Legal Status Says Little About a Drugs Destructive Capabilities
> 10/6/2006 11:33:45 AM

In preparing a story called "Legally High" for The New Scientist, British writer Gaia Vince turned himself into a human guinea pig, testing many of the substances he was writing about. While we can only assume that his experiences left Mr. Vince relatively unharmed, the process he undertook is not advisable for anyone under any condition.

The great fallacy of this piece, and indeed of most all talk of "legal drugs," is that their legal status has little if anything to do with how harmful or addictive they are, and more to do with governmental bureaucracy and ignorance. Much of the piece focuses on a drug called benzylpiperazine or BZP for short. The drug was first used as a substitute for an entreuprenuer who was addicted to illegal amphetamines. He then began selling the drug as a legal alternative to street drugs. Since then it has taken off, largely due to the supply, as the dance/club scene drug of choice for many young people in countries that haven't yet made its sale illegal. In reality, the laws of most nations will likely catch-up with BZP. Studies have shown the drug to have addictive qualities, cause dangerous seizures and leave users feeling sick in what some have called a hangover.

While synthetic compounds like BZP raise questions of regulation and legislation, another legal drug, salvia divinorum, has also been drawing attention here in the US as well as abroad. A naturally occurring hallucinogen that was originally used in Mazatec rituals in Oaxaca, Mexico, salvia packs a powerful but short acting punch. The drug has been outlawed in four states in the U.S. and will likely receive a national ban in the not too distant future. Like psilocybin loaded mushrooms or peyote, salvia entered the drug scene with a relatively low profile that allowed it to stay on the open market for some time. But law enforcement officials and hospitals have begun to see the drug turn up on their radar in recent years.

Whether it is a naturally occurring substance or a synthetic drug, the bottom line is that there is absolutely no assurance of safety. Very little, if any, research has been done on any of these drugs, and the negative effects across the board are as varied as they are frightening. Beyond that, there is evidence in many cases that these "legal" substances may be just as addictive.

There is also a great deal of concern that when many users see these drugs that do not have as stringent a legal classification, they assume the substances are somehow safer. This can lead to overuse or even overdose, which can send a potentially harmful situation into a whole new level of danger. Don't let legal status fool you, these drugs effect many of the same areas of the brain as better understood compounds like ecstasy or cocaine, and they can be just as damaging. If you're looking for legal ways to get high, don't waste time worrying about legal issues. Instead, ask why you're getting high in the first place.

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