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Drug table - final draft

Legal Drugs
First published: The Face, October 1992

(c) Peter McDermott

Terry Southern: (On arriving at William Burroughs apartment with a bag 
of pharmaceutical samples.) Well, Doctor, I suppose we’re in for another 
damnable stint of trial-and-error.
Burroughs: We’ll not go the trial-and-error route on these premises.

The human species has three innate drives — we need sustainance, shelter 
and species reproduction. In his book, Intoxication, Californian 
psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegel claims humans may have a fourth 
primary instinct — we need to get high, to change the way that we feel by 
artificial means. There is good evidence in support of his claim. All human 
societies have used some form of intoxicanting drug. The exception was  
eskimoes, probably because nothing grows in polar regions. Despite many 
attempts to link drug use with social deprivation, the association is 
spurious. It’s just that the poor get caught more often. Look at Elvis, he 
had everything that a man could desire, looks, talent, wealth - but after 
he’d eaten all the cheeseburgers he could swallow, when he got bored 
chasing young girls in white panties, how did he spend his time? With the 
contents of Dr. Nick’s Gladstone Bag.

Recreational drug use is bigger today than it was in the sixties, but 
enthusiasm for Ecstasy may be starting to wane. People have begun to 
notice that the initial pleasure can give way to spiritual and psychological 
disruption. Fear about the impact of Ecstasy on health is growing. Some 
twenty people have died after taking E in the UK in the last two years. 
Other problems associated with the drug are still emerging. Doctors have 
discovered an association between Ecstasy use and disturbance in Liver 
function. Other experts fear for the future — MDMA damages nerve 
terminals in rats and monkeys and there is a strong possibility that it 
causes similar damage in humans. Personally, I’m bored with feeling so 
nice every Saturday night.

As a society, our attitude to intoxication is based on a double standard. 
Certain intoxicants are culturally approved, and therefore acceptable. 
Alcohol and tobacco inflict great harm on individual health and have a 
high social cost. Yet the dealers are respected members of the community. 
Cannabis dealers, on the other hand, make far less money but can end up 
in prison. 

So why are some drugs legal and others not? If it isn’t because of the harm 
that drugs cause, could it be because we disapprove of the very act of 
becoming intoxicated? In order to save law abiding Face readers from a 
possible prison sentence, I decide to investigate some of the legal highs 
that are available. There might well be all kinds of exotic drugs as yet 
undiscovered and uncontrolled. If I could just discover one, and come up 
with a catchy marketing phrase like ‘Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out’ I might 
well become the next Timothy Leary.

My search began after reading a piece in the Daily Sport. Following an 
article in which several drugs experts warn that dog worming tablets and 
water oxygenating pills are presently being passed off as Ecstasy, there 
was a half-page advertisement. “NEW LEGAL BUZZ TAKES THE 
COUNTRY’S RAVES BY STORM. Europe’s top glamour model 
launches safe rave tabs.” Safe rave tabs — could this be what I’m looking 
for?. “Trine Micheson, ex-Miss Denmark and currently Europe’s top 
glamour model, is set to smash the drug culture that is destroying so many 
young lives today.” 

“Lives have been wrecked by evil designer drugs such as Ecstasy, but at 
last a healthy, legal alternative with the same buzz is now available in 
raves up and down the country.  Incredibly, these little pills of pleasure are 
totally legal and actually good for you.” Trine’s testimonial was highly 
persuasive. “Make no mistake, Love Hearts have kick. The rush comes on 
in five minutes, lasts for an hour, and your buzzin’ and still going for 

The effects of a drug are dependent upon the relationship of three factors 
— the pharmacological properties of the drug, the mental set of the drug 
user and the setting in which the drug is taken. In order to give Love 
Hearts a fair trial, I decided I should try them at a rave. Although the 
tabloid press continuously goes on about how drug dealers are 
unscrupulous scum, I dismissed their claims. The drug dealers I’ve met are 
just people doing a tedious job for little reward. So I had always taken it 
with a pinch of salt until now. Ugh! Still, the price was right. As the advert 
said, “The average price of a tab of Ecstasy is £15.00 — yet “Love Hearts” 
cost only £4.95 for a packet of three — just one tenth of the designer drug 

By Saturday night, I had grown somewhat wary about the ex-Miss 
Denmark’s claims. I was even starting to wonder if she really was 
Europe’s top glamour model. The pink, heart-shaped pills came in foil 
packets that listed the ingredients. Nicotinic acid, Cellulose, Lucerne, 
Yellow Dock, Plantain, Lapacoho, Guarana, Caffeine, Cornsilk, Cloves. 
The active ingredients were 50 mg of Caffeine and 300 mg of Nicotinic 
acid (Vitamin B3). Perhaps they might be good for you after all?

I began asking people if they knew anything about them. One girl told me 
that though she had never taken them herself, her friend had tried them 
and turned bright orange. Later, I met three teenage lads from Blackburn, 
Colin, Neil and Stephen. They had each taken three that night. They had 
bought them in the local sex shop in the hope of saving the money they 
would normally spend on ‘E’. So what were they like? They looked a bit 
sheepish as they answered.

“They come on in a kind of rush, then you like, glow all over. A glow all 
over your body — like central heating for kids.”

Well, they had each taken three and they weren’t dead yet. Perhaps Trine 
was telling the truth and Love Hearts were being taken at raves all over the 
country. When one clubber was taken to hospital following an ecstasy 
induced fit, I decided that Trine was right about something else: Ecstasy is 
dangerous. Time to go for it.

The safest way to test any unknown substance is to start with a low dose 
and gradually increase it. It’s very easy to put more drugs inside your 
body, but very difficult to take them out again. Removal usually involves 
inconvenient trips to the hospital, tubes into the stomach, that sort of thing. 
Anyway, we started low, a friend and I took one tablet apiece. For twenty 
minutes, nothing happened. We sat around, waiting for the caffeine to hit. 
Then, the surface of my skin became to get hotter and hotter. We went out 
into the foyer to check each other out in the light and relative quiet. Our 
skins had turned bright red all over. My lips felt engorged, there was a 
ringing in my ears and I could feel the blood pumping around the veins in 
my head. 

After an hour, the sensations began to subside. The effect wasn’t a drug 
effect, it was simply unpleasant. There was no effect on my mind at all, 
but my body felt as though it had been in the sun too long. On a scale of 1 
to 10 with 10 representing normality and 1 representing having your 
wisdom teeth pulled out without an anaesthetic, I’d say Love Hearts rated 
about a four. I managed to trick four or five other people into trying the 
pills, just to verify my own experience. They all agreed. Vile.

Still, I wasn’t about to give up. Love Hearts might be a cynical attempt to 
rip off the drug-obsessed kids on the rave scene but there must be a host of 
other legal substances that might do the trick. While my skin was burning 
away in the foyer of the Floral Hall, I fell into conversation with some lads 
from North Wales. After explaining the nature of my quest, they told me 
about their own favourite legal high. Potters Herbal Cigarettes are a 
smoking preparation made from stramonium. They break up the cigarettes, 
and make tea with the herb. They claimed that drinking the tea gave them 
an intense, trip-like experience.

I gave that idea short shrift. I don’t want an intense, trip-like experiences, 
thank you. Besides, I already know about Stramonium. It is derived from a 
plant called Datura that European witches used to make a psychedelic 
ointment. They would apply it to the mucus membrane of their vagina 
using a broomstick. The high that resulted produced sensations of flying, 
often accompanied by fantastic visions of strange lands. It was probably 
this practice that gave rise to the popular image of witches flying on 
broomsticks. In America, the Datura plant is better known as Jimson Weed 
or Loco Weed. Who wants to be the Timothy Leary of Loco Weed?

I had a much better idea, Khat. Khat is the Ecstasy of the Yemen. Some 
experts claim that it is addictive, always a good sign. Apparently, the 
people of Yemen spend a third of the Gross National Product on the 
vegetable-like drug. The whole country stops work at one o’clock. People 
gather for their daily chew. It is a social ritual, somewhat akin to a few 
drinks after work. There have also been reports of psychosis following 
overuse, another good sign. All I had to do was score.

I copped from a city centre newsagent. At first, the shopkeeper looked 
perplexed. “No I haven’t got a cat.” After she finally twigged, she went 
downstairs into the shop’s cellar, and returned bearing half a tree.

“This is Yemeni Khat. On Saturday’s, we get Ethiopian Khat. The 
Ethiopian is more powerful — you can sleep on the Yemeni, but Ethiopian 
keeps you awake all night.”

Apparently, a whole drug subculture exists under our noses but completely 
invisible. Khat has to be fresh in order to work, so the shop gets a delivery 
every day. Moderate strength for the weekdays, and the heavy duty gear 
for a Saturday night. 

I made a wad out of the young leaves and twigs and tried to masticate 
slowly. It tasted like a privet hedge. Seconds later, I had a mouth full of 
pulverised leaves. I spat it out and tried again. This time, I took a more 
substantial amount. After positioning the wad in my cheek I sat around 
waiting for the hit, feeling smug with my new-found anthropological 
skills. The hit comes on in a rush. A couple of hours of amphetamine-like 
stimulation is followed by a laid-back, introspective period. 

This drug actually works. The sensation is similar to a small dose of 
amphetamine. I felt stimulated — mentally alert, talkative and sociable. 
The main problem was the constant stream of bright green saliva that I 
was expectorating every minute or two. Yemeni homes and cafes provide 
a spittoon for this purpose. I wonder will it catch on here and fantasize 
about enormous Khat raves all over the country — ‘Mastication — 
featuring D.J. Chewing Tunes and MC Yocker. 100K lasers, 60K sound 
system, gyroscopes, brain machines, Yemeni massage and solid silver 

Sadly, there are a number of reasons why Khat is unlikely to catch on. 
Imagine how club bouncers would react to finding a bundle of Khat during 
a door search. And drugs have other socially properties besides their 
intoxicating effect. When you’re trying to impress the opposite sex, a foot-
long bundle of foliage doesn’t have quite the same cachet as a pocketful of 
pills or a jar full of powder.

Bored with the enterprise, I decide to give up. There is an enormous range 
of substances that people can use in order to change the way that they feel, 
but the safest and most reliable ones, the drugs that have stood the test of 
time, have all been made illegal. I asked one friend what he’d thought 
about the Love Hearts. “Legal drugs are a load of shite. Personally, I’m 
sticking to the Class A drugs. They aren’t called Class A for nothing.”

The experience forced me to think about our drug policies, I wonder just 
how is it that the Daily Sport can advertise and sell Love Hearts, while 
kids who get caught selling counterfeit E’s get arrested and charged with 
deception or ‘going equipped to cheat’? I wonder why the newspapers get 
hysterical over twenty deaths attributed to Ecstasy, when two kids die 
every week as after sniffing solvents? Why can the tobacco industry still 
advertise their products, while cannabis, one of the safest drugs known to 
man, still remains illegal?

Drug laws are shaped by racism and vested economic interest and the real 
reason that some drugs remain illegal is to allow the law to intervene in 
the lives of the dangerous classes. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. 
Even if the state did manage to completely stem the supply of a particular 
drug, people will find a substitute, but it may be more dangerous than the 
original drug. Personally, I’m off to the chemist to buy myself a bottle of 
Gee’s Linctus (active ingredient: tincture of opium). Go to Boots. Spend a 
pound. Throw up!

(c) Peter McDermott

McDermott’s League of Legal Drug Desirability

Substances are rated for euphoric quality, duration of action, and potential for damage

Highs	Comments	

mushrooms	A popular and reliable favourite. Active
ingredient psilocybin, a drug similar to
mescaline. Not strictly legal - any
preparation such as drying or crushing
contravenes the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Picking the wrong mushrooms  may lead
to poisoning and possibly death	

Glory seeds	Each seed contains one microgramme of
Lysergic Acid Amide. Illegal trips usually
contain about 100 mcg. Sprinkle them on
your Muesli in the morning. May induce
nausea, especially if sprayed with

Nutmeg	The essential oil of Nutmeg is a precursor
to Ecstasy. Once known as the prisoners
high, Malcolm X reported using it in jail
prior to his religious conversion. Difficult
to consume enough to get high because of
the nausea the drug produces. Unpleasant.	

Khat	Available from Yemeni, Ethiopian or
Somali grocers, a good deal at £5.00 a
bunch. Some reports of psychosis and
even addiction, but these may stem from
our western cultural arrogance.	

Banana peel	A sixties con-trick, banana peel and the
other con of the period, saffron inspired
Donovan’s hit record, Mellow yellow.
Neither substance has any psychoactive
effects whatsoever

gical highs				
Do-Do’s	Once popular with punk rockers, the
active ingredient is ephedrine a precursor
to speed that is said to produce a speed-
like high.. Not very nice at all.	

Dr. Collis
Compound	The junkie’s standby, Collis Browne’s did
contain the most morphine of any over-
the-counter product. A new formula has
reduced the drinkability of this
preparation. If you can get past the nausea,
definitely addictive.	

Inhalers	A favourite with beatniks who would
swallow the cotton wool with coffee.
Sadly, unavailable since the early sixties.	

Menthol	Popular with ravers. Smells better than
sweaty bodies but no psychoactive effects

Cigarettes	A deliriant rather than a true psychedelic,
Potters like Kwells and Valoid can make
you unpleasantly crazy	

Butyl nitrite	The term poppers comes from amyl
nitrite, an angina medication. Butyl nitrite
is available in sex shops as Rush, Bolt,
Locker-room, etc.. Popular for dancing
and fucking. A suspected
immunosuppresant, this is also not
recommended for anyone with a weak

oxide	A hit with the inventor Humphry Davy
and philosopher William James, capsules
of this dental anaesthetic gas can be
bought in metal capsules for whipped
cream dispensers. Make sure you get
plenty of oxygen to avoid brain damage or
death through suffocation	

Solvents	Glue, Lighter fuel, Petrol shoe
conditioner. and a host of others. Only
really popular with children, punks and
aborigines. Deaths from solvent misuse
occur at the rate of two a week in the UK.

tablets.	A dead ringer for a disco biscuit -  useful
if you happen to need worming.	

Bisto	Sometimes sold as heroin on strret drug
markets. Ahhhhhhh!	

Oxo Cubes	Don’t buy the brown hash. - save it for the
sunday joint.	

Love Hearts	Love is like an itching in my heart — and
I can’t scratch it!  No psychoactive effects

Life	Popular with religious types but
sometiumes not all it’s cracked up to be.
Anyone obsessed with drugs, though,
would be well advised to get one, quick.	

Love	The greatest hit of all. Highly addictive,
powerful rush, but a terrible comedown.	

Sex	Often dificult to score and can be
somewhat disappointing. As with Ecstasy,
new risks have emerged in recent years,
but if you’re sensible, you can minimize
them. Great fun.