Monthly Archives: July 2013

Are drug users a dying breed?

NB. I will focus this post on drug use by 16-24 year olds. Drug use among 16-59 year olds is declining but much more slowly.

The UK government released the latest British Crime Survey results for England and Wales today and with it comes a wealth of information about drug use. The data is collected from about 10,000 random participants and includes information about drug use in the last year and across one’s lifetime.

In keeping with the previous ten years there is a continuing downward trend of drug use in the last year which is actually pretty significant. For example, “ecstasy” use by people aged 16-24 has declined 50% in the last ten years, from 6% of the population in 2003 to less than 3% of people having used it in 2013.

Ecstasy use among adults aged 16-24 in the last year

Ecstasy use among adults aged 16-24 in the last year

Given that this is a properly conducted survey it’s hard to argue with a ten year trend, but what is going on here? Can it be that drugs are going out of fashion? Is the drug war working? Are young people more concerned about their health than they used to be?

All entirely possible, but what if the results are actually indicative of a flawed survey? Though technically correct, what if the survey is actually failing to really find out about drug use?

It’s no secret that the governement is woefully unable to respond to changes in the drug market and the BCS is no different. This year’s survey includes two “novel” substances but salvia and nitrous are far from novel. In fact they are two of the oldest legal highs available and measuring their use tells us almost nothing about real NPS use.

So could NPS use be accountable for the steady downward trend? Clearly the reports of ever increasing NPS numbers shows that they are snowballing popularity but the BCS makes no mention of anything other than mephedrone, which was banned in 2010.

To me it still looks like a no for three reasons:

  1. The decline has been steady over the last ten years but the NPS industry has absolutely boomed since 2009. The emergence and subsequent scheduling of mephedrone does not appear to have even made a dent in the stimulant statistics, with amphetamine and cocaine use actually increasing in 2009/10.
  2. Data from the global drug survey suggests that Mephedrone use has been steadily declining since its ban too, though it does appear that availability has dropped.
  3. It’s not just stimulant and cannabinoid use that’s falling – despite a relatively small number of novel opioids on the market heroin use has dropped by a solid 80%, though reported opiate use has admittedly fluctuated seemingly due to methadone use.

This doesn’t excuse the government from making a half-arsed attempt at collecting good data but it is fascinating to see that drug use really does seem to be on a steady downward trend. Perhaps it really is just going out of fashion. There is certainly no obvious nationwide trend I’ve noticed over the entirety of the last 10 years, and with the increasing popularity of festivals I would certainly be expecting the opposite trend. If you have any suggestions at all, please leave a comment.

What will this mean for drug users though? Will enforcement budgets be decreased accordingly? Or will there be a final push to try and eradicate drug use once and for all?

References

Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2012 to 2013 Crime Survey for England and Wales

Mixmag Global Drug Survey 2010 2011 2012

Lysergic Acid Dimethylazetidide (LSZ)

Introduction:

The lysergamides are perhaps the most famous of the synthetic psychedelic drugs, with LSD being the gold standard of the class. Though potent and legal analogues have been known for decades, the complexity of the synthesis seems to have ensured that only a minuscule number of humans have been able to sample them.

LSZ was originally investigated as a “constrained conformation” analogue of LSD, where the diethylamide moiety has been locked into the active conformation for binding to receptors. In vitro assays indicated it was more potent than LSD itself, one of a tiny fraction of compounds able to make this claim. While this does not appear to hold up in humans, LSZ is still a highly potent psychedelic which is strongly reminiscent of LSD.

Chemical structure of LSZ

(8β)-8-{[(2S,4S)-2,4-Dimethylazetidin-1-yl]carbonyl}-6-methyl-9,10-didehydroergoline

Its similar qualities may allow it to be passed off as LSD but it is likely that it has a similar safety profile and the “limited edition” nature of the compound makes it unlikely that most would bother to sell it as anything other than LSZ. It is certainly the rarest compound I’ve had the pleasure of sampling which is great but means that there is barely any existing information about the compound available.

Dosage: 150-300ug orally (swallowed)

Duration: 7-9 hours

Description: A classic psychedelic unsurprisingly reminiscent of its popular analogue.

Notes:

I was fortunate enough to see the analytical data for the compound and have every confidence that it is indeed LSZ. The blotters were officially laid with the structure on one side and “LSZ” on the other. They were completely tasteless.

The trip was very pleasant without too much in the way of challenging thoughts. It did seem to become a little more introspective towards the latter half but this was not unwelcome. The ease in keeping composure around the public, on the phone and even with people who were somewhat anti-drug is indicative of the relatively low intensity of the experience and as a fairly experienced tripper I would certainly go for 200ug next time, especially with a better setting.

The trip was comparable to 13 mg 2C-E, 700ug 25I NBOMe (nasal), or about 1.3 “hits” of LSD. The subjective effects were certainly most reminiscent of LSD and I’d wholeheartedly recommend LSZ to anyone interested in trying a shorter, more consistently dosed or less legally risky version of LSD. There was some stomach discomfort that I didn’t get on LSD but this would not put me off.

I would say the comeup was approx 45-60 mins to the first real alert, 3h to peak and the total duration perhaps 8h plus afterglow. With a higher dose it may reveal itself to be longer and come up a little faster as there were points at the beginning and end where I could not have said whether the subtle effects were a result of the LSZ or just placebo/afterglow.

Trip Report:

I had been keen to try LSZ for a while so managed to make time for it on a sunny day one weekend. Since there was little information available I was content with a relatively low dose (150ug), as much to understand the drug as to simply enjoy the experience. My girlfriend and I had her flat to ourselves until much later in the day and were mentally as well prepared as we might hope to have been. She took AL-LAD because she did not like the idea of taking such a novel substance.

We dosed late in the morning as I needed to catch a train that evening and within about 45 minutes I felt the first real alerts. After 1h15 I was unmistakeably hit by the experience and a sudden craving for some good music. I was sad to find her subwoofer was still broken and cursed myself for having left all my trip toys at my house but remained quite content to listen to music through the speakers she had. I did not find the music appreciation was as enhanced as with LSD itself but this may have been a function of the low dose.

Around the 2h mark I developed a mild stomach discomfort and ate a sandwich to fill myself and attempt to settle this. Though not really hungry I did enjoy the meal and the discomfort subsided in the following hour while we slowly gathered ourselves to find a nice spot in some fields a short walk away. I spoke to my girlfriend’s sister on the phone as my girlfriend did not want to and managed to to so with no problem at all. She did not suspect I was tripping until I said so towards the end of the conversation. We left the flat and walked down the high street, perfectly able to engage ourselves in normal conversation to keep from laughing.

We arrived at the fields to find they were boarded off to be developed into housing. Somewhat disappointed we walked a short way to an isolated churchyard and settled there. We stayed for about 4 hours chatting, listening to music and generally mucking about and having fun in the bright sun. The visual effects were pretty mild but textures were distorted as ever and it was occasionally possible to see fractal patterns in the grass or the sun coming through the trees.

Approximately 6.5 hours after dosing we returned to the flat where both my girlfriend’s sisters were. They were considerate of our fragile mental state but when their much more anti-drug boyfriends arrived to take them both out to dinner I was able to converse quite easily. After they left (t+7.5h) my girlfriend and I went to a nearby shop and bumped into some friends I’d rather not have. The experience was awkward and quietly played on my mind for the rest of the evening.

After eating the microwave meals we’d bought I felt nothing that couldn’t be put down to afterglow and easily got my train at t+11.5h. I slept fine a few hours later, though having gotten to bed late I was a little tired and irritable the next day.