opiates, when I was prescribed tramadol I found it a deeply unpleasant experience.Sold as a powder that can be snorted or swallowed, many users report the effects of O-Desmethyltramadol as being on a par with buprenorphine or tramadol. And there, says Lapoint, lies the rub: “Some people love the novel psychoactive effects of tramadol. Theoretically, while Tramadol is an opioid agonist that hits the same receptors as other narcotic painkillers, it also works on the  serotonin neurotransmitter—the target of many anti-depressants. Many people find it causes dysphoria—feelings of emotional or mental discomfort.

A tramadol-derived drug also raises an interesting “what if” about unregulated legal derivatives of narcotic painkillers. So far Lapoint hasn’t seen it widely used. “Of course,” he says, “even if they wind up in the ER, finding if someone has used this particular substance versus other opiates will be a game of CSI.”

5. 2C-P

2C-P is a synthetic psychedelic and a close chemical cousin of  2C-B, which briefly thrived on the US club scene until it was outlawed in 2001. Users report that 2C-P—which itself was made illegal in the US last year—causes stronger visual hallucinations and  way longer effects: “ at least 16 hours of very good visually and mentally tripping,” writes one. As with all psychedelics, the quality of the trip depends a lot on the psychological state of the user. While some praise 2C-P’s “ interesting, powerful and enlightening” effects, others find the experience “ somewhat disturbing. I wish I had never thought of some of the things I thought of during that long, sleepless night.”

“If you look at  Alexander Shulgin’s book  PIHKAL[Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved], he gives you a cookbook and a user report on every one of these compounds,” Dr. Lapoint says. “While Shulgin really loved the effect of 2C-P, ever since this compound found its way to the gray market, there have been horrible cases—a recent incident in Minnesota, for example, where people may have actually gotten Bromo Dragonfly.”  One teen died and ten others were hospitalized.2C-P is a  phenethylamine, a class of chemicals that release high amounts of dopamine and/or serotonin. 2C-P is classified as an amphetamine because it mainly targets dopamine—the brain chemical responsible for stimulant reactions. But it also targets serotonin—the brain chemical behind hallucinogenic effects. In fact, 2C-P’s hallucinogenic effects are more powerful than its stimulant ones.

As with most of these drugs, you rarely know what you’re really ingesting. “If you are Alexander Shulgin and make it yourself, that’s one thing,” says Lapoint. “As far as buying it from some anonymous vendor? That’s always sketchy.”

6. Mephedrone (Bath Salts)

Similar in structure to methamphetamine but tweaked slightly to bypass the law and produce a more hallucinogenic effect, mephedrone—actually a derivative of the  Somali drug khat—first found cult popularity in clubs around the world as a cheap, legal upper. It attracted little attention when it first spread to the US. Then in 2012 a Florida man called Rudy Eugene committed  one of the most infamous acts of cannibalism since the Donner Party, and a new media menace was born: Bath Salts. By the time Eugene’s autopsy found only marijuana in his system it was too late: Bath Salts had been irreversibly linked to outlandish insanity and violence.

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