Blotting papers doused in hallucinogens, most notably LSD, are gaining in popularity in Vietnam as a new form of recreational drug, despite its prohibition by Vietnamese law.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, is an hallucinogen that causes users to experience an altered state of awareness, including hallucinations that seem real even though they are not, according to the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse.
The drug has only recently gained in popularity in Vietnam in the form of ‘blotters’; square pieces of blotting paper that have been dipped into a hallucinogenic liquid solution and perforated into individual doses.
Users take the drug by tearing out a dose from a larger sheet, and can either lick the blotter or place it on the tip of one’s tongue, beginning their ‘trip.’
Entering the spiritual world
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper made contact with Phong, a dealer of ‘lingual charms,’ the Vietnamese slang for blotters, in an attempt to get the hands on the drug.
To the reporters' surprise, Phong agreed to a meeting immediately, asking them to text him a location and time for the appointment, and the amount of the drug they intended to buy.
Arriving at the meeting point on Bui Thi Xuan Street in Tan Binh District just a few minutes later, the dealer took several sheets of blotters out from his backpack, all wrapped in plastic, and offered them a price of VND350,000 (US$15.63) each.
“Using this generally lets you go on trips into the spiritual world and see movements in the surrounding objects,” Phong said to explain the effect of his drug, which he claimed had been imported from Europe.
“It’s not addictive, and it doesn’t make you feel hungry or damage your body the way meth or American weed does,” Phong added. “It lets you experience unique hallucinations.”
Hyping the drug’s ‘magic’ effects further, Phong said that he himself had “traveled across the universe and back” after using the drug.
“Use it once and you may see more meaning to life afterwards,” Phong concluded.
The most dangerous drug
According to Doctor Huynh Thanh Hien from Ho Chi Minh City Mental Hospital, ‘lingual charms,' or ‘paper stamps’ as the Vietnamese call it, are in fact blotting paper soaked with LSD.
Hien said LSD is primarily made from rye ergot fungus, which grows on rye and other related plants, with an origin that can be traced back to 1938 in Switzerland.
The production of LSD was halted for a long time, but has been restarted in recent years, the doctor said.
According to Hien, LSD is considered one of the most powerful hallucinogens, with a dose of as little as a few micrograms enough to produce hallucinations in humans.
The doctor said the main effect of LSD was visual hallucinations, meaning seeing things that are not there and mistaking one thing for another.
“For example, I can stand on the tenth floor and feel as if I’m on the ground, or I can see myself as a bird in the sky or even as Superman,” Hien said. “Such symptoms can all lead to regrettable results, including harming the well-being of yourself and others.”
Doctor Hien gave the example of a thirteen-year-old boy who had been admitted to hospital in a state of extreme fright and was screaming every time his mother came close.
The boy later confessed to his doctors that he had been using ‘lingual charms’ every day, which had led him to experience psychosis, seeing his mother as an evil being with fangs.
Hien said LSD had a half-life of up to five hours and complex mechanisms of action that could last up to 12.
Doses of over one microgram for every kilogram of the user’s body weight could result in psychotic effects lasting for days, Hien stressed.
“It’s a timely warning for your children that the drug is not a candy or a toy," Hien said.
By Vietnamese law, LSD blotters are listed under drugs that are absolutely prohibited for use in medical or social circumstances, according to lawyer Nguyen Duc Chanh from Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association.
Dealers and users of the drug in Vietnam can face legal charges from two years behind bars up to the death penalty, according to the country’s Penal Code.