Photo by Big Doofa

by Liam Engel

While simple, educational messages about drugs can save lives, not everyone is ready for such conversations. 

For many years I have provided harm reduction services, and in my experience, one of the most effective ways of engaging strangers in drug conversation has been to showcase TripSit’s Guide to Drug Combinations as a large poster. The bright, detailed, rainbow-like design used by TripSit grabs and holds attention, making people want to know more.

I was inspired to create a poster similar to TripSit’s. So, I teamed up with Entheogenesis Australis and IzWoz to make The Entheogen Combination Matrix, which focuses on psychoactive plants, whereas TripSit’s display focussed on isolated molecules.

Yet, I still felt there were some limitations to these posters. While the posters mostly targeted people who didn’t know much about drugs, they also caught the attention of drug nerds like myself.

Us drug nerds often end up debating the accuracy of risk ratings on these posters, which, as these things tend to go with nerds, often turn into a battle of citations and referencing. But there’s no room for referencing on the poster. There isn’t even enough room on a poster (that isn’t bizarrely wide) to show both these lists of psychoactive molecules and plants!

Inspired, again, I teamed up with mastfish and built PsychCombo. PsychCombo is a website listing all the psychoactives listed in the TripSit and Entheogenesis Australis projects in a dynamic combination display, allowing users to select their own combinations. PsychCombo also allows each combination risk rating to be selected to view the citations used to calculate the risk rating, and a confidence rating for the risk rating itself.

Drug education isn’t only about combinations. In my experience, the core information people want to know about psychoactives is name, effects, dosages and duration. So we also made it possible to select individual psychoactives on PsychCombo and review this core information for the selected substance. 

While Bluelight, Erowid and other community-led online platforms contain a lot of important psychoactive education information, the information can be dense and hard for others to decode. PsychCombo aims to summarise this information and link to sources for more detail.

PsychCombo has been popular, but it is still in its infancy. The true potential for the project is the format and process. PsychCombo was built as open source on GitHub, in the hopes of enabling a community of contributors. The goal is to grow this content for years to come.

We want more experience reports, more citations, more psychoactive substances and more dosage detail on diverse routes of administration. If you’re a drug nerd who wants to argue over some of PsychCombo’s content, or if you have something to add then good, we need your help! 

Consider joining us on GitHub and helping develop PsychCombo with your knowledge about psychoactives. Together we can reduce the harms of psychoactives, improve the benefits and enable more informed conversations around this special topic.

Dr Liam Engel is an ethnobotanist and science communicator. He is creator of The Mescaline Garden educational nursery, producer for the ethnobotanical charity Entheogenesis Australis, natural products chemist at NICM Health Research Institute and author of Thames and Hudson’s forthcoming psychoactive plant compendium.

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