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How Should I Approach Lesser Known Psychedelics Like “Unicorn”?

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How Should I Approach Lesser Known Psychedelics Like “Unicorn”?

I’ve been hearing great things about this new research drug called “Unicorn,” but I can’t find much information on it. Do you know anything about it or have suggestions on how to proceed safely with lesser known drugs?

Aha. Yes. I actually do have information on it, but it comes through word of mouth and is effectively all lore without concrete backing. It’s sort of a drug legend bedtime story. 

I started hearing about “Unicorn” a few years ago. Any drug that has a mysteriously vague colloquial name with no chemical name attached to it is always suspicious in my book, so I’d basically written it off as some sort of social-cultural phenomenon. I noticed that whenever “Unicorn” appeared on DrugsData, the actual lab analysis of the substance would return different results. 

The earliest DrugsData submission in 2020 detected no active ingredients and a trace amount of ketamine, which might have just been because there was a bit of cross-contamination from sharing space in a baggie. A later submission showed the presence of LSD, while another showed a bizarre smorgasbord of things like ibuprofen, triglycerides (fats), CBN, MDMA, and some trace amounts of others.

In short: There is no “Unicorn drug.” There’s just a round pink pill with random ingredients in it that’s sold under the moniker “Unicorn.”

I encountered it a few more times since then, usually from people in the Bay Area, and the typical claim I heard was that it was an “LSD derivative,” whatever that means. (No one who told me this information actually knew.) I did hear consistently positive reviews from the people I spoke to who had taken it, which was interesting, but didn’t necessarily mean anything because the placebo effect is powerful. 

If I recall, I’d spoken to someone who’d conducted FTIR testing (a type of mid-tier advanced drug checking that isn’t confirmatory, but gives more information than reagents) on some Unicorn. Their results indicated the presence of LSD sometimes, and random stuff other times.

Here’s the interesting part. In 2022 I met someone at an event who claimed to have access to the real Unicorn, directly from the chemist who made the compound that originally gained the name. According to him, the original chemist had stopped making the compound some time ago (the details are a bit fuzzy in my memory). He indicated that he’d sent samples of it to a material chemist, who was able to take a much more in-depth look at the chemical structure of it than a typical lab would have been able to. 

The material chemist apparently determined that “Unicorn” referred to a mirror image of the LSD molecule, which is a concept that I, as a non-chemist, have only barely scratched the surface of, and won’t pretend to be able to verify in any way. This was apparently the reason why GC/MS and FTIR technologies were showing the active ingredient as just LSD, since a higher level of organic chemistry is required to determine something like molecular arrangement. Typical lab testing wouldn’t be able to distinguish the supposed original “Unicorn” from the standard LSD molecule, in other words.

So, where does that leave us? I have absolutely no clue. Even if this were the case, there’d be no way for the average person to determine whether their “Unicorn” pill contained regular LSD or a mirrored offshoot. This makes lab testing effectively obsolete unless you’re working with someone who is able to conduct an extremely high level of assessment. Similarly, you won’t be able to get any information about the isomer composition of your ketamine by sending it to DrugsData. 

I always advise taking novel substances with a grain of salt. A name doesn’t mean anything, ever, under any circumstances. It is just marketing. What matters is the drug that’s actually contained within the pill – which, in this case, you can’t really verify beyond seeing if something is completely wonky. Experimenting with research chemicals isn’t necessarily inherently dangerous, but you absolutely should be starting off with sending a sample to DrugsData if you have the financial ability. If your “Unicorn” shows up as LSD, there probably isn’t a substantial risk to trying it out and seeing if it is noticeably different than usual. If it doesn’t… there you go.

That there are 25,000+ drugs in circulation and we really don’t understand most of them. Buying a pressed pill based off of its color and title is a shot in the dark.

I’ve noticed it’s becoming popular in some spiritual communities to take certain supplements like cacao or blue lotus together with mushrooms. People say they act like an empathogen (like MDMA) and make the trip nicer. Is this safe or just a gimmick?

Anecdotally, I’ll say that I have been extremely surprised at the notable subjective difference in my experiences with mushroom chocolate vs. plain fruits. I have no real explanation for why. Cacao contains a variety of antioxidants and other compounds like theobromine, which might have some pleasant synergistic effect with psilocin for reasons I can only guess at. It’s also possible that there’s some psychological synergy with making mushrooms taste a little bit less mushroomy (at least, if you hate the taste like I do). Blue lotus I know nothing about. 

The science here is unfolding on a daily basis. There’s always more information being discovered about the chemical composition of mushrooms themselves, and whether there’s a potential “entourage effect” with other compounds found alongside psilocybin that could have an impact on the experience. As of right now I believe that the only fully scientifically-validated “entourage effect” is within cannabis plants, but that doesn’t mean synergies don’t exist elsewhere, or that certain mixtures don’t have valuable and unstudied effects.

While I don’t have answers about whether these specific mixtures are gimmicks or scientifically-validated enhancement strategies, I do have a word of caution: Supplements and herbs are still drugs. There can be very complicated and unforeseeable interactions between things in ways you might not even know to anticipate. There’s also a big difference between taking one or more substances occasionally, and taking them on a daily or very regular basis.

The rise of information technology has been a true double-edged sword, since people are able to spread very scientific-looking and believable misinformation on forums and using public platforms. The supplement industry in particular can prey on people who are at the point of trying anything to improve their quality of life. This is not always the case, but it is good to keep in mind. Many supplement marketing tactics are just hot air. 

Additionally, some people in positions of power may make bold and completely empty claims about what a certain substance or plant is/is not good for. An example of this is the group of parents who use a Telegram chat to instruct each other on how to give ivermectin to otheir children as a treatment for various ailments (who experience serious side effects that are written off as “healing”). 

While it may be tempting to dismiss this example as an extreme offshoot that isn’t comparable to the topic of mushroom mixtures, the same kind of confirmation bias can be exhibited by anyone, including people in spiritual and medical communities. I always suggest looking closely at the way people share information about drugs. Someone’s messaging is usually a good indicator of their self-awareness of the limitations of their knowledge. 

Even a person with relevant advanced degrees can present their information in a way that’s concerningly cocky or self-assured. For example, saying “This drug combination does [this thing] in [this way]” is very different from “I experience [these effects] from [this drug combination] and I’m not completely sure why.” 

Sometimes people have scientific journals or cultural wisdom to share alongside their statements. As I have said before, I do not believe that something must be validated by western medicine – which I believe is built on a foundation of white supremacy – for it to be legitimate. I’m just always more inclined to trust information that’s presented with humility, a respect for the unknown, and a willingness to be proven wrong.

I have really only done psychedelics in a ceremony setting. The few times I tried them more recreationally, I felt uncomfortable, unsupported, and stuck in my head. In comparison, my friends seem like they have a good time. Am I too rigid in my psychedelic use? I want to be able to use them recreationally with friends, but don’t know how to.

Not everyone benefits from drugs in the same ways. At the end of the day, you might find that you just do not like psychedelics in a more casual context, which is totally fine. Plenty of people have zero desire to do them in social settings. But, as usual, I have some thoughts and notes about why you might be experiencing the block that you are. 

My first observation is that it sounds like there are some unaddressed skeletons in your closet. I tell people that I had to “pay the troll toll” to have a classic Good Time on psychedelics recreationally, which involved countless trips where I was uncomfortable, dissonant, isolated, or occasionally fully melting down. To this day, I have no idea where psychedelics will take me when I do them. A night spent alone in my tent, crying and laughing intermittently? The funniest evening of my life, biking through the desert and feeling perfect? Nauseous and awkward, curled up in a ball and waiting for things to calm down? No idea. It’s always a dive into the unknown. 

The word that interests me most here is unsupported. I’m obviously missing an entire universe of context for why you would feel that way, but I wonder if there might be some undue expectation of emotional support being placed on your fellow journeyers. Ceremonial spaces can place a pretty heavy emphasis on being supported and tended to, while recreational spaces are usually a lot more of an everyone-for-themselves vibe. 

Only you can answer the question of whether you are entering these spaces with an unfair, unhealthy, or unrealistic level of expectation that the people around you have consented to involving themselves in your process, especially if they too are tripping. Personally, I recommend approaching recreational psychedelic use with the mentality that everyone’s trip is their own, and people who are tripping should not be expected to be willing or able to provide support for others. 

If you want to set up additional support structures or plans for difficult experiences, it should be done during intention setting. This gives people the opportunity to explicitly label their boundaries (“I’m not in a place where I want to be tagged in to offer support”) or identify an emergency plan (“This is the phone number for someone who has agreed to be called if anyone needs help”). 

There’s also the bit about being “stuck in your head.” I’d be curious to hear more about what, exactly, you feel stuck in your head about, especially since this is followed up by saying that you “don’t know how” to partake recreationally. I had a few years where I’d get into a loop on psychedelics about what I was supposed to be doing while tripping. I’d read all those legendary Erowid trip reports about people going off on wild adventures or having transportive experiences, and I felt like I needed to be playful, talkative, and ridiculous in order to have a proper recreational trip.

Since I’m lacking context, I can only really comment on my interpretation of what I think might be happening here: your lesson in this situation might be to fuck around and find out. This might be a great opportunity for you to learn how to truly center your own experience, following your own needs and seeing what kinds of anxieties might arise as you do so. Do you feel like you’ll be judged for being not-fun if you peel off from the group? What kinds of pressures are you placing on yourself to behave or feel a certain way? Do you deem any of your feelings unacceptable or undesirable, as though you need to change them somehow in order to be doing things right? Are you holding yourself back from “being weird” or doing things that might feel embarrassing? (Most of my favorite trips have involved an idea like “what would happen if we made face masks out of rice paper?” and suddenly we were just doing it.)

Not to get on my psychedelic soap box about this again, but I really do believe that every single experience you have on drugs is a lesson, at every tier of dosing and in every environment. The lessons can be broad and existential, or they can be as simple as learning to respond to your own discomfort with interest and curiosity, rather than trying to change it. Why are you uncomfortable? What makes you feel different? How can you respond to your discomfort? How does that make you feel? Are you anxious because you are trying to change how you feel? What happens when you stop trying to change how you feel? 

Pay attention to yourself, and don’t forget: the human experience is really pretty silly to begin with. If you can lean into that a bit, and maybe practice acting on those silly little human impulses to do things like put your hands in your food or use your stomach as a percussive instrument, you might find that the lesson is more about spontaneous joy than anything else. We all pick our noses when the sun goes down.

About Your Psychedelic Auntie

When we have questions about psychedelics, we often consult our Auntie. An Auntie can be a person of any gender who offers wise advice about psychedelic substances and how to effectively use them. Lucid News is asking a collection of well-informed people to step in as Auntie and answer your questions about psychedelics. Some of the best peer-based, accurate information about psychedelic substances and harm reduction comes from DanceSafe, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1998. DanceSafe provides health and safety services at festivals and events. This month, our Psychedelic Auntie is DanceSafe Programs and Communications Coordinator Rachel Clark. Send your questions to the Psychedelic Auntie via the Lucid News contact page and watch this space for the answers.

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