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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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Dr. Lapoint says that salvia isn’t the demon drug it was once portrayed as, although, “We don’t see a lot of salvia cases in Poison Control. Maybe it’s an issue of misdiagnosis—if someone comes into the ER hallucinating, often the doctors will just assume they’re on PCP. If you get sick and it’s a stimulant, they will assume it’s coke. New York is classically a heroin or cocaine town and I think we miss a lot of these new drugs because of that old-school mentality.” Still, Lapoint says that salvia’s short-acting nature makes it way less dangerous than some of the other substances on this list. 

9. Methoxetamine (Mexxy)

A chemical analogue of ketamine and PCP, it is, like them, classified as a dissociative anesthetic type of hallucinogen.  Methoxetamine has been sold since 2010 and found massive popularity on the European club scene.  Mixmag says the drug is sometimes called “rolfcoptor,” as well as its street name “Mexxy.” Sold as pellets or a powder that is usually snorted (though sometimes IV’d), user reports tend to emphasize that this is not a drug to be taken lightly: “ Overall the trip was enjoyable, there were a few parts which could easily have been scary such as thinking I was going to die but they passed rather quickly.” A number of people have reported that the drug creates an urge to compulsively take more, leading to some terrifying overdoses: “I began having severe stomach upsets, with alternating diarrhea and vomiting. The diarrhea looked strange and red, as if there was blood in it, as did the vomiting.  I was overcome with the idea that this night would be my last.”

Dr. Lapoint notes that methoxetamine use is still in its infancy in the US. But the story of how methoxetamine came to be a drug of abuse is indicative of the futility of lawmakers’ current approach. “It’s a shell game between those who create these substances and those who seek to ban them,” he says. “Tweak the formula and you have a brand-new substance with users completely unaware of how they will react to it and what the long-term effects are.” In the case of methoxetamine, the process of chemical substitution has created a legal high that some have compared to high-dose DXM (the active ingredient in many over-the-counter cough medicines). 

10. Kratom

The kratom plant ( Mitragyna speciosa) has long been used as a stimulant and painkiller and remains legal in many countries, including the US. First favored by laborers in Thailand, who have chewed its leaves for centuries, it has recently become more widely available via the Internet. It is most often sold as a powder. Users make tea from it, or it is “tossed and washed”—a teaspoonful of the (reportedly) foul-tasting substance is placed on the tongue and washed back with water. Fans describe kratom as a benign herb that mimics the effects of low-dose opiates without the risk of addiction. Some posters in the thriving online community of  kratom advocates describe kicking debilitating painkiller habits by using kratom as a tapering agent.

Kratom has the “most hopeful” prospects for medical use, Dr. Lapoint says. It mostly hits the  kappa-opiod receptors, like traditional opiates. But unlike them, kratom doesn’t cause respiratory depression. So in theory a painkilling drug could be derived from kratom that has all of the positive effects of, say, codeine, but no risk of overdose. “I think kratom has tremendous potential as a tool to treat the epidemic of opiate addiction in the US,” says Lapoint.When taken orally, kratom causes a mild euphoria effect, along with a mild stimulant effect often likened to a cup of espresso. But kratom’s mildness hasn’t stopped it from being lumped in with more dangerous drugs.

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