Questions May 14th 2001

what exactly is heroin made from?

Heroin is made from opium, the juice extracted from the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Heroin or 'diacetylmorphine' is heavily refined opium

On LSD, I occasionally get body twitches and uncontrollable shakes. I am curious as to why this happens and if it is a problem / harmful?

There are two possible reasons why this may be happening. Many users of LSD report energy surges or ripples in their body when tripping, often accompanied by psychological 'flashes' or 'insights' or sensation of deep relaxation. If you're interested, Eastern mind-body systems like Yoga call this energy 'prana' and through practice, it can channeled and controlled. LSD can sometimes make you aware of this energy.

Alternatively, another explanation is that these shakes are a symptom of distress or fear - a warning sign that you may be getting into deep water. See our bad trip guide.

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Marvin Gaye and Charlie Parker were both avid drug users. Has there been any research exploring the relationship between creativity and heroin or cocaine use?

Heroin and opium have had a long history of creative effects. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem Kubla Khan was inspired by an opium-induced vision. Mary Shelley's idea for Frankenstein came from a waking opium dream.

As to whether cocaine is a creative drug, there are enough long-awaited and appalling cocaine-frosted albums (Stone Roses, Oasis) in recent years to settle the case.

The only medical study we could find examining drugs and creativity was done in 954, when Dr. Oscar Janiger of the University of California gave LSD to a group of artists and recorded the results. All reported they had gained "the ability to generate original insights, fresh perspectives and novel, creative ways to express themselves through their art" A note of the original study here and a follow-up 40 years later here.

Can one die from mushrooms and what are the long term effects?

Assuming you haven't picked poisonous mushrooms by mistake, magic mushrooms and psilocybin (the active ingredient) are not poisonous at normal levels. You'd have to eat a huge amount (100g) to get toxic effects. There are no long-term physical effects.

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I was wondering what the chemical in shrooms - psilocybin - does chemically to the brain and what specific parts of the brain does it affect?

The neurotransmitter serotonin is a key part of the psychedelic experience provoked by psychoactive substances like psilocybin and LSD. Psilocybin is close in structure chemically to serotonin and it is thought that it binds to various receptors within the brain instead of serotonin to induce an altered consciousness. Other that that, very little is known.

How can you tell if someone is using Ketamine (Special K)?

That depends on how much they've taken. After a small dose, they may be unsteady on their feet and acting slightly strange. After a large dose, they'll be on their back, eyes closed, immobile for about an hour. Afterwards they'll feel groggy and disconnected for about half an hour.

Ketamine has quite a high potential for abuse and many casual users have ended up abusing it. However K is an internal drug, best suited for a quiet evening and a dark room, and it's not easy to spot if someone if using it on a regular basis.

See our Ketamine guide for more details.

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Is it possible that I have opened a spiritual way of thinking when I have taken Ecstasy pills?

Yes. Many users of Ecstasy have found themselves open to new, especially spiritual, ways of thinking. We recommended the following books: "In Search Of The Ultimate High" and "Ecstasy: Dance, Trance and Transformation" by Nicolas Saunders.

Where does Ketamine come from?

Ketamine was created by Dr Cal Stevens of Wayne State University in 1961. The pharmaceutical corporation Parke-Davis (now Pfizer) funded its development as an alternative anesthetic to PCP (or Phencyclidine) which had notorious psychotic side effects. Read our Ketamine history here.