Posts Tagged ‘LSD’

Bath Salts and Face-Eating Zombies: Another Tale of the Media’s Drug Ignorance


The “Miami Zombie” or “Miami Cannibal” was the perfect headline to go viral, as it shocked people around the world. For those of you who somehow avoided the media blitz, a naked homeless man was shot and killed by Miami police after he was caught literally chewing off the face of another homeless man on a sidewalk near the MacArthur Causeway. The poor man’s face was unrecognizable by the time he was sent off to the hospital, you can see pictures of him pre-surgery and post-surgery (but please don’t click if you have a weak stomach.)

Finding out victim Ronald Poppo was an alumni of Stuyvesant High School in New York City (my alma mater) piqued my personal interest in the story. How does one go from Stuyvesant graduate to homeless in Miami and victim of a freak cannibal attack? More confirmation that attendance at a ‘prestigious’ school guarantees nothing.

Back to the story. From the very beginning, it was portrayed as a drug-related incident – adding another sensationalist layer to the headlines:

“Cops: New LSD May Be Behind Miami Cannibal Attack” – CBS News

“Apparently LSD Can Turn You Into a Face-Eating Zombie Now” – NY Magazine

The first headlines said attacker Rudy Eugene was high on LSD. New York Magazine reports:

[Armando] Aguilar, president for the Fraternal Order of Police, tells Banana Republican that Eugene exhibited signs he was high on LSD, as well as symptoms for “excited delirium,” a controversial syndrome that supposedly turns drug users (primarily cocaine enthusiasts) into raging and almost unstoppable incredible Hulks. “I’m going by similarities in other cases of excited delirium I’ve researched in the last couple of days,” Aguilar says.

Spoken like someone who’s definitely never taken psychedelics. Remember all those violent hippies in the 1960s?

The story quickly shifted over to ‘bath salts’, a legal high that commonly contains research chemicals mephedrone and MDPV. But the LSD angle still stuck.

“Miami man shot dead eating a man’s face may have been on LSD-like drug” the Guardian reports. Hilarity ensues as one reads the article:

A man shot dead by police as he ate the face of another man may have been under the influence of a potent LSD-like drug called bath salts, investigators believe.

Eugene was naked and Poppo was wearing only a shirt when police arrived, possibly a result of the delirium-inducing drug, which can have effects similar to cocaine and LSD. It can raise users’ body temperature significantly and make them feel they are burning up inside.

“When a person has taken all of his clothes off and become violent, it’s indicative of this excited delirium that’s caused by overdose of drugs,” Armando Aguilar, head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, told the city’s WSVN news. “What’s happening is, inside their body their organs are burning up alive.”

Paul Adams, an emergency room doctor, said that synthetic stimulant drugs such as bath salts, named for its powdery substance, can make users feel invincible and give them superhuman strength, but can also trigger aggression, extreme paranoia and hallucinations.

“It’s the new designer drug,” he told the Guardian. “It causes a state of excited delirium, raises the body temperature and causes irritability and confusion, which is heightened when combined with a lack of adequate hydration. You find yourself not making sense, and you don’t control your emotions or your actions.”


How a drug can have “effects similar to cocaine and LSD” is beyond me, as the two drugs have almost polar opposite effects on consciousness and behavior. And “their organs are burning up alive”? Who is this guy?

In fact, “bath salts” (as they are sold in the US) are another name for the legal high that caused a similar (although not quite as sensational) moral panic in the UK a few years ago: mephedrone (sold as “plant food” and commonly called “meow meow” or “mcat”.) A story based on rumor and police statements claiming that a fourteen year old girl had died due to mephedrone led to a swift ban at the end of 2009. Less than a year later the Guardian reported “Mephedrone found not guilty” as it turned out mephedrone was not involved in the incident at all. (Several additional incidents cited as reasons to ban mephedrone turned out to be hoaxes or unrelated to mephedrone as well.) If only newspapers bothered to fact-check against their own prior reporting mistakes before publishing…

Mephedrone’s pharmacology has hardly been studied but it is chemically related to the amphetamines. Users describe effects that suggest its actions are between those of amphetamine (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy); it activates, energises and makes them feel good but is relatively short-lasting. This has been known for years, so articles describing mephedrone as LSD-like should be completely unacceptable under any standard of journalism.

But it’s not. Why? Because unfortunately our media (and police) are about as educated on the effects of drugs and illicit substances as the rest of society. The group of illicit substances that we colloquially label “drugs” have a mind-blowingly vast range of effects on consciousness and often have nothing in common other than their illegality. Only in a society this ignorant could articles like this be published and syndicated again and again with little to no questioning. Not to mention the fact that whenever anyone does something crazy, LSD is the favored scapegoat. Ironic when the heavily over-prescribed (legal) anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, painkiller and ADHD medications all cause various levels of psychosis either in overdose or withdrawal. But the tripped out “Ritalin Cannibal” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

So that’s it, case closed. Mention “bath salts” to your average person, and it’s likely that the “Miami Cannibal” will be the first thing that comes to mind.

Except that yesterday the coroner’s report on attacker Rudy Eugene was released. Time Magazine reports “The Cannabis Cannibal? Miami Face-Eater Didn’t Take ‘Bath Salts’”. It was found that the only drug in his system was cannabis, confirming earlier reports where his girlfriend stated that he never took drugs other than marijuana. Bath salts were only ever part of this story as pure police and media speculation, based on a complete lack of knowledge as to what effects bath salts generally have on the user.

Inevitably of course, the true story will never get circulated even a fraction as widely as the original was. And so another urban legend is born. Now all there is to do is wait for the inevitable political backlash against bath salts, which remain legal in some states. Not for long!

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All But Forgotten: The Positive LSD Story

The revolutionary comedian Bill Hicks once said:

“Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once?”

Well here’s your chance. Here are some people you may not have known were inspired by LSD:

•  Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs called taking LSD “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”  To this end, Jobs said that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”

•  Many early computer pioneers took LSD for inspiration, such as Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse.

•  Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

•  Cary Grant (amongst many others in 1950s Hollywood) was treated with LSD by a psychiatrist in the 1950s, long before it was made illegal:

“All my life, I’ve been searching for peace of mind. I’d explored yoga and hypnotism and made several attempts at mysticism. Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment.”

“I have been born again. I have been through a psychiatric experience which has completely changed me. I was horrendous. I had to face things about myself which I never admitted, which I didn’t know were there. Now I know that I hurt every woman I ever loved. I was an utter fake, a self-opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little. I found I was hiding behind all kinds of defenses, hypocrisies and vanities. I had to get rid of them layer by layer. The moment when your conscious meets your subconscious is a hell of a wrench. With me there came a day when I saw the light.”

Much to his friends’ surprise, Cary Grant began talking about his therapy in public, lamenting, “Oh those wasted years, why didn’t I do this sooner?”

(For more on Cary Grant, see the revealing Vanity Fair article, “Cary in the Sky with Diamonds”.)

•  Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize winning American bio-chemist, told Albert Hoffman (the inventor of LSD) that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences:

“Back in the 1960s and early ’70s I took plenty of LSD. A lot of people were doing that in Berkeley back then. And I found it to be a mind-opening experience. It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took.”

Replying to his own postulate during an interview for BBC’s Psychedelic Science documentary, “What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?” He replied, “I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”

•  Aldous Huxley is well-known for writing ‘The Doors of Perception’, an account of his experiences with mescaline. But on his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”.  His wife duly obliged.

• “My trip led me to some epiphanies about who I was as a performer, what I wanted to do and how I needed to create my own opportunities.” – Adam Lambert, runner-up on American Idol told The Sun.

Since 1966, we’ve lived under worldwide LSD prohibition.  Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” said “We thought that by this time that there would be LSD given in classes in college and you would study it and prepare for it.”

Kesey gets right to the crux of the issues surrounding psychedelics in that statement. As tools, drugs such as LSD can used responsibly or irresponsibly – lead to good trips or bad trips, healing or trauma. Lacking a scientific or spiritual guide, the recreational use of psychedelic substances without planning, respect, or forethought can lead to some pretty unpleasant experiences. Which makes it all the more frustrating that there has been a complete moratorium on scientific research using LSD for over forty years (recently broken by a small handful of scientists who have finally been given permission to research LSD with terminally ill cancer patients.) 

Stanislav Grof, pioneering researcher into non-ordinary states of consciousness, remarked “Whether or not LSD research and therapy will return to society, the discoveries that psychedelics made possible have revolutionary implications for our understanding of the psyche, human nature, and the nature of reality.”  Isn’t it about time we awoke from our cultural amnesia?

~ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ~

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Posted: October 20th, 2010
Categories: Drugs, Inspiration
Tags: , , , , ,
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Is This The Dawn Of A New Psychedelic Revolution?

Last week the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) held its 2010 Conference in San Jose, California – and the press stood up and took notice. It only took 40 years, but the government has finally given a few researchers permission to study the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs. Based on the preliminary results, it looks like mainstream science, and the media, are finally ready to move past the stigma of 1960s drug taking.

Cue CNN:

And that’s not all:

Not to mention MSNBC, BBC, NPR, Nature News, New York Times, USA Today and many other media outlets.

One of the more interesting articles is Can the Peace Drug Help Clean Up The War Mess? from Scientific American, reporting on the use of MDMA to treat war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder:

Brain-imaging studies in healthy volunteers show that MDMA quiets the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that some researchers call a “fear center” due to its central role in triggering strong negative emotions. MDMA also releases a flood of the brain messengers serotonin and dopamine while increasing blood levels of the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which promote social bonding. This potent mix diminishes fear and defensiveness and boosts empathy and the desire to connect with others, says Holland, so “the therapy work goes faster and deeper.”

Also check out Are Medicinal ‘Magic Mushrooms’ the New Prozac? in The Week.

For anyone interested in the use of psychedelics pre-Timothy Leary, I highly recommend this National Film Board of Canada documentary:

This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged ageneration to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding.

A long time coming, but I think we’re about to conquer the final frontier: the human mind.

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