Form Constant Visualization – Type I

Form constants are archetypical visual patterns generated by noise in the visual cortex which is then twisted by the wiring between retina and brain. Type I form constants were described as “tunnels” by Kluver, and postulated to be generated by the non-contoured roll noise pattern described by Cowan and Ermentrout. I decided to visualize this model in higher resolution to further explore the generated forms. All of the following use sinusoidal noise to approximate visual cortex noise for the first half of the video, and then show the transformed result of the mind’s eye for the latter half of the video. The direction of travel of noise across the complex plane can be shown to produce three form constant subtypes.

Sinusoidal noise traveling along the imaginary axis produces a tunnel effect.

Sinusoidal noise traveling along the real axis produces a ripple effect.

Sinusoidal noise traveling in any direction other than an axis produces a spiral.

Note that all of the previous effects are simply a single sinusoidal noise function in a selected direction. If multiple sinusoidal functions are layered in linear superposition, more complex and visually appealing patterns form.

This examples uses four linearly superimposed sinusoidal noise functions with random wavelength and orientation parameters.

Form Constants and the Visual Cortex

There are common visual concepts which cut across boundaries of culture and time and reflect what it truly means to be human. Near death experiences are often associated with seeing a “light at the end of a tunnel”. In the Bible, God appeared to Ezekiel as a “wheel within a wheel”. Spirals and concentric circles are commonly found in petrogylphs carved by cultures long dead. Similar visual effects are reported during extreme psychological stress, fever delirium, psychotic episodes, sensory deprivation, and are reliably induced by psychedelic drugs.

In 1926, Heinrich Klüver undertook a groundbreaking series of experiments where he categorized the visual effects produced by mescaline. Various volunteers were recruited, peyote administered, reports taken, and results classified into categories. There were general perceptual effects, variations in color and distortions of shape. But the most interesting reports were consistent visual concepts he dubbed “form constants”. Across many volunteers and many sessions, all reported seeing visual patterns with similar structure.

They were classified into four main types: I) tunnels, II) spirals, III) lattices, and IV) cobwebs. For almost fifty years, these form constants were regarded as a strange mystery of visual perception, a seemingly unexplainable common human experience.

In 1979 Jack Cowan and G. Bard Ermentrout put forward a very interesting explanation, supported by a rigorous mathematical treatment. These visual effects are the result of specific noise patterns in the visual cortex, which are then transformed by the wiring between the brain and the eye to produce these unique shapes. They generated simple biologically allowable noise patterns, transformed them, and produced graphs of these form constants.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into how this was done, by first having a look at the structure of the visual cortex. We’ll look specifically at V1, the first layer of visual processing where information from the retina is fed to. We can think of it as a sheet of hypercolumns, cells sensitive to lines oriented in any direction. This surface is crinkled up like a ball of paper in your brain, but we can unfold it in a theoretical sense. These hypercolumns are linked together in a specific manner, which allows noise patterns of only certain types to form. Just like a tarp in the wind will only flap in certain predictable ways assuming it does not tear, so too will noise only travel across the visual cortex in specific ways. Four types of noise were found.

These stable planforms can be thought of as excited noisy states in contrast to the normal low-activity state of the visual cortex. We can refer to them as I) the non-contoured roll, II) the non-contoured hexagon, III) the even contoured hexagon, and IV) the even contoured square.

So now that we have our noise patterns, how are they mapped from the visual cortex to what we actually see? Biology provides a clue here. Experiments have been done which allow mapping of how the visual cortex represents input from the retina. By stimulating a certain point or region of the retina, the corresponding cells which light up in V1 can be measured. The easiest mapping you might think of would be for the input of the retina to be represented as a flat sheet, which is then passed to the visual cortex like a photocopy. Instead, it turns out that the circular retina’s image is twisted and mapped in a slightly more complex manner to the flat surface of V1.

Visual Cortex (V1) Retina

We can see that straight lines in our visual cortex are mapped to curved lines in the retina, and vice versa. We can represent this relationship mathematically using the complex logarithm, so let’s apply this complex log transform to our four types of visual cortex noise.

And beautifully, Klüver’s four form constants are produced, visual cortex noise twisted by the wiring between mind and eye. This hypothesis fits the fact that these high energy states may be caused by a variety of stimuli affecting excitability of the brain but most reliably by psychedelic drugs which bind to serotonin receptors richly expressed in the visual cortex.

It is compelling to think that these powerful symbols rely on no religion, no culture, and no time. They are a product of the fact that we are all human and share the same biology. A true tragedy that these visions have been used as an excuse to kill others when we all see the same wheels within wheels.

Ermentrout, G.B. and Cowan, J.D., “A mathematical theory of visual hallucination patterns.” Biol. Cybernet. 34 (1979), no. 3, 137-150.

Bressloff, Paul C.; Cowan, Jack D.; Golubitsky, Martin; Thomas, Peter J.; Weiner, Matthew C. (March 2002). “What Geometric Visual Hallucinations Tell Us About the Visual Cortex“. Neural Computation (The MIT Press) 14 (3): 473–491.

DMT and the Pineal Gland

One of the most popular “drug geek” myths is that the powerful psychedelic compound DMT is produced naturally within your body, specifically the pineal gland. Not only this, but this natural DMT is apparently involved in a wide variety of previously unexplained processes – it is the mechanism of dreaming, it causes religious feelings, and DMT production spikes near death to “carry away the soul”. This appears to stem primarily from Dr. Richard Strassman’s book The Spirit Molecule, which advanced many of these hypotheses which were then passed on and extrapolated telephone-game style to the point where fluoridated water is apparently an Illuminati plot to suppress natural DMT production.

There’s just one problem – there doesn’t appear to be any concrete evidence whatsoever for this. Dr. Strassman himself explains:

I did my best in the DMT book to differentiate between what is known, and what I was conjecturing about (based upon what is known), regarding certain aspects of DMT dynamics. However, it’s amazing how ineffective my efforts seem to have been. So many people write me, or write elsewhere, about DMT, and the pineal, assuming that the things I conjecture about are true. When I was writing the book, I thought I was clear enough, and repeating myself would have gotten tedious.

We don’t know whether DMT is made in the pineal. I muster a lot of circumstantial evidence supporting a reason to look long and hard at the pineal, but we do not yet know. There are data suggesting urinary DMT rises in psychotic patients when their psychosis is worse. However, we don’t know whether DMT rises during dreams, meditation, near-death, death, birth or any other endogenous altered state. To the extent those states resemble those brought on by giving DMT, it certainly makes one wonder if endogenous DMT might be involved, and if it were, it would explain a lot. But we don’t know yet. Even if the pineal weren’t involved, that would have little overall effect on my theories regarding a role for DMT in endogenous altered states, because we do know that the gene involved in DMT synthesis is present in many organs, particularly lung. If the pineal made DMT, it would tie up a lot of loose ends regarding this enigmatic little organ. But people seem to live pretty normals lives without a pineal gland; for example, when it has had to be removed because of a tumor.

In both these regards–the pineal-DMT connection, and endogenous DMT dynamics–we ought to know a lot more within the next several years due to the efforts of a research group being led by Steven Barker at Louisiana State University. He, with his grad student Ethan McIlhenny, are developing a new super-assay for DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, bufotenine, and metabolites. This assay will be capable of detecting those compounds much more sensitively than previous generations of assays. They’re looking at endogenous levels in awake sober normals, to assess baseline values of these compounds. We should have some data from those samples within a year. They also will be looking at pineal tissue. Once we have some baseline data in normal humans in normal waking consciousness, comparisons can be made between those levels and levels in endogenous altered states, like dreams, near-death, and so on.

It appears that myths about drugs can cut both ways, and this is an important illustration of the requirement for critical thinking, no matter how appealing the initial conjecture. Steven Barker and Ethan McIlhenny’s work to determine baseline DMT levels continues, with their latest paper involving detection of metabolites produced by ayahuasca consumption.

Hanna J. “DMT and the Pineal: Fact or Fiction?” Jun 3 2010.

Who Are Anonymous?

In an age where individual privacy is dead yet corporate structure easily dilutes personal responsibility to nothing, a strange cadre has emerged. With no central organization, no stated goal, and no membership list, they have earned the name “Anonymous”.

Why Anonymous? Why not a catchy counterculture label of choice? It has stuck for the same reason that the words “peace activist” are spit from the lips of news anchors with incredulity that anyone would actually bother. War makes quite a bit of money after all, and those who benefit decide what is news.

Any label, any characteristic, any identifying mark can be used to stereotype, to appeal to dark tribal instincts and create the fear of the “other” and external attack. Someone working toward something as abstract and universally desirable as peace would seem inoffensive, but there is certainly something a speaker can latch onto to create fear. There are the tribal basics that have worked for millennia – a different sex, different culture or religion, or different appearance. Perhaps you consider yourself above such base instincts – you will then be manipulated based on the fact that the “other” holds different political beliefs than you on unrelated issues. There will be something different, something to set them apart, something that makes them a member of a foreign tribe. Despite a desirable common goal for nearly all of society, all that is needed is a single difference that will be publicized and our ancient tribal fears take over. We fall for it again and again.

The popular social movements of the past failed for one common reason. They assumed that we are all part of the same tribe, that we will come together and unite. This is the root of the failure. One cannot overcome tribal instincts by making the tribe large, especially when a very powerful segment of society refuses to join.

The way forward is the first post-tribal movement Anonymous, legion who do not belong to anything.

Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

From Gustave Gilbert‘s interview with Hermann Göring in his jail cell, Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, 18 April 1946.

2003 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report – The Netherlands


The Netherlands continues to be a significant transit point for drugs entering Europe (especially cocaine), an important producer and exporter of synthetic drugs (particularly Ecstasy and amphetamines), and an important consumer of most illicit drugs. U.S. law enforcement information indicates that the Netherlands still is by far the most significant source country for Ecstasy in the U.S. The current Dutch center-right coalition has made measurable progress in implementing the five-year strategy (2002-2006) against production, trade and consumption of synthetic drugs announced in May 2001. For example, there has been a significant increase in Dutch seizures of Ecstasy pills from 3.6 million in 2001 to six million in 2002 (last year for statistics). In July 2003, the National Criminal Investigation Department (Nationale Recherche) was set up with the key objective of enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal investigations and international joint efforts against narcotics trafficking. Operational cooperation between U.S. and Dutch law enforcement agencies is excellent, despite some differences in approach and tactics. Dutch popular attitudes toward soft drugs remain tolerant to the point of indifference. The Dutch government and public view domestic drug use as a public health issue first and a law enforcement issue second.

Cocaine Couriers

Despite fierce political opposition, the Dutch Parliament approved Justice Minister Donner’s plan to close down Schiphol airport to cocaine smuggling from the Caribbean on December 10, 2003. An estimated 20,000-40,000 kilos of cocaine, destined primarily for the European market, are smuggled annually through Schiphol (Dutch cocaine use is estimated at 4,000-8,000 kilos annually – in 2001 and 2002, more than 3,500 drug couriers were arrested and some 10,000 kilos of cocaine seized at the airport). Donner hopes to achieve 100% interdiction of the drugs coming into Schiphol on targeted high-risk flights from the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Suriname. He told the Second Chamber of Parliament on December 3, 2003, that, as a result of the 100% controls of passengers, luggage, freight and aircraft, the number of drug couriers is expected to rise significantly, fearing inadequate law enforcement capacity to handle the number of arrests. According to Donner, this justifies a temporary adjustment in prosecution policy – a certain category of drug couriers will not be prosecuted. He explained that criteria would be drawn up, which will not be made public in the interest of criminal procedures. However, couriers failing to meet these criteria will be prosecuted. (Unconfirmed reports suggested that only smugglers caught with 3 kilos or more are prosecuted.) Donner stated that summoning drug couriers in court at a later date would not be a solution, because this would also put a heavy burden on the Dutch judiciary. He did pledge the Chamber an early assessment of his proposals. Relevant data of drug couriers will be made available to airlines, which will be responsible for taking special measures against these persons, including an indefinite flight ban. Despite opposition within Donner’s own Christian-Democratic Party (CDA), the Second Chamber adopted his proposals on December 10, 2003.

The plan went into effect on December 11, and, during the first five days, 120 couriers were arrested on flights from the Netherlands Antilles, of whom 31 were released without a summons after drugs were recovered. The remaining 89 cases are being investigated or prosecuted. In addition, 104 potential passengers were turned away by the airlines and 375 passengers did not turn up. About 120 kilos of drugs were seized. During routine checks on flights from Suriname, 22 couriers were arrested, one of whom carried 14.5 kilos of cocaine.

Ecstasy Offensive

In July 2003, Justice Minister Donner published a progress report on the implementation of the five-year (2002- 2006) action plan against production, trade, and consumption of synthetic drugs. According to the report, six million Ecstasy pills were seized in 2002 compared to 3.6 million in 2001, and the number of dismantled Ecstasy laboratories rose to 43 in 2002 from 35 in 2001. The increase in Ecstasy seizures was attributed to intensified controls at Schiphol airport by the special team of Dutch customs and the military police (more than one million pills seized there in 2002), the introduction of five special police Ecstasy teams (total manpower: 90), and increased staffing at the Fiscal Intelligence and Investigation Service-Economic Control Service (FIOD-ECD). The progress report shows that the measures announced in the action plan are well underway. According to the 2002 annual report of the Unit Synthetic Drugs (USD), the five XTC teams conducted 36 investigations in 2002 and arrested some 76 suspects.

The chemical precursor PPK is the principal precursor used by Dutch Ecstasy laboratories. It comes mainly by sea from China through Rotterdam port. Due to human rights concerns, the Dutch government shares only limited information of an administrative nature with China. A Memorandum of Understanding formalizing this information- sharing arrangement was submitted to the Chinese in October 2003. No response has yet been received. The MOU states that China will keep the Netherlands informed regarding the progress and results of investigations that have been instigated on the basis of this administrative information. In addition to working directly with the Chinese, the Netherlands is an active participant in the INCB/PRISM project’s taskforce.


According to the fourth survey on coffeeshops in the Netherlands, published in October 2003, there were 782 officially tolerated coffeeshops at the end of 2002, which is a 3 percent drop over 2001, principally in the four major cities. About 73 percent of Dutch municipalities do not tolerate any shops at all, according to the study. In early 2004, Justice Minister Donner, whose CDA party has advocated closing of coffeeshops, is expected to publish a Cannabis Policy Paper, which should discourage cannabis use.

The 2002 National Drug Monitor shows that the number of recent (last-month) cannabis users in the Dutch population over the period 1997-2001 rose from some 326,000 to 408,000, or 3 percent of the Dutch population of 12 years and older (of a total population of 16 million). The largest increase is reported among young people aged 20-24, while use among the 12-15 year-old age group remained limited and hardly changed from 1997. Life-time prevalence (ever-use) of cannabis among the population of 12 years and older rose from 15.6 percent in 1997 to 17 percent in 2001. The average age of recent cannabis users is 28 years.

On November 27, 2003, the Netherlands agreed on an EU framework decision on harmonized sentencing of drug traffickers. Under the agreement, the maximum penalty for possessing a small quantity of cannabis will be raised from one month to one year imprisonment. The agreement, if ratified by Dutch parliament, would allow the Netherlands to maintain its coffeeshops.

Medicinal Cannabis

Since March 17, 2003, doctors are allowed to prescribe their patients medicinal cannabis. Two suitable government-controlled cannabis growers have been contracted, and, as of September 2003, the drug can be bought from pharmacies. The Health Ministry’s Bureau for Medicinal Cannabis controls quality and organizes the distribution. According to the Health Ministry, cannabis may have a favorable effect on seriously ill patients but the government recognizes the therapeutic effects of medicinal cannabis have not been proved and research continues.

Cultivation and Production

About 75 percent of the Dutch cannabis market is Dutch-grown marijuana (Nederwiet), although indoor cultivation of hemp is banned, even for agricultural purposes. Amsterdam University researchers estimate that the Netherlands has at least 100,000 illegal home growers of hashish and marijuana, with the number increasing. Together they produce more than 100,000 kilos of soft drugs and are the largest suppliers of coffeeshops, according to the study. The estimates are based on a significant rise in the number of lawsuits and police raids. Although the Dutch government has given top priority to the investigation and prosecution of large-scale commercial cultivation of Nederwiet, tolerated coffeeshops appear to create the demand for large-scale commercial cultivation.

The Netherlands remains one of the world’s largest producers of synthetic drugs. In 2002, the USD registered a total of 740 seizures of synthetic drugs around the world, of which 205 (some 30 percent) took place in the Netherlands. Of the remaining seizures registered in 35 other countries, some 70 percent could be related to Dutch criminal organizations. Of the 205 Dutch seizures, 141 involved synthetic drugs that were intended to be exported. The seizures of drugs around the world that could be related to the Netherlands involved some 24.6 million MDMA tablets and over 910 kilos of MDMA power. Of this total, the largest amount was seized in the Netherlands (6.1 million pills), Belgium (more than 5 million pills), followed by Germany (almost 3 million), the U.S. (2.5 million), France (2 million) and the UK (1.8 million). The USD reported lower amphetamine seizures in 2002 than in 2001, but the quantity of Dutch-related amphetamine seized in other countries went up. In 2002, the USD dismantled 43 production sites for synthetic drugs, of which 26 were situated in residential areas. Most production sites were MDMA laboratories. According to the USD, the production of synthetic drugs in residential areas is an alarming development. The FIOD-ECD, which is primarily responsible for intercepting chemical precursors, seized some 318 liters and 9,255 kilos of PMK and 1,228 liters of BMK in 2002.

Drug use among the general population of 12 years and older, 1997 and 2001 (life-time (ever) use and last-month use)

  Life-time use (%) Last-month use (%)
1997 2001 1997 2001
Cannabis 15.6 17.0 2.5 3.0
Cocaine 2.1 2.9 0.2 0.4
Amphetamine 1.9 2.6 0.1 0.2
Ecstasy 1.9 2.9 0.3 0.5
Hallucinogens 1.8 1.3 0.0 0.0
   of which LSD 1.2 1.0
Mushrooms 1.6 2.6 0.1 0.1
Heroin 0.3 0.4 0.0 0.1

Drug Seizures, source Europol

2001 2002
Heroin (kilos) 739 1,122
Cocaine (kilos) 8,389 7,968
Cannabis resin (kilos) 10,972 32,717
Herbal cannabis (kilos) 22,447 9,958
Ecstasy (tablets) 3,684,505 6,878,167
Amphetamine (kilos) 579 481
LSD (doses) 28,731 355

Cable Reference ID 04THEHAGUE4, 2004-01-02, Classification UNCLASSIFIED, Origin Embassy The Hague.


The alkylated napthoylindoles were the first synthetic cannabinoids cheap and potent enough to make real noise on the recreational drug market. Concern was initially raised about metabolism of the naphthalene ring and resulting carcinogenic risk, which turned out to be validated (abstract O43) although perhaps initially overstated as it lies within a similar risk envelope as cigarettes. Compounds have now been produced that replace the naphthalene ring with a phenylacetyl group. These represent a new and unique class of synthetic cannabinoids, with applications as both replacements for banned cannabinoids and use as a possibly healthier alternative for informed users. Without substitution the structure is much less potent than JWH-018, but various substitutions at the 2, 3, and 4-position have been attempted. The 2-position substitutions demonstrate the highest potency as a class, and are outlined here.

JWH-167 (CB1 Ki = 90 ± 17 nM, CB2 Ki = 159 ± 14 nM) is shown here with JWH-018 and its naphthalene group in a light grey underlay for reference. Without any substitutions this base phenylacetylindole is not potent enough for sale on the recreational drug market, as it is roughly a tenth as potent as JWH-018 as measured by binding affinity.

JWH-251 (CB1 Ki = 29 ± 3 nM, CB2 Ki = 146 ± 36 nM). A methyl group at the 2-position increases potency, but binding affinities seem to be too weak for practical sale. This is contrasted with the facts that JWH-251 was found to be a component of certain Japanese “herbal smoke” blends and limited reports indicate this to be of somewhat similar qualitative potency to JWH-250. Time will tell if this compound will remain on the edge of the market or gain popularity.

JWH-250 (CB1 Ki = 11 ± 2 nM, CB2 Ki = 33 ± 2 nM). Currently the most popular phenylacetylindole. The 2-methoxy substitution produces a compound that is qualitatively slightly less potent than JWH-018, but produces a much more pleasant effect in higher dose ranges. As such, this compound has found favor with those who prefer a stronger cannabinoid experience without the near-certainty of anxiety in higher doses that JWH-018 was known to cause.

JWH-311 (CB1 Ki = 23 ± 2 nM, CB2 Ki = 39 ± 3 nM). Fluorine substitution provides the least potent outcome of the three halogens Huffman explored. Not widely available or tested.

JWH-203 (CB1 Ki = 8.0 ± 0.9 nM, CB2 Ki = 7.0 ± 1.3 nM). The most potent halogen substitution, and one of the most potent phenylacetylindoles along with JWH-250. Currently available for sale, but not widely explored.

JWH-249 (CB1 Ki = 8.4 ± 1.8 nM, CB2 Ki = 20 ± 2 nM). Slightly less potent than JWH-203, with a lower CB2 affinity that may be associated with reduced anxiety effects. Not widely available for sale, but could be waiting in the wings if JWH-203 takes off and is scheduled.

John W. Huffman, P. V. Szklennik, A. Almond, K. Bushell, D. E. Selley, H. He, M. P. Cassidy, J. L. Wiley, B. R. Martin, 1-Pentyl-3-phenylacetylindoles, a new class of cannabimimetic indoles, Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters, Volume 15, Issue 18, 15 September 2005, Pages 4110-4113, ISSN 0960-894X, DOI: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2005.06.008.

Burn it up, Thoughts on JWH-18 carcinogenicity, 01-05-2010, 02:22, Bluelight > Drug Discussion > Advanced Drug Discussion.

Psychedelics in the Public Consciousness

Google Ngram is a very interesting project which measures the frequency of the occurrence of words in a large body of books published over the last several hundred years. This can be considered somewhat as a measure of public awareness of a certain term, so let’s use it to see how various prominent psychedelic compounds (mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA) have risen and fallen in the public consciousness from 1900 to 2000.

The first thing we see is that psychedelic compounds as a whole are a very new concept, entering popular usage only in the middle of the 20th century with knowledge becoming more widespread in the 1960s. The word LSD has an almost overwhelming frequency of use, reflecting the intimate association of the drug with the popular concept of the psychedelic experience. Switching this out for “lysergic acid diethylamide” should allow us to compare relative trends with other psychedelic compounds due to decreased frequency while still maintaining a sensible relation to the original term.

This normalizes the dataset somewhat.

Mescaline had been used for thousands of years until it was first isolated and identified in 1897. It slowly grew in the public consciousness until Aldous Huxley’s 1954 work The Doors of Perception thrust the compound into the mainstream.  
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) was first consumed by Albert Hofmann in 1943, initially introduced to the market as a psychiatic drug in 1947, and its potential became more clear with corporate and government experiments during the 1950s including the infamous Project MKULTRA. High potency and its positive character led to efficient distribution and widespread use in the 1960s.  
Psilocybin is another ancient compound with sacramental use spanning thousands of years. Vice President of J.P. Morgan and amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson travelled to a remote village of Mexico on a rumor that their religion included ingestion of mushrooms. In 1957, he published an article in Life magazine entitled Seeking the Magic Mushroom that did for psilocybin what Huxley did for mescaline.  
MDMA was first synthesized in 1912, but it languished in obscurity until the mid-1970s when Alexander Shulgin, then at University of California, heard from his students about unusual effects of the amphetamine derivative. In 1978 he and David Nichols published the first report on the drug’s psychotropic effect in humans and its use spread among the psychiatric community as an adjunct to therapy. MDMA used in a recreational context was first reported in gay nightclubs in the Dallas area in the early 1980s with usage peaking during the 1990s rave scene.  

Other trends become apparent when we separate our observations geographically. While the opportunity to do this is necessarily limited due to language restrictions, we can compare American English usage with British English usage quite easily from 1950 to 2000.

We can see that MDMA citations peaked in the mid 1990s in American English as the British rave scene made noise in North America, but the trend faded in the US while use continued to climb in British English.

Shulgin’s Sulfur Symphony – Part I

The 2C class of psychedelic compounds first researched by Alexander Shulgin encompasses a wide range of mental experiences, but one substitution in particular seemed to resonate with the magic seen in legendary compounds like mescaline. Thioalkylation at the 4-position produced the famed 2C-T-2 and 2C-T-7, compounds noted for an almost overwhelming visual character with echos of the cosmic choir, and a dismantling of the ego more prominent relative to the perceptually focused halogenated and alkylated 2Cs. This unique experience caused Shulgin to focus his substantial talents on sulfur based substitutions at the 4-position for a period of time, producing a large number compounds named in the format 2C-T-x. The first twelve are outlined in this post.

One attribute of these compounds must be emphasized at the outset. Unlike the halogenated or alkylated 2Cs, sulfur substitutions appear to be correlated with varying degrees of MAO inhibition, which can cause significant health issues up to and including death in extreme doses or in combination with other recreational drugs, particularly stimulants. These compounds were used safely in reasonable oral doses for twenty years among a qualified group of explorers, but the research chemical surge of the early 2000s introduced these compounds to an untrained audience in pure bulk forms. With resellers actively encouraged not to disseminate information on safer consumption due to legal pressures to maintain an appearance of “not for human consumption”, reckless dosing and routes of administration led to tragedy.

2C-T-2 has been sold widely, and has not been involved in any fatalities to my knowledge presumably due to less significant MAOI effect as judged by euphoric “push” relative to the other sulfur substitutions. 2C-T-7 can be considered the most popular of the group, and has nonetheless been involved in at least three deaths involving either excessive insufflated doses over 30mg, use in combination with stimulants such as MDMA or ephedrine, or both. The less popular 2C-T-21 has produced one death after an extreme oral dose (sticking tongue in full vial of pure compound).

The desire to experience the mental state produced by these compounds should be weighed with the intentions, ability, and risk tolerance of the end user. A society which allows the purchase of firearms with the assumption of responsibility should allow the same for self-exploration, but this is often not the case. If you are unfamiliar with the mechanism of risk of these compounds (ie MAO inhibition), if you are unable to weigh these compounds accurately, and if you are unwilling to respect the impact of route of administration, then an alternative should be selected.


2C-T (2C-T-1, 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylthiophenethylamine) Active in doses of 50-150mg, this compound produces a euphoric psychedelic experience for 5-6 hours that nonetheless was described as “generic” by Shulgin. Lack of potency relative to other closely related compounds and the somewhat shallow mental state make this a rare find on the research chemical market.


2C-T-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthiophenethylamine) Active in doses of 10-30mg, this compound produces a 6-8 hour experience most notable for its intellectual introspection, mescaline styled visuals, and unholy ability at higher doses to cause physical distress including nausea during the first hour of the experience. Like mescaline, after the purge a sense of contentment develops and the experience then progresses naturally. 2C-T-2 first rose to wide fame after the banning of 2C-B, and was first sold by Dutch smartshops as a substitute in 1997. As it produced a much richer and deeper psychedelic experience than 2C-B, it did not have as wide an appeal on the club circuit, but still sold widely enough that it was eventually banned by Dutch authorities.


2C-T-3 (2C-T-20, 2,5-dimethoxy-4-(beta-methallyl)thiophenethylamine) Also known as 2C-T-20. Before working on the 2C-T series Shulgin investigated a similar series of promising compounds dubbed the Alephs, of which Aleph-3 was the beta-methallyl homologue. The synthesis of Aleph-3 was attempted, abandoned, and eventually forgotten. Years later the idea came to Shulgin again, and the beta-methallyl Aleph was begun anew along with the corresponding beta-methallyl 2C-T compound (2C-T-20). This led to the rediscovery of notes referencing the initial Aleph-3 synthesis attempt, and 2C-T-20 was renamed 2C-T-3 in order to maintain consistency with the Aleph project.

It is unclear if there was ever an “original” 2C-T-3 whose place was overwritten or shifted by insertion of the beta-methallyl. It is certainly an odd man out in the progression, as it would seem reasonable to place the n-propyl 2C-T-7 here after the ethyl 2C-T-2 and before the isopropyl 2C-T-4. A numbering system based on the previous Alephs appears to explain the gap, as perhaps the initial synthesis of the 2C-T-3 was simply left for later due to the increased difficulty relative to the alkyls surrounding it. The synthesis of 2C-T-3/2C-T-20 has never been completed according to public knowledge.


2C-T-4 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-isopropylthiophenethylamine) The isopropyl companion to the propyl substituted 2C-T-7. Active in doses between 8-20mg, it produces a long lasting change in mental state for 12 to 18 hours with a slight dissociative character. Human testing showed huge variance in responses, particularly in the subcategories of visual distortion and euphoric response. The inability to predict whether a 12+ hour long psychedelic experience would be euphoric and illuminating or dysphoric and anxiety ridden has contributed to a lack of recreational usage of this drug.


2C-T-5 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-cyclohexylthiophenethylamine) Has never been synthesized according to public knowledge, and was presumably based the similarly structured Aleph-5.


2C-T-6 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-phenylthiophenethylamine) Has never been synthesized according to public knowledge, and was presumably based the similarly structured and successfully synthesized Aleph-6.


2C-T-7 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(n)-propylthiophenethylamine) Active in doses of 10-40mg with a duration of 8-16 hours, 2C-T-7 is perhaps the most popular of Shulgin’s sulfur substitutions likely due to a more consistent euphoric effect. A powerful psychedelic character lies underneath however, and initial hype about a easy to handle “candyflip” experience may have resulted in some overwhelming experiences. With nausea reported less frequently as a side effect in comparison to 2C-T-2, many cast 2C-T-2 aside as a shorter less euphoric 2C-T-7. This is not necessarily a valid critique, as the more euphoric mental state of 2C-T-7 often results in “sloppier” emotional analysis relative to the slightly more difficult and intellectual 2C-T-2. 2C-T-7 began its rise to fame in the summer of 1999 as Dutch smartshops began selling it in 7.5mg tablets dubbed “Blue Mystic” due to the success (and resulting ban) of 2C-T-2. Unsurprisingly, 2C-T-7 was quickly banned as well.


2C-T-8 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-cyclopropylmethylthiophenethylamine) Active in doses of 30-50mg and producing a 10-15 hour experience, this compound produces a mental state that many did not wish to repeat. Shulgin said in PiHKAL, “there are as many negatives as there are positives, and the particular substitution pattern is not one to set the world on fire.”


2C-T-9 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(t)-butylthiophenethylamine) Active in doses of 60-100mg, it produces a 12-18 hour experience with significant peripheral body load and little psychedelic reward for the effort. Note that Wikipedia currently incorrectly refers to this as the n-butylthio substitution rather than the tert-butylthio referenced in PiHKAL, as the n-butylthio substitution should be referred to as 2C-T-19.


2C-T-10 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(2-pyridylthio)phenethylamine) Synthesis was abandoned before completion, and has not been completed by others according to public knowledge.


2C-T-11 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(4-bromophenylthio)phenethylamine) Synthesis was abandoned before completion, and has not been completed by others according to public knowledge.


2C-T-12 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(1-morpholinothio)phenethylamine) Synthesis was abandoned before completion, and has not been completed by others according to public knowledge.


Sulfurous Samadhi, An Investigation of 2C-T-2 & 2C-T-7 by Murple, Feb 6, 2001.

Nichols, D. E. and Shulgin, A. T. (1976), Sulfur analogs of psychotomimetic amines. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 65: 1554–1556. doi: 10.1002/jps.2600651040

Guinean Cocaine Seizure Goes Down in Flames

DATE: 2008-03-06 14:02:00
ORIGIN: Embassy Conakry


SUMMARY: On April 11, 2008, Guinean police seized a shipment of cocaine, exact quantity unknown, and detained six suspects believed to be of Latin American origin. All [US government] requests for additional information regarding the details of the seizure or the suspects have gone unanswered. The [diplomatic] mission focused its efforts to ensure the destruction of the drugs and the result of these efforts proves that corrupt elements of the government are in full control. Exactly one month after the seizure, [the US] Ambassador and [members of the American Regional Security Office] attended the alleged incineration of 390 kilos of cocaine. The incineration was a farce that fooled no one and highlighted the possible complicity of the Guinean Minister of Interior and Security and high-level police officials.

A Long-Anticipated Event

Over a ten-day period, the [US diplomatic mission] in collaboration with the British Ambassador made several unsuccessful attempts to discuss the transparent destruction of the drugs. Finally, on May 2, 2008, the US and UK Ambassadors met with the [Guinean] Minister of Interior and Security and were given well-rehearsed assurances of the [Government of Guinea]’s commitment to combating drug trafficking and an invitation to view the drugs destruction. The incineration, initially planned for May 7 and rescheduled for May 9, finally took place on May 10, 2008.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

After consultations with DEA Paris, [the US] Ambassador requested permission to take a random sample of the cocaine for testing purposes. Controller General Diane automatically agreed, causing an immediate backlash from Director General Bangoura and [the anti-narcotics bureau] Director Mara. Director General Bangoura found several excuses, to include concern over [our] health and safety. He also explained that the cocaine had been treated with chemicals, rendering it useless. Director General Bangoura, in his usual arrogant and condescending fashion, refused to address the [US] Ambassador, claiming that this was not a matter of diplomacy, but police business. [Anti-narcotics bureau] Director Mara’s enraged response included direct accusations of infringement upon Guinean sovereignty. This heated exchange took place in a very public setting and was documented by the private press.

Theatrical Production

Upon the arrival of Minister of Interior and Security Keita and Minister of Justice Paulette Kourouma, the [US] Ambassador’s request for a random sample of the cocaine was quickly denied. The pile was immediately doused with gasoline and ceremoniously lit on fire by the Minister of Justice. The President of the National Committee Against Drug Trafficking was very dramatic in announcing the destruction of 160 kilos of marijuana, 390 kilos of cocaine and 43 boxes of pharmaceutical products (later explained to be expired ibuprofen). The destroyed narcotics were reportedly valued at 6.5 million dollars.

After the incineration, [the American Regional Security Office] was permitted to take a sample from a pre-designated package of cocaine. The [the anti-narcotics bureau] Deputy Director, the only individual that was allowed to get near the pile of narcotics, handpicked the package. On May 6, 2008, the [American Regional Security Office] [Foreign Service National] Investigator received a call from [name removed], who in the past weeks has provided [the Regional Security Office] with sensitive information on the drug seizure. [name removed] stated that the [Government of Guinea] planned to burn packages of flour. [The American Regional Security Office] is unable to prove that the cocaine was in fact substituted with flour; however, the [Government of Guinea]’s lack of cooperation and vehement rejection to a request for random sampling raises troubling questions about the [Government of Guinea]’s interest in transparency. And as the [US] Ambassador’s driver very keenly observed, “I know the smell of burning marijuana, and I didn’t smell anything.” The entire event was a theatrical production.

Thankfully the US Ambassador’s driver was there to recognize the smell of burning marijuana, or else the seizure may have remained a mystery to this day.

The event was a real eye-opener and a facade. The incineration was a ridiculous attempt by the [Government of Guinea] to prove that a law enforcement campaign against narcotics exists. If anything was proven, it was that the traffickers’ influence has reached the highest levels of the government. There is an obvious fracture within the security forces, and only a handful of officials appear to be fighting to carry out legitimate duties. The clear reluctance and open animosity displayed by all the senior Ministry of Interior and Security (MIS) officials and the diffident response of the Ministers to the [US] Ambassador’s request suggest complicity at the highest levels of the Ministry. The silver-lining of the event is that the heated debate and ridiculous protestation by MIS to the Ambassador’s request for a random sampling were witnessed and recorded by elements of the Guinean media (state-owned and independent).

From Cable Reference ID 08CONAKRY184, 2008-03-06 14:02:00, Classification SECRET, Origin Embassy Conakry.

AM-2201 – A Hyperpotent Halogenated Unintended Consequence

With the recent legal issues surrounding certain synthetic cannabinoids in the United States, the market has changed. Instead of economic pressures selecting certain cheap to produce cannabinoids with desirable effects, legal pressures have now created a situation where the inelastic demand of recreational drug users causes overseas manufacturers to seek the highest potency compounds in order to minimize risk of seizure. People still want to buy it, but they want to minimize the number of transactions, so send the tiniest package with the largest value.

Previously in the market we saw various simple substitutions of the cheap, easy to synthesize, and potent original, JWH-018. But halogenated analogs, previously cast to the side due to more involved synthesis routes, are now becoming more popular due to the trend of increasing potency and duration. The difficulty in handling these very powerful compounds has caused them to be most prevalent in the commercial “smoke blends” market, where a fraction of these halogenated analogs can replace a far larger volume of the earlier generation cannabinoids. With these new legal pressures on end users however, we are seeing an increasing tendency toward the retail sale of these pure compounds.

The first of the halogenated AM series cannabinoids to reach the market was AM-694, discussed in Synthetic Cannabinoids: JWH-018 Replacements. This shares a fluoropentyl chain with AM-2201, and initially health concerns were raised about possible metabolism to toxic fluoroacetate. Luckily it appears that the odd-numbered (pentyl) chain means that the less toxic 3-fluoropropanoic acid will likely be produced instead, but this raises questions – if an even numbered fluoroalkylated chain was found to obscenely potent, would these health concerns prevent it from being brought to market? Or would the economic incentives of this crudely regulated market result in a product being sold with the excuse that only chronic long-term exposure is likely to result in apparent health risks? One would hope that manufacturers would not be so greedy, but history is not reassuring.

The effects of AM-2201 also appear to differ from natural cannabis and the first generation synthetic cannabinoids, both to start and as tolerance builds. Initially the effects are quite similar, although doses for AM-2201 are approximately a third of JWH-018. This has resulted in many reports of self-reported “seasoned” synthetic cannabinoid users having anxiety reactions as a result of apparent overdose due to increased sensitivity to inaccurate measurement. Tolerance builds quickly, and frequent users have reported psychedelic-style effects typically previously only associated with high-dose oral consumption of marijuana. The major difficulty with these high potency compounds is finding the “window” – that range of dosage where effects are strong enough to be considered enjoyable, but not so strong that peripheral effects such as anxiety or or dissociation affect the recreational potential. Measurement noise appears to translate to a rather inconsistently enjoyable experience.

It is frustrating that regulators appear to not consider the consequences of the time-tested inelastic demand of recreational drug users. Natural cannabis has been used for thousands of years with little ill effect, and its prohibition resulted in the birth of the synthetic cannabinoid market, compounds that have been known to science for at most a few decades. Now unthinking attempts to stamp out the first generation synthetic cannabinoid market have resulted in the promotion of hyperpotent substitutes patented in the mid-2000s. It is the very definition of unintended consequence to consider that regulatory promotion of these relatively unknown compounds could result in more public health concerns rather than less.