View Full Version : A made-up drug [UPDATED: see post #22]

06-18-2012, 08:42 PM

I'm hoping for opinions from anyone who knows about pharmacology, although obviously I'll be grateful for any replies.

For my WIP, set in the near future, I'm imagining a psychedelic drug that wildly exaggerates sensory perception and has a strong time dilation effect. It has few side effects and there's little or no "hangover". The initial effect would be to intensify stimulus to near-panic levels, reducing over time to a deep, calming anaesthesia. Dosage would affect the length of the experience rather than the intensity. This version is a Class A drug (highly illegal).

Additionally, a more controlled form of the substance has been developed that heightens awareness and dilates time but isn't so hallucinogenic, and doesn't have the anaesthetic properties. Cliché alert - this version has been developed by the military to enhance combat performance. You never guessed I was going to say that, did you? :)

Anyway, I wanted to ask someone with some pharmacological knowledge if those lists of properties hung together "realistically". Also, I have no idea if psychedelics tend to be addictive or not?

Thanks in advance!

06-18-2012, 08:50 PM
For clarification, please -- what do you mean by "time dilation"? Are we talking perception of time, or actual impact on the individual's movement through time? And then does the drug make time, or their movement through it, go faster or slower?

Also, is it pill form, liquid, needle injection, inhaled... Or combinations (or available in multiple forms depending on dosage)?

The user's perception and the practical nature of how it is consumed can play as much on the naming as the chemical make up. "downers", "speed", "grass", etc.

06-18-2012, 09:40 PM
It seems plausible enough. But how does the military use it? Halucinogens, a state of panic followed by anathesia doesn't seem to be beneficial for combat. Does the time dilation result in quicker actions? People's sense of time can be altered, I've had monents were a second seemed to take several seconds. But that didn't mean that I could act any faster. However, if you did have a drug which allowed people to react faster, that might well be helpful in combat.

06-18-2012, 09:42 PM
Initial euphoria followed by profound sedation (resulting in the typical nodding, which is not exactly "heightened awareness"...) are symptoms of heroin (http://www.healthhype.com/heroin-abuse-addiction-overdosesymptoms-signs-side-effects.html) and other opiates, such as morphine (http://www.healthhype.com/opiate-types-abuse-dependence-tolerance-withdrawal-symptoms.html#more-8903).

Methadone (http://www.drugs.com/methadone.html), used in treatment of heroin addiction, has less side effects.

Cocaine (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/cocaine_abuse/page3_em.htm) has a stimulant and analgesic effect; it's not really "calming," but increases alertness; you may ask on some drug forum what it does with time...

Fins Left
06-18-2012, 09:46 PM
It seems plausible enough. But how does the military use it? Halucinogens, a state of panic followed by anathesia doesn't seem to be beneficial for combat.

If I were facing a battallion of guys, I wouldn't be adverse to spiking their water buffalo with something like that. With any luck, they'd kill each other out of paranoia.

06-18-2012, 09:57 PM
The major hallucinatory activity of LSD is regarded as being due to the Serotonin 2A agonist activity

06-18-2012, 10:13 PM
One of LSD symptoms (https://www.achievesolutions.net/achievesolutions/en/Content.do?contentId=4446) is "time distorting" effect. But no calming effect - this drug may have frightening effects.

So, no drug mentioned so far fits to your requirement: calming + increased alertness. It is either calming + drowsy, or stimulating + increased alertness.

Chasing the Horizon
06-18-2012, 10:45 PM
That certainly sounds realistic enough to me, except maybe for the part about the military using it. The effects sound sort of like a combination of acid and E. I don't think you'll have any trouble with the audience accepting it as realistic.

Hallucinogens are not generally physically addictive, and it's rare for people to get mentally addicted to them either. Prolonged use can change people's personalities permanently, though, and do brain damage (at least in the case of Ecstasy, not sure about some of the others).

I'm not a chemist or anything. I just know a lot of people who do drugs and had to research it a lot myself when I was creating imaginary drugs for my fantasy world.

ETA: The distortion of time is a well-known effect of many hallucinogens. Minutes can literally seem like hours when you're tripping because whole hours worth of thoughts are going through your head. I assume that's what the OP meant, not that the drug actually effects time.

06-19-2012, 01:15 AM
Yeah, no *actual* alteration of time - just perception! :D Although I don't think I'd thought that through; thank you QuantumIguana for pointing out that just cos time seems to be moving slower you won't react faster. I'll probably remove that property or play it right down.

And I thought I mentioned that the military version wouldn't have the anaesthetic effect (perhaps I forgot) - that would indeed be a pretty rubbish drug.

Chasing the Horizon - thanks for the thought of it being a synthesis of acid and E. I don't think my plot requires a detailed description of the chemical makeup of the stuff, so just being able to place it into or near a family of pre-existing drugs should be helpful.

06-19-2012, 02:10 AM
So, LSD is Lysergic acid diethylamide
Cocaine is benzoylmethylecgonine.
B12 is cobalamin
And ephedra (ma huang in Chinese ) is a metabolism enhancer -- and has the added value of being widely considered as a controlled medicinal element.

I'm thinking you could pull pretty much any combination of bits and pieces here, maybe add in some version of "hydro-oxidation-ionizer" depending on the drugs delivery system, and off you go. Then you just need a slang term for it.

06-19-2012, 02:28 AM
There are hallucinogens called entactogens structurally based on amphetamines, and most of the stuff you get on the street is of this family. (X, MDA, DOB, stuff sold as mescaline.) An interesting matter is that as you hang different stuff (atoms, or two-atom bits) off the various parts of the central benzene ring, you get different effects. Or you stick an extra carbon onto the little arm that hangs off the central ring with the amine on it, you get a slightly different effect. So that 2,5 DOB has a different effect than 3,5 DOB. Kinda weird, but something's happening as it gets metabolized at the synapse that shifts the experience of it. So, what I'm saying is that you can invent a drug in that class, shove some bit onto it of your choosing, and convince an expert it would have the effect you want.

Go down to the bottom of this wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine and there are links to six different classes of drugs. And the drawing of the structure of this one molecule, especially if you compare it to, say, MDMA's, will give you some idea of what I'm trying to describe above.

But I think what you want is maybe Angel Dust, Special K, something in that family. It dilates time. It creates perceptual changes. You can panic on it, but most people feel a bit like they've been nailed to their chairs. Again, in combination with something else, or with a tiny alteration to the structure, you could convince a drug designer reader you knew what you were talking about in your novel. Wiki article here:


ETA: oh yeah, and drugs in the LSD family are actually anti-addictive in any physical sense. There's this issue with the reuptake mechanism and potassium ions and basically what happens is you burn out the receptors for two or three days and they can't read LSD as LSD again for that amount of time. So you can take it every day, but you have to stop for like 72 hours to get high again.


Going off to have flashbacks now... ;)

06-19-2012, 03:21 AM
Sounds like you're describing Ketamine. It's not addictive, persay, there are psychedelic properties -- hence, k-hole -- it does act as a tranquilizer, or anesthesia, but it does heighten sensory perception and awareness while making you somewhat calm, hence its use as a temporary aid to depression.

I can't see the military using it, though. People tend to act like idiots on it. It'd be about as effective as putting your army on ecstasy and steroids at the same time.

ETA: Time seems to go by really fast on it in your head, though it seems to move slower, if that makes any sense. Yeah, it probably doesn't, hence why SWIM doesn't take it anymore.

06-19-2012, 05:48 AM
I could see a combination of something epinephrine-derived (that's where my brain went when you said panic-inducing.) Basically a stimulant that ups adrenaline while at the same time causing hallucination, including loss of sense of time? Makes sense to me.

I'm not sure about that anesthesia-like effect at the end, unless it's like - well, I forgot what's it called, but when the receptors in the neurons become so overloaded that they stop responding for a short time. To me, I would think it was like the postictal state people can get post-seizure.

It's a stretch, but if I saw that properly explained in print I wouldn't question it. People combine drugs all the time to get compounded effects. Not exactly safe, but yeah.

06-19-2012, 07:29 AM
Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick have beat you to it. Dick, in many iterations, including a handy aerosol spray that will grant you eternal salvation.


06-19-2012, 12:46 PM
Thanks all for the helpful advice - some really great stuff here.

blacbird - I don't think there are any truly original ideas out there! All I can hope to do is the best job I can with it so that it might not seem quite as hackneyed or cliche-ridden as it might otherwise. :)

06-19-2012, 05:22 PM
a belated thought. You could also claim your scientists have devised a compound molecule that first hooks in to the receptor as something like XTC (they're pretty sure it's the curve that includes the "N" atom that snicks into particular receptors) but as it metabolized, you had a secondary component to it that broke off during metabolizing, then drifted over and found its own receptor. So your effect would change. You'd start off speedy but increasingly drift toward hypnotic.

(Now I've got myself wondering if they do this with pharmaceuticals already. It'd be a trick, but doable, I think.)

06-19-2012, 06:43 PM
Just throwing this out there for folks who know more: hashish is one that seems to have calming, anesthetic effects and sensory overload stuff that causes mild tripping. And folks make more sense on it compared to PCP and the like, as far as I am aware ;)

I may be talking about a hashish-opium combination, unfortunately. That's just how street drugs go. In any case, the PCP-type drugs sound like they are closest to what you are describing, but folks are pretty wrecked on them. If real awareness of surroundings, etc, is important at all, I wouldn't really go with those as models. Hashish (or hashish-opium) isn't so great at that, either, but it's better than PCP.

06-26-2012, 01:45 PM
I'm just resurrecting this thread to say another thank you to everyone who's contributed! I also ask wanted to ask for ideas for street names for said made up drug... :D

Thanks again in advance!

06-26-2012, 04:23 PM
Here's a list of common drugs (http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs/commonly-abused-drugs-chart) by categories, names, street names, the usual way of administration and effects. Another list of street names. (http://www.casapalmera.com/articles/top-20-drugs-and-their-street-names/)

06-26-2012, 04:37 PM
If you've designed the molecule, you could nickname it after its structure or chemical name (as in Special K for Ketamine, roofies for Rohypnol). Or name it for its time dilation effect, if that's what you're emphasizing. Some riff on time expansion? X-time, a callback to XTC?

Or, find a high person and ask him--high folks can get wildly creative on issues related to drugs. (onesecondglance hits the street. "Know where I can buy some X?" Finds a dealer, says to her: "Nah, I really don't want to buy, I'm just going to ask one of your customers to get high and come up with a drug name for my novel while he is." onesecondglance gets A Look from dealer, who backs away, hand on weapon in pocket)

06-27-2012, 12:13 PM
Thanks guys, some food for thought there.

01-09-2013, 01:46 AM
Second resurrection for this old thread... :D

As described in the original post, there are two versions of this drug - one, the street version, and a military version with different properties. My hand-wavy explanation for this is that the military version is enantiopure, but the street version isn't. So I have a scene where the lab guys are explaining to the detectives how the droplet of enantiopure drug they've found differs to the street version.

My question is whether the lab guys could guess at the effects the enantiopure version would have from its chemical structure and what they know about the street drug?

(My guess would be no, but it would be helpful if I were wrong this time!)

Rep points for all responses... :)

01-09-2013, 02:01 AM
I missed this thread the first time around. I can't answer your question, but David Weber used such a drug for military purposes in In Fury Born. They referred to it as the tick. Don't know why. The time effect it had was to allow you to think more quickly, so even though your opponent was able to move at similar speeds, your moves were well thought out, as opposed to instinctual. The main side effect, if I remember correctly, was severe nausea when you came off it.

01-09-2013, 03:03 AM
It is usually the case that the 'wrong' enantiomer is significantly less active.
What you seem to be suggesting is that the 'wrong' isomer' has off target activity that the 'right' enantioner' lacks. Just about possible but I can't think of any examples.
The lab guys would have synthesised both enantiomers and screened their activity.
Could they guess at the likely activity of the single enantiomer. Yes, potentially they could dock the structure into a computer model of the receptor and predict that it is a good fit. In practice such predictions always look better in hindsight.

01-10-2013, 02:13 PM
Thanks waylander - that's good info.

The example I've been using to explain how different enantiomers could have different properties was ethambutol - according to Wikipedia, one enantiomer is used to treat TB, and the other makes you go blind... this may be a case of over-reliance on Wikipedia from a non-expert though.