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„The Teachings of Don Juan“ by Carlos Castaneda

Carlos Castaneda (1925-1998) was a Peruvian-American anthropologist and a writer, with a Ph.D. degree in anthropology from the University of California.

He became known with a series of novels, twelve of them, starting with the first “The Teachings of Don Juan” in 1968. The novels are written in the first person, relating the author’s personal experiences as a student of the Indian shaman (brujo) don Juan Matus from the Yaqui tribe, whom he met in 1960.

Motivated by the desire to find out more about the effects of hallucinogenic mushrooms, cactuses, and herbs used by the Mexican Indians, Castaneda came into contact with the ancient Indians. More precisely, the teacher Don Juan, who gradually introduced him to the wonderful research world behind hallucinogenic plants: peyote (Lophophora williamsu), Jimsonweed (Datura inoxia) and from the kingdom of hallucinogenic mushrooms - (Psilocybe mexicana).

Ana Vernova

Ana Vernova
By her mother from Bitola sent
in Skopje for study to her aunt
at music-high, and she then
at that piano faculty enrolled.
Everything was somehow over focused
on that existence forced;
in which possible was even dying
but not without exams giving.
That is how that stupid mum attached
her destiny with the school bench
as well with the piano-tank, a way
which crushed her in the last day…
…of the third semester when
the genesis of that hard torment
reached its peak, as mum interested
was in nothing else but the head…

Rakia and shopska

A classic night out in a kafana. Rakia and shopska to start with, standard for hanging out with friends, right? Of course, any another salad will do, but here, in Macedonia, it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Nothing else dawns on you, even in winter when tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t in season. The choice of rakia you ask? Well, of course it’s žolta. Who can imagine hanging out in a kafana without a shot of rakia and a salad? Typically Macedonian! We’re not hungry, far from it, it’s just meze, something to water down the alcohol with. 

Glasses clink as you toast, making eye contact with the other person, it’s the custom. Careful not to hit the mouth of the glass you’re clinking with the bottom of yours. A grave insult, it’s common knowledge. Hmph, all the complexities of our drinking culture.

Arthur Heffter, Albert Hofmann, Alexander Shulgin, Terence McKenna

Arthur Heffter (Jun 15, 1859 - Feb 8, 1925)
Arthur Carl Wilhelm Heffter was a German pharmacologist, chemist, researcher and professor. He was born in Leipzig where he finished chemistry studies. After receiving his M.D. degree and doctorate in pharmacology in 1890, Heffter did seminal work on alkaloids derived from the peyote cactus.

Arthur Heffter is known as the chemist who isolated mescaline from the peyote cactus in 1897, the first such isolation of a naturally occurring psychedelic substance in pure form by that time. In addition, he conducted experiments on its effects by comparing the effects of peyote and mescaline on himself. He was the first to gain the title of "psychonaut", because of his willingness to test on himself (bioassay) the chemicals he isolated.  

Heffter was the first chairman of the German Society of Pharmacologists, and was largely responsible for the first Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology.

Heffter was also Professor of Medical Chemistry and Pharmacology at Leipzig University and University of Bern. In 1993 The Heffter Research Institute from USA was established in honour of Dr. Arthur Heffter.

Apology for “Narcomania”

First of all, I would like to apologize to all who consider themselves as “narcomaniacs” or are considered as such by other members of the community, for using this term further in the text. My choice of words is not accidental, rather made to emphasize how pointlessness the expression is and the value consigned to it by society, culture, state etc.

The expression “narcomaniac” derives from the word ναρκόω (narkóō, “I put to sleep”) and μανία (manía, madness, obsession), meaning madness for narcotics. The term is discriminatory and above all not simply a denotation but rather a connotative association attaching to the denotation narcomaniac the realty of an entity (a being) lower than others, more inefficient than others, a gruesome, filthy being who does not deserve to live let alone share the same societal and social values with its signifiers (non-narcomaniacs). This “added” value is attached to the drug user, in this case, similar to the act of denoting the Albanians as Shiptars (a derogatory term for an Albanian in Macedonian – trans. note). An expression not only of denotative but also connotative dimension. This places people who use drugs as individuals with a lower status, uncompleted and unevolved, excluded from social interventions without the possibility for any social and societal recuperation, with zero chances for political mobilization.

Decriminalization Now

According to data from the Ministry of Interior of the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia, the number of registered drug users in 1990 was only 314 in a country with a population of two millions. Only fourteen years later, the Ministry of Interior informed that in 2004, the number of registered drug users had increased to 6,583 or more than 20 times.

At the same time, in the past few decades, the state apparatus has been attempting to deal with the growing number of drug users as well as the increased drugs influx with conservative methods – mostly with more severe penalization. Towards this end, the prescribed minimum sanction for criminal acts pursuant Article 215 from the Macedonian Criminal Code targeting production, sale, transport, drug possession with an intention to sell, imprisonment, was increased from one to ten years to three to ten years. Additionally, from 2015, the country began implementing the idiotic legal solution called Law for Determination of the Type and Duration of Sentence.

The modern cannabis culture of Amsterdam and the birth of coffeeshops

The history of modern cannabis culture in Amsterdam stretches back to the 1960s. Use of psychoactive drugs increased, along with heavier drugs such as heroin and opium. The American hippie culture of the 1960s greatly influenced the drug use in Holland. Cannabis was brought in Amsterdam by the Americans, sailors, North African traders.  

The anti-drug laws dictated by the Dutch government were quite restrictive. In 1953, cannabis became illegal. Until the 1960s, the number of all drug-related violations brought to court, including LSD and opium, was considerably low: 10 to 25 cases annually. In 1966, however, drug violations escalated.  

Cannabis use was also prevalent in intellectual circles, which became vocal with claims that cannabis use did not lead to addiction and imprisonment on the ground of cannabis-related violations was too rigorous. In 1965, the small hippie movement Provo, “provoked” the authorities by organizing manifestations and activities and smoking cannabis out in the open. The movement later developed into a cultural phenomenon. Provo’s founder, Robert Jasper Grootveld, started growing cannabis on the roof of his boat. Cannabis dealers sold pot and hash in Amsterdam clubs such as Paradiso and Melkweg, while the majority of hippies smoked cannabis in public in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark.

The So-Called Psychedelic Renaissance

After more than 50 years of prohibition, scientific and clinical research on medical use of standard psychoactive substances (PAS) such as MDMA, Psilocybin, LSD, Ketamine, as well as classic entheogens like Cannabis, Ayahuasca, Salvia and Ibogaine is once again prevailing throughout the world.  

My intention isn’t to thoroughly examine each PAS individually, nor demystify, promote or allude to their use but rather offer an overview on current research in the past decade, particularly in the clinical area of evidence-based medicine.  

All psychoactive substances or so-called drugs, without exception, have been used for medical purposes at one moment of their discovery, or even currently are.

From its accidental discovery by A. Hofmann in 1943, until 1968, LSD was a subject of serious scientific research, for medical or military purposes. Although for decades this research was classified as top secret, unbeknownst to the public eye, the counterculture of the 1960s managed to unearth it, only to become mainstream further on. Prohibitions and regulations were instrumental in ensuring that the potential and verified effects of certain classic PAS were closeted.

“Play Safe”, a word with Eddie Einbinder

In March 2017, HOPS - Healthy Options Project Skopje had the pleasure to host the projection of the documentary “Play Safe,” followed by a discussion on harm reduction, led by the director, Edie Einbinder. Einbinder is also the author of the book “How to Have Fun and Not Die.”

In 2008, Edie began presenting strategies on harm reduction and overdose prevention in more than 200 institutions and conferences throughout the world. He gives lectures in prominent universities, high schools, homeless people and youth clinics.   

In his lectures, Edie combines the documentary “Play Safe”, wherein a real, shocking and educational manner he conveys knowledge to the public on harm reduction policies and practices. The characters depicted in the documentary strive to undertake all necessary measures of caution when using the drugs of their choice, such as: Adderall, cocaine, DMT, heroin, ketamine, LSD, marihuana, alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, MDMA, methamphetamine, mushrooms, nitrogen oxide, oxytocin and salvia.   

Culture is a drug

Drugs: one of the most popular, most used, most banal and most exciting words of the 20th century captivating also, it seems, the discussions and secret/private rooms of the 21st century in all its magnitude and substance. Completely legal, easily available and utterly unknown for the popular masses at the beginning of the previous century, this incredibly potent “mega-phrase” has evolved into the most globally used the secondary substance of all times. The journey from an obscure substance, (ab)used in hermeneutical circles, to a top product for mass consumption by all layers of society, was one of decades-long transformation of awareness, supported and (probably) orchestrated by affluent business centres of power, realized through the cultural and popular movements starving for changes and greater freedom.