Let’s Talk About Drugs

Recently, the Edinburgh Council and the city’s Drug and Alcohol Project received backlash over a mini booklet they published which was aimed to reduce harm associated with drug use. “Start with half a pill of ecstasy, smoke cannabis with low-strength tobacco and wash your nose out after snorting cocaine”.

But why the backlash? The so-called “War on Drugs” hasn’t been very successful. A lot of teenagers and adults still take them no matter the legislation or prohibitions. And it seems like this will forever be the case. The best one could do is to give information on harm reduction all while encouraging people to stay away from significantly harmful, addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine.

Images: 1) Poppy plant, 2) Heroin. Images by: 1) uk.businessinsider.com and 2) www.brandenton.com 

Which is exactly what The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) advocate. These two major public health bodies controversially called for the decriminalisation of all drug use and possession in the UK. According to them, criminalising drugs leads to greater long-term harm as users would be excluded from employment and education. RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer told the Telegraph in an article: “The time has come for a new approach, where we recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue, and that those who misuse drugs are in need of treatment and support, not criminals in need of punishment.”

RSPH also underlined the aspects to harm reduction in their 2016 report titled “Taking a New Line to Drugs”. According to the report,  harm reduction is an approach that attempts to reduce the overall level of harm associated with substance abuse, rather than dismissing substance abuse as something that should be avoided completely. This approach accepts that “…a certain level of use will always remain inevitable among those who are unable or unwilling to stop.”

Muaz (not his real name), 21, has taken LSD six or seven times now. “I’m of the opinion that acid can help a lot with self development,” he said. “You just need to trip right.” According to him, he gets his information from personal experience and friends. It is obvious here that they aren’t a lot of available certified information, because there is still a stigma surrounding drug use. This is partly caused by the criminalisation of the substances.

In Portugal where drug use is not a criminal offence- hence viewed as less of a stigma- problematic users feel more comfortable seeking out help. This could be one of the many benefits of ending drug criminalisation. The current statistics report that drug use in Portugal has declined in 15-24 year olds and deaths due to drug use have fallen significantly, from 80 in 2001 to 16 in 2012.

However, all drugs cause some sort of harm to the body. But as RSPH said in their report: “…drug harm cannot be objectively measured on a single scale – it is multi-faceted, including physical, psychological and social harm, both to the user and to others. Every drug has a different harm profile across these categories.” Of course some drugs are best to stay away from, but other drugs are simply safer to use recreationally- even safer than alcohol and tobacco. RSPH’s report states that alcohol and tobacco have “high levels of harm, both to users and those around them,” and that this is caused by easy access and social acceptability, on top of their legal status. The report states: “At individual and population level, alcohol and tobacco cause greater health and social harm than many of their illegal counterparts.”


Infographic by: Ainaa Mashrique.

Organisations like rollsafe.org and tripsafe.org provide guidances online for first time users, including supplement recommendations. Here are some ways you could stay safe, if one day you decide to go on a “roll”.

Stay Safe on MDMA

According to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, “In laboratory studies, pure MDMA has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses.” “Molly” or “Ecstasy” may contain MDMA, but often times it is mixed in with other, very harmful chemicals, like amphetamines.

What should you do?

This video doesn’t exist
MDMA Precautions. Video by: Ainaa Mashrique. All images, music and video clips within this video belong to their respective owners.

1) Cool down, or you risk getting a heatstroke, especially if you are in a hot environment. It’s a stimulant, so most likely you’d want to sweat it out on the dance floor. Make sure you take breaks. A standard dose of MDMA raises your body temperature by approximately one degree, and also interferes with your body’s temperature regulation.

2) Stay Hydrated, although very rarely, Ecstasy users drink too much water and die from Hyponatremia, which is caused my low sodium. Combat this by drinking not more than 500ml of water in an hour, and replace some of that water with electrolytes like Gatorade or fruit juices.

3) Test it. Rollsafe.org claims that MDMA purchased online is much likely to be safer than MDMA purchased on the street or in the club. If you take this route, look for guides and resources on websites like Reddit so that you know how to get the safest substances. Also, it would be a good idea to test your drugs. You can purchase a test- kit online.

4) Avoid if: 

  • You have taken MAOIs (Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors), usually prescribed for depression accompanied with anxiety, in the last two weeks
  • Codeine
  • Any more than a few drinks of alcohol

5) Be mindful of dosage. Chances are, you’d feel like you didn’t take enough MDMA, especially if it’s your first time. This is a trap, as you’d risk lethal overdosing if you take more to get the high you were expecting. For many drugs, weight has a high impact on dosage. Weight does not have a high impact on dosage for MDMA. Even if you weigh a lot, avoid going beyond 125mg. The stimulant effect of 100mg will be too high for many people, especially small females. 60-90mg is safer in that case. The trick is to start small. 

6) Take supplements. This may also reduce some unwanted side effects and eliminate neurotoxicity risk. Rollsafe.org has a supplement kit that you can purchase online and instructions on taking them alongside MDMA, for a safer high.

  • Magnesium Glycerinate six hours prior and during the high may reduce jaw tension
  • Some vitamin-C one to three hours prior is proven to reduce neurotoxicity
  • 100mg Na-R-ALA (aplpa-lipoic acid) may reduce MDMA induced neurotoxicity if taken before and four hours after

7) Wait it out. If you enjoy your experience and want to do it again, it’s ideal that you wait at least six weeks to three months.

Stay Safe on LSD


LSD strips with a cartoon character print. Image by: Psychonaught via Wikimedia Commons.

LSD is an incredibly potent, mood-changing chemical drug. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

What should you do?

1) Find a trip sitter. A good friend who wouldn’t mind staying sober to watch over you.

2) Test it. Preferably, don’t get it from dealers. And just like MDMA, an at-home drug purity test would be a good idea.

3) Have a good meal prior. 

4) Be mindful of dosage. Just like MDMA, you should start with a smaller dose.

5) Avoid if you have taken cannabis in the last 24 hours.

6) Get comfortable. Think twice before tripping in public. A safe, comfortable environment is vital.

7) Find some friends. If you’re inexperienced, taking LSD alone may not be the best decision. But two-person sessions aren’t that great either, as there would be some pressure to carry a conversation. Instead, stay in a group of 3- 4 people you are comfortable around. 

8) Wait it out. Did u enjoy your trip? You are advised to wait at least three months before your next one.

LSD could be a mind-altering experience that would benefit you and your sense of self. However, if you take LSD too frequently it can become a disruptive force because of the constant disconnect from reality.

Watch the video below if you’re interested to see some famous figures who have a history with LSD.

This video doesn’t exist
LSD and some famous users. Video by: Ainaa Mashrique. Information from: COED.com. This video is in no way intended to disrespect the people mentioned. Frequency of their use is unknown. All images, music and video clips within this video belong to their respective owners.
*Disclaimer: WNOL does not in any way condone drug use. We are not medical professionals. This article should not be taken as expert medical advice. 

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