Author Topic: Guide to the Depressant Drugs  (Read 1005 times)


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Guide to the Depressant Drugs
« on: February 15, 2017, 04:27:59 pm »
McDermott's Guide to the Depressant Drugs

(c) Peter McDermott, 1993
(c) Lifeline Project, 1993

This guide was first published by Lifeline Project, Manchester, UK.
This electronic version may be freely distributed electronically or as
hard copy. However, be warned that you are missing out on Mike
Linnell's brilliant illustrations.


Since the emergence of the rave scene, drugs agencies have been falling
over themselves to court the hip young Ecstasy, Acid and Speed user, thus
neglecting a major staple of good problem drug users everywhere — the

Once again, sixties drug trends are repeating itself, as danced-out
paranoid psychotics begin turning to those old favourites, the opiates, the
benzodiazapines and the barbiturates in an attempt to unwind after a period
of manic drug use, while on housing estates all over the north west, the
true afficionado of quality intoxicants keeps the faith with a tenner bag
of brown or a fist full of jellies.

Without further ado then, for the sake of those suffering from pain,
anxiety or insomnia, let us take a trip down memory lane and try to
discover what effects the various types of depressant drugs might have.


Opiates is a term used to refer to any drug with an opium-like action,
whether they be derived from the opium poppy, like morphine, or synthetic
drugs made in a chemist's laboratory.

All opiate drugs have similar effects. At low doses they relieve pain and
anxiety, and if the dose is increased, they produce a sedative effect — a
good nod.

Opiates also give us the classical model of addiction. Used regularly, they
produce tolerance — a need to continue increasing the dose in order to get
the same effect, and stopping after repeated use produces withdrawal
symptoms — physical discomfort and a mental craving for the drug.

Commonly available opiates include:

Heroin (Diamorphine Hydrochloride) — This is the daddy of all
opiates, highly prized among opiate users because the drug has the minimum
undesirable side effects and a far superior euphoric potential to other
opiates. Heroin comes in several different forms.

Pharmaceutical heroin — A staple of the British drug scene in the days
when Britain's heroin scene was limited to a couple of hundred whinging
middle-class junkies who all lived in the toilets at Piccadilly Circus —
this is now a rare, but increasingly available treat. During the sixties,
it was available either as a white powder (from pharmacy and hospital
thefts) and in 'jacks', 10 mg tablets made specifically for injection. The
form that is most often spotted today is the 'dry amp', an injectable
preparation that can occasionally be bought in 10 mg, 60 mg, and the highly
sought after 100 mg ampoules. These are the drug equivalent of the holy
grail for serious opiate users, but you need to be very careful. If you
shot one of those up thinking that it was probably about as strong as a
methadone ampoule, you could end up seriously dead.

Far Eastern Heroin — As the number of users increased and the law was
changed so that heroin was only available from special drug clinics at the
end of the 1960's, the market in prescribed heroin began to dry up. The
demand for heroin was partly met by the newly-imported 'Chinese' heroin.
This came in one of two types, and sometimes had brand names that the drug
had been given by the producers. Pink Elephant, Tiger and Rice Brand were
all very popular on Gerard Street during the early seventies.

This heroin is also graded by number. Number 3 is a pinkish-greyish
granular substance that resembles instant coffee. Although produced for
smoking, it dissolves for injection when heated. Number 4 is a pure white
powder that closely resembles pharmaceutical heroin. This form is produced
for injection and the powder dissolves instantly on contact with cold
water. Although this is still available in many parts of the world, these
forms are rarely seen in Britain today. Most of the available heroin on the
black market is

Middle/Near Eastern Heroin — This is the ubiquitous 'brown', that
dominates both British and Dutch heroin markets. In fact, this stuff isn't
actually heroin at all. True heroin is Diamorphine Hydrochloride — a
hydrochloride salt. The brown that is sold in the U.K. is Diamorphine base.
Just as Crack is the free base of Cocaine, i.e., Cocaine that has been
prepared for smoking by removing the hydrochloride part, so the brown
heroin is a smokable product that is not soluble in water like real heroin,
but must be dissolved in some form of acid before it can be injected.
Dirty, smelly, messy stuff, that is a far inferior product to all of the
above. So who wants to throw in for a bag?

In Britain's big cities, heroin currently dominates the market in opium-
derived opiate drugs. From time to time, 'fancies' like raw opium or
morphine ampoules appear, but always in limited quantities. In relation top
other opiates, heroin is more efficient than morphine, and morphine is more
efficient than opium, but once they get inside your body, they are all
converted to morphine anyway, so the effects are much the same. The only
place that any distinction can be discerned is in the rush, if the drug is
injected intravenously. Morphine and opium may produce more nausea, or more
itching, but they all do much the same thing.

Heroin is usually taken in one of two ways — it is either injected or
smoked. Smoking is by far the safest way of using as injecting makes you
much more liable to the risks of infection or overdose. The risk of
overdose is further amplified if the heroin is mixed with cocaine. Although
the two drugs might seem to cancel each other out, in fact, they appear to
potentiate each other, so the sum is greater than it's parts, so if you are
used to heroin and you do try a speedball, make certain that you use less
heroin than you normally would.

Though heroin dominates the market for opiates, the price is expensive.
After all, the mafia have to pay for those stretch limosines somehow, and
how else is your dealer going to afford a BMW and a cocaine habit if there
isn't an enormous profit on the gear?


To cater for those of us seeking to starve the dealers, a newer product is
becoming more widely available. Methadone was originally developed by the
Nazi's during World War II. When the supply of opium was cut off, Nazi
smackheads like Goering wanted to avoid the possibility of withdrawal, so
he instructed the German drug companies to produce a wholly synthetic
opiate that didn't need to rely on the poppy. With typical Teutonic
efficiency, the chemists came up with a drug that not only worked, but also
lasted a long time. As a result, Methadone has become the drug of choice
for doctors who are trying to help users manage their opiate dependency.
Heroin wears off after a couple of hours, thus requiring several hits each
day. Methadone, on the other hand, lasts anywhere between 24 and 72 hours,
depending on the dose that you take and on your individual metabolism.

Methadone comes in several forms — 10mg ampoules, 5 mg tablets, Methadone
Linctus — 1 mg in 2.5 ml or Methadone Mixture DTF — 1 mg in 1 ml. Again,
very rarely somebody will break into a chemist and pharmaceutical methadone
powder will come onto the market. This stuff is very, very strong, so if
you ever happen to come across it, be extremely careful how much you use,
especially if you are only used to street smack.

Many users claim that the problem with methadone is that it lacks heroin's
intensity. It doesn't give you the same rush when injected and many users
believe that the high is inferior compared to heroin. How much of this
resistance to methadone is psychological is unclear. Many users become
obsessed with the rituals of drug use — cooking up a hit, or rolling a bead
around the foil.

In blind trials, users who were given both drugs orally were unable to
distinguish between the effects of the two drugs. Where heroin does have a
real advantage over methadone is in withdrawal. Withdrawal from heroin
should be over after seven to ten days. Withdrawal from methadone though,
can take up to a month or even longer.

Any discussion of the properties of Methadone must also be an appropriate
place to warn of the dangers of Cyclazine. In an attempt to replicate the
effects of a now almost defunct drug called Diconal, desperadoes of the
drug scene have been known to mix certain travel sickness pills with
methadone ampoules before injecting them in an attempt to produce a
Diconal-like rush. In fact, the use of this combination just produces self-
destructive Martians whom all right-thinking junkies shun because of their
tendency towards compulsive and chaotic behaviour. In the past, I have
watched many a time-served junkie who after managing to keep it together
for many years, eventually fell to pieces after discovering Cyclazine.
Hopefully, as the Diconal experience retreats further and further back into
the annals of folk memory, fewer people will experiment with this
combination, but until then, I can only make one recommendation with regard
to this substance — avoid it like HIV (or the plague.)

The best of the rest

There are a whole bunch of other weird and wonderful opiates in the British
National Formulary, some of them organic, others totally synthetic. If you
are serious about pursuing a career as an opiate user, the chances are you
will come across them all at some point or another. Here are some of the
more common ones.

Diconal — If pharmaceutical heroin is holy grail of opiates, then Diconal
is the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  For everybody who tried them, Diconal
immediately became the drug of choice. Diconal is a drug cocktail with the
most amazing rush known to man. Unfortunately, in accordance with the great
cosmic law of nish for nish, it also happens to be one of the most
destructive forces known to man. The drug comes in pink tablets that are
made from silicon rather than the more benign chalk base. After a couple of
hits, your veins become filled with sand and get as hard as glass. Keep on
injecting and you end up with abcesses and ulcers at best, and amputated
limbs if you are unlucky. Thankfully for us all, creative intervention on
the part of the ACMD meant that doctors needed a special license to
prescribe Diconal to addicts now means that Diconal are currently as rare
as hens' teeth.

Palfium — Because it is a strong drug, Palfium has it's fans, but
personally, I've never been among them. This drug is known primarily for
two things — dirty hits and overdoses. For some reason, Palfium seems to be
very unpredictable. You can use say four tablets one day, then, the
following day you just try three and end up having blue and slumped against
a wall.  Thumbs down.

MST Continuous — If you do like to take tablets then these are the
business. MST’s are Morphine Sulphate Tablets produced in a time release
format. These will keep withdrawals at bay for many a long hour, due to the
way that the tablet is manufactured. The particles of drug are enveloped in
wax particles of different sizes and densities, so the drug is continuously
released over a 12 hour period. This production process makes the tablets
difficult to inject as there is no apparent way to seperate the morphine
from the wax. Do you really want to shoot half a Latin Mass up your arm?

DF118's, Di-Hydro Codeine — DHC's are popular with people who have a
small habit and are looking to withdraw. If you fall into this category,
then DHC's are ideal. However, iof you plan to use them long term, there
are serious drawbacks. Due to the effect that opiates have upon gut
motility (your ability to shit), the combination of opiates and chalk in
DHC can make you extremely constipated. If you are being maintained or you
have a large habit, think seriously about changing to methadone. Chronic
constipation can be a serious health risk, as well as depriving you of one
of the greatest pleasures in every junkie's life — discussing the state of
one's bowels.

Temgesic — in places like Scotland where the heroin supply is erratic,
there is a greater reliance upon various pills. Temgesic grew in popularity
because for a while, the medical profession thought that they had little
potential for misuse. In fact, because they were designed to dissolve by
being placed under the tongue, it was discovered that they were quite a
reasonable tablet to inject as they were not laden with chalk.

The strange thing about Temgesic is that they are an opiate antagonist.
This means that if you've got a smack habit and you do some Temgesic,
you'll end up in withdrawal. On the other hand, if you don't have a habit
at all, they have an opiate like effect. They have become popular with
injectors who lack access to 'real' injectable opiates in places like The
Outer Hebrides.


During the seventies, the 'barb freak' was probably the most regular punter
at street drugs agencies like Lifeline. This was because they tended to be
those drug users who were least able to take care of themselves.  Even the
most desperate bagheads look down upon barb freaks because of the mess that
they invariably get themselves into.

Barbiturates are a sedative drug. Normally prescribed to induce sleep,
their use is now almost completely discontinued for this purpose, though
milder variants such as phenobarbitone may still be used to manage
epilepsy. Nevertheless, Barbiturates occasionally turn up from time to
time, usually as

Sodium Amytal - most frequently as a bright blue capsule that contains
60 mg of the drug.

Seconal — 50 mg orange capsules, and finally

Tuinal - which are a cocktail of 50 mg of Amytal and 50 mg of Seconal
which, unsurprisingly perhaps, come in a capsule that is half Amytal blue,
half Seconal orange. Whoever was responsible for the design of these
capsules certainly had a flair for marketing substances to junkies and

The first thing to get clear about barbiturates is that these things are
dangerous. I don't mean 'Heroin screws you up' dangerous, I mean seriously
fucked-up style dangerous. Is that clear enough for you? During the
seventies, around ? people died every year as a result of barbiturate
poisoning. Many of those deaths were people who just took the drug to

The pattern usually went like this. Have a few scoops to help you get your
head down. Then, drop a couple of nembies and pour yourself another drink
while you wait for the drug to take effect. After a while, you don't
remember whether you took the caps or not, so you'd better take a couple
more to be on the safe side. They'd find your body in the morning. If you
hadn't choked on your own vomit, your breathing had slowed down
progressively until it stopped.

Like opiates, barbiturates are addictive, only more so. Taken to help you
sleep, after a few days, it becomes impossible to sleep without them. Like
the opiates, barbituates produce tolerance so that you need to keep upping
the dose to get the same effect, but the real hum-dinger is the withdrawal
syndrome. If withdrawal from opiates is cold turkey, then withdrawal from
barbiturates could be cold raven. Besides the craving, discomfort and
inability to sleep, barbiturate withdrawal also causes major epileptic
seizures. Nobody dies from opiate withdrawal, but it is a strong
possibility with barbiturates and you should only think about it under the
supervision of a doctor, preferably as a hospital in-patient.

The possibility of overdose is amplified greatly if barbs are injected into
a vein rather than taken orally. By and large, it is usually only those
people who have had their switches set to automatic self-destruct mode who
use barbiturates because the drug isn't at all pleasant or enjoyable. Barbs
lack the euphoric content of opiates and the social lubricant properties
associated with alcohol. They simply produce a dark, blank oblivion and as
such will always remain popular with those people who hate themselves or
their lives so much that their behaviour is governed by a compulsion to
obliterate all possibility of thought and self-examination. Do yourself a
favour. Just say no.


When it became clear that large numbers of people died each year simply as
a result of trying to cure insomnia, the drug companies spent a vast amount
of money in an attempt to discover a replacement for the barbiturates.
Eventually, the pharmaceutical industry came up with the Benzodiazpines.
Eureka! No side-effects, they said. Non-addictive, they said. Safe, they
said. Unlikely to be misused, they said. Loads of money, they said. (Much
more quietly, to stockholders, in boardrooms.)

Like opiates and snake oil before them, Benzodiazapines were marketed as
being good for whatever ails you — the original mothers little helper. If
you go to the doctor and tell him that you've lost your job, your wife had
left you, your dog has died and your next door neighbour keeps giving you
funny looks, the chances are, that he'll write you a prescription for
benzodiazapines. Well, five or six years ago, he would. At the moment,
doctors and the drug companies are being sued by thousands of people who
allege that they have suffered from the side effects of benzodiazapines, so
now they think twice about it. Then write the prescription.

They tend to be divided into two major types. Some are used as hypnotics or
sedatives, drugs that are used to induce sleep in insomnia. Benzodiazapines
in this category include

Nitrazepam — Nitrazepam are a long-acting benzodiazapine hypnotic. Before
doctors were forced to prescribe the generic equivalent of a drug,
Nitrazepam were possibly the most commonly used sleeper in the U.K. Sold as
'Mogadon', they were the sleeping tablet with the smiley face. In recent
years, their popularity seems to have been massively outstripped by the
shorter acting benzodiazapine hypnotics, the most popular being

Temazepam —  Also known as eggs, jellies, temazzies, norries, rugby balls
and a host of other pseudonyms, Temazepam seem to be the drug of choice for
the treatment of insomnia. They have also replaced the barbiturates as the
self-destructive drug user's intoxicant of choice. We will discuss this
substance at some length a little later.

Other hypnotic benzodiazapines include Flunitrazepam, Flurazepam,
Loprazelam and Triazolam. They all have similar effects. Triazolam
(also known as Halcyon) have recently been taken off the market because of
concern over the side effects. So much for safe!

The other major use for benzodiazapines is as anxiolytics — drugs that
reduce the anxiety levels of the user. The most commonly used
benzodiazapines of this type include

Diazepam — Also known by the trade name, Valium

Lorazepam - A short-acting anxiolytic, also known as Ativan

And a whole host of others with very similar effects, including
Alprazolam (Xanax), Bromazepam, Chlordiazipoxide (Librium),
Clobazam, Chlorazepate Dipotassium (Tranxene) Medazepam and

Regardless of which particular benzodiazapine is being used, the side-
effects seem to be much the same. Some experts feel that the shorter-acting
benzodiazapines like Lorazepam (Ativan) are more addictive and more
difficult to withdraw from than the longer-acting types such as Diazepam.
For this reason, many doctors recommend substituting Diazepam in any
detoxification programme.

All benzodiazapines depress the breathing and so if taken with opiates or
alcohol, can result in death from respiratory failure. They should be used
with caution by anybody who is pregnant or who may have suffered from
hepatitis or any other kidney or liver problems.

Taken over a longer period, these drugs can make you crazy. Besides
becoming addicted, you can become paranoid, agoraphobic (frightened of
leaving the house) or develop obsessive/compulsive patterns of behaviour.
Still, if it ever happens to you, at least you've got the consolation of
suspecting that it's probably a result of the weird, mind-bending drugs
that you've been taking. Imagine how it must feel to be a straight
housewife, getting a terrible habit with all these wierd side effects,
which you got from the medicine that your doctor gave you to help you cope
with the depression that you felt when you found your husband was fucking
his secretary. Just a little something to help you sleep, my dear. Oooo—

At the moment though, the most popular benzodiazapine must be Temazepam.
Temazepam use is on the increase among several different constituencies of
drug user. Due to a lack of real MDMA on the club scene, amphetamines, LSD
and other, longer-acting psychedelics like MDA currently dominate. As a
result, many club-goers have taken to using the little green and yellow
Rugby Balls in an attempt to get some sleep. Smoking a reefer is a much
less hazardous method of chilling out, but if you must use benzodiazapines
to get to sleep, then don't take more than one and don't use them
regularly. Once a week is probably still too often.

Hard-core cocaine and rock users are also turning to Temazzies to soften
the crash when the charlie or the rock is all gone. The same messages apply
here. Using weed or even alcohol is a much safer strategy, but if you must
use them, then do make sure that you stick to occasional oral use. Your
cocaine use is probably a problem already — try not to make it worse by
getting another habit.

The final group who are using Temazepam are injectors who probably prefer
heroin, but use Temazzies because they can't afford to score, or because
their tolerance is such that supplementing their script with Temazepam is
the only way they can work up a good gouch from their methadone. If this
description applies to you, then you are probably at enormous risk from the
impact of Temazepam on your life, your health and your social status. Even
the worst smackheads look down on a Temazzie user.

Benzo's reduce inhibitions, making some people aggressive, but the lack of
co-ordination that the drug produces means that you are more likely to get
a pasting.
Some people feel that the Dutch courage that benzodiazapines produce is
actually a cloak of invisibility, even invulnerability. They might go out
shoplifting, believing that nobody will be able to see their subtle moves
as they swiftly teleport the goods into their stash. In actual fact, the
store detectives are thinking, 'If this shop thinks that they pay me enough
to apprehend that dirty, stinking AIDS victim, they've got another think
coming. Phone for the man with the big net and the tranquillizer gun.'

Due to the way that the benzodiazapines reduce inhibitions, some people
view downers as an aphrodisiac. (Remember 'Mandies make you randy!') In
fact, this is a myth that is perpetuated by rapists. ('Err, they were a
good hit them Temazzies, but they haven't half given me a sore arse!')
Using any downer decreases your self control. Given the role that sex plays
in the transmission of the HIV virus, everybody needs to maximize the
amount of control that they exercise whenever there is the possibility of
sexual contact — downers and fucking just do not mix.

The same is true of injecting. Like the barbiturates before them, Temazepam
have become popular among certain sections of injecting drug users.
However, the risks associated with this drug are far greater than the risks
associated with heroin. As with sex, the drug minimizes the control that
you have over your injecting behaviour. This may lead you to forget which
syringe belongs to who. Have you cleaned it out? You may even forget all
about the need to stay safe and not share other people's works. You
probably couldn't care less — drugs like Temazepam make you feel
invulnerable while you are under the influence.

Temazepam also creates other risks for injectors. In order to stop people
injecting the eggs, the drug company filled them with a solid gel in an
attempt to prevent the drug from passing through the needle. People got
around this by warming the gel and diluting it with water. However, now
when it hits the vein, it resolidifies, causing thrombosis. This can lead
to Deep Vein Thrombosis, serious abscesses and ulcers. Should you miss the
vein and inject into an artery, you will probably develop gangrene, which
often results in the loss of a limb. Injecting temazepam, or any other
tablet or capsule come to that, is not a good idea at all.


When considering the depressant drugs, few people pay suficient attention
to alcohol. Alcohol has very paradoxical effects — in small doses, it acts
as a stimulant, but after a few more drinks it acts as a depressant. While
some experts believe that a couple of glasses of wine a day may improve
your health, larger amounts are definitely not good for you.

Just because a drug is legal, it doesn't mean that it is safe.  Like all of
the other depressant drugs, alcohol is addictive. Unlike the opiates,
alcohol causes damage to various organs. Brain damage and cirrhosis of the
liver are just two serious potential side effects.  Contrary to popular
opinion, you can also overdose on alcohol. Every year there are a sizable
number of deaths from alcohol poisoning — generally when young people who
are unused to drinking start drinking spirits. With beer and wine, the
volume that you have to drink to get rat-arsed helps you to titrate the
dose — take the drug in successive small doses (i.e. pints) until you reach
the effect that you desire. With spirits, you can easily pour half a bottle
or more down your neck after earlier drinks have rendered your taste buds
inactive — before you know it, you are in a coma.

Another crucial fact to remember about alcohol is that it potentiates the
impact of all the other depressant drugs. Alcohol is a contributory factor
in a majority of deaths from drug overdoses. Opiates like heroin depress
the respratory system — they slow down the rate at which you breath.
Alcohol has the same effect. Mix the two together, and you may find that
your breathing slows down to the point of stopping. This bad enough if it
happens in company, but at least they can attempt to resuscitate you or
call and ambulance. Very often, you are O.K. while you are out with your
mates — the problem occurs when you sink that last pint at closing time and
then go home to bed.  Alcohol doesn't produce it's full effect until some
time after you have taken it — so you always feel a couple of drinks behind
your consumption. Go home, hit the pillow, and the next morning your
partner wakes up next to a stiff.

The other problem with alcohol, is that it also produces nausea. Likewise,
the opiates. So once again, the two drugs enhance each other's side-
effects. Pulmonary oedema — drowning in your own vomit — is the second
major cause of  drug related death and alcohol is often a major
contributory factor.

Personally, I think it best to avoid the stuff altogether. Anybody who has
ever had Hepatitis B has already done serious damage to the liver — alcohol
will make that damage far worse. The same is true of Hepatitis C — although
the damage may not be apparent for some years to come. 

If you do drink, the liver works overtime in order to metabolize the
alcohol. If you've got a habit, the liver will also metabolize the drug at
a much faster rate than your body normally would, so you end up sick from
withdrawal much earlier than necessary. So, a sociable drink every now and
again is one thing, but if you do drink large amounts of alcohol on a
regular basis, then you're stirring up trouble for yourself one way or
another — but if you've got a habit as well, then you're fucked, mate.


There is a whole lot of information in this booklet, so when it comes to
the depressants, what are the key points that we need to bear in mind?

1. All depressants are addictive. If you must use them, try to limit your
use to occasional use. That way, you will maximize the effects and minimize
the cost.

2. Injecting drugs raises the stakes enormously. The risks from HIV,
Hepatitis, Abscesses, Gangrene, Overdose are very high. It is best if you
can avoid injecting drugs.

3. If you do inject drugs, only use drugs that are designed to be injected.
Follow safer injecting practices.

4. Mixing drugs increases the risks enormously. Only use one drug at a

5. Alcohol is a drug too. Used in combination with other drugs, alcohol can
potentiate their side effects. Never drink and use other depressants

6. Some depressants reduce your self control. Remember, if engaging in
risky behaviour of any kind, control can mean the difference between being
alive and being dead.

(c) Peter McDermott, Lifeline, 1993