drugs

Disorderly houses. Lord knows where they are gone.

55.jpg

The war against cocaine rests on a simple idea: If you restrict its supply, you force up its price, and fewer people will buy it. Andean governments have thus deployed their armies to uproot the coca bushes that provide cocaine’s raw ingredient. Each year, they eradicate coca plants covering an area 14 times the size of Manhattan, depriving the cartels of about half their harvest. But despite the slashing and burning, the price of cocaine in the U.S. has hardly budged, bobbing between $150 and $200 per pure gram for most of the past 20 years. How have the cartels done it?

In part, with a tactic that resembles Wal-Mart’s. The world’s biggest retailer has sometimes seemed similarly immune to the laws of supply and demand, keeping prices low regardless of shortages and surpluses. Wal-Mart’s critics say that it can do this in some markets because its vast size makes it a “monopsony,” or a monopoly buyer. Just as a monopolist can dictate prices to its consumers, who have no one else to buy from, a monopsonist can dictate prices to its suppliers, who have no one else to sell to. If a harvest fails, the argument goes, the cost is borne by the farmers, not Wal-Mart or its customers. […]

The raw leaf needed to make one kilogram of cocaine powder costs about $400 in Colombia; in the U.S., that kilogram retails for around $150,000, once divided into one-gram portions. So even if governments doubled the price of coca leaf, from $400 to $800, cocaine’s retail price would at most rise from $150,000 to $150,400 per kilogram. The price of a $150 gram would go up by 40 cents—not much of a return on the billions invested in destroying crops. Consider trying to raise the price of art by driving up the cost of paint. […]

A dollar spent on drug education in U.S. schools cuts cocaine consumption by twice as much as spending that dollar on reducing supply in South America; spending it on treatment for addicts reduces it by 10 times as much.

{ Wall Street Journal | Continue reading }

photo { Robert Frank, Bar, New York City, 1955-56 }

(The freckled face of Sweny, the druggist, appeals in the disc of the soapsun.)

38.jpg

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States, and use during adolescence — when the brain is still developing — has been proposed as a cause of poorer neurocognitive outcome. Nonetheless, research on this topic is scarce and often shows conflicting results, with some studies showing detrimental effects of marijuana use on cognitive functioning and others showing no significant long-term effects.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the associations of marijuana use with changes in intellectual performance in two longitudinal studies of adolescent twins (n = 789 and n = 2,277). We used a quasiexperimental approach to adjust for participants’ family background characteristics and genetic propensities, helping us to assess the causal nature of any potential associations. Standardized measures of intelligence were administered at ages 9–12 y, before marijuana involvement, and again at ages 17–20 y. Marijuana use was self-reported at the time of each cognitive assessment as well as during the intervening period.

Marijuana users had lower test scores relative to nonusers and showed a significant decline in crystallized intelligence between preadolescence and late adolescence. However, there was no evidence of a dose–response relationship between frequency of use and intelligence quotient (IQ) change. Furthermore, marijuana-using twins failed to show significantly greater IQ decline relative to their abstinent siblings.

Evidence from these two samples suggests that observed declines in measured IQ may not be a direct result of marijuana exposure but rather attributable to familial factors that underlie both marijuana initiation and low intellectual attainment.

{ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences }

photo { Julia Margaret Cameron, Paul and Virginia, 1864 }

Orpheus with his lute made trees

31.jpg

News of the successful use of ether anesthesia on October 16, 1846, spread rapidly through the world. […] Incredibly, this option was not accepted by all, and opposition to the use of anesthesia persisted among some sections of society decades after its introduction.

We examine the social and medical factors underlying this resistance. […] Complications of anesthesia, including death, were reported in the press, and many avoided anesthesia to minimize the considerable risk associated with surgery. Modesty prevented female patients from seeking unconsciousness during surgery, where many men would be present. Biblical passages stating that women would bear children in pain were used to discourage them from seeking analgesia during labor. […] In certain geographical areas, notably Philadelphia, physicians resisted this Boston-based medical advance, citing unprofessional behavior and profit seeking.

{ Journal of Anesthesia History | Continue reading }

photo { Peter Martin, Greenwich Village Nudes, Figure #1, 1951 }

My name’s Elvira but you can call me tonight

44.jpg

State-of-the-art forensic technology from South Africa has been used to try and unravel the mystery of what was smoked in tobacco pipes found in the Stratford-upon-Avon garden of William Shakespeare.

Residue from clay tobacco pipes more than 400 years old from the playwright’s garden were analysed. […] Results of this study (including 24 pipe fragments) indicated cannabis in eight samples, nicotine in at least one sample, and in two samples definite evidence for Peruvian cocaine from coca leaves.

{ The Independent | Continue reading }

photos { 1 | John K. }

Thursday: not a good day either for a mutton kidney at Buckley’s.

1.jpg

Healthy people who were given the serotonin-boosting antidepressant citalopram were willing to pay twice as much to prevent harm to themselves or others, compared to those given a placebo. By contrast, those who were given a dose of the dopamine-enhancing Parkinson’s drug levodopa made more selfish decisions, overcoming an existing tendency to prefer harming themselves over others.

{ IB Times | Continue reading }

‘We should not be upset that others hide the truth from us, when we hide it so often from ourselves.’ –La Rochefoucauld

32.jpg

Many people spontaneously use the word (or sound) “Um” in conversation, a phenomenon which has prompted a considerable volume of academic attention. A question arises though, can someone be induced to say “Um” by chemical means – say with the use of a powerful anaesthetic? Like, for example Ketamine? […]

[V]olunteers who were given “low doses” and “high doses” of Ketamine tended to use the words “um” and “uh” significantly more than those who received a placebo only.

{ Improbable | Continue reading }

‘You could die, but the desert would hide the secret of your death, it would remain after you, to cover your memory with ageless wind and heat and cold.’ –John Fante

21.jpg

Four drug deaths last month in Britain have been blamed on so-called “Superman” pills being sold as Ecstasy, but actually containing PMMA, a synthetic stimulant drug with some MDMA-like effects that has been implicated in a number of deaths and hospitalizations in Europe and the U.S. The “fake Ecstasy” was also under suspicion in the September deaths of six people in Florida and another three in Chicago. An additional six deaths in Ireland have also been linked to the drug.

PMMA, or paramethoxymethamphetamine, causes dangerous increases in body temperature and blood pressure, is toxic at lower doses than Ecstasy, and requires up to two hours in order to take effect. […]

The Spice products—synthetic cannabinoids—are still the most common of the novel synthetic drugs. Hundreds of variants are now on the market. Science magazine recently reported on a UK study in which researchers discovered more than a dozen previously unknown psychoactive substances by conducting urine samples on portable toilets in Greater London.

{ Addiction Inbox | Continue reading }

photo { Todd Papageorge, Studio 54, 1978–80 }

‘I feel like I totally understand gothic architecture in all of its brilliance’ —deanna havas

The Random Darknet Shopper is an automated online shopping bot which we provide with a budget of $100 in Bitcoins per week. Once a week the bot goes on shopping spree in the deep web where it randomly choses and purchases one item and has it mailed to us.

34.jpg

65.jpg

One by one they were all becoming shades

4.jpg

We will review evidence from neuroscience, complex network research and evolution theory and demonstrate that — at least in terms of psychopharmacological intervention — on the basis of our understanding of brain function it seems inconceivable that there ever will be a drug that has the desired effect without undesirable side effects.

{ Neuroethics | Continue reading }

photo { Hannes Caspar }

‘Experience by itself is not science.’ –Husserl

236.jpg

Just as we can design and install digital apps in our electronic devices, we can design and install mindapps in our minds. For philosophy the big-problem is the hegemonic assumption that all good thinking takes place in our ordinary, default mindbody state—wakefulness. Because of this error, the vast extensions of our minds beyond our default state are neglected, and directions for future mind development are stunted, if not outright denied. Multistate theory releases that constriction. By reformulating our minds as variables for experimental philosophy, multistate theory re-asks philosophical questions, extends current issues, and engenders fun speculations. Because psychedelics are the most dramatic example of widely known mindbody psychotechnologies, we will illustrate multistate theory with psychedelics’ contributions

{ Thomas B. Roberts | Continue reading }

‘A pair of powerful spectacles has sometimes sufficed to cure a person in love.’ –Nietzsche

2321.jpg

The brain systems that modulate “that loving feeling” are only just beginning to be understood, but neuroscience research is pointing more and more to the idea that the sensation of love relies on the same brain circuitry that goes awry in addiction. Love is a drug, basically — because only a drive as strong as an addiction could keep couples together through the stresses of parenting and keep parents tied to their kids.

Research has found, for example, that people in love are similar to those suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder — not only in terms of their obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior, but also the low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in their blood. So in a sense, love may be a special case of addiction

“The bottom line is that a lot of data on people rejected in love show that the major pathways linked with addiction become activated,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University. If love is a drug, however, love’s chemistry can be chemically manipulated — those who are in love but don’t want to be could potentially take a pill that simply makes the formerly loved one seem no more special than a stranger.

{ NY mag | Continue reading }

“Love hurts”—as the saying goes—and a certain amount of pain and difficulty in intimate relationships is unavoidable. Sometimes it may even be beneficial, since adversity can lead to personal growth, self-discovery, and a range of other components of a life well-lived.

But other times, love can be downright dangerous. It may bind a spouse to her domestic abuser, draw an unscrupulous adult toward sexual involvement with a child, put someone under the insidious spell of a cult leader, and even inspire jealousy-fueled homicide. […]

Modern neuroscience and emerging developments in psychopharmacology open up a range of possible interventions that might actually work. These developments raise profound moral questions about the potential uses—and misuses—of such anti-love biotechnology. In this article, we describe a number of prospective love-diminishing interventions, and offer a preliminary ethical framework for dealing with them responsibly should they arise.

{ Taylor Francis Online | Continue reading }

‘Instead of committing suicide, people go to work.’ –Thomas Bernhard

123.jpg

Ketamine, a chemical used as an anaesthetic for horses and as an illegal party drug, can produce “remarkable changes” in severely depressed patients who are not helped by existing treatments, according to a new study.

Oxford university researchers reported encouraging results from a clinical trial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Some patients who had been severely depressed for years, despite multiple antidepressants and talking therapies, responded rapidly to intravenous infusions of ketamine.

[…]

The Oxford team has given more than 400 ketamine infusions to 45 patients and is now looking for ways to sustain the initial benefits, which faded in most of the patients.

Although ketamine is a banned substance – and about to be upgraded by the Home Office from Class C to Class B – the Oxford patients did not show the ill effects, such as bladder problems and memory loss, which make it a dangerous drug of abuse.

The doses used to treat depression are much lower than some people take illegally. Even so, most patients experienced a shortlived “dissociative” effect, with feelings that they were disconnecting from their body, as the drug was being infused. It did not produce euphoric feelings.

{ FT | Continue reading }