Pop-up drugs: meet today's trendiest and most dangerous highs

Pop-up drugs: meet today's trendiest and most dangerous highs

VicesAugust 08, 2014

Brand new party drug varietals are popping up everywhere from the black market to Instagram, threatening to uproot classics like cocaine and heroin from their thrones of popularity. But if you haven’t heard of these narcotic newcomers yet, it’s because they’re as dangerous and unregulated as they are inventive.

Let’s meet a few, yes?

First, a few dangerous ones …
Krokodil
If you’re wondering why Krokodil hasn’t hit it big like some kind of narcotic version of the sexy prison guy, it’s because it bores giant, grey scaly holes in your flesh, which brings to mind the phrase “not cute.”  Made up of codeine-based headache pills, gasoline, iodine, hydrochloric acid, paint thinner, and a little splash of red phosphorus thrown in there for posterity, it’s legal to make, but deadly to use. Krokodil has triple the potency of heroin, but it’s only a tenth of the price, a fact which makes “quickly rotting flesh” sound like “a grand old time.” The new drug has been spreading rapidly among intravenous drug users; but unfortunately, not always voluntarily. More times than not, krokodil will be sold as heroin, and the poor guy who buys it won’t find out until his knees fall off.

Phrosties
Phrosties were the latest illegal booze craze to hit New York City until their status as an urban legend got the best of them. These booze-slushie-sugar orgies were available via a 24/7 Instagram-based delivery service during the last few months of this year, but it didn't take long for wild lore of Phrostie-drinking to reach the prying ears of the law, and the Phrostie ring was eliminated. Prior to the disbanding of whatever mysterious genius conglomerate invented them, patrons could have the borderline-hallucinogenic booze bombs delivered right to their doors for $10 a pop in almost no time. Oh, and they may or may not have contained codeine cough syrup, a fact we’re sure has nothing to do with their wild popularity.

VHS Tea
Ever wondered what it would be like to eat a movie? Well, with VHS Tea, you can turn your wondering into vehement, exhausting hallucination. This Brazilian speciality is made from VHS tape that’s dissolved in a cool concoction of water, grain alcohol, batteries, and guarana powder. And how do VHS tapes make you feel? Says one user, “It’s kind of a harsh trip—there’s no notion of space at all. I think I sat on my bed the whole time, but I’m not sure.” Shit … even watching C-SPAN would be more entertaining that that. Currently, the use of VHS Tea seems to be limited to South America, but if it ever makes its way up North, you’re probably going to want to hide that unwatched copy of Bladerunner…

Sizzurp
You may know sizzurp from being the drug that hospitalized Lil’ Wayne, mercifully preventing him from releasing more music or skateboarding, but we’re not talking about Aunt Jemima here. We’re talking codeine cough syrup, promethazine, grape soda and dissolved Jolly Ranchers, percolating inside a styrofoam cup like a goblet of gastrointestinal grief. Motor-skill impairment, lethargy, drowsiness, hallucinations, and dissociative feelings are all part of sizzurp’s plan for you, but don’t worry, all that will go away once you start to feel the itch of codeine addiction. And although it was popularized in the ‘90s by the underground hip-hop scene of Houston, it’s steadily been becoming the favorite son of rappers and footballers looking to accidentally overdose on something they should be dipping pancakes in.

2C-B
Although 2C-B has been around since the ‘70s it has only recently started popping up in da club. Chemically, it’s similar to MDMA,  but it has a much more pronounced psychedelic effect which has given it the pristine reputation of an ecstasy-LSD hybrid. It can be swallowed or snorted, depending on your mood, and its effects can range from mild trippiness and speediness to full blown, ultra-intense hallucinations. It was temporarily sold in the US as a legal substitute for ecstasy, but was later outlawed here only to take over Colombia as the country’s most widely-used psychedelic. You can find it in your local drug dealer’s personal stash, or in the bloodstream of the guy shouting about how he can sense lettuce in the sky.

Lemon Drop
Lemon drop is a homemade hallucinogenic party in your mouth produced by mixing painter’s solvent or lighter fluid (Naphtha) with over-the-counter drugs, such as Robitussin, Sucrets, or Vick’s Formula 44, and heating that mixture to extract the dextromethorphan (DXM). Then comes the Country Time lemonade, which acts as a DXM delivery service. The DXM and lemonade combine to form a psychedelic solid, the likes of which you suck on until you understand the space-time continuum. Law enforcement can’t touch because all the ingredients are sold over-the-counter … unless you get caught driving. In that case, the only lemon drops you’ll find in prison are urinal cakes. Sad face.

Black Mamba
Black Mamba is a particularly robust and well-known form of ‘spice,’ or synthetic marijuana, which is pretty much the antichrist of weed. This wannabe cannabinoid is just a “herbal blend” that has been sprayed with THC-mimicking chemicals, which are often way stronger and way more toxic than cannabis. It’s intended to produce psychoactive reactions similar to those associated with marijuana ... if by “similar” you mean catatonic, listless and “completely schizophrenic,” as one user on drug discussion forum Talk to Frank described. Black Mamba was implicated in the deaths of three Coloradans in 2013 alone, as well as 150 non-fatal poisonings, but we’re hoping the fact it was recently scheduled by the DEA, and that weed falls from the sky in Colorado like a heavenly rain nowadays will make people more interested in real marijuana than mambas of any variety.

MXE (Methoxetamine)
When ketamine explodes the bladders of ravers and club scenesters (true story), they turn to MXE for ketamine-like euphoria, hallucinations, and dissociation. Developed in labs as a replacement for ketamine, the designer drug was originally available for purchase on the grey market in the UK and internet for $20 a pop before law enforcement caught on and cracked down. These days, you can find it nebulously hidden in what you hope is molly or speed; it’s often used to cut less-shitty drugs. But, since so little is known about it, users have a difficult time figuring out dosages, leading to multiple accounts of lasting delusions and mental problems, which is probably why club magazine Mixmag reported that people in the rave community have given MXE the slang name 'roflcoptr' (rolling on the floor laughing crapping our pants totally ruined). Thanks, but if we wanted to shit ourselves, we’d just look at Gary Busey’s face.

MDPV (Methylenedioxypyrovalerone)
You may not have heard of this gorgeously-named designer drug before, but you bet your sweet ass you’ve heard of bath salts. Yessir, MDPV is a common active ingredient in bath salts, and although it was developed in a lab in the 1960s, it remained an obscure stimulant until around 2004 when it began making its way into legal recreational compounds. MDPV-containing products were sold as recreational drugs under the name ‘bath salts’ in gas stations and convenience stores around the country until 2011, when the DEA emergency-classified it as a Schedule 1 substance. It has four times the potency of ritalin, and similar effects: alertness, increased energy and motivation, increased sociability and concentration, and of course, sexual stimulation. Oh, and death! A number of deaths attributed to MDPV-containing bath salts have occurred in the US … and then there was that whole hobo-face-eating thing too.

Explosion (Methylone)
In 1996, the same guy who created MDMA, Alexander Shulgin, created methylone. But it wasn’t until the end of 2004, that it emerged on the Dutch party scene under the name "Explosion."  It was sold as a liquid via the internet and in "smartshops", stores that sold non-scheduled, psychoactive substances. Labeled as a "room odorizer"  to skirt Dutch drug labeling laws, it gained instant popularity among people whose MDMA dealers were on vacay. Speaking of, it’s actually a more common ingredient in molly than MDMA is, and is consequentially implicated as the cause behind most molly-induced seizures. When it’s not making you seize though, it’s known to produce the same euphoric, empathetic sensation as ecstasy, except with a speedier sensation. And at roughly half the price of pure MDMA, we have to say that all sounds pretty great … except it gives you debilitating erectile dysfunction. Welcome to Bummer-Town.

… and one safe one
Kratom
Kratom is a tea or a powder made from natural kratom leaves leaves that are harvested and dried. Popularized for helping sufferers of chronic pain, ADHD, and anxiety, it has the sensation of a strong buzz from coffee, but without the jitters. But at high doses, it acts like a weak opium. The plant gets a lot of credit for being both a healthier option for opiate addicts and a great remedy for recovering junkies for two reasons. First, it delivers when it comes to sensation and dissociation. Second, the way it interacts with your brains opioid receptors makes it near-impossible to develop a physical addiction to it. Best part? It’s street legal, baby, and it’s popping up all over the country in specialized bars where you can go to pretend you’re doing heroin when you’re really just drinking tea.