ADHD Yoghurt For Winning The Drug War
    By Sascha Vongehr | December 31st 2010 03:42 AM | 21 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    What is the most popular form of Citizen Science?

    Some want to make us believe it is SETI@home, 8 year olds being pressured by overenthusiastic teachers, or people in their backyards looking for comets.

    As I already mentioned, the most popular Citizen Science, and moreover the most useful by far, is the gazillions of people trying out new psychoactive substances, carefully recording their reactions, producing them with ever more ingenious methods in their kitchens, breeding better forms of active plants, exploring drug-combinations, inventing better routes of administration, and so on and so forth – all in the quest to make the consumption of such substances, which will always be with us no matter how much it is prohibited, safer.

    Nobody knows how many people are actively involved, but it is a huge number, and against all odds and misrepresentation in the media, their efforts are often of purer scientific integrity than what is going on in academia.

    I already discussed the problem with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the “war on drugs” effectively denying treatment to the poor. Today I want to present a partial solution: My call to all Citizen Scientists, but also ordinary scientists and hobby tinkerers interested in bio-tech, plant breeding, and similar hobbies. The following is perfectly doable today, as a side project or a full blown hobby similar to gardening, and it is not illegal (!). As long as you research, you will have never actually any sizable amount of isolated methamphetamine anywhere near you (again – if you do not know why we need to get amphetamines out cheaply to the many people with ADHD, read it here).

    The deal is: my good old friend the ephedra plant (a story for another day) already produces ephedrine, and ephedrine only needs to lose a single oxygen atom, or “be hydrogenated”, to result in methamphetamine. This is by the way the usual route that underground chemists employ and it is also how it was first synthesized historically.

    I believe that the following can be accomplished relatively fast if just there were a small community of people attempting this. A fraction of the size of some such communities, like those making rockets as a hobby and many other useless endeavors, would be sufficient. I volunteer to be the initial hub where people can exchange contacts in order to get started – however, somebody else should take over that role soon as I have too many projects going already as it is.

    There are many other ways (say genetic engineering of the ephedra plant – but it grows darn slow – let me know if you have a good idea), but the most doable seems to me this plan:

    Step 1: We figure out how to let the ephedra distachia plant’s cells survive in a usual bio-tech fermentor/er or some other way that can grow the cells faster than with the slow growing ephedra plant.

    Step 2: 2.1) We come up with a cheap detection method for those cells/cell cultures that have any methamphetamine present at all. 2.2) Use basic genetic engineering (there are how-to-do-kits nowadays) to induce mutations. Some cells will hydrogenate the already present ephedrine or produce methamphetamine somehow directly.

    Step 3: We plainly steer evolution, i.e. select the cell cultures that produce the most methamphetamine, the ones that are most viable, and so on.

    (There should be plenty of alternatives, like putting the responsible genes into robust and fast growing cultures – once discussions get going, I am sure better ideas will develop.)

    Let me stress again: you do not need to ever isolate the methamphetamine at any point or even just have so many cells around that there could be even potentially production of a total amount of methamphetamine that could get anybody high. All we need is to evolve a useful, rugged cell culture or breed a new plant, which is all perfectly legal. Once we have it, we give it away to anybody who wants it, free of charge, just like one hands around yoghurt cultures teaspoon wise. Anybody can now make as much as they want of it, privately, just enough to treat one’s own symptoms and to pass on the best cultures.

    Once that stuff is out, the cultures that are good will be selected and viability further improved very fast – the profits of the drug cartels will plummet. And what are the feds going to do about it? Yeah, I know, they gonna make it illegal, of course, but that is the beauty of the plan: Firstly, those who initially started the project will not have anything to do with it anymore by then. Secondly, the patients who use it won’t ever have much of it either – no need to trust some dealer or cook a months supply. A culture that can produce maybe 60mg methamphetamine or the equivalent in amphetamine a day and that you eat half up every morning should basically be able to hide in a corner in the bread cabinet. ‘ADHD yoghurt’ will spread around the globe so fast, it will never be contained and hopefully inspire many more such projects (MDMA, you name it) until the “war on drugs” is won – by us and the drugs, as it will be anyways sooner or later, since the drug war can obviously only ever be won by the drugs.

    For more inspiration, please look into what so called “garage biologist”, the vanguard of the do-it-yourself biology movement — DIYBio — are up to nowadays.

    There is for example the project BioCurious, co-founded by Joseph Jackson, which tries to provide essential infrastructure and an environment for a new generation of technologists to acquire the skills needed to employ cheap genetic sequencing and synthesis. According to Jackson, today’s practitioners may be the equivalent of a 1970s garage computer club or the internet in 1993 just before the boom.

    So guys, seriously, let’s spread the word and get started doing something useful for humankind instead of wasting your time on model trains or cacti breeding.

    Let us get started with breeding ADHD Yoghurt.


    I will leave wiser folks than myself to comment on this article directly.

    However, as I’m looking for an opportunity to test my scheme for introducing tables into the editor by copying from MS Word HTML viewed in Google Chrome, here is this little poem for your entertainment.

    Vom Alten Fritz, dem Preußenkönig,
    weiß man zwar viel, doch viel zu wenig.
    Es ist zum Beispiel kaum bekannt, 
    daß er die Bratkartoffel erfand.
    D´rum heißt sie auch, das ist kein Witz
    Pom Fritz

    About Old Fritz, the Prussian king,
    we know so much, but much too little.
    It is, for example, little known
    that he invented potato chips.
    That’s why he’s also known, no joke,
    as Pom Fritz.

    Heinz Ehrhardt

    For non-German readers, “Old Fritz” was the nickname of Frederick the Great of Prussia, who introduced the potato to his country.

    After preview, it seems to work reasonably well.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Appreciating Heinz Ehrhardt is a definite plus, so I let this comment stand as it is, although I fail to see how this is even indirectly a comment on the content of this post (since you wrote you did not want to comment directly).

    Now that the wise have had their chance to speak, it is time for the fool to have his say.

    You are dealing with some serious issues here.  I have no common point with those who dismiss ADHD out of hand, regarding it as some sort of excuse for bad behaviour.  I remember a science programme, probably the BBC’s Horizon, which featured a mother, herself with ADHD, who was struggling to cope with an energetic son who also had the condition.  She described her initial experience of being treated with Ritalin.  She thought “that’s what it must feel like to be normal!”  This struck me as clear and true testimony, not led (as these things so often are) by the programme producer.


    I think you are far too dismissive of Helen’s questions.  

    In regard to the Wikipedia article, it does suggest considerable dangers involved in the use of methamphetamine.  You appear to dismiss these as being due to impurities in a self-certain manner that reminds me of a certain friend of many years ago, who in long conversations attempted to convert me to his religion.  When I raised certain undesirable patterns of behaviour associated with those regions where his religion dominates, he dismissed these as misrepresentation. 

    I am not suggesting that you are religious, rather that No-Religion appears to be your religion; indeed, the impression is too strong to be dismissed.  Your exposition of caffeine as “bad” and methamphetamine as “good” does have a quasi-religious flavour to it.

    Of mathematicians who have done themselves harm with caffeine, one that immediately springs to mind is Pierre Laurent Wantzel (1814 – 1848), whose life was almost certainly shortened by coffee and opium, the latter of which he probably smoked to deal with headaches.  It was he who provided the proof that the Three Classical Problems of Greek antiquity (Squaring the circleDoubling the cube andTrisecting an angle) were in themselves insoluble.  Could you please name some others (scientists or mathematicians) that you have in mind?

    But, lacking the ability to put their cases to experimental verification (even if such were a proper thing to do), arguing that they would have been better served by methamphetamine is best countered by the philosophical technique of argumentum marinorum, or as we say in English:

    “Try telling that to the Marines!”
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Robert, thank you for your comments. Certainly neither caffeine nor methamp are good or bad. We need to rationally look at the great destruction that the prohibition brings with it (US jails are full of innocent people caught up in the drug war, countries like Mexico are going down the drain, poor people cannot get proper healthcare, .... - it is too much to even succinctly mention all the shit and real wars that is due to drug prohibition). Compared to all of that, the problems that methamp availability brings with it to some who will not be able to handle it even though it is pure and the information for its safe handling is available, these problems society can manage in better ways. Do not forget - this is not just to bring methamp to ADHD sufferers, this is about undermining the profits of drug cartels (nowadays one has to add something like "they support terrorism" to make it sound important - LOL) and to end the war on drugs.

    About mathematicians dying from caffeine: I had one professor in GB and one in LA that taught me mathematics, were drinking coffee like they almost all do, and were dying of heart trouble. With methamp, that likely would not have happened that early (anecdotes - I know). Many many scientists smoke and drink coffee in order to keep their brains going and survive the boring lectures and conferences (coffee is like the most important thing on conferences!). A lot of high blood pressure, heart problems and more would be avoided if scientists would use their brains properly for a change and demand access to amphetamines and Modafinil. Actually, I should make a whole post out of this, but then scientist are in the end always chickenshit and system-conform. Underground Citizen Science is always going on.

    1. Pure meth is less dangerous than street meth; but in no way is it safe. The idea that it is safer than caffeine is completely ridiculous and is in no way based on reality. Find me a single study by a reputable group that would agree with you. There is a reason why Desoxyn is the absolute last option when it comes to treating ADHD.

    2. You aren't going to be able to genetically engineer a plant to produce meth in your garage. Period. End.

    This is ephedrine

    This is methamphetamine

    It's a more complicated reaction than just "taking off" an oxygen group. You talk about "mutating" the plant until it produces meth. You have no clue how complicated, if not fully impossible, it would be genetically engineer this plant into a meth lab.

    3. Yes it is illegal, its conspiracy to produce a schedule II substance. The same way that growing mushrooms is illegal in that it produces the controlled substance psilocin.

    For somebody as intelligent as your qualifications would suggest, one would think that you would be able to see the obvious flaws in your plan.

    1) All studies agree with that methamp is less dangerous than caffeine for treating symptoms of ADHD. Desoxyn is the last option because of the war on drugs! It would otherwise be one of the first options. Prescribing desoxyn is a hassle to do (extra paper work).

    2) There is only the red -OH

    that has to be replaced by an -H. Cannot be done by biology? Cells make on a nanosecond basis via enzymes what no chemist has any clue how to do without help of biotechnology. And who even says that this reaction needs to be done? Ephedra produces the whole ephedrine molecule - it may just need to change one initial step!

    3) To bio-engineer a robust cell culture that produces ephedrine is not illegal. To breed ephedra plants is not illegal (and who even is out there looking for whether they may have some methamphetamine in them - maybe it is a natural variation?). To produce a cell culture that can produce methamphetamine in minute amounts in order to cheapen the production of pharmaceuticals is not illegal. It can be done via steered evolution (look up what that means before confusing it with straight genetic manipulation). To let the results leak out to the public (ups) so that the culture develops into a robust and productive one - well that would not be us now, would it? Having a little ADHD yoghurt will probably be made illegal if it becomes popular, but then it is too late (I won't have anything to do with it anymore) and anybody who does it has far less illegal stuff than compared to a dangerous methlab in the kitchen (they like to blow up) that looks like you are selling the stuff in the neighborhood. The choice is between going to jail for 2 instead of 20 years.
    Your earlier post made it seem as if you were referring to using it for general alertness. Surely you would agree that it would be better to drink a cup of coffee than to eat a meth crystal in this sort of situation? As far as treating the symptoms of ADHD I don't think anybody is suggesting the use of caffeine as it doesn't have anywhere near the "smoothness" of amphetamines and the tachycardia is quite intense at higher dosages. Still, you underestimate the danger of methamp. It is extremely addictive, considerably more than normal amphetamine and miles ahead of caffeine. It is also the most neurotoxic drug you could find for ADHD therapy. In my personal experience the best stimulant solution is lisdexamphetamine aka Vyvanse. Its extremely smooth compared to other stimulants and lacks the abuse potential.

    Alright the molecules I was looking at weren't correct, my apologies. Yes I know what enzymes do, pal and there have been no studies to suggest that methamphetamine has exists in the ephedra plant. I also know what artificial selection is the term "induce mutations" is what threw me off. Anyways, how is an average person supposed to extract the meth from the culture? Unless you plan on eating the culture itself (I guess that's what you mean by yoghurt) but then how are you supposed to measure the dosage? Its not going to be consistent every day.

    To the legal issues, producing meth is producing meth. It doesn't matter if you are growing it or synthing it. Sure you might get some sympathy points from the jury with your sob story about how you are using it to self-medicate or are doing it for science but the DEA is still going to throw the book at you.

    Anyways, since you're a scientist and I'm just a dude who likes to make nose-candy, why don't you try isolating the enzymes responsible for creating methamphetamine in the Acacia Rigdula?

    Surely you would agree that it would be better to drink a cup of coffee than to eat a meth crystal in this sort of situation? ....
    Nobody talks about 'crystal', which is an especially pure form of methamphetamine that can be smoked. I would not recommend coffee - I already have stomach ulcers. Methamphetamine is not 'miles ahead' of coffee in terms of addiction potential - what is that even supposed to mean? Why should it be neurotoxic at therapeutic levels at all? It is nonsense which you believe in given all the biased "reefer madness" information out there. None of it is based in good science. You would talk the same way about coffee if it were illegal. lisdexamphetamine is a prodrug and thus leads to the same problems as other slow-release formulas, moreover, it does not address that it is hard for poor people to even get any of these medicines now (I discussed both problems here).
    no studies to suggest that methamphetamine has exists in the ephedra plant
    The plant already produces the ephedrine molecule at high concentrations and some mutations will change the many steps involved in the synthesis that is going on anyways so to result in methamphetamine instead.

    The dosage will be as controllable as that of coffee. Plasma availability and retention of amphetamine changes much more due to the acidity of your breakfast than it would due to the daily variation of the 'yoghurt culture' (or whatever else). Moreover, amphetamine has a high safety margin (it is difficult to overdose).

    Legal issues are just one aspect, and you do agree this isolated aspect would improve. The profits of drug kinpins, the war on drugs, whether you have to deal with your local underground (thereby get likely found out in the first place), toxicity of contaminants, and so on, all that would be changed for the better.
    why don't you try isolating the enzymes responsible for creating methamphetamine in the Acacia Rigdula
    As far as I know, the research on Acacia is a hoax, or, if right, there would be too many other phenethylamines in that plant. Nevertheless, if the cells already produce methamphetamine, maximizing it while minimizing other molecules could be fastest. What we need first however: A good suggestion about getting any of these plants' cells or parts of their genome into a reproducing cell culture.
    This post reminds me of something I read about the mathematician Paul Erdos. He used amphetamines for the last 20 years of life. A friend challenged him saying he was addicted. So Erdos stopped for one month and at the end of the month said to his friend: you have delayed the progress of mathematics by one month.

    There is some neurobiological underpinning to the idea that maintaining dopamine levels with age has benefits. But I would do it with a MAO inhibitor, much safer and neuroprotective.

    Paul Erdos was sure a clever man. I did not know that about him. Maybe I should indeed try to start an initiative among scientists to allow modafinil/amphetamines at conferences etc. in order to lower the cardiovascular occupational hazard of the scientific professions - also a very fitting subject for Science2.0. Paul Erdos as the role model would be certainly a very good suggestion. Can you find a reliable source for that?

    I admire your stance on this somewhat radical 'war on drugs' solution

    It is almost certain the biggest cartel to suffer would be the US government and its militia

    As an experimenter with mind alterers of as many kinds as I could find...I have to say that 'most' of the fear mongering about drugs is more about business than health....the 'illicit use' factor increases sales/profit/war revenue....if people 'used their brains' as you say

    The deaths from drugs are not even deaths from drugs, but some are, from impurities, ....

    and yet most of all, but rarely commented on, including by you, the reason is the person themself....

    If you take the responsibility to experiment with affecting your body/mind/spirit, then that extends to the outcome, and whether you have the ability to overstand any drug, and NOT allow it mastery over your self - it is simply a self-discipline, which is rarely, if ever, taught properly!

    Addiction, of ANY type, be it sugar, tobacco, caffeine, 'reefer', amphetamine, 'acid', mescalin, heroin, or whatever  - is simply a responsibility taken or not by an individual with every 'toke' of input

    Ephedrine is available as Ma Huang, Chinese 'natural' herbal tea, and is probably the source of 'Mormon Tea'

    There are many 'natural highs'....what about an article on them?

    My article is about getting medication at therapeutic levels to a large population of people who suffer and whose suffering does not only impact themselves individually but all of society quite profoundly. Please discuss your getting high/party issues somewhere else.
    Seems we're misinterpreting each other again, then....

    I'd assumed the main focus of your piece to be about the 'War on Drugs' stupidity, and ITS effect on society and ADHD a consequence

    and you assumed I was interested in 'getting high' or parties....At 63, no, I'm past my sell-by date, and I meditate.  ;-)
    I  was actually hoping you'd debunk the 'legal high crews', who probably do nearly as much damage as the people who cut drugs with impurities - Having known a few people who can no longer 'give evidence', I thought I'd point to the causes of death....heck, even 'skunk' is grown hydroponically in chemical soup, in vast quantities, causing mass paranoia every day, moreso at weekends....but then you know this.....

    My comment was actually in response to your, 'Let's do something useful for humankind'

    Sad that our motives appear the same, but our bias and tolerances are so different

    If you want to debunk the 'legal high crew' - go ahead, use your blog. I for my part, at least under this very post, stick to ADHD and narcolepsy therapy and other public health issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with 'high'. I will not allow anybody (4 deleted comments already) to turn it into a discussion about something else so that all those scare mongers are as usually justified to claim legalization issues as irresponsible Hippies who want to get high and party on the back of good, hard working Christians. Go undermine somebody else please. I am out to get my idea of making ADHD medicine too cheap and available to be any use to either drug lords or conservative fear mongers noticed by serious people who may have the ability and enthusiasm to connect with others to work on this project for real. You want to help me - fine. Repost - comment with contacts, tell people you know who might have better ideas than me. Your comments above are not helping the cause I believe. The ephedra plant is already there; the necessary biotechnology is available on the garage level; this can be done now. I would not even be surprised if some people are working on this already. But to make sure: Lets get this idea out there, refine it, make it work. I am sick of this coffee-house attitude, I am not here to promote my book. My shit is on the next level - I am for real - you better believe it.
    (BTW - I was expecting a comment on my Xmas piece from you actually?!?)
    Wouldn't dream of trying to turn your blog into anything it isn't. Not so sure any Hippies I know/knew would want to get anywhere near a Christian's back.
    I'd have thought the Chinese to have the best ideas about modifying the Ephedra plant genetics as Ma Huang has been under attack in the US as causing heart attacks to Americans, [as if they need help] and I'm sure they could amplify the efficacy ;-) I'm joking...

    [Re: your btw...
    Well, you know about polarized debates, and I know how to fly, having trained in gliders and being an RC model nut in my youth, when I wasn't racing, climbing or some other hair-brained and dangerous fun and games....I did attempt a post but the site wouldn't give me a plain edit mode, so I couldn't paste my links....and now the urge has gone ]

    Yes - you are always joking - that what trolls are. I meant this one by the way.
    Paul Erdos as the role model would be certainly a very good suggestion. Can you find a reliable source for that?

    Great Read! - my source.

    But Erdös liked stronger medicine too. After his mother's death in 1971, Erdös became quite depressed. His physician prescribed amphetamines. Erdös took Benzedrine or Ritalin almost every day for the last twenty five years of his life. Sometimes he took both.

    I would like to see this sort of technology developed.
    But, would it be easier with current technology to first pinpoint the genes responsible for the production of wanted chemicals: ephedra - ephedrine, coca - cocaine, khat - cathinone and cathine, etc.; then graft these genes into regionally common, fast-growing species? Though, even this method seems like it would require a lot of research to bear fruit.
    I don't think ephedrine, cocaine, cathinone, and cathine act as specifically on the brain as does amphetamines. But assuming this stopgap would be worth the research, they would at least be something until the technology you described is developed.

    Cocaine is a completely different molecule, but you are very right to mention cathinone. We should consider both, the ephedra and the khat plant. The approach should be broad with many people involved. Your idea is good, but do you know interested people experienced with manipulating genes this way or interested in acquiring this knowledge? Rather than putting the genes into a plant, I prefer cell cultures, because once it is in a fast dividing cell culture, one can use steered evolution effectively. Plants have only one generation per year or so. Cells can have one every 20 minutes. Another discussion would then be how to put selection pressure into the direction of methamphetamine production and/or how to induce many mutations plus how to screen for those cells that do already produce the molecule.
    would at least be something until the technology you described is developed
    The technology is already developed and available to the hobby tinkerer (see the links in my article) - we need people who use it for the right goals.
    Unfortunately I do not have nor do I know anybody with the wherewithal to pursue this research.
    Genetically modified plants are more familiar to me; therefore, I thought of it as a more accessible technique for the garage biologist. But using cell cultures for research would be more to the point and not any more complicated than using plants. The most difficult part, I think, would be finding the genes needed for transplant. These could be transplanted to cell cultures or plants to produce either ephedra or cathinone while the further work of tweaking these genes to produce amphetamines is carried on.
    I also see what you mean about yogurt. I was thinking the only way to grow cell cultures was with a biotech fermenter like the one pictured. Now I realize that would only be for highly controlled research. Once the cells have been developed, these cells could be grown just like yogurt in the kitchen. But, it would also be useful to create vegetables that produce ephedra, cathinone, and eventually amphetamines.

    I think that if you have ideas on how to get ephedra or khat to produce amphetamine via GMO techniques, that would be an absolutely important parallel route that should be undertaken.