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Adrenochrome & Other Mythical Drugs
by Eduardo Hidalgo Downing
Publisher:
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 
Year:
2013 
ISBN:
978-1482785760 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 3/17/2014

Spanish author Eduardo Downing (“yes, Downing, like the guitarist from Judas Priest”, as he says) does an entertaining job on this hunt- and smack-down of bizarre and urban-legendary psychoactive substances. Brave soul that he is, he goes to the ultimate laboratory—namely his own body—to test (or “bioassay”, as psychonauts often say) various substances that have gained notoriety in popular culture, especially ones hinted about on the Internet.

Downing smokes some really outlandish “rumored-to-get-you-high” substances—such as spider webs, toothpaste, and butterfly wings—all with a very humorous but still investigatory attitude. He even tests out the noxious concept of “jenkem”, one of the most obvious practical jokes on the Internet, which involves smelling bottled fecal fumes! And I don’t think that it’s too much of a spoiler of the book to reveal that Downing does NOT take battery acid to get high (phew!), although he certainly publishes a ton of Internet literature on this idea.

Like “get rich quick” schemes, Downing’s point throughout the whole book is: If it’s too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true. He pulls off some skillful dissections of a few of the most common pop culture drug myths, one being the decades-old idea that aspirin and Coca-Cola will get you high (or make women horny!). Another is the idea that LSD-soaked temporary tattoos are a menace to kids; well, maybe they would be, if they actually ever existed! And then there’s the rumor that some ecstasy pills are contaminated with heroin, which inspires the author to ask: Why would a dealer or manufacturer want to waste valuable heroin by including trace amounts of it along with a completely different substance?

The heart of the book is the title substance, adrenochrome. Most people know of it from Hunter S. Thompson’s famous Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas book, in which it is glibly referred to as a substance—made out of the living adrenal glands taken from a tortured human—that induces a kind of psychotic paralysis. Other references can be found in Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange, in lyrics from goth band Sisters of Mercy,and most reliably, from experiments in the early 1950s by psychiatrists Humphry Osmond (who coined the term “psychedelic”) and Abram Hoffer. Reports from these two doctors add up to sometimes days-long effects of slightly altered thoughts and moods, more frequently swinging towards depression than euphoria. Downing does an exhaustive study of all available reports on adrenochrome, then takes great pains and expenses to actually obtain this obscure substance. A good deal of this 60-page chapter (by far the longest in the book) is then taken up with descriptions of Downing’s several bioassays of adrenochrome: taken in pill form, orally as a liquid, and intravenously. In true H. S. Thompson “gonzo journalism” style, Downing goes on for page after page describing every thought, mood, and activity that ensues after his ingestions. In the end, he concludes that the effects are “clear but subtle”, and that said effects are definitely not hallucinogenic or recreational; rather, they are—at best—psychotomimetic (that is, resembling psychosis)!

The last chapter in the book has the author and his friends pulling the Internet prank of inventing a new drug of abuse: “pigeonine”, a derivative of pigeon poop! They have fun fabricating posts on the Cannabis Café chat group, describing this “drug’s” history through the ages, how it makes one crave raw pigeon brains, and how it can endow one with great endurance, etc.

Ultimately the point of this book is how permeable the Internet can be (and is) to hoaxes and misinformation. As it has been said, if you repeat something over and over enough, it becomes a kind of truth (oldest political trick in the book). Since time immemorial, people have sought out ways to alter their consciousness; and there will always be pranksters ready to take advantage of this fact. Smoking banana peels, anybody? People go to great lengths: from sapo extruded by poisonous frogs, to today’s cheap, addictive, and toxic substances like Russia’s “krokodil” and Greece’s “sisa”, bath salts in the USA, and “oxi” in Brazil. Despite Herculean efforts from sites like Erowid, The Shroomery, and others, perhaps the only absolute truth is the one that you can find yourself. Hats off to Eduardo Downing, for doing his part!

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