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New psychoactive substances make Erowid drug information essential

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The chemical structure of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy and Molly The chemical structure of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy and Molly Erowid.org graphic

The recreational drug scene has changed immensely in the last decade, with hundreds of new psychoactive substances (NPS) being introduced in the last 10 years. They’re commonly known as “designer drugs” and some can be herbal substances referred to as “legal highs.” A lot of these substances are legal because they’re just being discovered and researched, and it takes time to pass legislation outlawing them.

Dahlia Wachs, MD, FAAFP, of The Dr. Dahlia Show, says people are gravitating to harder drugs that are more likely to be cut with new psychoactive substances because tolerances have increased so much.

“What’s happening is drugs aren’t strong enough anymore … people are trying to gravitate to heavier and heavier things to get high,” she said. That’s why heroin is so crazy right now.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issues a quarterly report identifying drugs that are emerging threats to public health and safety, but drug dealers are having no problem finding a market for these new drugs because drug users often don’t know they’re consuming them.

A new study by New York University shows an increase in the use of new psychoactive substances. Over a quarter of 80 hair samples provided by people frequenting New York City music festivals and nightclubs tested positive for new psychoactive substances. The most common substance was butylone, and other new drugs detected were methylone and methoxetamine.

The drug most commonly mixed with new psychoactive substances is ecstasy, or MDMA. Since being marketed as Molly, the use of ecstasy has exploded at music festivals and nightclubs, but MDMA users are rarely getting MDMA. A similar NYU study showed 40 percent of music festival and nightclub goers tested positive for “bath salts” despite reporting no intentional use.

Wachs said drug education at an early age is one way to assure children are aware of new psychoactive substances’ effects. She recommended showing images of people under the influence of “bath salts” so children would be less likely to consume a drug that could have easily been cut with new psychoactive substances.  She also thought children should know that people who die from drug use aren’t always drug users.

“We’ve got to start in grade school and high school … There has to be some really good campaigning that somebody could put something in your drink … like you never take a drink from someone,” she said. “You buy your own drink. I have two teenagers, and I tell them to never take a drink from anyone.”

Regardless of legality, these substances will continue to be created and consumed, which makes the work of Erowid even more important. The Erowid database provides information on psychoactive substances from alcohol to tobacco and even Bufo toads. That’s right, psychoactive toad venom. The point of the website is to provide information so drug users can consume drugs safely, and with the rise in NPS creation and consumption, drug users knowing what they’re potentially putting in their bodies is more valuable than ever.

Erowid provides information that helps drug users identify drugs and avoid an overdose, including what not to mix and a proper dosage given your size and sex. It gives you a rundown of what you can expect from your trip, when it will kick in, when it will be most intense and when it will likely end. The legality of the drug is broken down by individual countries, and there’s chemical information for you drug geeks out there. You can even get a “Drug Geek” t-shirt for donating $45 to fund the purchase of their new, private server, which protects you, the user.

Whether you are a drug user or not, the availability of this information is healthy and essential. Drug users won’t be stopped, so at least allow them to be informed.

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