7 images of Drug Molecules and What They Can Teach Us (Without Knowing Anything about Chemistry)
I’m not a big expert on the chemistry of psychoactive drugs, but last week I had the opportunity of examining the structural formulas of common psychoactive molecules and was greatly amazed and amused. On the one hand, the structural formulae of chemicals are based on writing conventions that have nothing to do with the actual chemical substance or its effects. On the other hand, the pictures of structural formulas of psychoactives give rise to surprisingly vivid imagery and associations, imparting some rather interesting impressionistic lessons on the effects of drugs.
Sugar looks like it’s currently in the midst of an ecstatic and jubilant dance, holding its own hands and swinging around in wild circles, rising to the firmament on the waves of glucose until it reaches terminal exhaustion. It is like a merry go round on which our whole culture is riding up and down.
By contrast to the joyous structure of sugar, heroin’s molecular structure appears like a train wreck – something that’s painful to look at. Heroin looks like two figures getting squashed one on top of the other, or forcefully clenching each other. Maybe the image points to addiction, which does not let go of the individual, and the individual who does not let go of their addiction. Or maybe it is the friend who is gripping the addict in support, telling them: “I won’t let leave you alone.”
Caffeine seems like a very straight, even uptight character. Their head stands erect at the top of a long neck and they appear like a three-armed waiter, holding three trays with cups full of carbon and hydrogen atoms – always ready to be of service.
Cocaine looks like a scuba-diver with diving fins and a lever stuck up his behind. His head, on the right side of the drawing, is only tenuously and almost accidentally attached to his body, which is floating in space, and the expression on his face says everything, or nothing…
LSD looks like a caterpillar maliciously erecting itself on his hind legs. It has one scary, wide-opened eye that is carefully observing you and two evil antenna tentacles, with which it is about to attack you using hydrogen and carbon atoms, while you’re in the middle of a horror trip.
DMT seems like a mightily efficient creature without many superfluous organs. It weighs just enough so it can carry and hold up the key that opens the doors of perception.
Alcohol looks like board meeting around a long, rectangular table in an alcoholic beverage company. It also looks like a two armed cross which has been laid on its side, and maybe it is our society’s religion, only skewed.