The Pr x Student Hut guide to drug harm reduction

Pill Reporton 28 September 2022

Diz. Pingers. Packet. Weed. NOS. Shrooms. Special K. If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve sniffed, smoked or swallowed one of these recently. And you’re not alone: 39% of respondents to a student survey conducted by the drugs law charity Release said they currently used drugs.

Nevertheless, most media rhetoric around drugs focuses on their inherent badness. This ignores the fact that, despite wider appropriation of a teetotal lifestyle amongst young people, illegal substances will play a part of student life for many. These experiences can veer from wildly fun or educational, to crushingly unpleasant and harmful.

With this in mind, we (Pr aka Pill Report) collab’d with Student Hut for an Instagram poll about sesh smarts which got over 20,000 answers. Please find the questions and answers below, with a primer on each substance featured. Stay safe – and smart – out there!

Q1: What unique substance is created in the liver by cocaine and alcohol?

1: Cocoloco (3%)

2: Cocaethylene (89%)

3: Cocotonin (9%)

Beyonce and Jay-Z. Garlic and chilli. Socks and sandals. Some things just seem to exist as a pair, right? Research found that three-quarters of cocaine users drink alcohol whilst doing so – but did you know this narcotic duo creates a unique chemical in the liver that supercharges the damage caused by both substances? We’re talking about cocaethylene.

Cocaethylene is a byproduct of coke and booze’s metabolism. Crudely: the more you drink and sniff, the more cocaethylene you’ll produce. But what does this mean? Research found that cocaethylene has a plasma half-life (broadly, the time it takes to be expelled by the body) three to five times that of packet. That means post-sesh your vital organs are working harder, for longer, to detoxify. It’s been linked with increased heart-rate and an 18-25-fold increased risk of immediate death for cocaine users. So, remember that you’re not just inviting coke to the party but cocaethylene too.

Q2: Which of the following ingredients are not normally found in Tusi (AKA Pink Champagne)

1: MDMA (16%)

2: Ketamine (42%)

3: 2-CB (42%)

Tusi – aka pink champagne, tucibi, pink tucibi, or pink cocaine – is a hot-pink-coloured powder that originated in South America. It has since traversed the Atlantic, gaining a presence in Spain, the odd English festival, and the afterparties of Ibiza where this summer it was linked (falsely) with a spate of deaths. Nevertheless, our poll demonstrates that there’s plenty of confusion about Tusi’s actual contents – not least that it contains actual 2-CB. So what is it?

Firstly, lab testing has found the vast majority of samples do not contain 2-CB. The problem with Tusi is that its ingredients vary wildly from plug to plug: it’s usually a combination of MDMA and ketamine plus adulterants, but it can be literally anything in any quantity. Our advice? Honestly, avoid. If you can’t resist: take a tiny bump first and see how that feels. Pranging out at the afters is not a vibe.

Q3: What normally happens if you combine MDMA and SSRIs (antidepressants)?

A1: Get twice as high (18%)

A2: Cancel each other out (63%)

A3: Fall asleep (19%)

You’re likely familiar with serotonin: a neurotransmitter sometimes known as the ‘happy hormone’. MDMA and antidepressants (often also called SSRIs) share a common function by increasing the blocking of serotonin’s re-uptake into the brain’s neurons. In principle, this means there’s more serotonin left which should help boost your mood – or, in diz’s case, tell random people in the smoking area about how much you love them. So combine the drugs and you’re going to fly on a serotonin rocket to the moon, right? Wrong.

MDMA and SSRIs will, for most people, effectively cancel each other out. At least when it comes to the neurochemical effects. There is also a small chance of an uncommon condition called ‘serotonin syndrome’, which can lead to an excess of the neurotransmitter and be fatal in extreme cases. Most likely you’ll be left with the stimulatory results of MDMA – hot, sweaty, heart tanking like a hyperactive child – but without the lovey-dovey stuff. AKA, pointless.

(PS: Just for the sake of clarity: please NEVER suddenly come off your meds so you can take drugs.)

Q4: Which drink has research suggested could be useful for heavy ketamine users?

A1: Iced tea (7%)

A2: Green tea (75%)

A3: Magic mushroom tea (18%)

Ketamine use by 16 to 24-year-olds more than tripled between 2015-16 and 2019-20. The average weekend sesh head takes Special K in fairly non-harmful ways, but heavy and sustained use can lead to a condition commonly known as ‘ketamine bladder’; an inflammation, ulceration and scarring of your bladder’s lining. Early symptoms include needing to pee regularly, urgently, and/or pain in the lower abdomen. If you keep smashing ket, you may find blood or even jelly-like chunks in your urine. The bladder may have to be removed in the most dire cases…so is there anything heavy users can do?

There has been some small-scale research that found the catechins in green teas can have a protective effect against ketamine-induced effects on the bladder in rats. For a stronger impact, you could try an EGCG green tea extract – just keep your daily intake below 800 mg (doses this high have been linked with abnormal liver function). All hot drinks will help though, and most important of all: take a break from those wonky lines.

For more info on how to practice safe sesh follow Pr on Instagram. Heading out this weekend and want to test your drugs? Please purchase a test kit from Pr here.

Pill Reporton 28 September 2022