JWH-018 (a synthetic cannabinoid) powder. Photo via
If you're looking for a new hobby and get a kick out of taking newly synthesized designer drugs before anyone else in the world, why not become a psychonaut? Sign up and you'll be able to get high on drugs that aren't even regulated yet. Which sounds kind of dumb and very dangerous, but at least won't land you in jail, because you're doing it in the name of "research."
In a general sense, psychonauts seem to fall into two camps. One party say they test the chemicals in order to document the drugs' effects and assess whether it's safe for others to use. The other (more self-aggrandizing) party claim that being a psychonaut is about exploring the frontiers of the mind.
Examples of some designer drugs are 25I-NBOMe, JWH-018, or Dimethocaine. While they can be fun, they’re a lot more dangerous than what they’re replacing—LSD, weed, and coke, respectively. The LSD substitute, 25I-NBOMe, is measured in micrograms, making dosages impossible to measure with the naked eye, which led to five deaths linked to 25I-NBOMe last year because of careless dosing.
Despite the risks, plenty of responsible (relatively speaking) drug users on Erowid claim that the new research chemicals they're testing are fun, just so long as you don't go nuts and start abusing them. I got in contact with a few psychonauts through Erowid and asked them why they've chosen to guinea pig themselves for anyone out there who might want to buy a bag of strange powder off the internet.
Some more, slightly less evil-looking JWH-018 powder. Photo via
VICE: What makes you want to try all these new, untested chemicals?
Hammilton: I like the idea that the compounds I'm trying are completely new—that no human has tried them yet. Dimethocaine isn't even a good drug, really… it's decent at best. But I've always felt like it was kind of my baby, just because it was my original work, obtaining it and testing it, then posting about it online, which caused it to be sold by just about all research chemical vendors today. Although, usually they sell lidocaine with added caffeine as dimethocaine.
That's all your doing?
Yeah. But I feel somewhat responsible that I didn't look into the less toxic derivatives back then and post about them instead. Because now, instead of the likely less toxic dimethocaine-para-desamino analogue being sold, it's the potentially more dangerous compound that's out there. I recently learned that the desamino analogue is less active as a stimulant, though, so maybe it's irrelevant.
Whatever you say. Have you had any bad experiences testing these drugs out?
I've had terrible experiences with synthetic cannabinoids. Before it was known that JWH-018 was the compound being sold in spice—and before spice became popular—I obtained some JWH-018 to compare to spice and smoked it. I wasn't really sure what a dose should have been back then, but it was too much. It causes anxiety and a mild overdose brought on a full-fledged panic attack.
Oh, dear. Thanks, Hammilton.
A 25I-NBOMe blotter. Photo via
Hi, Greg. What’s a psychonaut?
Greg: Those who partake in thought concerning thought itself. Although one can be a psychonaut without entheogens [any substance taken to bring on a spiritual experience], I would say that's similar to someone who calls themselves an artist and only paints one subject. Psychonautism depends heavily on getting many perspectives on the mind.
Sounds pretty intense. Why do you take these drugs?
I thought, when I first took them, that they would be very similar to how I can induce odd states of mind when I'm sleep deprived, deeply meditative or very inspired for my art. However, my first experience with any entheogen—psilocybin—showed me that my expectations were going to be completely shattered and that these substances were nothing to be taken lightly.
What’s your drug of choice?
I like DMT because I can take it and, for 15 minutes, I'm completely elsewhere. Then I can spend the rest of the day contemplating those 15 minutes. While other longer-lasting entheogens have usually ended with me being very tired and worn out from the experience.
Did you do illegal drugs before you decided to become a psychonaut?
I was always fascinated with psychology, and when I came into contact with marijuana—after about a year’s worth of recreational use with friends—I started to use it for inner exploration coupled with music. Every experience with other substances thereafter was for psychonautism.
So do you think being a psychonaut is a way of life, as opposed to a group of guinea pigs testing new drugs?
I think that the people who are researching different chemicals' effects on the brain are actually the smaller portion of psychonauts, while the larger group simply use the historical ones—ayahuasca, psilocybin, mescaline, LSD—as means to spiritual, interpersonal, and psychological revelations.
Wow, OK. Thanks, Greg.
Jack holding a bag containing Etizolam, Adderall, 25C-nBome, 2c-T-2 and 2-HO-DiPT.
Hi, Jack. How would you define a psychonaut?
Jack: It's kind of iffy. In some ways, a psychonaut could just be defined as a person who enjoys the psychedelic experience more than the average person—someone who doesn't use it to just get fucked up, but for spiritual purposes. But I really don't know anyone who doesn't use drugs for recreation, so it's kind of a hard line to draw between psychonaut or not.
So are you a psychonaut or a psychonot? Why do you personally take research chemicals?
They're easy to acquire, cheap, assuredly high purity—higher than street acid or ecstasy, at least—and semi-legal.
Can you describe a couple of your favorites?
Sure—4-aco-dmt is very similar to shrooms and very enjoyable. Dpt is deep and dark, bk-mdma or 6-apb are similar to ecstasy, 2c-c is shallow but lots of fun, while 2c-t-2 and 2c-t-4 are incredibly fulfilling.
Do you ever worry about the dangers?
Not really. I do microgram doses of drugs I haven't tried, and people are pretty quick to talk about bad batches so you know which ones to avoid.
Do you think being a psychonaut is a way of life?
It's not really a way of life, no. I like doing drugs, but most of my friends don't. I guess it depends where you are and who you’re friends with.
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