i hate drugs. why? i hate the way people talk about them and how they act when doing them. so why shouldn't you do them? i don't know.
a practical guide for the intoxicated engineer
published anonymously by drugsatmit@hotmail.com.
postscript version (i suggest you print this out with ghostview)

in the early morning of august 31, 1999, richard guy accidentally asphyxiated himself while inhaling nitrous oxide. only a few days earlier, an unconscious simmons student was dropped off at mit medical by unidentified individuals who sped away, afraid of being sanctioned under mit's new alcohol policies. neither of these events should ever have occurred - people need to know how to be safe if they choose to use recreational drugs, and people need to not fear legal repercussions if they're saving the life of someone in danger. in light of these recent events, we felt compelled to put together this document for the mit community, without mit's participation or interference.

wide use of mind-altering substances is an unavoidable part of our society. decades of prohibition of certain drugs, and the United States' experiment with alcohol prohibition earlier this century, have conclusively demonstrated that outright illegalization of substances is ineffective at reducing their use. the magnitude of the failure of our drug war has promoted interest in new "harm reduction" strategies, which accept the fact that people are going to use drugs, and attempt to help make drug use safer.

in this pamphlet, we will accept the fact that you will use, or might be considering using, drugs. we're going to give you as much information as we can, with references, so that you can be as careful and safe as possible and minimize your risk when you use substances. we figure if you're going to use them, you should know what you're doing, and not rely on street lore or misinformation from the government. we encourage you to cross-check what we've written with respected scientific sources so you can verify the facts for yourself.

by "substances" or "drugs," we mean the entire range of chemicals that people ingest in order to change the way their mind and body work. this includes alcohol and marijuana, aspirin and codeine, legal drugs and illegal ones. furthermore, we would like to draw a distinction between "use" and "abuse"; "use" refers to responsible consumption that does not cause any harm to the individual or others, while "abuse" refers to irresponsible behavior that may harm the individual or negatively impact others. any substance, regardless of its legality, can be abused. any substance, regardless of its legality, can kill you.

politically speaking, we feel that all substances should be legalized yet regulated by the government, like alcohol and tobacco now are. this is because we support the principle that, in a free society, people should be allowed to do whatever they want, as long as what they do doesn't hurt their society. a discussion of the political issues could grow into a book of its own, so we will put aside politics for now.

finally, one point that you should keep in mind is that when you deal with illegal substances, you're not just taking a risk with your body, you're taking a risk with the law. and chances are, the damage the legal system will do to you is far worse than what the substance itself would. be careful.

we've omitted some drugs in this pamphlet, and we've limited what we've written about others, since space is limited. we've tried to spend the most time on the ones you're most likely to encounter.

lsd, mushrooms and other psychedelics
ecstasy - mdma
amphetamine and methamphetamine
ethyl alcohol
ketamine and dextromethorphan
nitrous oxide
monoamine oxidase inhibitors
more information

if you're going to choose to use drugs recreationally, here are some things you need to remember:

  • if you're using an illegal drug, you (probably) don't know who synthesized it or grew it. If it were legal, you could be certain of its purity, but it's not legal, so you'll have to hope for the best. get your drugs from someone you trust!
  • always have someone else around in case you need help, preferably someone you know well. tripping with good friends is the best way to go.
  • don't overdo it. don't take too much at one sitting, and don't do drugs too often. once in a while will most likely not hurt you at all. compulsive use is almost guaranteed to hurt your body and your mind.
  • take great pains not to cause trouble for other people. Don't let alcohol make you aggressive and don't let acid make you jump off a building. you have to act responsibly!
  • related to that last point is: never drive a motor vehicle or operate heavy machinery! your judgement and reaction time is guaranteed to be impaired under the influence of just about any drug, even something you bought at cvs for your runny nose. do not take the risk!
  • be careful of law enforcement.
  • have fun. if you have a positive outlook for a drug experience you're about to have, you have a much better chance of enjoying yourself.

in writing this, we've emphasized the potential dangers of substance use so that you are well aware of what might happen and what to avoid. but when viewed from a larger perspective, remember that many of the recreational drugs you may encounter are considered to be very safe medicinally. hundreds of thousands of ecstasy pills of unknown purity are consumed in the u.s. every weekend, under uncontrolled circumstances, and there have been no more than a few dozen deaths attributed to E over two decades. compare that with the estimated 400,000 people killed every year by tobacco. learning how to safely use substances is no different than learning how to safely drive a motor vehicle. you owe it to yourself and to your society to know how.

just because mit is an elite institution doesn't mean we're "above" using drugs. just because we're incredibly smart doesn't mean we should be afraid of getting "dumbed down" by drugs; if anything, proper drug use can enhance and expand the mind's creativity and intelligence (it was just recently revealed that the late carl sagan smoked a lot of pot). the person down the hall who won the 2.007 contest might use acid every weekend. but as mit students, we should use our objective, scientific abilities to evaluate personal drug use - what are the advantages, disadvantages, costs, benefits, repercussions and implications. explore the facts, don't be swayed by opinions or politics, and, as a scientist, come to the right decision for yourself.

mit physicians' response to damit

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