LSD

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Surprise! The Media Doesn't Understand Why People Take LSD

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/acidsheet.jpg

In medical practice, the term "drug abuse" is typically understood to describe habitual consumption with harmful consequences to the user. It's also sometimes used to describe non-therapeutic or unintended use of a medical drug. But when it comes to illegal substances, the press routinely -- and ignorantly – calls it full-blown "drug abuse," even if you try the substance just one time.

Here's the latest example from a CBS News story about LSD:

In 2009, the last time data was taken, 779,000 Americans age 12 and older said they had abused LSD at least once in the previous year.

I have a feeling that very few of these 779,000 people would consider themselves drug abusers. It says right there that you only had to drop acid one time in '09 to get counted, and as far as I'm concerned, doing acid one time doesn't make you much of a drug abuser. If it did, then we'd have to come up with a whole new term for some of the people I've had the good fortune of encountering at Burning Man, or for that matter, liberal arts college.

But as silly as all of this is, it gets worse when you take the context into account. The above quote, tragically, is actually the last line contained in this otherwise interesting article:

LSD should be considered for alcoholism treatment, study says

(CBS News) Decades ago, researchers would examine LSD's effects on various health conditions including pain, anxiety, and alcoholism. A new study suggests it might be time to revisit the mind-altering drug's therapeutic uses. The study found lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as acid, could help serious alcoholics sober up…

What we have here is entire article that goes on for several paragraphs about renewed scientific interest in the therapeutic benefits of LSD, only to conclude by implying idiotically that every single LSD user in the country is a drug abuser. Did it not occur to the author that some – perhaps a substantial portion – of the people using LSD were doing so for the same sort of therapeutic purposes being studied by these scientists? If the drug is in fact beneficial, then maybe, just maybe, people could be using for its benefits rather than as part of a pattern of abuse?

Seriously, this isn't even complicated. If CBS News has a hard time grasping the concept of beneficial, non-abusive drug use, my first recommendation would be to reread the first 8 paragraphs of their own article.

LSD Icon Owsley 'Bear' Stanley Dead at 76; Killed in Car Accident in Australia

Location: 
Australia
Owsley "Bear" Stanley's long, strange trip has ended. The counterculture icon who was a major LSD producer in the 1960s and was celebrated in song by The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix, has died in a car crash in Australia.
Publication/Source: 
New York Daily News (NY)
URL: 
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/03/14/2011-03-14_lsd_icon_owsley_bear_stanley_dead_at_76_killed_in_car_accident_in_australia.html

Law Student Sues St. John’s University for Rescinding Readmission Over Drug Charges

Location: 
8000 Utopia Parkway St. John’s University
Queens, NY 11439
United States
David Powers, an accountant who took time out of law school at St. John’s University, has sued the Roman Catholic university in New York after it refused to readmit him, saying that he had not been honest about a criminal conviction, since expunged, in his past. Three semesters into his law degree, Mr. Powers was granted a leave of absence to manage a $2-billion investment fund in Hong Kong.
Publication/Source: 
The Chronicle of Higher Education (DC)
URL: 
http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/law-student-sues-st-johns-u-for-rescinding-readmission-over-drug-charges/30251

Harvard’s Headache Cure: LSD?

Harvard researcher John Halpern has formed a company he hopes will bring to market a drug based on his research into the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide on cluster headaches, a rare but devastating condition that is as bad as it sounds. Halpern, a noted expert in the long-term effects of drug use, said research suggests chemicals present in LSD are an astonishingly effective cure for cluster headaches. Entheogen’s drug does not cause triptastic visions, Halpern said -- it is based on BOL-148, a non-hallucinogenic LSD derivative developed in the 1950s and 60s for research into the effects of LSD on the brain, when such was last in vogue.
Publication/Source: 
Boston Business Journal (MA)
URL: 
http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2010/11/05/harvards-headache-cure-lsd.html

Alcohol More Harmful Than Heroin or Crack, British Study Finds

A study published Monday in the Lancet assessed the harms of various substances and found that alcohol caused more harm in the United Kingdom than heroin or crack cocaine. The study was done by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, which is headed by Professor David Nutt.

drug harm comparison chart, from the Lancet study
Until this time last year, Nutt was head of the governmental Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, but he was fired for criticizing the then Labor government as basing its decision to reclassify marijuana on politics rather than science. He also offended government sensibilities by saying that riding horses was more dangerous than taking ecstasy. After his firing, he and other scientists formed the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

The study, Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis, assessed the relative harms of different legal and illegal drugs to drug users and to society and concluded that "alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack (54) in second and third places."

It also demonstrated that Britain's drug classification scheme bears little relation to the harms caused by the various substances it regulates or fails to regulate. Alcohol, ranked most harmful in the study, is not a controlled substance, but cannabis (20 points) is Class B, the second most serious drug schedule. LSD (7 points) is a Class A drug, the most serious drug schedule, while tobacco (26 points) is not a controlled substance.

"Our findings lend support to previous work in the UK and the Netherlands, confirming that the present drug classification systems have little relation to the evidence of harm," the authors said.

A group of experts looked at drug-specific mortality, drug-related mortality, drug-specific damage, drug-related damage, drug-specific impairment of mental functioning, drug-related impairment of mental functioning, loss of tangibles, loss of relationships, injury, crime, environmental damage, family adversities, international damage, economic cost, and harm to the community and assessed weighted values for each to arrive at a final figure.

"The weighting process is necessarily based on judgement, so it is best done by a group of experts working to consensus," Nutt and his coauthors said. "Extensive sensitivity analyses on the weights showed that this model is very stable; large changes, or combinations of modest changes, are needed to drive substantial shifts in the overall rankings of the drugs."

Science-based drug policy, anybody?

United Kingdom

Review: "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love"

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: Nicholas Schou, "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World" (2010, St. Martin's Press, 305 pp., $24.99 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

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As a teenager in remote South Dakota in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had friends who traveled to Southern California and returned bearing strange gifts indeed: Orange Sunshine brand LSD, hash oil called "Number 1," Thai sticks. I had no clue at the time I was becoming a participant in a messianic drug-selling venture that spanned the world from its headquarters in Laguna Beach, but it turns out I was. That stuff my friends brought back from California was all thanks to the efforts of a group of Orange County surf bums and trouble-prone working class kids who took acid, got religion, and set out to change the world.

They ended up calling themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and "Orange Sunshine" is their story. And what a story it is! Led by a charismatic Laguna Beach street-fighter and troublemaker turned acid-washed mystic named John Griggs (who later died after taking a massive dose of synthetic psilocybin), the Brotherhood adopted as its mission the turning-on of the whole planet. What is shocking is how far they came in achieving their goal.

By the time the Brotherhood went down in flames in a massive federal bust in 1972, it had manufactured and distributed untold millions of doses of its trademark Orange Sunshine, it had pioneered the smuggling of Afghan hashish to the US, it had smuggled massive amounts of Mexican weed into the US, it provided a strong impetus for the formation of the DEA, and, strangely enough, it had made possible Maui Wowie and the Hawaiian pot boom of the 1970s.

The story of Maui Wowie is worth recounting, given that it demonstrates the scope of the Brotherhood's operations and the avidity with which its members went about their business. Wanting to finance another massive Afghan hash deal, Brotherhood members bought a boatload of Mexican weed and took it to Hawaii to sell before heading on to Afghanistan for the second part of the deal. Trapped in an endless, drug-fueled party on Maui, the Brotherhood never completed that deal, but someone there crossbred the Mexican weed with some Afghan pot plants and -- voila! -- Maui Wowie was born, and so was the Hawaiian pot industry.

Relying on interviews with Brotherhood members and the police who chased them, as well as court and newspaper records, OC Weekly writer Nicholos Schou spent four years tracking down the story of the legendary group and telling it in a rollicking, page-turning fashion. In so doing, he also opens a window on the beginnings of the acid era and the cultural turmoil of the late 1960s.

What jumps out at contemporary readers is the naivete and innocence of the time. Griggs and the other Brotherhood members really believed that LSD could change the world -- it certainly changed their world -- and set out with missionary zeal to make it so. Yes, there was money to be made, but for the idealistic Brotherhood, money was not an end, but a means. In fact, the Brotherhood bragged that it had knocked the bottom out of the Southern California hash market intentionally, because prices were too high.

Of course, idealistic zeal could hardly compete with cash, and before long, the Brotherhood and its members were acting like any other dope dealers, more interested in the bottom line than in blowing minds. Such a trajectory seems preordained today, but at the time, the holiness of LSD was supposed to lead us past such materialistic traps. That it didn't hardly seems surprising now, and I suppose that shows how far we've fallen.

Idealistic zeal also had a hard time dealing with pressure and betrayal. While Brotherhood members stayed remarkably loyal for years, one of them eventually cracked under police pressure (and because of disaffection with a group that had drifted from its noble goals), allowing the feds to roll up their operation in 1972. And Timothy Leary, the apostle of acid, whom the Brotherhood worshipped and who stayed with the Brotherhood in Laguna Beach, also turned on it, spilling the beans to the feds after being arrested in Afghanistan. What made Leary's betrayal sting even more painfully was the fact that the Brotherhood had financed the successful Weatherman/Black Panther effort to break Leary out of prison after he had been busted in Laguna Beach.

"Orange Sunshine" is full of great stories, but my favorite has to be the Laguna Beach Christmas party in 1970, when 25,000 hippies headed for Laguna Canyon for a Woodstock-style event. On Christmas day, a cargo plane hired by the Brotherhood flew over the gathering and bombed the crowd with several tens of thousands of hits of Orange Sunshine. Now, that's what I call a party!

But all parties must come to an end, and that was true for the Brotherhood as well, although, despite bold pronouncements from the feds that they had broken the group in 1972, individual members of the Brotherhood kept at their dope-dealing trade for years afterwards. All in all, "Orange Sunshine" is an eminently readable trip down memory lane to the beginning of the contemporary drug culture and a fascinating look at how a small group of high-minded kids ended up changing the world.

Europe: Czech Government Announces Decriminalization Quantities; Law Goes Into Effect on New Year’s Day

The Czech cabinet Monday approved a Justice Ministry proposal that sets personal use quantity limits for illicit drugs under a penal code revision that decriminalizes drug possession in the Czech Republic. The law and its quantity limits will take effect on January 1. The Czech government had approved the decriminalization law late last year, but failed to set precise quantities covered by it, instead leaving it to police and prosecutors to determine what constituted a “larger than small” amount of drugs. The resulting confusion--and the prosecution of some small-scale marijuana growers as drug traffickers--led the government to adopt more precise criteria. Under the new law, possession of less than the following amounts of illicit drugs will not be a criminal offense: Marijuana 15 grams (or five plants) Hashish 5 grams Magic mushrooms 40 pieces Peyote 5 plants LSD 5 tablets Ecstasy 4 tablets Amphetamine 2 grams Methamphetamine 2 grams Heroin 1.5 grams Coca 5 plants Cocaine 1 gram Possession of “larger than a small amount” of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. For other illicit drugs, the sentence is two years. Trafficking offenses carry stiffer sentences. Justice Minister Daniela Kovarova said that the ministry had originally proposed decriminalizing the possession of up to two grams of hard drugs, but decided that limits being imposed by courts this year were appropriate. "The government finally decided that it would stick to the current court practice and drafted a table based on these limits," Kovarova said. The Czech Republic now joins Portugal as a European country that has decriminalized drug possession.
Location: 
Prague
Czech Republic

Feature: Mexico and Argentina Enact Drug Decriminalization

In the last eight days, the decriminalization of drug possession has gone into effect for 150 million Latin Americans. Last Thursday, as part of a broader bill, Mexico (pop. 110 million) decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all drugs through the legislative process. Four days later, the Argentine Supreme Court declared unconstitutional that country's law criminalizing drug possession. While the Argentine case involved marijuana possession, the ruling clears the way for the government to draft a new law decriminalizing all drug possession.

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Latin America map (usaid.gov)
The shift in policies toward drug users in the two countries is a dramatic indication of the seismic shift in drug policy already well underway in Latin America. Colombia's high court declared the law against drug possession unconstitutional in 1994. Brazil has had a version of decriminalization since 2006 -- users cannot be imprisoned, but can be forced into treatment, educational programs, or community service -- and Uruguay now allows judges to determine if someone in possession of drugs intended to use them or sell and to act accordingly. Movement toward decriminalization is also underway in Ecuador.

That reformist zeitgeist is perhaps best encapsulated in the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, led by former presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Enrique Cardoso of Brazil. In its report earlier this year, Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift, the commission called for decriminalization of drug use, especially marijuana, and treating drug use as a public health -- not a law enforcement -- issue. A similar commission got underway in Brazil last week.

"Decriminalization permits a distinction between users and drug traffickers," said John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America. "This allows governments to focus their efforts in reducing the terrible harms caused by the big criminal networks and the violence related to the illicit traffic, instead of repressing users and small-scale dealers."

"What's happened in Mexico and now Argentina is very consistent with the broader trend in Europe and Latin America in terms of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs and promoting alternatives to incarceration and a public health approach for people struggling with drug addiction," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The decision in Argentina reminds me of similar rulings in Colombia more than a decade ago and in Germany before that, and, more generally, what's been going on in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland. In some cases, there is a legal or constitutional notion about personal sovereignty or autonomy, but there is also a recognition of the failures of the drug war approach vis a vis low-level offenders. There is a kind of human rights element that you see popping up in both contexts," Nadelmann said.

But the devil is in the details. Mexico's decriminalization, for example, comes as part of a broader law aimed at "narcomenudeo," or small-scale drug dealing. In addition to decriminalizing drug possession, the law for the first time allows state and local authorities to arrest and prosecute drug offenders. Previously, such powers had been the sole province of federal authorities. The new law also allows police to make undercover drug buys, a power they did not previously possess. (To read the full text of the law in Spanish, go to page 83 of the Official Daily.)

Under the Mexican law, the amounts of various drugs decriminalized are as follows:

  • opium -- 2 grams
  • cocaine -- 1/2 gram
  • heroin -- 1/10 gram
  • marijuana -- 5 grams
  • LSD -- 150 micrograms
  • methamphetamine -- 1/5 gram
  • ecstasy -- 1/5 gram

For Mexican drug reformers, the law is definitely a mixed bag. The Collective for an Integral Drug Policy, a Mexico City-based reform think-tank, felt compelled to note that while "the law represents certain advances... it could have very negative consequences for the country" because the public health and human rights perspectives are not implicated strongly enough in it.

While the collective applauded the law's distinctions between consumer, addict, and criminal; its rejection of forced drug treatment, its lip service to harm reduction, and its recognition of the traditional, ritual use of some substances, it challenged other aspects of the law. "It focuses on intensifying a military and police strategy that has proven to be a failure," the collective said, alluding to the more than 12,000 people killed in prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderon unleashed the military against the cartels in December 2006.

"The law will criminalize a vast group of people who make a living off the small-time dealing of drugs, but who in reality do not consciously form part of organized crime," but who are instead merely trying to make a living, the collective argued. "Imprisoning them will not diminish the supply of drugs on the street, nor will it improve public security, yet it will justify the war on drugs, since the government will be able to boast of the number of people incarcerated with this policy."

"Mexican decriminalization will have no impact whatsoever on the broader issues of drug trafficking and violence," agreed Nadelmann. "From the legal and institutional perspective, this is very, very significant, but in terms of actual impact on the ground in Mexico, that remains to be seen."

The collective also criticized the law's provision allowing police to make drug buys to nab small-time dealers and warned that the small quantities of drugs decriminalized "are not realistic" and will as a consequence lead to "a significant increase in corruption and extortion of consumers by police forces."

University of Texas-El Paso anthropologist Howard Campbell, who has studied the street drug scene across the river in Ciudad Juarez, was more cynical. "It was a good move by the government to make that distinction between users and traffickers, but I'm not sure what the effects of the law will be," he said. "All over Mexico, cops prey on junkies, and one effect of this might be to give low-down junkies a bit of a break from the cops. On the other hand, street-level drug dealing is often controlled by the cops... but if the cops are corrupt and in control, it doesn't really matter what the law says."

Campbell also doubted the new law would have much effect in reducing the prohibition-related violence. "I don't think it will have much initial impact, but still, the overarching importance of this law is symbolic. It shows that governments can revamp their policies, not just keep on working with failed ones," he said.

In Argentina, the situation is less dire and the reform is less ambiguous. On Tuesday, the Argentine Supreme Court, ratifying a series of lower court decisions in recent years, declared that the section of the country's drug law that criminalizes drug possession is unconstitutional. While the ruling referred only to marijuana possession, the portion of the law it threw out makes no distinction among drugs.

The decision came in the Arriola case, in which a group of young men from the provincial city of Rosario were each caught with small amounts of marijuana, arrested, and convicted. Under Argentina's 1989 drug law, they faced up to two years in prison.

But imprisoning people absent harm to others violated constitutional protections, a unanimous court held. "Each individual adult is responsible for making decisions freely about their desired lifestyle without state interference," their ruling said. "Private conduct is allowed unless it constitutes a real danger or causes damage to property or the rights of others. The state cannot establish morality."

"It is significant that the ruling was unanimous," said Martin Jelsma, coordinator of the Drugs and Democracy program at the Transnational Institute, which has worked closely with Latin American activists and politicians on drug reform issues. "It confirms the paradigm shift visible throughout the continent, which recognizes that drug use should be treated as a public health matter instead of, as in the past, when all involved, including users, were seen as criminals."

That paradigm shift has also occurred within the current Argentine government of President Cristina Kirchner, which favors a public health approach to drug use. The government has been waiting on this decision before moving forward with a bill that would decriminalize possession of small quantities of all drugs.

"The declaration of the unconstitutionality of the application of the drug law for marijuana possession is a great advance since it eliminates the repressive arm from a problem that should be confronted with public health policies," said Intercambios, an Argentine harm reduction organization. "Whatever retreat in the application of the criminal law in relation to drug users is positive; not only to stop criminalizing and stigmatizing users, but to permit the advance of educational, social, and health responses that are appropriate for this phenomenon."

Some Argentine harm reductionists warned that while the ruling was of transcendent importance, its real impact would be measured by its effect on the policies of the state. "In the vertical sense, it should oblige all the judges in the country to take heed of this declaration of the unconstitutionality of punishing drug possession for personal use," said Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). "In the horizontal sense, it should force all the agencies of the state involved in drug policy to redefine their involvement to guarantee that they do not fail to comply with international human rights treaties subscribed to by the country," she added.

For the Argentine section of the global cannabis nation, it was a happy day. "Wow! This feels like honest good vibrations from the Supreme Court and the government," said Argentine marijuana activist Mike Bifari. "They really do have this new policy of generally being more tolerant and talking about human rights in the drug issue nationally and internationally, instead of that tired old war on drugs."

The Supreme Court decision will pave the way to full decriminalization, he said. "Although this was a marijuana case, the current law is about all types of drugs," said Bifari. "Now we have to wait for the government's scientific committee to come up with a draft of a new drug law, and that will be the government's bill in the congress. We think there are going to be lot of media debates and lots of discussion, and what we will try to do is to occupy all the different cultural spaces and try to advance on issues such as access and medical marijuana."

And so the wheel turns, and the United States and its hard-line drug policies are increasingly isolated in the hemisphere. As anthropologist Campbell noted, "This is happening all over Latin America. You'd think we might be able to do it here, too."

Latin America: Mexican Decriminalization Bill Now Law of the Land

A bill that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use in Mexico is now the law of the land, although it will not go into effect for one year to give states time to adjust their laws. It was published Thursday in the Official Daily of the Federation, the Mexican equivalent of the Federal Register. (To read the complete text of the bill in Spanish, go to page 83 of the Official Daily.

According to the new law, the amounts of various drugs decriminalized for personal use are:

  • opium -- 2 grams
  • cocaine -- 1/2 gram
  • heroin -- 1/10 gram
  • marijuana -- 5 grams
  • LSD -- 150 micrograms
  • methamphetamine -- 1/5 gram
  • ecstasy -- 1/5 gram

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mexicocitymarch-smaller.jpg
''Global Marijuana Day'' demonstration in Mexico City, May 2008
The decriminalization measure is part of a broader bill aimed at reducing "narcomenudeo," or retail drug sales. The bill would allow states and localities to prosecute small-time drug dealing offenses, a power that currently resides only with the federal government. It also allows police to make drug buys to build cases, a break with precedent in Mexico.

Whether the overall bill is a step forward or a step back is open to debate. Read our earlier discussion of the bill here.

High School Seniors Are Using Lots of LSD This Year

Jacob Sullum pokes numerous holes in the drug czar’s recent claims of dramatic drug war progress. This in particular jumped out at me:

…if Walters wants to take credit for every drop in drug use that occurs on his watch, he'll have to take the blame for the enormous increases in past-month LSD use among high school seniors and  past-month methamphetamine use among sophomores, both of which nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 (hitting a whopping 1.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively).

Be careful out there, kids! Thanks to the total failure of the war on drugs, you are up to your asses in acid and meth, but seriously, do not mix them. It will suck. You’ll get arrested (and probably tasered, too).

See, contrary to the drug czar’s wild accusations, those of us who want to end the drug war have no interest in seeing young people make poor choices. And the fact that America’s high schools are overflowing with acid and speed ought to help illustrate why closing the black market is actually a perfectly rational approach to keeping powerful drugs away from our kids.

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