Illicit Drugs You’ve Never Heard of Part 2

In “Illicit Drugs You’ve Never Heard of Part 1,” we discussed a number of drugs that are not widely known to the general public. This included San Pedro cactus – a powerful hallucinogen, Soma – both a modern and ancient drug of mystery, and Rush – commonly associated with gay club-drug use. But while these drugs might be relatively unknown, the fact of the matter is that they can be just as dangerous – or even more so – than traditional street drugs like heroin, cocaine and meth. Therefore, understanding less common drugs is critical to creating an informed public that can properly respond to the real and persistent threats presented by illicit drug use and addiction. The following are a number of other rarely heard-of drugs of abuse.

Philosophers Stones

This type of drug is actually the byproduct of a mushroom, and is probably named after an early movement in the time of the Alchemists that sought out a philosopher’s stone: a substance that could turn ordinary metals to gold or silver, and/or grant eternal life.

Whatever the case may be, philosopher’s stones of today are used by people in various parts of the world to obtain a hallucinogenic high. However, it seems that – while naturally occurring – nearly all commercially available philosopher’s stones are grown from spores. According to the Wikipedia entry for Psilocybin Tampanensis;

“Psilocybe tampanensis is a very rare psychedelic mushroom in the Strophariaceae family. Originally collected in the wild in a sandy meadow near Tampa, Florida in 1977, the fungus has never again been reported in Florida, but was later collected in Mississippi. The original Florida specimen was cloned, and descendents remain in wide circulation.” (1)

Contrary to popular belief, philosopher’s stones are not a mushroom per se, but rather they are sclerotia produced by a certain type of mushroom. These sclerotia grow underneath the cap and are thought to offer some protection from flooding, fire and other natural threats.

The sclerotia contain high amounts of psilocybin – a powerful hallucinogen that is found in a number of other “magic” mushrooms. The sclerotia – also known as philosopher’s stones because they look like small stones or pebbles – are harvested and sold for consumption all over the world, despite the fact that they are illegal in many countries.

Because philosopher’s stones are so rare, there is little data to indicate whether these drugs could be dangerous, and what the long term effects of their use might be. Like other hallucinogens, addiction is unlikely because nearly complete tolerance develops rapidly, but they still represent a serious threat as a result of health and behavioral risks presented by all mind-altering substances.


Dextromethorphan is the psychoactive ingredient found in ordinary products like Robotussin brand cough syrup. For decades people have used this substance to get high, claiming that it causes powerful hallucinations and even complete breaks with reality. However, the large amount of this drug required to produce a high can be extremely dangerous, and in some cases has result in men as young as 17 suffering from fatal heart attacks.

From the US Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration:

“The typical clinical presentation of intoxication involves hyperexcitability, lethargy, ataxia, slurred speech, sweating, hypertension, and/or nystagmus. Abuse of combination DXM products also results in health complications from the other active ingredient(s), which include increased blood pressure from pseudoephedrine, potential delayed liver damage from acetaminophen, and central nervous system toxicity, cardiovascular toxicity and anticholinergic toxicity from antihistamines. The abuse of high doses of DXM in combination with alcohol or other drugs is particularly dangerous and deaths have been reported.” (2)

But because this drug is easily available in the form of over the counter products and in powder form on the internet, control methods have largely failed. Many substance abuse experts predict that products with DXM in them will require regulation similar to products like Sudafed, which contain methamphetamine precursors.


Ketamine is a tranquilizer that was originally designed for anesthetic use in humans and in the veterinary field. It is widely used to subdue or incapacitate large cats such as tigers, panthers and mountain lions, and has specific applications with primates – especially monkeys and orangutans. Unfortunately, the drug is regularly diverted from veterinary clinics for illicit consumption by substance abusers.

Ketamine can be injected, but most users cook the substance down and then crush it up into a powder for easy insufflation. This drug is popular among rave-type groups that also favor drugs like mescaline and ecstasy. According to the Partnership at DrugFree.ORG;

“Some Ketamine experiences involve a terrifying feeling of almost complete sensory detachment that is likened to a near-death experience. These experiences, similar to a “bad trip” on LSD, are called the “K-hole.” Low-dose intoxication from Ketamine results in impaired attention, learning ability, and memory .In high doses, Ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.” (3)

Few reports of outright addiction to Ketamine exist. This is probably due in large part to its scarce availability, and also because regular use of the drug is difficult for most users to control.

Salvia Divinorum

A plant only known to occur in a single region in Mexico, Salvia Divinorum has been used for centuries by local Mayan priests and spiritual leaders to invoke visions and embark on journeys of the spirit. Recently this plant has made its way all across the world as part of the demand for euphoric and mind-altering substances.

Little is known about how the plant works, but evidence indicates that the drug presents a low risk of toxicity and presents little threat of addiction or dependence. However, visions produced by the drug can cause users to engage in bizarre, dangerous and potentially illegal behaviors. Because so little is known about this drug, health professional caution people against its use.

In the next installment of Illicit Drugs You’ve Never Heard of, we’ll discuss a number of other strange and unique drugs that people are using to get high. But if you’re struggling with a problem right now, don’t wait a moment longer. We offer one of the country’s most powerful drug rehab programs, and our addiction and substance abuse experts are only a phone call away. Make a change in your life now by taking that first step.


(1) Wikipedia Psilocybe Tampanensis
Accessed 11/20/2011

(2) Office of Diversion Control Drugs and Chemicals of Concern: Dextromethorphan
Accessed 11/20/2011

(3) The Partnership at DrugFree.ORG Ketamine
Accessed 11/20/2011

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