Can Amanita Mushrooms Answer the Problem of Benzo Addiction?

Amanita mushrooms are becoming the new name in drugs, for naturally helping people with sleep and anxiety. But do they cause the same issues as the main pharma drugs known for this, benzodiazepines? And if not, can the muscimol from Amanita mushrooms not only replace use of benzodiazepines, but help those with benzo addiction, to come off the pills? Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

What are Amanita mushrooms?

Amanita mushrooms, specifically Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina, are species in the Amanita mushroom genus; shared as well with Amanita phalloides, and other death-causing species. This placement means the designation of a ‘poisonous mushroom’, though in the case of muscaria and pantherina, there are no deaths attached.

These mushrooms originate in cooler places, like Northern Europe and Siberia, and are therefore barely known of in the Americas region. This means they also evaded illegalization by not being visible in the latter part of the last century, when governments around the world were going through a flurry of drug illegalization measures. Now, all these years later, they’re making more of a name for themselves in places that never heard of them before.

The red or brown-headed mushrooms are known for their shape, and white spots. The visual is so appealing, it made it into the Super Mario Brothers game, meaning without knowing or understanding what they are, many people are familiar with how they look. When used properly, these mushrooms produce relaxation, euphoria, and hallucinations, but in a totally different way from psilocybin mushrooms. In fact, the only thing they have in common, is that they’re both fungi.

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The mushrooms, which contain ibotenic acid (the more sick-inducing compound which can be decarbed out) and muscimol, (the compound of interest that promotes great effect on GABA in the brain); have been used for medicinal, spiritual, and recreational purposes for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years. They’re even a part of the Santa story, as reindeer were native to muscimol-using tribes, and were known to eat the mushrooms and get all loopy.

Muscimol, for its part, is a solid white or colorless compound which is classified as an isoxazole. It’s a potent and selective orthosteric agonist. This term is important because it describes how muscimol binds directly to GABAA receptor sites, unlike other compounds that bind on the protein surface instead (allosteric). Drugs like these, when there is a high affinity, can block other compounds from binding.

Muscimol has many benzodiazepine-like effects, including sedative, hypnotic, and depressant effects, while also producing hallucinogenic effects. Muscimol has also shown not to cause addiction, though it does activate the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in a similar way, and this area is involved in the brain’s reward system. This could be in part because muscimol acts as an agonist, while benzos work as positive modulators; the whole difference between orthosteric and allosteric, already mentioned.

What are benzodiazepines?

First and foremost, benzodiazepines are pharmaceutically made, which means they’re synthetic drugs, unlike the mushrooms just spoken of, which are naturally living plants. These drugs, often called ‘benzos’, are depressant drugs that at the core of their chemical structure, contain the fusion between a benzene ring and diazepine ring. The first one discovered in 1955, was Librium, and was already out as a medication by 1960. Valium came out three years later.

The biggest neural impact these drugs have, is on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the same neurotransmitter that Amanita muscaria mushrooms affect. The drugs work specifically at GABAA receptors, and produce sedative and hypnotic effects, along with anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, and anticonvulsant effects. The drugs are used to treat a range of issues like: anxiety, panic, and sleep issues, as well as for agitation, seizure disorders, muscle spasms, as a way to aid in alcohol withdrawal, and as pre-medicine for certain medical procedures.

While they were always spoken about as safe in the past, and still are to a degree, this goes in the face of the rising death toll associated, whether from the drugs themselves, or from mixing them with other substances like alcohol or opioids. In 2020 alone, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that benzos were fully or partially responsible for 12,290 overdoes deaths.

Benzo addiction is quite common

Beyond this, not only is the line about safety odd considering the death toll, it hardly accounts for the large and growing number of people addicted to them. This is likely because the withdrawal can be very difficult. Benzo withdrawal is known as an intense experience, and can last a very long time, often called a protracted withdrawal (which is essentially a psychological withdrawal).

There is a high rate of benzo addiction in general. While these numbers sound almost made-up, research estimates show that even at therapeutic doses, long-term use (defined as three months or more), can result in 20-100% of people becoming physically addicted. That’s saying that *maybe everyone gets addicted. What’s more, they’re not known to keep providing positive effects beyond a point, and can cause worse rebound symptoms than what they’re used to suppress, upon stopping.

Withdrawal symptoms from these drugs include: anxiety, depression, depersonalization (feeling detached within oneself), derealization (feeling like the world around isn’t real), sleep problems, tactile hypersensitivity, tremors, shakes, muscle pain, random pains, twitching, abdominal issues, and headaches. For those using the pills to treat something like anxiety, the rebound anxiety of withdrawal, can be more intense than what drove the patient to seek treatment in the first place; which exemplifies why getting off these drugs is so incredibly hard.

One study from 2005 called Long-term outcome after discontinuation of benzodiazepines for insomnia: a survival analysis of relapse, shows that out of 47 adults trying to get off the medications, 42.6% could not stay off as of a 24 month follow-up. A 2003 study entitled Predictors of relapse after discontinuation of long-term benzodiazepine use by minimal intervention: a 2-year follow-up study, painted just as abysmal a picture. Out of 109 subjects who were also studied over a two-year period, 51% relapsed. It’s good to remember that all these users wanted to stop medication.

Can amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction?

That muscimol affects reward sites, but without causing addiction, makes it very interesting. Both for treating certain issues, and for dealing with benzo addiction. In fact, muscimol is pointed to for actually restoring GABAA receptor modulation. Unfortunately, there’s no formal research on muscimol for benzo addiction, but like with much of life, this doesn’t mean there aren’t personal stories on the topic.

In a Reddit post from within the last year, an interested benzo user was curious about other people’s experiences with this. Not only were results supportive of muscimol helping to end benzo addiction, but tips were given; like how to taper the benzos, and to use compounds like kava before the muscimol to improve binding. Everyone who responded to this thread had a positive story. Unfortunately, as these mushrooms are still not as well-known as other drugs, its hard to find a lot of useful message board posts; most others are simply people speaking out of opinion, with no knowledge on the topic, or experience with it.

Can Amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction
Can Amanita mushrooms help with benzo addiction

In theory though (and in user practice), they work for this. And, even if they can’t help with a detox, at least they can provide another way to deal with symptoms of anxiety and sleeplessness; without the addiction and withdrawal issues of benzodiazepines. They pose such a great benefit here, that like many other times in life, the knowledge of this compound brings up the agonizing question of, why are people still being put on benzos when these mushrooms exist?

There actually is a medication in trials that’s based off muscimol, called gaboxadol. However, its repeatedly tested for smaller, lesser-known disorders, instead of being used to treat anxiety, sleeplessness, and benzo addiction. One could ask why. But one could also ask, despite a rising death toll, why opioids are still prescribed; especially since the non-addictive ketamine offers better benefits. I guess its all about the money in the end; which means if you want this as an answer, for now, you’ll have to get the mushrooms on your own.


Truth is, if you’re having an issue that necessitate benzodiazepines, (according to you or your doctors), maybe try these mushrooms instead. They’re legal in the US apart from one state, and may be an important key not only in dealing with anxiety and sleep issues, but in ending the mass benzo addiction issue that is only rising. There are also products entering the market like this one; which shows some companies out there do get it, even if big pharma prefers you stay on the benzos.

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Opioid Lawsuit Money: Where Does It All Go?

Johnson & Johnson and friends are paying out a lot of money for their misdeeds; even if they refuse to admit to doing anything wrong. In fact, every state in the US has at least one opioid lawsuit; with the question now of, where does all that settlement money actually go?

How much must be paid & by who?

There isn’t a finite answer to this question, as not every case against the major players like Johnson & Johnson has been settled. And we’re only talking about America right now anyway. So far, over 3,000 suits have been filed by different states and local governments over the pills which have caused a major death toll in America, Canada, and beyond.

The biggest payout comes in the form of a $26 billion settlement that was made between 46 US states and Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. It was brokered in 2021, and dubbed the ‘National Settlement.’ This settlement does not include the four states that didn’t sign on, or anything previously decided or still ongoing. The number also doesn’t include separate lawsuits that have been waged against retailers like Walgreens.

Another of the big settlements has to do with the Native American population of America, a population hit very hard by opioids. This lawsuit was also against the four companies involved in the National Settlement, with a total of $590 million to be paid out to federally recognized tribes. It started as a settlement between AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson and just the Cherokee tribe for $75 million. This was then increased to $440 million, with a stipulation that it can be accessed by any federally recognized tribe member.

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For its part, Johnson & Johnson was also included and has two years to pay out $150 million in this particular case. Of that, $18 million is specifically for the Cherokees. To give an idea of the brazen ego of these companies; upon making this settlement, Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.” I guess the company just likes paying out big sums of money.

Even more opioid lawsuits

It’ not just the pharma companies and distributors that are set to pay a lot of money. Even retailers got hit with lawsuits. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart were staring down over 300 lawsuits over opioids, and settled for $13 billion in late 2022.

And what of Purdue specifically? The company that skyrocketed this whole issue with the creation of Oxycontin, and all the lies surrounding the usefulness and addictiveness of this drug? It also is in the process of dealing with the fallout of its blatant disregard for humanity. This company isn’t a corporation, and is privately owned by the Sackler family. The family was made to pay out $6 billion in a 2022 settlement, which goes mostly to local and state governments. And this as a part of a revised bankruptcy settlement, just to give an idea how much these little pills are hurting everyone…including those who made them.

Opioid lawsuit money

Even the federal government, which allows the opioids through regulation, is a part of it. The US Justice department made an $8 billion settlement with Purdue, which was reported in October 2022. And who gets this money? It goes to the Treasury Department, which is allocating $1.775 billion for states, tribes, and local governments for the future. And only $225 million for a “public benefit trust” to state and local communities now. It’s thought that once its all told, approximately $50 billion will be paid out from opioid lawsuits altogether on the state and local level.

Opioid lawsuit money: How is it split?

The whole point of these lawsuits is that the drugs hurt (and are still hurting) a lot of people. Now, sure, you can also say the disability damages affect a wider audience, including governments, but the thing to really remember in this, is who the victims are. And that’s primarily people who started opioids for pain issues. When you think about it, these lawsuits have less to do with people who decided to take up the drugs on their own.

So how does the money get to them? Or does it even? States are bringing in millions and billions of dollars from these opioid lawsuits, so where does the money go? This is where things get a bit complicated. And where we have to hope that the created systems, actually use the money appropriately.

The National Academy for State Health Policy is interested in this question, and compiled data to help elucidate the situation by looking at “state legislation, opioid settlement agreements and spending plans, advisory committees, and other entities charged with disbursing state funding”. According to the agency, all the states are setting up regulated structures for money dissemination; some related to the settlements themselves, and some as a part of new policy.

As the biggest payout as of yet, the National Settlement includes both the ability for states to create their own policies, while also defining some aspects of the payment structure. For example, this settlement includes a timeline for payouts, which stipulates 18 months. The money is split due to factors like overall population; how many overdoes deaths the location had, as well as how many active use cases there are now; and how much of the medications made their way into the location.

What about once a state has the money? The settlement agreement goes on to stipulate a standard rate for dissemination past that point, with 15% of the payment going to a State Fund, 70% to an Abatement Accounts Fund, and the last 15% to a Subdivision Fund. Should a state want to change this policy, it can challenge it. While all this applies to the biggest lawsuit, many settlements have similar instructions.

Lawsuits over opioids
Lawsuits over opioids

The ’State Fund’ is money which is “awarded directly to the state, with final spending authority residing with legislative appropriation, attorneys general, the Department of Health, or the state agencies responsible for substance use services.” The Subdivision Fund (Local Share) is money paid “directly to participating political subdivisions, including participating cities and counties.” And the Abatement Fund is to “distribute funding across the state.”

Essentially, each state is tasked with coming up with “unique process and administrative structures for allocating funding across state and local entities, identifying abatement needs, obtaining input from the public and experts, providing guidance on priorities and spending activities, and promoting transparency around the use of funds.” And these processes can be used for any opioid lawsuit money from future or already on-going cases.

Opioid lawsuit money, and how it can be used

With the National Settlement as the example, there are some stipulations as to how the money can be used once a state takes it in. This is where we need to make sure that these avenues lead to something useful; and that they don’t get corrupted. Which means watching over the process from beginning to end.

The main point is that at least 70% of this money must be used for ‘opioid remediation efforts,’ which essentially means policies that target the problem and attempt to solve it. As per the wording of the agreement:

“Care, treatment, and other programs and expenditures (including reimbursement for past such programs or expenditures except where this Agreement restricts the use of funds solely to future Opioid Remediation) designed to (1) address the misuse and abuse of opioid products, (2) treat or mitigate opioid use or related disorders, or (3) mitigate other alleged effects of, including on those injured as a result of, the opioid epidemic.” It’s not, however, more specific than this, leaving the individual locations to figure out what these measures should be.

The money must also be used to set up Opioid Settlement Remediation Advisory Committees. These committees are designed to provide some guidance for the remediation process; they only deal with the 70% allocated to the Abatement Accounts Fund.

Lawsuit money allocation
Lawsuit money allocation

The problem is that such systems have shown to be corruptible time and time again. To combat this (in some form) there is a guideline set up to try to deter unrelated spending. It stipulates a requirement to report all use of the funding money, including unrelated costs like payments to lawyers, investigation costs, court fees, and administrative fees. However, a requirement to report, doesn’t mean the funds won’t still be used for these purposes. If reported unrelated costs are still covered, the simple action of reporting does not mean the funds won’t be misused. We’ll have to keep an eye out.

Moving forward

Will any of this work, or are we simply filling government coffers, to be blown like so much other government money? The way I see it, there are two ways to look at progress. The first is if those who have been hurt, get repaid for their losses. And the second is in how it works to change the current landscape. Considering most new regulation focuses on decriminalizing drugs and setting up safe use sites, instead of looking at alternatives like ketamine; its certainly hard to see a path for positive change. And realistically, so long as the doctor is the dealer, can we actually expect this problem to go away?

It’s best to remember that no state pursuing an opioid lawsuit has barred the sale of opioids in the state; even with lawsuit money rolling in. Not even one made a guideline for making them harder to get. Kind of a contradiction, and one that shouldn’t be ignored if people really expect that governments are working on their behalf.

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What Gas Station Heroin Says About Our Need to Get High

Some, like the world of Western medicine, look at drug use as a medical issue. Others see it as a consequence of the stress of different factors of life. No matter how you look at it, there’s no getting away from it. And it seems like people will do whatever they can to feel better somehow. The latest example is dubbed ‘gas station heroin’. But is there really a threat here; or is this governmental subterfuge in light of the growing opioid issue?

What is gas station heroin?

No, it’s not a Lou Reed song, though it sounds like it could be. And it’s not the title of an art film made by an eager grad student either. It’s not exactly what most people would guess it is, because it doesn’t actually have anything to do with heroin. Heroin is an opioid, a product of the processing of opium. And gas station heroin is not in that class of drugs.

Surprisingly, it’s actually an anti-depressant of the tricyclic class of antidepressants. The official name is tianeptine, and it’s sold under many brand names, including Stablon and Coaxil. It’s technically an atypical tricyclic antidepressant in that it doesn’t necessarily work like other antidepressants. Tricyclics are used primarily for anxiety and mood disorders, and work by inhibiting the reuptake of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, and the norepinephrine transporter. By doing so, they increase these neurotransmitters in the brain.

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However, tianeptine is a bit different. It is used for anxiety and depression, but it’s been found that it also acts as an atypical μ-opioid receptor agonist. Which means it promotes more action at μ-opioid receptors, which is what opioids do. So the same drug causing mass issues with addiction and overdose, has at least some similar effects to this antidepressant tianeptine. Tianeptine in high doses is used for recreational use, with the main issue in withdrawal symptoms; though this relates not just to an opioid effect, but to antidepressants in general.

Back several years ago, doctor-prescribed medications weren’t the bigger problem, today they are. And not only does the following information back up how dangerous the medicines offered to us can be, this whole situation shines a light on just how bad our collective need is to get high. Whether considered an actual disorder, or a reaction to the stress of life, it indicates quite an issue when people are using anything possible, just to catch a little buzz.

The current tianeptine issue

It’s certainly not an issue like opioids, and many probably have never heard the names tianeptine or its slang name ‘gas station heroin’. But in some places, its created enough buzz to get the attention of law enforcement, and is now the subject of new worries, and new laws. One of the recent stories related to tianeptine, comes out of Mississippi.

Last month it was reported that this drug is sold, not by pharmacies, but by gas stations and corner stores, with names like Za Za, Tiana, and Red Dawn. It’s found with other supplements, and doesn’t stand out as anything special. It certainly doesn’t require any kind of prescription, though when sold as an antidepressant, it does. However, its not cleared for medical use by the FDA in America, and is only found as a prescription antidepressant in other countries. After trials in 2009, all development of the drug stopped in the US by 2012. Although why this happened, was not made clear.

In Mississippi, doctors are putting out warnings about the safety of this drug, with fear-inducing lines like this one from Dr. Jennifer Bryan, the chairman of the Mississippi delegation of the American Medical Association, “It can kill people, to be quite honest, and it’s highly addictive.” She continued about a specific case, “I had a young woman come to me, and she was a mother, and she was dealing with depression. And a friend told her about Za Za. So she tried it. And I promise you that same day, she said she could not stop, and it was so sad.”

In terms of why its on shelves at all? Bryan explains, “In sneaky situations like tianeptine, something that the FDA on the drug side has not approved for prescription in the United States due to safety reasons, can sneak in the back door as a supplement.”

Is tianeptine actually that dangerous?

Tianeptine is known as gas station heroin

There are plenty of issues with antidepressants, but is this one really *that bad, or just another example of the US government (local or federal) not liking an industry it can’t get in on? The US government loves approving dangerous medications. I mean, it regulates the legal opioid industry, making any talk of illegalizing tianeptine, a massive point-miss if all synthetic opioids (where the real death toll is) don’t follow. So while the government is great at providing us plenty of dangerous pills, it sure seems unhappy about this specific one, which it doesn’t legally sell. Opioids are legally sold.

As far as danger? I can’t find a specific death statistic. In a 2018 review that went over 25 different articles, which contained information on 65 people, it mentioned 15 overdose cases. Overdose doesn’t actually imply death, just taking too much of something. Of those 15 there were three deaths, but all involved one or more other substances, meaning the deaths cannot be put on tianeptine directly. The same report goes on to mention six other deaths, but stipulates they only ‘involve’ the drug, which makes it the same as the three deaths above. In no case has tianeptine been fingered as the only cause of death.

The thing is, I can’t find other information on fatalities at all with this drug, or any real information on disability issues. So it doesn’t sound that bad, right? Especially when opioids are taking out close to 100,000 people a year now. Yet, as those drugs are not banned, states like Mississippi are banning drugs like tianeptine. For 2021, Mississippi reported approximately 491 drug overdose deaths, with suspicion that 71.7% of them (352), were because of opioids, or related.

That same state hasn’t banned any drug associated with those overdoses. However, on March 1st, it did pass legislation to ban tianeptine via House Bill 4. If signed by the governor, the new law will ban the sale and possession of the drug. But it won’t stop any opioid use. So basically, a lesser drug which isn’t associated with that many issues (and none direct that I’ve seen) is being banned, while the #1 overdose drugs, opioids, remain as legal as before.

Where else this is happening, and why it makes no sense

Several other states also made measures against tianeptine, while doing nothing about opioids. In Minnesota its now a Schedule I substance, but I saw not one death statistic. That same state had 1,286 overdose deaths in 2021. 924 were opioid related. Michigan made it a Schedule II drug, but also failed to report any death statistics for it. What Michigan did have, was 2,738 overdose deaths in 2020, with 79% being opioid related.

It should be noted that while Alabama spoke of a crisis related to the drug, it also failed to mention even one death; which makes one wonder how the word ‘crisis’ is defined, when there are drugs out there causing tens of thousands of deaths a year. Of course, that state actually has an opioid crisis, with 343 of the 401 overdoes deaths in 2020, relating to synthetic opioids.

Opioids are legal, while states go after tianeptine
Opioids are legal, while states go after tianeptine

In Tennessee the sale of the drug was outlawed, and it was put in Schedule II of the state’s Controlled Substances list with a class A misdemeanor charge. However, once again, this was done with not one death brought up. Weird, when Tennessee reported 2,388 opioid overdose deaths in 2020. Are we perhaps having our attention turned away from the real problem, by introducing a fake one?

In Oklahoma tianeptine is listed as a drug with a Schedule II ban, but no deaths are reported. What is true, is that Oklahoma had 733 overdose deaths between 2019-2020, 36.3% of which had to do with opioids. Incidentally, meth accounted for about 64%. In Georgia its now also Schedule I. The report referenced, again, mentioned no deaths. The comparison? 2,390 drug overdose deaths in the state in 2021, with 1,718 (71%) attributed to opioids.

In Indiana, the drug was banned in late 2022, but the pattern repeats as the report mentioned no deaths attached. On the other hand, the state had 2,755 overdose deaths in 2021, 85% of which were only fentanyl, meaning synthetic opioids altogether caused more than 85% of deaths in the state. In Ohio, the ban was instituted as an emergency measure, making it a Schedule I substance. Just like the rest, it mentions no death toll with the drug, even as it continues to sell opioids with 81% of overdose deaths in 2020 (5,017 total), due to fentanyl.


Perhaps what gas station heroin shows us more than anything else, is that 1) people want something to make them feel good, and 2) no country or state wants an industry it can’t tax and control. These efforts seem more like subterfuge though, trying to take attention off the lack of action on the real issue, by trying to make this into one. And that doesn’t mean for a second that I think the stuff is okay, but the contradiction of caring about it at all, while doing nothing to ban opioids, makes the whole thing laughable at best.

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THCM: And What It Means for Pregnant Women

It’s not good to smoke when pregnant, but that’s obvious because it’s not good to smoke in general. Recently pregnant women have been checked for the compound THCM, to see if they’ve smoked weed while pregnant. What are the implications of the test, and does this make sense?

What is THCM?

First it was THC, and that’s all we talked about with weed. Several years ago CBD became a big name what with the 2018 US Farm Bill. In the last few years, its been all about other minor compounds found in the plant, like delta-8 THC, HHC, THCO, and synthetics like delta-10. There are so many letter combinations, its hard to follow, and even now we don’t really know a lot about these compounds. What we do know, is that they either occur in nature, or were made in a lab.

THCM doesn’t fit into either of those categories. Officially called 11-Nor-Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol-9-Carboxylic Acid {Carboxy-THC}, it was discovered in 1997 (or 1977 depending on your source, for which there aren’t many good ones), and has never been isolated from the cannabis plant, so its effects – and most other information – are unknown. It’s not actually found in the plant, but it is used for a specific purpose.

So far, THCM has only been found, not in cannabis, but as a byproduct of cannabis smoke. To be clear, its not a byproduct of using cannabis in general, but a byproduct that comes from lighting the weed on fire and breathing it in. So if you’re tested for it, and you use cannabis edibles, or vapes, a test for THCM won’t turn up anything. The testing for it is highly specific, and only applies to pregnant women right now.

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How is a person tested for cannabis?

A regular weed test is generally done using urine. And the results depend greatly on the amount a person uses. It picks up THC that entered the system in any way (edibles, vaping, smoking, etc…) For an occasional smoker, it might only show up in the urine for a few days, but this varies by person. Things like body fat content, exercise regimen, and diet can play a big role in how long THC stays with us. For a heavy user, it can take as long as 30 days after the final smoke. For moderate smokers, its likely to be in the middle – maybe 10-15 days.

Then there are blood tests for THC, but we don’t hear about them often. They’re used when the circumstance of testing involves some kind of criminal activity. For example, this testing method is employed more and more on roadways, if a state designates a blood THC level for driving. These tests are way more accurate, but can only tell if weed was used within the last two days. So they don’t cover as much time, and are best for circumstances that involve very recent use.

There are also hair tests, but they’re not very reliable. THC in hair can be detected for months after use, but these tests aren’t terribly specific to use. How many times have you sat in a room filled with weed smoke? You know what else was with you? Your hair. Testing hair doesn’t necessarily mean that a person smoked, it just means they were around smoke. Realistically, you likely won’t ever be given a hair test because of the lack of accuracy.

Why is THCM tested for?

All the above tests are essentially looking for THC, as that’s the psychoactive part of the plant. And while urine tests can usually pick up that a heavy smoker smoked within the past month, and a blood test can tell the same for the past couple days, there is one other way to test for longer periods. Whether it’s actually useful or not is hard to say, but its certainly happening, so I’ll share it with you.

As mentioned, THCM is a byproduct of cannabis smoke. Not of other forms of weed use. It acts as a biomarker, which is “A biological molecule found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that is a sign of a normal or abnormal process, or of a condition or disease. A biomarker may be used to see how well the body responds to a treatment for a disease or condition. Also called molecular marker and signature molecule.” In this case, it marks whether a person smoked cannabis within the five months before birth.

Yup, it’s used on pregnant ladies to determine if they smoked weed. So let me repeat again, its not whether a person ‘used’ weed in the five months prior to birth, it’s whether a woman ‘smoked’ weed in that time. So, its not testing for weed use technically, its testing only for if a woman smoked it. While it can detect if a fetus was exposed to cannabis smoke in-utero, it doesn’t apply to other forms of weed intake within that same time period; that will only show in urine or blood.

The dangers of smoking while pregnant

We already know smoking is bad. In general, and during a pregnancy. Let’s remember, smoking is the #1 death toll drug; even if its not about a specific compound, but a means of intake. And that’s what it is about. It doesn’t matter if its weed, cigarettes, or some herb given to you by a shaman; if its lit on fire and breathed in, its smoking. And that’s the issue. Tobacco, for example, has plenty of medicinal uses, and its simply the lighting it on fire and breathing it in that’s bad.

As far as what it can do during pregnancy? This isn’t like weed where there are questionable studies making questionable connections. We have years of data on this. Cannabis is not related to the health issues of smoking; so it makes sense to question whether its the cause of issues in-utero, especially when smoking is included. Smoking is not just about cigarettes. (And as a side note, its horrifying I have to keep pointing this out; and that its repeatedly confused in the minds of the public what the actual risks of smoking are, and where they come from.)

Study after study has turned up the results that this review did: Health outcomes of smoking during pregnancy and the postpartum period: an umbrella review. Main results of the 64 studies it analyzed when looking at smoking during pregnancy (SDP) and 46 different health issues?

“The highest increase in risks was found for sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, stillbirth, low birth weight and obesity amongst infants. The impact of SDP was associated with the number of cigarettes consumed. According to the causal link analysis, five mother-related and ten infant-related conditions had a causal link with SDP. In addition, some studies reported protective impacts of SDP on pre-eclampsia, hyperemesis gravidarum and skin defects on infants. The review identified important gaps in the literature regarding the dose-response association, exposure window, postnatal smoking.”

Even this insinuates that how much is smoked and when its smoked is important, and still unaccounted for in much of the research out there. All included studies were done prior to 2017, but I don’t see that as making much difference at this point. What it does show is the continued and measurable aspect of the negative effects of smoking on a fetus.

Dangers of smoking vs vaping while pregnant

So much research comes up on the topic that its hard to deny. Take this paper that was published in The Obstetrician & Gynecologist in 2019 called Smoking in pregnancy: pathophysiology of harm and current evidence for monitoring and cessation. It also reviews tons of literature to come up with many of the same issues. Its first key point is that “Smoking in pregnancy is a risk factor for miscarriage, stillbirth, placental abruption, preterm birth, low birthweight and neonatal morbidity and mortality.”

Dangers of smoking while pregnant
Dangers of smoking while pregnant

Having said that, even this study shows gaps in understanding. While it mentions in one place that “The adverse effects of cigarette smoke are primarily driven by carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine,” it goes on to stipulate later that “Electronic cigarettes are more popular among smokers, but evidence of their safety and effectiveness in pregnancy are lacking.” This actually indicates that nicotine isn’t where the risk is. If it were, electronic cigarettes would automatically come up as causing the same damage, and as of yet, they have not. Contradictions like this should always be noticed in a study, as they can be factors of personal bias, or a researcher’s own misunderstanding of the research they review.

Vaping has shown specifically not to cause the same issues like cancer, heart disease, and pulmonary disease in the general population. And definitive links to the same birth issues are not found with vaping, whereas you literally can’t get away from them when looking at smoking studies. Which indicates again, this isn’t about tobacco or nicotine, no matter how many times the line is said. This doesn’t mean that inundating a fetus with nicotine is okay either, but the bigger health implication, is simply in the act of smoking something.

Do THCM tests matter then?

The reality is that the jury is out on why picking up THCM matters. Cannabis itself is not definitively associated with birth issues, so it’s a bit odd. Studies blaring titles like Birth Outcomes of Neonates Exposed to Marijuana in Utero, go on to stipulate “However, at this time, there are no data to differentiate smoking itself (ie, inhalation of marijuana smoke) vs ingestion of the cannabinoids as the main factor associated with an increase in adverse events, to our knowledge.” As in, this whole study was done, without considering how the cannabis was used. And that if it was smoked, these results are more likely related to the actual smoking, than the weed.

In fact, that study is scarily similar to this study which attempted to link using cannabis to a raised rate of heart attack (myocardial infarction). The big, glaring issue? It only looked at people who smoked it; as in, no other cannabis use was a part of the study at all. And at not one point did the investigators speak about the general dangers of smoking. Its an entire study that backs up that smoking can lead to increased risk of heart attack, but not cannabis.

I have yet to see a real connection made anywhere beyond these smear campaign articles (what else can you call that?) The pregnancy study is no different. As the main method of cannabis consumption in the world is still smoking, that study likely acted as a study on the effects of smoking to a fetus in-utero, not on the effects of cannabis use to a fetus in-utero.

Since there isn’t great research on the actual topic of the direct effect of weed compounds on a fetus when the co-morbid factor of smoking is eliminated; there’s no real reason for the test in my mind. Co-morbid means the existence of two different factors. In research this can cause problems because if one specific thing is being studied (cannabis use on a fetus), and a co-morbid factor exits (smoking), if the co-morbid factor isn’t controlled for, the results are useless. With a lack of info on weed effects to babies in-utero, a THCM test has no value beyond the idea of smoking in general.

Pregnant woman
Pregnant woman


Truth is, a THCM test like this can cause problems for an expecting mother, which are unnecessary. After all, pregnancy is stressful enough, and as cigarette smoking (the real danger) isn’t illegal while pregnant, there’s no reason to test a woman for this. Especially when it might indicate nothing more than a single joint hit from a months before; and that it hasn’t been ruled out that simply having been in a smokey room, won’t bring on a positive result.

*As a note, I am not encouraging any pregnant woman to use any substance. I am merely questioning the usefulness of this specific test.

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Meth Is More Legal Than Cannabis In US & World

If you read the headline and think that’s not possible, it absolutely is. In fact, it’s right out there in our faces, in that methamphetamine is scheduled in the Controlled Substances list at a more accessible level. Which makes meth more legal than cannabis in the US. And beyond. Why is this the case? And what is meth legal for?

First, a little about methamphetamine

Methamphetamine goes by several names on the street, like ‘meth’, ‘ice’, ‘crank’, ‘crystal’, ‘yaba’, ‘glass’, ‘tina’, ‘tweak’, and ‘T’. It’s classed as a stimulant drug, much like amphetamine and cocaine. It’s also considered a psychostimulant for its psychoactive effects along with stimulatory effects. Its an agonist for the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. A high can last from 8-10 hours from the come-up to the come-down, with after effects lasting as long as a full day.

As a stimulant it makes a person feel more awake and energetic. It increases motivation and the ability to keep going. It suppresses the appetite, can increase sex drive, and creates feelings of euphoria. As a stimulant, it can also come with negative effects for the wrong person, or when taken at too-high doses. This includes feelings of anxiety and paranoia, disorganized thinking and delusional thoughts, violence, and psychosis.

Chronic users often experience quick and unpredictable mood swings, and increases in the above mentioned paranoia, stimulant psychosis, and violent behavior. It can also cause hallucinations (like bugs on the skin), and delirium. Meth comes as either a white-to-blueish crystal (which looks like actual crystals, or shards of ice or glass), or is ground into a powder. It’s smoked in specific glass pipes, or through straws; snorted; injected; and medically taken as a pill.

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The intense feelings of euphoria make it a highly abused drug. And frequent use can cause dependence whereby the user experiences feelings of withdrawal when stopping. Withdrawal can include post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which means experiencing ongoing symptoms that resemble a mental illness, that can go on for quite some time. Often users go on binges whereby they take the drug continuously for many days (tweaking), generally without sleep; which can cause its own set of symptoms from sleep deprivation.

Methamphetamine is generally bad for the brain. It’s considered a neurotoxin, which causes damage to dopaminergic neurons of the midbrain when taken in high doses. Neurotoxicity from the drug can result in negative changes to the structure and functioning of the brain. This includes a reduction in grey matter (“neural cell bodies, axon terminals, and dendrites, as well as all nerve synapses”) in different parts, as well as negatively affecting markers of metabolic function. It can also promote the breakdown of skeletal muscles, create bleeding in the brain, and cause seizures.

It was first synthesized in 1893 by Japanese chemist Nagayoshi Nagai, from the drug ephedrine. To get a bit technical, meth exists as two enantiomers, which means it’s a compound with two mirror image sides. One is levomethamphetamine, and the other side is dextromethamphetamine. This is similar to ketamine, which exists as S-ketamine, and R-Ketamine, with the two together forming racemic ketamine. Methamphetamine is the racemic free base form, consisting of equal amounts of both sides.

How did methamphetamine use start?

We really don’t hear much about medical uses of methamphetamine, but they exist, and have for quite some time. Though it was first synthesized in 1893, it didn’t have its first medical use until WWII. During this time it was used along with amphetamine, by both Allied and Axis forces, in order to increase performance in war.

It was marketed in Germany starting in 1938 under the name Pervitin, made by the pharmaceutical company Temmler. Though it was non-prescription at the time, following its use by soldiers, and the realization of its addictive abilities, it was made a prescription drug in the country in 1941. Soldiers were still given the drug, but in more controlled doses.

It entered the American market in the 1950’s when the company Obetrol Pharmaceuticals released it as Obetrol, a drug which incorporated meth as a treatment for obesity. It became very popular in the 50’s and 60’s, but was forced into stricter regulation as the addictive properties became more established…something that was already technically known from the war.

Methamphetamine and pipe

In 1970, during the US’s flurry of drug illegalization measures, methamphetamine wasn’t actually illegalized, but put in the same place it still resides today, in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances list. This was done using the newly instated Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II means its considered dangerous, but with limited medical use. As in, not completely illegal.

Let’s remember, to this day, cannabis sits in Schedule I (no legal uses, considered highly dangerous) in the US. This makes meth legal for some medical purposes, whereas cannabis is legal for none (outside pharma medications that did not come with an official rescheduling of the drug). In terms of the UN, meth is in Schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, whereas cannabis is still Schedule I, even after a recent vote re-examined the subject. So both according to the US federal government, and UN, meth has greater legality than cannabis, and cannabis is more dangerous.

How is it used today?

Methamphetamine is currently sold under the brand name Desoxyn for ADHD. It’s considered a second-line drug for that, and for treating obesity. It comes in five, 10, or 15 mg tablets, both immediate release and extended release. Desoxyn is the only FDA approved methamphetamine medication currently on the market, though it’s found as a generic drug as well. It’s also prescribed off-label for narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness). Off label prescribing is perfectly legal, and is what drives the ketamine market.

Get this though, just like how one half of ketamine is marketed as S-ketamine (the other side is R-ketamine); one half of methamphetamine is also marketed as an approved drug. Its L-enantiomer side is known as levomethamphetamine, and is sold in over-the-counter nasal decongestants in the US. According to, it “lacks CNS activity, has a low abuse potential, and is poorly metabolized to amphetamine.” Of course, it’s also shown that users tend to like it, and can have abuse issues with it, so is it really that different in the end? Or just a way to legally market – and make money off – methamphetamine?

While this information is incredibly outdated, it was reported that at the end of 2009, a methamphetamine hydrochloride medication had brought in approximately $9.3 million for the company Mylan, according to IMS Health. Mylan is now a part of the company Viatris, and it’s unclear if that company still sells this drug. I could not find current revenue information for Desoxyn. It was originally trademarked by a Danish company, before the trademark was sold to Italian company Recordati.

How dangerous is meth?

It’s actually pretty dangerous. First off, all that stuff about delusions and psychosis and violence are a big thing. You can look in the news to find those stories, or ask around. Meth is commonly done, and finding someone with experience isn’t hard. Meth is associated with all kinds of weird behavior like repetitive motions (punding), taking things apart, and scratching at the skin until it bleeds because the user thinks something is on them (meth mites).

Person smoking meth
Person smoking meth

Beyond that, while smear campaigns on cannabis are generally completely insane when looking at the lack of death and injury, meth actually causes a lot of death and injury. Though the US doesn’t keep specifics on overdose for all drugs individually, it classes methamphetamine as a psychostimulant, and does have stats for that.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse put psychostimulant overdose deaths at 32,537 in 2021, and it’s a pretty good bet that meth is a primary source of these deaths, although it should be noted that the rise of combined opioid use with other drugs like meth could also increase numbers. It does give a separate number for cocaine, implying cocaine deaths are not a part of this. Psychostimulants are the 4th leading cause of drug-related deaths in the US, following opioids, smoking, and alcohol. But 2nd in terms of overdose deaths.

Another example comes from statistics put out by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM). According to this organization, the overdose death number regarding meth for 2020 was 23,776; although this also does not rule out inclusion of other drugs used at the same time. Regardless of whether from only meth, or with other drugs like opioids, these are not small numbers.

While most of the illicit meth in America comes from Mexico, a growing story is the rise of meth production in Myanmar. Though this has a greater effect on countries like Thailand at the moment, there’s little doubt that increased production of a drug consumed frequently in the US, will probably mean an increase in importation. The illicit meth industry is likely strengthened by the ability to make it in covert labs, whereas drugs like opium and cannabis require growing space.

All told, this drug with a large death-toll on its back, is actually more federally legal than the no death-toll drug cannabis, and the also no death-toll psychedelic drugs: magic mushrooms, LSD, and DMT. While all these reside in Schedule I (along with mescaline, which comes with a loophole which allows use), methamphetamine sits pretty in Schedule II, meaning the US government is telling us that cannabis is more dangerous than meth. What a crazy world we live in.


Is cannabis more dangerous than meth? No! And I can make that statement as there are death and injury statistics attached to meth, and essentially none for cannabis (possible semi-related injury numbers, but no direct death stats). So, no, it makes absolutely no sense that meth is more legal than cannabis in the US, and the world in general. Or that its scheduled as being less dangerous. And the fact that it is, is something that really should be considered.

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Oils, Tinctures, Tea? How to Make An Amanita Extract

Eating Amanita muscaria mushrooms, and making a tea, are pretty standard. But are there other ways to extract the main compounds? There sure are; but there are also some things to be aware of. Read on to learn more about effective ways to make an Amanita muscaria (or Amanita pantherina) extract.

Concentrates and extracts, what’s the difference?

First and foremost, let’s figure out what we’re talking about when we say ‘Amanita extract.’ We hear the word ‘extract’ a lot, but we also hear it used interchangeably with the word ‘concentrate’. And while there is some overlap here, the terms are technically different.

An extract is anything that’s taken out of something like a plant. If you’re smoking a THC vape, that’s extracted THC, or THC that was taken out of the cannabis plant, so that the rest of the plant isn’t part of it. Compounds can be extracted in different ways, like with alcohol, or oil, or propane, or even water. Whereas an extract doesn’t have to be a concentrated version of anything, all concentrates, are a form of extract.

A concentrate is a compound that is a condensed version of its regular self. So, for example, if you smoke a cannabis plant with 16% THC, you’re getting that 16%. On the other hand, if you take out the THC and formulate a product with just that, it can end up being concentrated to as high as 90% THC, or more.

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In terms of Amanita muscaria mushrooms, if you make a tea, that’s one form of an extract, because it’s allowing the compounds to come out of the plant. If you then boil the water down until it’s gone, and just the extracted material is left, you’ll have a concentrated form of muscimol. Likewise, a tincture is also a concentrated version of the compounds within, without the plant material.

A little science on Amanita compounds

Plants are complicated, and yet we often simplify them in order to speak on the parts we understand, or the parts of relevance. In the case of Amanita muscaria and Amanita pantherina, we’re mostly interested in just two of their compounds. So while the plants contain tons of other things – possibly some of value to us – right now I’m just talking about dealing with ibotenic acid and muscimol.

These are the two compounds that cause psychoactive effects. Whereas muscimol (C4H6N2O2) is known as the compound that promotes GABA release, and relaxation, it also can cause hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. It’s considered inhibitory. It’s the part of the mushroom we want. Ibotenic acid (C5H6N2O4) on the other hand is a neurotoxin, that beyond being known to cause brain legions, can also make a person sweat, have tremors, and feel generally sick. Whether naturally through time, or with heat, ibotenic acid decarboxylates to form muscimol. It’s considered excitatory.

What they both have in common, and which is pertinent for making extracts, is that they’re both water soluble. This is important. It means they’re both made of covalent bonds, and more specifically, of polar covalent bonds. Covalent bonds are either polar or non-polar, with polar representing molecules that are water-soluble, and non-polar defining molecules that are oil soluble. Basically, it comes down to the idea that ‘like’ materials dissolves in ‘like’ solutions. So a molecule of one polarity, dissolves in a solution of a similar polarity.

The point here is that both ibotenic acid and muscimol are water-soluble, and both are considered insoluble in fats and oils. This explains why some types of Amanita extract are possible to make, and some are not.


Tea is one of the most basic forms of extraction. And it’s one of the best ways to extract the muscimol as well as the ibotenic acid. What’s great about tea, is the high temperature decarboxylates the ibotenic acid into muscimol, so not only do you get an extraction of the compounds, but you decrease the unwanted one, and increase the wanted one.

Amanita tea

Teas are best with water soluble compounds, as those compounds can be leached out in water. However, you’ve probably drank a lot of tea made with plants like ginger or cinnamon or peppermint. Their main compounds: gingerol from ginger; cinnamaldehyde, and trans-cinnamaldehyde from cinnamon; and eucalyptol, and menthone from mint, are either insoluble in water, or have extremely low solubility in it.

It’s actually explained well here, why we can still taste the flavors and get some benefits. It’s actually a testament to how strong these plant compounds are that getting only a minuscule amount can still be beneficial in some way. But the reality is that the compounds come out in tiny amounts if they do at all, and don’t technically mix with the water. Meaning if you want an extraction of something oil soluble, like gingerol, using an oil or alcohol is much more useful than making a tea.


One of the reasons I’m writing this article is because of confusion I came across on a message board about making a muscimol oil. The writer believed they had made an infused oil by putting the Amanita mushrooms in almond oil. The obvious problem here: that neither ibotenic acid nor muscimol is oil soluble. Not only that, if they were, this would mean getting all the ibotenic acid, as the lack of heat would dictate no decarboxylation; but that’s secondary to the sheer fact that the compounds can’t be extracted in this way.

Remember the whole problem of making weed edibles without a fat? We all know by now that THC is fat soluble, NOT water soluble. This makes it impossible to cook with it, without a fat like coconut oil or butter. Of course, we also know there is a huge range of edibles on the market today that have infused THC without using a fat. This is made possible with emulsion technology. This technology uses processing with a surfactant, which makes opposing liquids come together as one. Something it does by reducing the surface tension of the liquids to force them together. Without that, it can’t be done.

The reality is that, if you stick a mushroom with water-soluble compounds in an oil, they simply won’t leach out (or not much will). And in order to make an oil, it requires getting the compounds out in a different way, and then infusing them into the oil. There are different thoughts on this. Members of this forum had some great answers for how to do it.


A tincture is an extract and concentrate that uses alcohol to leach out the active compounds. And often this method works in place of other methods, because it can work on both polar and non-polar bonds. Remember how ‘like’ works with ‘like’ in covalent bonds? Well, that means, alcohol swings both ways, and can work with water-soluble or oil-soluble compounds; though how well varies by compound. It also varies if ethanol or methanol works better; though we’re less likely to make a methanol tincture, as methanol is poisonous (or rather, more poisonous).

Amanita tincture
Amanita tincture

Basically, “Ethanol is a very polar molecule due to its hydroxyl (OH) group, which forms hydrogen bonds with other molecules.” On the other end, “The ethyl (C2H5) group in ethanol is non-polar.” Therefore, “Having a polar and non-polar group, ethanol can dissolve both polar molecules, such as water and non-polar molecules such as hexane.”

The other options for tinctures are vinegar and glycerin, both of which are also polar, making them useful solvents for creating an Amanita muscaria extract. Just keep in mind, that just like alcohol, neither of these will turn the ibotenic acid into muscimol, since no heat is involved. This should be remembered in terms of the ability to decarboxylate the ibotenic acid. But there is an answer.

You can use an oven to decarboxylate the mushrooms in the same way we do with weed. Some sources say approximately 170°F, and to heat for less than an hour. Others say more like 100-150°F, and remind to break up the mushrooms like we do with weed. Still others say higher at 170-200°F, but for more like a half hour. In reality, there’s no reason not to go on the higher end with temperature, and no reason to be worried about leaving the mushrooms in for too long. After decarboxylation, you’d have the ability to simply eat the mushrooms, or make them into a tincture.

It’s not a method from history, so we have no historical reference for this. For those who want to experiment, go for it! Just remember that under-doing it might mean leaving in a lot of ibotenic acid and getting sick. According to PubChem, muscimol doesn’t melt or degrade until 347 °F, so though you might burn the mushrooms with too much time or a high temperature, unless you breach this point, the muscimol should be fine. Realistically, you probably don’t want to deal with a bunch of ash, so picking a temperature to ensure mushroom stability, and increasing time, makes the most sense.


So, there you have it. If you want to make an Amanita extract, you can use one of the above methods. Just remember, you’ll have to stick to teas, and tincturing for the best extracts; while you can also simply decarb and eat. And while some cultures in history used the Amanita pee method to decarboxylate the ibotenic acid; I think the above methods are probably a much better option, and much preferable to drinking urine!

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Myanmar, Thailand, and the Growth of Meth in Southeast Asia

Opioids are all over the US, cocaine is still heavily associated with Colombia, and Syria is spoken of as the new hub for captagon manufacture. Now, Myanmar joins the ranks, as one of the biggest producers of meth; with Thailand as one of the biggest buyers.

Myanmar and its history with drugs

Myanmar (Burma), is a country in the west part of mainland Southeast Asia. As of 2017 it had approximately 54 million inhabitants; and borders Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. Like many other poor countries, it was taken over by a big world power, Britain, which held control from 1824-1948. Since then, there has been much civil war, and military dictatorship. This has overridden all attempts at democracy; including coup d’é·tat efforts whenever someone is elected democratically. This happened after the most recent 2021 elections. This environment has led to an instability that allows mass illicit drug trades to thrive.

This is not the first time Myanmar has been associated with major drug production. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Myanmar made a name for itself as one of the biggest opium producers in the world. According to UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), most of the opium cultivation took place in Shan State, a large rural area on the East side of the country, which borders China, Laos, and Thailand. There are a number of armed groups (militias, rebels, and insurgents) within the area to protect the drug trade.

Myanmar held its place as a top opium producer for many decades; though things started to decline in the 1990’s. This was mainly due to an effort by the ruling military junta called the ‘Tatmadaw.’ The group employed tactics like aerial spraying to kill large crop farms, and other methods to exterminate opium farms.

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Why did it happen? The Myanmar government had not done much until that time, essentially turning a blind eye to the trade. And it might have continued that way, if not for international pressure from countries like China (which uniformly hates opium due to the opium wars), and the US (which we already know loves to get involved in other country’s issues, whether it has a reason or not.)

The US probably gave a reason, like fear of it being trafficked to the US. Which is funny considering the country subsequently started the much worse synthetic opioid epidemic, and continues to allow this through regulation. But then, it can’t collect tax money from an illegal industry, only from a legal one.

Crackdown on opium in Myanmar leads to rise of meth

The crackdown worked, as lots of crops were exterminated. But that also meant that a lot of people were left without a job, and a source of income. And many of those people were not happy to see their business disappear into thin air.

In an act reminiscent of Colombia using its established cannabis lines to get cocaine into America, in Myanmar, these opium pathways led to the production and trafficking of another drug, methamphetamine. Opium requires fields to grow poppies, which are harder to hide. Meth, on the other hand, is made in hidden labs, making it that much harder to root out. All that’s needed are some chemicals like pseudoephedrine, and the product is easily made without eyes on it.

As the Shan State is located right next to China, its easy to import the chemicals needed for production. Regardless of how much China might not like opium, the country is a major supplier for the raw materials of worse drugs like meth; which go to places like Myanmar and the US. And fentanyl, which gets produced in Mexico to be shipped up to the US.

How much meth is produced in the country? As always with illegal industries, we don’t know exact answers. All information comes from arrests and seizures, and those numbers are used to estimate total production amounts. For example, let’s assume that its assumed that only one in 10 shipments gets intercepted, and each shipment averages 10 kg. If there are five interceptions, it would be calculated as 50 shipments of 10 kg, or 500 kg total. How precise is this? Not very, but it still gives some idea. Best to remember there’s no official reporting for illegal industries.

Meth production in Myanmar

UNODC estimated in a 2019 report, that in Myanmar, the meth trade is worth approximately $61 billion yearly. In fact, meth offers the country larger profit margins than dealing in opium and heroin. As happens with such industries, organized criminal entities have gotten involved, and the purest forms of the drug get trafficked to higher-priced countries like Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Thailand, and its resulting meth issues

The rising production and industrialization of meth, has brought a lot of money into Myanmar. It’s also predictably causing meth issues in other countries, like the neighboring Thailand. While I often write about Thailand for its progressive cannabis policies, and eye on a magic mushrooms industry; the current meth situation is now a growing problem in the country. And in this case, it’s a drug without a ton of medical benefits, though they do exist. Something exemplified by a Schedule II placement in the US…(while cannabis is Schedule I.)

According to a VOA news report from January, 2023, since Myanmar started production, meth use in Thailand shot up 30% in the last year alone. This makes sense. The drug is now cheaper with production right next door. And as a neighboring country, Thailand is much easier to get it to, than say, America. A nationwide survey in Thailand, led by Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, recently turned back results that meth increased among 18-65 year olds. It said numbers went up from approximately 44,500 last year, to 57,900 this year. These numbers are low, says the head of the University’s Center for Addiction Studies, who explained that many won’t admit to use.

Other surveys by Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board, which uses much wider sampling, found that the number is actually in the hundreds of thousands. This makes more sense with a population of around 72 million; and the production country next door for easy access. In Thailand, the drug is sold as tablets, and called ‘yaba’ which translate to ‘crazy medicine.’

To give an idea on price changes and availability, it’s now possible in some parts of Thailand to buy a tablet for between $0.50-$0.90 in the low-grade market. This is approximately ¼ the price it used to be. The premium market also saw a shift, with top shelf crystal meth prices decreasing from between $50-60 to as low as $14-29.

In order to deal with this very quickly exploding problem, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul mentioned instituting a new policy in January, which was introduced February 2nd. If it passes, this law stipulates that a person in possession of even a single meth pill, can be prosecuted as a dealer. Current law dictates that possession of 15 tablets or less classifies the possessor as a user, which means they can accept treatment to avoid jail time. Dealers on the other hand, face up to 15 years in prison, with an extra five added on if they are found selling to minors.

Thailand might arrest for just one meth pill
Thailand might arrest for just one meth pill

No formal change was made yet. The new update must be approved by the cabinet before going into effect. As of February 22nd, no formal proposal from the Public Health Ministry was submit; at least according to a government spokesperson, via VOA. We’ll have to wait and see if this policy becomes a real thing. Regardless of legal actions, the country is already increasing border patrols on its borders with both Laos and Myanmar.

Does the hype match the danger?

For many drugs, the policies out there don’t match the danger level of the drugs in question. Think about how many people died in the cannabis trade, for a no-death toll drug. Perhaps this is the ultimate example of laws and the hype, not matching the actual danger level. This isn’t that different from what’s going on with Syria and the captagon trade. Captagon is an amphetamine-like drug, which I couldn’t find one death statistic for. So big trade or not, its not the most dangerous drug. Especially considering how much usage there is. Does this make it good? No. But does it make the response to it insane? Yes!

Yet, what was it reported that Jordan is doing? Allowing a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone trafficking it over the border. Which means there’s an automatic death/injury policy, for moving something which itself isn’t attached to a death toll. Ultimately, while drugs can be dangerous without a death toll, when looking at the moves of big countries, and the wars they wage on illegal drugs; much more damage is caused through that violence, than any drug that doesn’t kill anyone.

I don’t remember seeing anything about major health issues involved with captagon, insinuating this is about governments not wanting to lose profits to illegal markets, whether from manufacture in a home country, or import from another. On the other hand, sometimes its good to limit some drugs. The US would be smart to limit opioids, which it has never done. In the case of meth? You’ve certainly got a death and disability toll; though the jury’s out on whether the violent actions to prevent it, match the actual threat.

While drugs like cannabis and psychedelics have no real death threat, methamphetamine was responsible for anywhere up to 23,837 deaths in 2019 in the US, according to NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse). This number is actually for all psychostimulants, which include cocaine. And it doesn’t rule out that other drugs were also used. Another organization, NIHCM (National Institute for Health Care Management) put the number at 23,776 for 2020, which it separated from cocaine numbers; though the deaths could still involve other substances. So yes, meth causes death, meaning in this case, its not just hype, there’s actual danger involved.


It’s hard to say what will happen next with Myanmar and its new meth industry, or Thailand and its new meth problem. Perhaps one of the more interesting things to get out of all this, is the incredible need people seem to have to get high, almost regardless of substance. These trades exist because of how desperate people are for something that feels good. Doesn’t it make more sense to build better systems to make sure people of a country are treated well? Might make some of these drug issues…go away.

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Are Pain Medications Preventing You from Healing?

We all know that pharmaceutical pain medications are much stronger than nearly anything you can find in nature. There’s no comparing cannabis, cloves, or magic mushrooms to powerful drugs like fentanyl and isotonitazene. So why are a growing number of people turning away from opioids in favor of milder treatment options? Aside from obvious safety issues with the former, the answer to that lies in part in how we, as a society, view pain in the first place.

Is pain something that should be immediately and completely masked, or are there some healing components to allowing our bodies to feel discomfort? Is our culture of hiding from anything that feels bad, keeping us in a perpetual state of illness?

Pain & pain medications throughout history

Pain is not a condition in and of itself, but rather a symptom of many other diseases or disorders, indicating something is wrong with our bodies. Pain is incredibly complex and can vary significantly between people, even those who share similar illnesses or injuries. Pain can also range in severity, as well as in the way it’s felt. Some variations of pain can include pricking, tingling, stinging, burning, soreness, aching, and many other unpleasant sensations.

The entire spectrum of pain consists of hundreds of different types of disorders and syndromes. For instance, you can experience pain following an injury, or chronic pain related to aging. Pain can also be neurological, like migraines. Heart attacks, cancer, and childbirth all cause different forms of pain. When it comes to clinical diagnoses, healthcare providers typically group pain into one of two categories: acute or chronic. Acute pain comes on suddenly and intensely, and is usually the result of a traumatic injury or surgery.

Chronic pain persists over a longer period of time, and can be difficult to manage. Chronic pain affects very 50 million American adults, and it’s one of the most common reasons people seek medical care. Although some medical professionals consider chronic pain to be its own medical disease, there is always an underlying cause.

Again, pain is our natural warning sign that something is not right. The purpose of feeling pain is to change our course of actions – be it limiting certain activities, eating different foods, doing certain exercises, and so on. It’s remarkably specific in letting us know what activities will further aggravate an area, and in preventing us from doing said activities.

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What the research says

Pain is something that has long-confused physicians, so in an effort to better understand it, they started tracking their patients’ discomfort at all times. For a while, pain was even referred to as “the fifth vital sign”, officially declared so in 1999, but the move was met with great controversy and continues to be a point of contention in the healthcare industry to this day.

Regardless, the goal was for doctors to take more cognizance of pain because it can be an important factor in determining the overall health and mental state of a patient. The problem was that, the quest to gain a better understanding of pain eventually turned into a mission to mask pain entirely, not necessarily treat its root causes.

Some issues come along with pain medications, the most obvious being that if you don’t feel any pain, you may not take the correct actions to manage and heal your ailment, leading to further injury. Another problem that is rarely discussed, is the role of pain management medications in the actual treatment of pain. For a long time, it was commonly believed that pills helped, but recent studies show that many frequently used pharmaceuticals actually hinder the healing process.

It is well established in scientific literature that NSAIDs can impede the healing of broken bones, damaged ligaments, and other musculoskeletal tissues. Many surgeons many avoid suggesting or prescribing these medications because of the growing concern in how they negatively impact callus formation and decrease the activity of COX isoenzymes that decrease the synthesis of prostanoids.

Another drug of great controversy – opioids. How much are these incredibly dangerous drugs that have caused hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths over the last decade, even aiding in the healing process? Short answer, not very much at all – according to recent studies.

A study published in 2017 found that patients who were treating wounds with opioid doses over 10mg per day exhibited slower rates of healing than patients who took less than 10mg or none at all. Other studies have also suggested that opioid use may negatively impact wound healing by reducing immune activation, impacting tissue oxygenation and angiogenesis, and altering myofibroblast recruitment as well as impacting keratinocyte cytokine production, endothelial proliferation and angiogenesis.

Other drugs that can slow wound healing are cytotoxic antineoplastic and immunosuppressive agents, corticosteroids, and anticoagulants. Additionally, all drugs in the pain relief category can theoretically interfere with healing by masking pain and thus allowing you to continue to hurt yourself without immediately realizing it.

My personal experience with pain & pain medications

To not sound completely tone-deaf here, I do understand that certain levels of pain can make life unbearable. I’ve been blessed in not having to experience chronic, debilitating pain personally, but I have had a handful of injuries and surgeries in my life that left me in pain or discomfort for a few weeks to a few months at a time.

I also suffer from frequent migraines and cluster headaches, which come on strong and fast. Normally, I try to take it easy, drink a lot of water, eat food, and avoid smoking until it goes away. Admittedly, I’ll pop an Excedrin occasionally if I don’t have time to tend to naturally, but I try to avoid that as the regular use of any acetaminophen-based drug can cause significant damage to the body, particularly the liver.

Right now, I’m drawing from my experience of giving birth, comparing how it went when I received epidural versus a natural birth. First, it’s important to note that babies whose mothers receive an epidural are more likely to develop respiratory distress syndrome once the child is born. Epidural anesthetic is sometimes combined with opioid drugs as well, which can cross the placenta and add to the risk of developing respiratory depression.

Babies who have are exhibiting such problems likely end up going to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). While staying in the NICU may not seem harmful on the surface, it means that mother and baby are separated immediately after birth. And when you use epidural, you can’t move your legs for a couple of hours after giving birth, so if the baby is not in the same room with you, that’s even longer spent away from them during their first moments on this earth, and this can have profound effects on the emotional and physical well-being of both baby and mom.

This is what happened to me when I gave birth to my first son with epidural. The labor was about 10 hours, I had to be put on oxygen at numerous points during the process, and my baby was born with some breathing issues that made it difficult for him to breathe through his nose while eating. He was taken to NICU right away, but even while there he had issues for a couple of weeks. At one point during a feeding, he stopped breathing completely for a few seconds and turned blue, it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced.

Were these issues causes by the epidural? It’s hard to say, but very possible. Especially when comparing that ordeal to the birth of my second son, which was done completely naturally. No problems during the labor which last less than one hour from start to finish, baby had absolutely no issues, and we were discharged in about 1 day.

In my opinion, that’s very telling of the types of complications that can arise when unnecessary medical intervention is at play.

Pain medications – Final thoughts

Pain medications and pain management is a complicated and sensitive subject for many people, patients and medical professionals alike. Pharmaceuticals have their place in modern medicine, but it’s important to take a closer look at their overall role in treating pain over the long term. These recent discoveries place greater importance on treating the root causes of pain, in order to get patients off their medications as quickly as possible.

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South America & Drugs: What Are the Main Problems, and Where?

We’re all aware of the opioid issue currently ravaging America, Canada, and beyond. How does this affect the countries of South America? And what other drug issues go on in that region? A recent report highlights South America, and the drugs within, including which drugs are most problematic of the following: amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and opioids; and where these problems occur.

What report?

The report, called Burden of disease due to amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and opioid use disorders in South America, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, was published in January, 2023, in The Lancet Psychiatry. As per the name, the paper seeks to investigate the “burden of disease attributable to amphetamine use disorder, cannabis use disorder (CAD), cocaine use disorder, and opioid use disorder (OUD) in South America from 1990 to 2019, on the basis of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2019.”

In order to gather and assess this information on South America and the main drugs of use, the investigators used data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019, only, to estimate these measuring points in connection to the above mentioned use disorders: “incidence, prevalence, mortality, years of life lost (YLL), years of life lived with disability (YLD), and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) due to substance use disorders.”

The report looks at the12 countries on the continent of South America for drugs issues: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The collected data went through modelling by use of standardized tools, like the “Cause of Death Ensemble model, spatio-temporal Gaussian process regression, and disease modelling meta-regression.”

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Estimates were created from the data for the different aforementioned categories; with breakdowns for sex of users, location, and the years of use. It makes comparisons by gender, location, and year; as well as regional and global approximations. Obviously, not every Latin American country is involved, meaning Mexico, the countries of Central America, and island nations are not included in this examination.

Findings of the report about South America and drugs


According to the 2019 data, Peru has the highest prevalence of amphetamine use disorder per 100,000 people in terms of DALY numbers. When looking at years of life living with the disability (YLD), amphetamine rates were stable for the most part in the 10-year period, showing the highest numbers in Peru, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Paraguay showed some of the highest levels of the drug disorder.

The countries with the highest amphetamine use disorder rates in terms of overall years of life lost (YLL) per 100,000 during the given time period, were Suriname and Peru. In the former this rate increased from 2010 to 2019, while in the latter, it did show a decrease within those same years.

Amphetamine use in South America

Some countries did show decreases in the annual presence of use disorders related to this drug during the given time period. These include: Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Surinam. If you’ll notice, Peru and Surinam, which have some of the bigger issues with the drug, also have a decrease in numbers, indicating a lessening of the issue.


When it came to cannabis use disorder DALY information, there was a stable rate in South America between 1990-2019; with the exceptions of both Chile and Colombia. These two countries had the highest rates in 2019, for DALY numbers.

In terms of years lived with the disorder, cannabis rates retained stability in all included countries except Chile and Colombia. The highest rates of CAD were in Chile, Colombia, Guyana, and Suriname. However, there was no YLL scores, implying cannabis of all the drugs, was not associated with years lost.

Countries that saw a decrease in cannabis use disorder annually during this time, were Venezuela, Brazil, and Uruguay. It was pointed out by the authors that there was no increase in burden from CAD in Uruguay, the only country within this region to allow recreational use.


Opioid use disorder numbers increased per 100,000 between 2009-2019 in both Brazil and Peru. In 2019, those countries had the highest rates on the continent; 82 and 70, respectively in terms of DALY numbers.

YLD rates for opioids did increase in most of the South American countries, but went up the highest amount in Brazil. In Brazil, YLD rates went from 52 to 80, between the years 1990-2019. It had the highest rise of South America.

For opioids, the highest YLL rates belonged to Chile and Uruguay between 2000-2019. The former scored 11·6, while the latter came in at 10·9. Though Ecuador also showed very high rates for opioid use disorder in general.

Countries that saw an annual decrease in OUD, were Venezuela and Bolivia. Overall, while OUD showed up less than other substance abuse disorders, it showed the highest amount of burden of any drug for those who were classified with the disorder. That makes sense as opioids cause the largest death rate, pretty much anywhere there’s an industry.

Drugs causing problems include opioids
Drugs causing problems include opioids


The 2019 numbers show it was Brazil with the highest levels of cocaine use disorder, with a DALY rate of 45 per 100,000. This is nearly a full double from 1990 numbers.

In terms of YLD rates, the four countries with the highest amounts, were Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil; which all saw increases between 1990-2010, but then a decrease from 2010-2019. Overall, Argentina was a hot spot for cocaine use disorder.

For YLL rates related to cocaine use disorder, Brazil had the highest scores. And the numbers for that country greatly increased between 1990-2019, going from 3·7 to 18·1.

For countries that showed an annual decrease in use disorders for this drug, there were Colombia and Peru. Overall, the burden of cocaine use disorder decreased over time.


When looking at male vs female, DALY numbers were consistently higher for men for each drug use disorder, and for all locations, except Paraguay. In totality, men caused more burden through use than females, with the biggest differences in use with cocaine and cannabis. Though males still caused more burden with amphetamine use disorders, the difference between the two was smaller. When it came to opioids, the rates were the same

For both genders, opioids caused the highest rate DALYs. The only exceptions for this were Argentina, which had higher DALY rates for cocaine use disorder in males; and in Paraguay, where among females, amphetamine use damage was higher.

Cannabis use disorder DALY rates were the lowest in all locations, for both men and women.

Does this report have conflicts of interest?

Well, for one thing, the entire study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates foundation is actually a private organization that doesn’t have to please anything or anyone but the three trustees of the company, Bill Gates, his wife Melinda, and Warren Buffet. The terms ‘non-profit’ and ‘not-for-profit’ are actually a little confusing here; and while most tend to think such organizations aren’t privately funded, and privately held; this is mistaken.

Gates Foundation
Gates Foundation:

This foundation doesn’t need any kind of public approval, or to show that its making progress. The IRS can’t do much, and there’s no way to know how tax-exempt funds are used, or if there are conflicts of interest in research. The Gates Foundation is known for doing all kinds of things in third world countries, and a lot of it isn’t very good. As this study focuses primarily on third world countries, and the organization has so many dealings in such places, this entire study could be nothing more than a marketing ploy to get involved.

Then consider what’s actually being measured – use disorders. Should we really consider cannabis a use disorder if it doesn’t show damage in DALY scores or years lost? Has cannabis been fingered for ruining lives? And for that matter, all of these ‘disorders’ have no medical definition or diagnosis. Meaning, it’s a doctor who decides if someone fits a classification, and this means going on personal opinion, which can vary greatly between doctors. What if a doctor simply doesn’t like weed? Then maybe recreational use, gets diagnosed as a use disorder. Use, and use disorder are two separate things. Any research based off psychiatric diagnoses without a medical reference, should be questioned in my opinion.

The study ended by saying “Programmes for amphetamine use disorder, CAD, and OUD management should be improved.” If cannabis isn’t hurting anyone, and is seeing a lessening of restriction all over the world, do we need to worry about systems to deal with it? That sentence puts cannabis in a category with opioids, the drugs that take out close to a 100,000 people a year in the US. That’s putting together one drug which has shown few-to-no negative consequences (and positive benefits), with the drugs that cause the most damage; and then saying they need comparable measures for monitoring and control.

In fact, the report goes on to say, “Countries in South America should improve monitoring of substance use disorders, including regular surveys to provide more accurate data on which to base policy decisions.” Isn’t that the kind of thing the Gates Foundation loves doing? Looking for problems and setting up programs for the misfortunate in third world countries? And hasn’t the third world suffered enough from the ‘advice’ and interference of rich American entities?

Let’s not forget that Bill Gates was one of the biggest pushers of vaccines for covid-19; and while I don’t care to get into opinions on vaccines, there is a point, which should never be forsaken. Gates was pushing a Johnson & Johnson vaccines, as in, the same company that has the biggest payouts to make from global opioid lawsuits, accounting for multi-billions and counting. Whether you agree with vaccines or not isn’t the point, not paying attention to this essential risk-assessment is dangerous at its very best.

Why would anyone take a medication from a company that has so clearly and repeatedly shown its lack of regard for humanity? If you’re super into pharmaceuticals, this probably won’t get through to you, but its actually not a statement on vaccines, but on being able to trust the companies that make them. And that is a big deal, especially in light of the opioid lawsuits. The Gates Foundation had no problem with this conflict of interest. And while the same can technically be said for people taking the vaccine, the reality, is that very few understand this connection. I have yet to find one vaccinated person who does. But Bill Gates and his foundation, absolutely do.

Does this report on South America and drugs have any conflicts of interest?
Does this report on South America and drugs have any conflicts of interest?

So how accurate is this research? It’s hard to say. A report like this could be used for the foundation itself to set up shop in some areas. Or maybe it’s an honest look at drugs in South America. The issue of integrity in research, both related to cannabis and beyond, is not to be ignored; so just because a study comes out, doesn’t mean for a second that it shouldn’t be questioned.

Plus, as long as cannabis is included, and put in the same category as opioids, information is automatically off. This has never made sense, and won’t ever. And for those that keep classifying it this way, do we really want their opinions on issues of drug use disorders, or anything else? In fact, the biggest takeaway of this entire study, is that while amphetamine and cocaine have gone down in their damage overall, and cannabis never caused anything substantial, the one big thing, is the rise of opioid use. All over the continent. And that’s an American pharmaceutical-company started issue, that’s now spread to South America.


Drug use damage certainly exist, but its not the same thing for all drugs, even if the same terminology is applied. While this paper is interesting in assessing some aspects of South America and the drugs of abuse therein; there are a lot of issues with the definition of these disorders, who would decide such diagnoses, and most of all, who funded the report. I say, get the important points out of it…like that even in South America, opioid use is rising (that part is wildly important!) And take the rest with a grain of salt.

Oh, and one other thing…where was alcohol in all this?

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Stepping It Up: Canada Approved Two Companies to Sell Cocaine

Sometimes different parts of a government don’t work in tandem the way we think. This idea was epitomized when David Eby, the Premiere of British Columbia, was blindsided by the news that Health Canada made allowances for two companies to legally sell cocaine. Read on to find out more about Canada getting in on the cocaine industry, and the two companies that now have cocaine approvals.

What happened?

Adastra Labs, out of Langley, British Columbia, put out a press statement in the last few days. In it, the company explained it gained an approval back on February 17th, in regards to an amendment to its Controlled Substances Dealer’s License. The amendment involves cocaine. This was news to David Eby, the Premiere of BC, who said if such a move was made, it was done by the federal agency, with no notification to the local government or province.

This comes after British Columbia already decriminalized hard drugs within the province, as a way of dealing with the growing opioid use, and overdose rate. This new policy started at the end of January, and only applies to British Columbia, not the rest of Canada. The reason is that British Columbia specifically applied to the federal government to receive an exemption from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The federal government approved this, but implemented it not as a law, but as a three-year pilot program.

Under the decriminalization, 2.5 grams or less of a drug is no longer criminalized. This accounts for drugs including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. BC has had over 11,000 deaths from illicit drugs since 2016, which is why the application was put through, and why the federal government approved it. While such measures have proved useful in other countries like Portugal, one must wonder on the logic of applying the same setup in a circumstance where the drugs are continuously given out by doctors.

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What is allowed?

According to Adastra’s statement, the amended license lets the company “interact” with a max of 250 grams of cocaine, and also allows the company to import coca leaves, for making synthetics. Along with cocaine, the company has an allowance to work with psilocybin and psilocin from magic mushrooms (it can distribute up to 1000 grams). CEO Michael Forbes said the company would figure out the commercialization value within the constructs of its own business model, to formulate a way to move forward with maintaining a safe supply of cocaine to meet demand.

He noted the harm reduction aspect, saying, “Harm reduction is a critically important and mainstream topic, and we are staying at the forefront of drug regulations across the board. We proactively pursued the amendment to our Dealer’s License to include cocaine back in December 2022.”

It seems that Health Canada made the move very quietly, with no one knowing much about it. Perhaps it could foresee some backlash. Said BC legislature, and opposition leader, Kevin Falcon, “Cocaine isn’t prescribed, it isn’t safe, and this is wrong. Commercializing cocaine as a business opportunity amounts to legalizing cocaine trafficking, full stop.”

Spokesman Kevin Hollett of BC Centre on Substance Use, seemed just as confused by the move. He said the agency doesn’t know much, (or anything), about it. He reminded that “To my knowledge, prescribed safer supply in BC is focused on opioids, so I’m not clear how this might fit in, if it does at all.”

What about the second company?

If all this sounds like it could be the made-up antics of a company to get press, then consider that yet another company made a similar press statement. On March 2nd, amid the ire of David Eby for being shut out of the federal government’s decision, Sunshine Earth Labs also announced that it had been approved licensing to both produce and sell cocaine.

The company said in a statement that Health Canada gave permission for it to “legally possess, produce, sell and distribute coca leaf and cocaine,” with the inclusion of morphine, MDMA, and heroin. This is slightly different from Adastra, which also got leeway for using the compounds in psilocybin mushrooms – psilocybin and psilocin – as a part of its own allowance.

Magic mushrooms

Most of the recent relaxation in drug policy in Canada is driven by the opioid crisis and growing overdose rate. With more than 11,000 deaths in recent years in CB alone, and the rise of fentanyl bringing on more and more overdoses, BC is looking to do whatever it can to help the problem. But is this part of it? And how do cocaine allowances and an opioid problem, relate? Health Canada didn’t explain fully, but it did finally make a statement on Friday, March 3rd.

What does Health Canada have to say about it?

This Friday, the government agency finally said something. It said in a statement that “They cannot sell products to the general public,” speaking of the two companies that received licensing for cocaine production and sale. As per Health Canada in reference to Adastra Labs, it said the company couldn’t sell to the public, and was only legally permitted to sell the cocaine – or other included substances – to other dealers for controlled substances, who already hold licensing and have the drugs in question, as part of their license. This includes pharmacists, practitioners, hospitals, and researchers, only.

While this story is only just breaking, according to Adastra Labs CEO Forbes, the company actually received the Controlled Substances Dealer’s license last August. In December, 2022, it requested Health Canada update it with licensing for cocaine. That part was approved in February.

According to Health Canada via a statement, the agency “thoroughly reviews applications to ensure that all the appropriate policies and procedures are in place to maintain public health and safety and security.” And that it had reiterated to the company “the very narrow parameters of their license.” So that “If the strict requirements are not being followed, Health Canada will not hesitate to take action, which may include revoking the license.”

British Columbia and overdoses

Health Canada certainly didn’t say anything about this as something related to the opioid crisis, yet that’s how its framed in most publications. The stories are tied. And that doesn’t make much sense considering the opioid issue involves a doctor’s prescription much of the time, with addictions that started because of actual medical needs. As long as the province allows doctors to continue providing these drugs; it probably shouldn’t expect any measure to work. No place with this issue should.

I’ve said time and time again, that the better answer is an immediate switch to ketamine, but it seems no government wants to break from opioid pharma money to do anything useful. Of course, without direct cocaine sales, the only thing that actually happened here, is the insinuation that cocaine might get clearance for medical use. But that seems pretty unrelated to the opioid and overdose issue.

Canada province British Columbia decriminalized drugs, like cocaine
Canada province British Columbia decriminalized drugs, like cocaine

How big is that issue? In terms of British Columbia, which is the 3rd largest province in Canada with approximately 5.2 million inhabitants, its pretty bad. It declared a public health emergency in 2016 due to the growing number of opioid overdoses. In 2021 there were 2,224+ fatal overdoses specifically in the province, which is 26% higher than the previous year; and 700% increased from seven years before. All told, the region has seen over 11,000 overdose deaths since 2016.

What about fentanyl specifically? In 2021, approximately 83% of fatal overdose victims tested positive for fentanyl, while 187 turned up positive for fentanyl analogue, carfentanil. For the latter, those numbers represent almost triple the number of positive samples from 2016. As for 2021 numbers, its thought that about 71% of fatal overdoses were for people between the ages of 39-59. The biggest issue comes from the following locations within BC: Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.

Perhaps the strangest part of the current story, is that its about cocaine, and yet being tied to opioids. A medical cocaine industry, and an opioid overdose issue are unrelated. And while Health Canada isn’t tying the two together, it seems that everyone else wants to, despite a lack of logic for how they fit together. The thing that it looks like is actually happening, is that Canada might be onboard to use cocaine for medical purposes in the future.


Though it doesn’t seem to be directly for end users, Canada did approve two companies to work with and sell cocaine. Perhaps we should remember that some countries like the US, already hold cocaine as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has approved medical uses. Canada has it in Schedule I right now, so what we’re likely seeing, is the beginning of a medical market for it, like the US already has. Why it wasn’t framed this way from the beginning, I really can’t say.

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