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LSD Purity - Gospel and Heresy

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A good critical review of the ever-popular issue.


Table of Contents

I. THE GOSPEL
    A. The Syllogism
    B. Empirical Evidence: lsd.data

II. A HERETICAL VIEWPOINT

    A. An Analysis of the Syllogism
    B. What lsd.data Proves
    C. Subjective Evidence Supporting the Heresy
    D. Weighing Subjective Evidence Against the Gospel
    E. Anecdotes

III. GUIDEBOOK FOR UNBELIEVERS

    A. Subjective Indications of Quality
    B. Precautions
    C. Storage

IV. THE GOSPEL AND THE POLITICS OF LSD

APPENDIX: Holy Scripture Revisited



I. THE GOSPEL

In reading alt.drugs.* and the literature on LSD in ftp.hyperreal.com, it is clear that there has emerged a central dogma about LSD purity (and quality). It holds that all acid in the form of blotters is in effect indistinguishable from perfectly manufactured LSD-25. Persons suggesting that there may be variations in quality are derided and told to read the FAQ (holy scripture). The Gospel appears to be based on the following syllogism, and backed up by empirical evidence found in the file lsd.data. Subjective evidence supporting or opposing the Gospel is considered worthless given the importance of set and setting in the LSD experience.

A. The Syllogism

The syllogism on which the Gospel is based goes something like this:

Given that:
1) A typical blotter can only hold about 200 ug of drug material.
2) The d isomer of LSD (LSD-25) is the only drug which is psychoactive in such quantities.
Therefore:
3) All illicit 'acid' packaged in blotter form owes all of its psychoactive effects to LSD-25 and thus any difference in subjective or physical effects are entirely due to difference in dose, set, or setting.

I intend to indulge in the heresy of attempting to 'refute' this fundamental tenet of the Gospel, which I will also refer to as 'the Doctrine'. But before proceeding to vent my blasphemies, I support my synopsis of the Doctrine and its supporting syllogism by quoting directly from scripture: (from ftp.hyperreal.com::drugs/psychedelics/lsd/FAQ-LSD)

> ADULTERANTS:
>
> Several problems are associated with street drugs: their unknown
> purity and their unknown strength. Because of its extreme cheapness
> and potency, the purity of LSD in blotter form is not an issue: either
> it's lsd or untreated paper. The purity of powders, pills, and liquids
> cannot be assumed as safe. With regards to uncertain strength, the
> strength of hits these days is low, 100 micrograms or so. One should
> be careful and assume that the smallest square in a tiling of a sheet
> is a dose, even if a printed pattern covers several. An experienced
> person could judge the strength of a dose, and if it is assumed all
> doses on a sheet have been processed equivalently, those doses would
> be calibrated for others, much like anything else.
>
> ..............................
>
> From Psychedelic Chemistry by M.V.Smith, 2nd edition p 5:
>
> "There is a great deal of superstition regarding purification of
> psychedelics. Actually, any impurities which may be present as a
> result of synthetic procedures will almost certainly be without any
> effect on the trip. If there are 200 micrograms of LSD in a tablet,
> there could only be 200 mics of impurities present even if the LSD was
> originally only 50% pure (assuming nothing else has been added), and
> few compounds will produce a significant effect until a hundred to a
> thousand times this amount has been ingested. Even mescaline, which
> has a rather specific psychedelic effect, requires about a thousand
> thimes this amount."

It is interesting to note how much of scripture is based on the immortal words of the true prophet Michael Valentine Smith. See the APPENDIX for blasphemous attacks on this venerable prophet.

B. Empirical Evidence: lsd.data

Although the above argument usually suffices for the faithful, the doubters can retrieve a document 'lsd.data' from the holy archives which lists results of PharmChem analyses of alleged LSD samples in 1973 and 1974. This should remove any doubt that the preparations sold as LSD are in fact the real McCoy.

II. A HERETICAL VIEWPOINT

I intend to advance the heretical viewpoint that there is tremendous variation in the quality of drugs found in blotters, and that few such preparations illicitly available since the mid-1970s even come close to pure LSD-25 in the capacity for expanding consciousness. In the following I first examine the syllogism then move to a discussion of subjective effects and anecdotes about purity.

A: An analysis of the Syllogism

I now proceed to examine the assumptions and conclusions of the syllogism outlined above

1) A blotter can only hold about 200 ug of drug material

Not necessarily true. Blotters vary in size, some weighing up to several milligrams in weight, and I have seen blotters that were saturated with added materials. I will examine (2) and (3) together.

2) Only the d isomer of LSD is active in such quantity
3) All illicit 'acid' packaged in blotter form owes all of its psychoactive effects to LSD-25 and thus any difference in subjective or physical effects are entirely due to difference in dose, set, or setting.

Not true.
1: Several other *known* drugs are active in such quantities. Here are a few, listed with typical psychoactive doses:

DRUGDOSE(ug)
LSD 100-1000
nicotine 300
scopolamine 500
atropine 500
carbachol 200
aminopentamide 500
colchicine 100
fentanyl 100
etorphine 100
resperine 250

Some of these drugs are very cheap and easy to obtain, such as scopolamine and atropine. Even methamphetamine is active in doses as low as 1 mg.

2: LSD-25 may potentiate other materials that are normally inactive. Even minute amounts of amphetamine can significantly potentiate LSD, and change the quality of the effect. The same may be true of other lysergic acid derivatives and by-products in a blotter.

3: All the discussion I have seen about psychoactive by-products and residues in blotters has focused on known such known products as the 4 isomers of LSD, variations on the anide group, known lysergic amines, etc. The information about these chemicals appears to be based on assays of extraction and synthesis products based on high-quality processes using materials and reagents of pharmaceutical quality. What goes on in illicit drug labs may be an entirely different story. Question: What happens when you substitute the hydrogens on any of the various positions of the lysergic backbone with some other element or compound? How do differences in saturation affect its qualities? If the base molecule is LSD it may still have very high potency, but qualitatively very different (eg: muddled) effects.

4: The mechanism by which LSD alters consciousness is not understood. The fact that only 0.001% of a dose crosses the blood-brain barrier, and it leaves the brain within an hour suggests that it's mechanism of action is very different from most drugs, so generalizations about purity/quality based on other drugs should be used with caution. Perhaps there are phenomena of synchronization, synergy, or resonance in the neural response patterns to LSD that are disrupted or muted by the presence of variants of LSD at LSD receptors (if they exist). We simply don't know, and to pretend we can speak with certainty about such things is to indulge in hubris.

B: What lsd.data Proves

The analysis results in lsd.data proves that the vast majority of alleged LSD samples analyzed in 1973 and 1974 tested positive for LSD, and did not test positive for whatever other drugs they were testing for. Relevant questions include: How selective were the LSD identification tests used? and How many other drugs were tested for? In any case, based on numerous reports, I believe most of the acid available during those years was of high quality and was similar if not identical to LSD-25. The consistency of quality didn't start to plummet until the mid-1970s, due in part to restricted availability of chemicals required for synthesis. A recent post (arguing in favor of the Doctrine) is instructive.

>planders.461.2F36D2D0@mail.utexas.edu:
> In the 60s, it never seemed that certain characteristics were assigned to
> different batches. Acid was acid. Only when printed blotters really
> started taking off in the late 70s (replacing pills, microdots, windowpane,
> etc) did people start giving characteristics to blotter.

C: Subjective Evidence Supporting the Heresy

There is abundant subjective evidence that since the prohibition of LSD, and particularly since the mid-1970s the illicit psychoactive preparations having effective doses in the sub-milligram range (eg-blotters), called acid or LSD, have baseline effects (independent of dose, set, or setting) which vary over a wide spectrum.

This distribution of effects may be highly modal and centralized, with the vast majority of acid available at a given time having very similar effects, perhaps even coming from only a few sources; and this may give users who have only sampled acid for a few years the impression that it's all the same, and thus little reason to doubt it's authenticity or quality.

However, virtually any connoisseur of acid who has a discerning mind and a good memory, and has sampled illicit offerings for several decades (starting in the 60's or early 70's) knows that quality is a very real and important issue. I will leave it to the reader to seek out the opinions of veterans of the the first psychedelic era.

D: Weighing Subjective Evidence Against the Gospel

The syllogism supporting the Doctrine has gaping holes in it. It, in combination with other supporting evidence, may tend to support the case:

    [a] Most blotter acid is owes most of its activity to lysergic acid derivaties structurally similar to LSD (and perhaps testing positive for it).

But it certainly doesn't make the case:

    [b] All blotter acid owes all of its activity to LSD-25, whose pharmacological action is unmodified by impurities.

What can one learn from subjective experiences induced by acid? The proponents of the central dogma contend that since the effects of LSD are highly susceptible to set, setting, and dose, users' attributions of differences in effects to differences in the drug are groundless. It is true that variables such as set, setting and dose are extremely influential in determining the subjective effects of LSD. In fact the LSD experience is probably more susceptable to these effects than any other drug known. This does not mean that a discerning user is incapable of separating to a significant or high degree such variables from variations in drug quality. It is very much a function of the aptitude and experience of the user. Some people can readily distinguish the effects of pure mescaline from those of the mixture of alkaloids found in Peyote. Others can't distinguish between the distinctly different effects of Psilocybin and LSD.

To illustrate the capacity for discriminating between drug quality and other variables I offer the following metaphor:

    Think of LSD as a window through which you look into a different world. Your position relative to the window, and what is on the other side represents set and setting. The clarity of the window represents the quality of the drug. Now your position and the scene outside the window can change dramatically, but reguardless you are still capable of perceiving the clarity of the window. Moreover, if you had never looked through a window before, and you were given a cloudy one to look through and told it was LSD, you would have no reason to doubt its authenticity because you have never had the experience of looking through a clear one.

E: Anecdotes

The following accounts are presented as evidence that blotters may contain psychoactive substances that produce effects quite different from LSD. Note that these accounts represent extreme and atypical experiences with blotter acid and are presented to refute the Doctrine, not to counter case [a], above.

1: aluminized LSD?

1978 (5-point star pattern white paper): I went for a bike ride, and took an aluminum canteen that had water sitting in it for a long time. I put blotter on my tounge and washed it down with the canteen water. Within 30 minutes I started to noticed effects, but not like acid. They were very rough and jolting. There was a violent flashing in my visual field. I got off my bike and went into the woods. I started to get jolting, cramping feelings throughout my nervous system. These very unpleasant physical symptoms completely overshadowed any psychic effects. I was undergoing what seemed to be a convulsive attack, and feared for my life. After several hours, the effects diminished, and I rode home. I called my friend who gave me the hits and he was shocked to hear of my experience, having certified that it was good acid. Having complete trust in him, I came up with the hypothesis that aluminum in the water had reacted with the acid to yield a product with strychnine-like effects. I cautiously sampled another hit. This time it was completely smooth with no physical symptoms. Subsequent trips on the same batch were also smooth with normal acid-like psychic effects.

2: tropane acid?

1987 (orange blotters seemingly saturated with material): I have had hundreds of acid trips and one trip on Datura Stramonium (containing tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine). This acid resembled Datura more closely than most other acid I've had. It wasn't very mind-expanding, but was very dreamy, and vision was slightly blurred. The visuals were of the cholinergic type, not the norepinepherin or serotonin type. It had a slightly dissociative effect uncharacteristic of normal acid. There was also a harsh feeling in my heart not unlike one I had on the Datura trip.

3: 'speedy' acid

1979 (red blotter): I have taken a few different blotters which had effects resembling amphetamine more than LSD. This was particularly true of this dose. The effects were already strong after 45 minutes (instead of the 1 hour wait before the start of the climb characteristic of LSD). The depth, subtleties, colors, highly connected patterns, vivid imagination, and multiplicity and liberty of thought characteristic of LSD were absent. Instead there was an urgent matter-of-fact quality of thought; a feeling of being pushed against my will. Color perception was flattened, dominated by monochromes, especially red. Kinesthetic, tactile, and visual perceptions over time seemed to melt into a kind of blur.

III. GUIDEBOOK FOR UNBELIEVERS

A: Subjective Indications of Quality

The following table is provided as a resource for evaluating the effects of acid. Effects of other drugs are listed for comparison purposes. Scores are normalized for dose, meaning that a given score is expressed as a ratio to the overall effect of the drug. Thus, for example, taking larger doses of scopolamine cannot be used to approximate LSD-like synesthetic experiences, as other effects of the drug, such as delirium, get in the way. Similar dose-related phenomena limit the mind-expanding capacities of most acid.

Note: this table is based on extensive but imperfect data, and necessarily involves subjective elements. Readers who disagree with my scoring are encouraged to write me with their opinions, which will all be used to improve my data.

CODE DRUG
LSD LSD-25
LAA crude lysergic amines, from HBWR
Mes mescaline
TMA TMA
Amp methamphetamine
Psi psilocin
Sco scopolamine & atropine
acid various blotter acid 1975-92

EFFECTLSDLAAMesTMAAmpPsiScoacid
pharmacology:
dose (mg)0.38800303302< 2
onset (hours)1.01.00.70.50.40.41.50.5 - 1.0
peak (hours)3.03.54.03.03.01.63.52.0 - 3.0
termination (hours)128151515686 - 10
physiological:
pupil dilation78653795 - 9
nausea18223401 - 8
increased heart rate22346242 - 7
perceptual:
transparency of hallucinations86543422 - 5
information content of hallucinations99672311 - 5
symmetry of hallucinations66962401 - 5
detail of hallucinations93761310 - 6
sequential afterimages or 'trails'74842411 - 7
color enhancement62951700 - 5
Synesthesia 94752411 - 5
cognitive:
concentration7495230-3 - 4
association82732521 - 5
task impairment25321594 - 9
memory of experience679846-5-2 - 4
subjective:
expansiveness82951421 - 5
time dilation82544602 - 6
exaggeration, caricature93532701 - 6
emotive content of hallucinations55432781 - 4
imagination/fantasy93731561 - 5
recollective:
long-term memory accessibility935322-1-1 - 5
access to subconscious93641320 - 3
self-perception:
ego dissolution96641512 - 8
out-of-body experience76542582 - 8
side-effects:
post-experience lethargy02-203340 - 5
residual headaches00000250 - 6

B: Precautions

Beware of blotters which have a bitter tast or appear to be stained with color. LSD is tasteless and colorless. When first sampling acid from a batch of unknown quality, take a fraction of a dosage unit to ascertain the quality and strength of effects. Pay attention to the onset, and duration of effects, and to side effects. If the experience is smooth, free of noticable side effects, and matches the profile of LSD reasonably well, consider doubling the dosage next time (after at least 3 days have elapsed).

C: Storage

Oxygen, UV light, and moisture degrade LSD, and the rate of most reactions increases at least with the square of the absolute temperature. Therefore it should be kept tightly wrapped in cellophane (crinkly) plastic (not polyethylene or aluminum, which may react with it), and, if feasible, refrigerated. It may also help to sprinkle some ascorbic acid crystals (vitamin C) in the package to act as an oxygen scavenger.

IV. THE GOSPEL AND THE POLITICS OF LSD

The proponents of the Gospel seem to be motivated by a desire to dispel fears about the quality and adulteration of acid which discourage experimentation. Quoting from the FAQ:

> (It is common for the uninformed to harbor fears (e.g., about adulterants)
> instilled by ignorance and the current hysteria/propoganda. That's why this
> FAQ exists.)

It goes to some length to (correctly) dispel the myth of strychnine adulteration. However it does not credibly address the possibility of other adulterants or the possibility of the presence of LSD-analogs which could greatly alter the effect.

I do not question the sincerity or motives of those who promulgate the Doctrine; only their uncritical and dogmatic adherence to an apparently logical conclusion. I believe that while attempting to counteract the mis understanding and misinformation, about psychedelic drugs endemic to our culture, they are unwittingly doing a great disservice in contending that most acid is indistinguishable from perfect LSD. As an entire generation accepts the conventional wisdom that the often mediocre psychedelic preparations called acid are one and the same with LSD, the memory of the most mind-expanding and liberating drug ever discovered is being buried.

APPENDIX: Holy Scripture Revisited

One way of fanning the flames of blasphemy is to cast doubt on the prophets. I present for your evaluation the following quotes from the Psychedelic Chemistry by Michael Valentine Smith:

p9:
> These compounds can be extracted and used to synthesized
> the active THC and THC acid (by smoking, not active orally).

THC not active orally? Really?

p8:
> Cannabis Sativa has been a cherished friend ...
> ... The genus Cannabis contains only this one species,

What about Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Rutaralis?

p5:
> few compounds will produce a significant effect until a hundred to a
> thousand times this amount (200 ug) has been ingested.

Really? About half of the psyhoactive compounds listed in my pharmacology book are active in doses of less than 10mg. (200ug * 50).

> Even mescaline, which has a rather specific psychedelic effect, requires
> about a thousand times this amount.

"Even mescaline"!? -- It's the *least* potent of the well-known psychedelics.

Note: I think this book offers some insights, but it seems to be lacking in consistency and authority. Also it was originally written before the mid-1970s, when most acid was, for the most part, indistinguishable from pharmaceutical LSD. Even so, M. V. Smith casts doubt:

p5:
> It is possible that iso-LSD may block LSD effects somewhat and inhibit the
> cosmic trips that can result from high doses; this is however unproven.

Created 9/15/2000 14:20:29
Modified 9/15/2000 14:20:29
Leda version 1.4.3

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