Since the dawn of time, mankind has endeavored to keep finding new ways to get totally shitfaced. And just because the gamut of known narcotics now ranges from a cheeky evening sherry to face-melting LSD doesn't mean people have stopped looking for (cheaper) alternatives. So let's take a look at the latest discoveries our often short-lived pharmaceutical pioneers have come up with.
Veterinarians may not be as well regarded as human doctors, but that doesn't mean their work is any less difficult. Performing surgery on a cat is just as hard as it is on a person -- except that if you screw up on a person, you can't just bury them in a shoe box and call it a day (usually). Vets need about the same quality of tools and drugs to do their job properly. So it was only a matter of time before addicts figured out that if animal medication is good enough to knock out a Great Dane, it will probably also get them plenty high.
Unsurprisingly, most animal drugs aren't much different than the stuff hospitals pump into us. (Try not to dwell on the fact that your healthcare's probably not much better than your pug's.) Heavy-duty pain relievers (like Tramadol), Valium, and even ketamine are generally available to ailing animals. The main difference between human and animal medication seems to be that one of them is a lot harder to obtain. Most of our happy pills are controlled substances, which means they're carefully tracked. That's not the case for animal meds, though, because nobody expects a horse to get hooked on ... uh, horse.
But until legislation is put into place to stop these druggie pet owners, some states have started educating vets on how to deal with addicts coming into their practice to get high off their cat's supply. They're mainly taught to recognize suspicious behavior, like when owners try to get refills early, or ask for medication by name, or pretend their pet fell down the stairs but then not immediately show a YouTube video of the fall to prove it.
But what if your pet is just too damn healthy to exploit? In 2002, one owner was caught having trained his dog to cough on command just so he could get his hands on some sweet cough medicine. But that takes a lot of work, so some addicts just resort to intentionally hurting their pets to get a fix. In Kentucky, a trash monster named Heather Pereira was discovered to have cut her dog with razor blades as an excuse to keep getting her paws on his pain medication. She was sentenced to four years in prison (28 in dog years). But that's small potatoes compared to one small drug ring in Oregon, who used a puppy mill as a front to amass over 100,000 Tramadol pills, neglecting the puppies to the point that their crates had been flooded with their own feces. Those assholes managed to find a way to make standard drug dealers look like pillars of the community.
In December 2016, over 100 people from the Siberian city of Irkutsk were rushed to the hospital due to alcohol-related poisoning (you may assume this is normal for Christmas in Siberia, but we assure you it is not). Their drink of choice? A strong beverage that will not only put hair on your chest, but also keep that hair silky and clean.
Boyaryshnik is the most popular bath lotion in Siberia. Not because of the cleansing power of its hawthorn berries, but because Russians like to drink it. And while no one among us can claim that they've never considered chugging a bottle of delicious-smelling children's shampoo, nobody is drinking it for its refreshing scent, but because it gets them fucked right up. The lotion has such a high alcohol content, poor Russians have been using it as a substitute for expensive vodka. But when a bad batch of lotion hit the streets of Irkutsk, the bath-time fun drink killed 61 people in record time. Instead of containing ethanol (the fun alcohol), the tainted Boyaryshnik contained methanol (the "I'm blind and I can't feel my legs" alcohol) and antifreeze. Not exactly a party, unless your idea of a party entails shedding your physical body in order to board the mothership.
At this point it needs to be made very clear that this tragic incident didn't happen because people started drinking bath lotion, but because they started drinking counterfeit bath lotion. This means some criminal ring thought it more profitable to make fake bath lotion than fake vodka. And they weren't wrong. Today, over 12 million Russians drink surrogate alcohol, including perfume, after-shave, antifreeze, and window cleaner. Is it weird that some of those sound a lot more appealing than the others?
The reason for these soapy binges is mainly due to Vladimir Putin's government, which has been steadily raising the tax on alcohol for years in order to curb excessive drinking and fill its coffers with booze money. This has left many Russians too poor to support their habit, turning to their shower caddies for sweet relief. Putin has promised to lower taxes in the future and divert the government's attention to catching alcohol counterfeiters. Until then, Russians will just have to take pride in having the most fragrant alcoholics in the world.
Molly is the uptown rich kid variant of ecstasy, a designer drug endorsed by paragons of cool like Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus. That must mean it's safe as houses, right? Sure, MDMA is about as chill as hardcore drugs can get, but that pill you got off that guy juggling glow sticks? That isn't molly. And it will probably melt your insides to a pulp.
So what are these party people ingesting instead of their expensive designer drugs? It could be anything, really, from variants of meth to cannabinoids to even bath salts. All they have in common is that they're definitely not molly and they're definitely made by lazy idiots. Most of them are too new to have a unique name (or their makers couldn't come up with a catchy one), so they just slid into the molly brand. Sometimes you can get "lucky" and stumble upon some chemist's pet project like Bromo-Dragonfly, which is pretty much LSD but with "effects that can last for up to three days." But a much more common narcotic cuckoo egg is benzylpiperazine, or BZP, the poster child for why this fake molly trend is so dangerous. BZP is incredibly easy to make, but takes a lot of cleanup to remove all of the toxins, which prevents massive kidney and liver damage -- among many other terrible side effects. Dealers don't care about that though, because it's not like someone is going to call the Better Business Bureau and make a complaint.
Molly has become just another brand, a marketing slogan with about as much truth in advertising as "9 out of 10 dentists agree" or "Jamie Lee Curtis can help you poop better." Its umbrella status has become such an issue that many molly-centric venues like EDM concerts, raves, and orgies have started setting up testing booths to make sure people know what's in their entertainment for the evening. The result is quite staggering, with only typically a quarter of pills tested containing only MDMA -- and just as many containing no MDMA whatsoever. Meanwhile, out of all the molly the DEA seized and tested between 2009 and 2013, only as few as 13 percent of the pills showed any trace of MDMA. You're about as likely to get high on MDMA from some molly you bought in a warehouse loft as you would from buying Flintstones vitamins in a drugstore.
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Heroin might just be the scariest drug out there, especially to non-drug users. It feels like one of those drugs that, just by looking at a spoonful, could ruin your life, your health, and just about every tooth you have. But guess what, you nerd? Heroin is for wimps now. Real tough-guy addicts take fentanyl, an opioid so strong it's the last high you'll ever need. Or have, for that matter.
The entire fentanyl family of opioids is just a carousel of the worst horrors drugs imaginable. Like pink, a type of fentanyl that was given its cutesy name because snorting any more than what fits on the tip of a pinky is enough to kill you. In fact, just touching this shit is enough to go into cardiac arrest. Typically, one grain of a fentanyl-based drug has the same potency as a hit of heroin. Two grains will make you overdose. Not that that's terrifyingly risky. After all, heroin addicts are known for their steady hands and attention to detail.
Then there's carfentanil, which is like regular fentanyl except that you're about as likely to survive a hit of it as you would a ten-car pile-up. It's roughly 100 times more powerful than regular fentanyl and 10,000 times more so than morphine. That's because carfentanil was never intended for human consumption: It's an elephant tranquilizer. The only time its effect on humans was ever considered was to test how quickly it could kill them.
Ironically, it's because of the potency of the fentanyl family that they're incredibly easy drugs to obtain. In Canada, for example, border guards cannot open packages weighing less than 30 grams without consent -- and 30 grams of fentanyl is enough to last a lifetime (which for fentanyl users is about half an hour), making them a cinch to smuggle. This easy access has been a scourge on Canada, being partially responsible for increasing overdoses tenfold in just one year.
So how come it's easier to score mega-heroin than it is just good old classic heroin? Fittingly, this dragon also comes all the way from the home of the opioid, China. China has no real regulations against manufacturing or distributing fentanyl-based substances -- and it doesn't look like that'll be changing anytime soon. Over the internet, dozens if not hundreds of small, shady pharmaceutical companies are openly selling their fentanyl to clients around the globe. This makes this very dangerous drug about as easy to buy as a cheap iPhone case and for about the same cost.
With the rapid legalization of cannabis across the United States, weed is getting a bit of an image change. No longer is it just the drug of choice for lazy stoners and geriatric hippies -- it's on the cusp of becoming as acceptable as drinking a beer or taking a sniff of nail polish. Of course, these good vibrations couldn't last forever. Enter K2, Mary Jane's dirtbag meth-head cousin.
Instead of using cannabis leaves, K2 (like the famous mountain) or Scooby Snax (like the famous talking dog treats), K2 combines all of the natural goodness of oregano, which was what most college kids were smoking anyway, with the chemical garbage that are synthetic drugs. A K2 cigarette contains regular dried herbs with shitty chemical cannabinoids to make them more awesome. It's basically the Axe Body Spray of narcotics.
But K2 is a lot more dangerous than regular marijuana. Cannabinoids may have the same effect as THC, but have a lot more bad side effects. In 2015, over 6,000 emergency room visits involving K2 occurred in New York City alone, with two deaths already confirmed. This epidemic has been hitting the homeless community the worst, who seem to love how cost effective these cigarettes are while still making you forget you've been drooling on the sidewalk for six hours straight. Cannabinoid addicts wandering the street are often referred to as "zombies," which is appropriate, as they are the type of undead best known for being easily distracted and always hungry.
While K2 itself has been illegal for a while, manufacturers keep switching up its composition, leaving sellers (including many bodegas) with a comfortable uncertainty whether their product is or isn't actually illegal. However, with the new national ban on synthetic cannabinoids and a slew of police raids, New York hospitals have seen an 85 percent reduction in K2-related medical emergencies and homeless zombie parades.
Still, if there's one silver lining, it's that, because of K2 existing, there must have been instances where angry parents shouted at their kids "Why can't you just smoke weed like a normal person?" Now that's progress.
Say you want to get into LSD. You've heard The Beatles were into it, so that's pretty cool. But you've also heard LSD is very illegal, a controlled substance that can get you quite a bit of jail time. Not to worry, scumbag drug manufacturers have found just the thing for you: 25I-NBOMe, a new and exciting LSD-like narcotic that's not illegal just yet. And the best part is, by the time bureaucracy catches up to this loophole, you'll already be long dead from taking a highly unstable and untested chemical.
25I-NBOMe is one of the latest of a long line of "chemical analogs" (of which you know quite a few examples having read this article), variants of known narcotics that have been altered just enough that they can't be considered the same as the household brands they're imitating. This makes these analog drugs technically legal, in the same way that putting mirrors on your shoes is technically legal. Rogue chemists have been playing this cat-and-mouse game with the D.E.A. since the '70s, always trying to be a few molecular changes ahead of the curve.
So if NBOMe is just the New Coke of LSD, why is it offing more teenagers than a camp serial killer? It turns out that its greatest asset is also what makes it so terribly dangerous. The value of chemical analogs lies in that they're "slightly different" from their controlled cousins, but in chemistry, "slightly different" can turn your lungs into goo. And there's no way of knowing what exactly NBOMe is capable of, as the drug was intended to be used only in animal experiments and no large human trials on its effects have ever been conducted. That means that 25I-NBOMe doesn't have users, it only has guinea pigs.
Not that people know what they're actually taking. The reason this particular variant is becoming so popular is because it's 16 times stronger than its other NBOMe cousins. But people don't tend to whip out their testing kits when someone hands them a sachet of white powder. It's also quite a bit cheaper than LSD, so plenty of dealers try to pass it off as the brand name. The resulting trip is usually unpredictable and often fatal.
Deaths linked to NBOMe have been described as "violent." One 18-year-old experienced such extreme depression after mistakenly taking the drug that he tried to commit suicide by stabbing himself repeatedly in the neck with a pair of scissors. Another appeared as if "possessed," foaming at the mouth and smashing his head against the floor. Another teen jumped off a balcony to his death high on "N-Bomb." He thought he had taken LSD. He also thought he could fly.
Since it crept into drug culture in between 2010 and 2013, the NBOMe loophole has been all but closed. By 2015, most countries had rescheduled it as the dangerous narcotic that it is, making it much harder and riskier to obtain. But with NBOMe on its way out, it's only a matter of time before some middling chemist without scruples finds another way to mod an existing drug into something not yet illegal. So the lesson here, kids, is that if you're going to take drugs, stick to the brands you know and trust. And don't do a taste test.
Cedric Voets is a total square who gets nervous popping an aspirin. For more of his attempts at witticisms or his famous recipes for toilet wine, do follow him on Twitter.
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