Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
Ltd Ed 'Solve et Elucido' Art Giclee
This reverberating psychedelic giclee print is a gift for a
$500 donation to Erowid. 12" x 12", stretched on canvas, the
image wraps around the sides of the 1" thick piece. Signed
by artist Vibrata, and Erowid founders Earth & Fire.
The Nexus Factor
An Introduction to 2C-B
by Anu
Feb 1996
Citation:   Anu. "The Nexus Factor". Feb 1996. Online edition:
It has been used by U.S. therapists - it helped them bond with their patients. It has been used by frustrated lovers - we're talking multiple multiples. It has been used by South African sangomas - it helps them receive messages from ancestral spirits. Now the drug Nexus, illegal in almost every country in the world, is challenging Ecstasy as the chosen sacrament of the global rave culture.

At first sight, Dr Alexander Shulgin looks like an unlikely candidate for being the world's foremost authority on, and inventor of, psychedelic substances. And yet, during the last few decades this impish, goateed 70-year-old American pharmacologist has discovered and synthesised more psychoactive compounds than anybody else in human history. So far his inventions number more than 150 drugs whose effects vary from a few hours of mild stimulation of the senses to a 20-hour roller-coaster immersion in a maelstrom of heavenly and hellish hallucinogenic visions.

Some years ago, Dr Shulgin incurred the displeasure of the United States drug authorities by publishing a scholarly tome of almost 1000 pages called `PIHKAL: A chemical love story', the letters of the first word standing for Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved. This offbeat title is the first clue that Shulgin is not your average, run-of-the-mill chemist.

PIHKAL is part recipe manual - featuring the full chemical formulas for all of his somewhat controversial inventions - and part psychedelic road test in which he describes his personal experiences with many of these compounds. The irritation of the U.S. authorities at Shulgin's temerity in publishing this book for a mass audience is tempered by the fact that Shulgin is also the authority to whom the United States drug agencies go most often for advice on issues relating to hallucinogenic drugs.

Many of the inventions described in his book (which sport exotic names like Aleph, 2-CT-7, Hecate, Ariadne, Ganesha and Methyl-DOB) are similar in their overall effects to the more well-known psychedelics, like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. However there are others created by Shulgin which many claim have therapeutic potential but without the drawbacks that are usually associated with other psychedelics. Of these, Nexus (also known as 2C-B or 4-Bromo-2,5 Dimethoxyphenethylamine) tops the list, according to Shulgin.

Invented by Shulgin back in the early Seventies, Nexus was subsequently introduced to therapists around the States, many of whom found it of value in creating a warm, empathetic bond between themselves and their patients. Also, the drug's action helped to dissolve the patient's ego-defences and inner resistances, thus enabling the person to get in touch with suppressed emotions and repressed memories, thereby helping to resolve psychological problems.

Shulgin is a strong advocate of the potential of psychedelic compounds to facilitate self-knowledge and psychological insight, and believes that in Nexus he has found a benevolent substance that can be used safely and to great advantage in therapeutic situations.

However, Shulgin's viewpoint collides head-on with that of America's Federal Drug Administration. Ever since Dr Timothy Leary burst onto the scene in the mid-Sixties, advocating the use of LSD to legions of impressionable teenagers and urging them `Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out', the United States drug authorities have adopted a policy of banning virtually any substance that produces an altered state of consciousness, no matter what its reputed therapeutic potential. This standpoint is one that has been adopted by most Western governments, South Africa included.

Says Shulgin: `One cannot help but ponder the strange dichotomy that a nation based on establishing individual freedom has now outlawed every substance which might aid in the exploration of that last and most important frontier, the human mind. Our generation is the first ever to have made the search for self-awareness a crime.' However, unlike the irrepressible Timothy Leary, Shulgin is not a wild-eyed advocate of psychedelic revelry for the masses. What he did in fact was gradually introduce Nexus to an ever-widening circle of therapists in the United States who administered it without any legal problems up until the early 1990s. It is likely that this low-profile situation would have continued were it not for the fact that Nexus had one potentially very controversial effect: with many subjects, it proved to be an extremely powerful enhancer of sexual pleasure.

In fact, it was Shulgin himself who let the cat out of the bag by including accounts of some of the racier effects of the drug in his book PIHKAL. For example, one female subject wrote after a Nexus session with her husband: `My body was flooded with orgasms - practically from just breathing. The love-making was phenomenal, passionate, ecstatic, lyric, animal, loving, tender, sublime....I am aware of every muscle and nerve in my body, unbelievably erotic, quiet and exquisite, almost unbearable..' With this sort of hot-blooded testimonial, it was hardly surprising that Nexus escaped from the consulting room out into the brave new world of psychedelic self-medication, and it wasn't too much longer before commercial companies started picking up the ball. The first to do so was a German pharmaceutical firm which started manufacturing and selling this substance worldwide as a temporary alleviator of impotence and frigidity, packaging it under the tradename `Nexus' - the term by which this drug is now popularly referred. (The word nexus is defined by the dictionary as a `link or bond between members of a group'.) Many of the people who bought this product tended, however, to ignore the instruction on the packet to take only one 5 mg tablet an hour prior to sexual intercourse - a minimal dose which creates a very marginal effect. Instead, customers of a more hedonistic persuasion were opting for doses of four or five tablets at a time, these amounts producing very heightened tactile sensations and profoundly altered states of consciousness.

By 1993, America had become the biggest consumer of this over-the-counter preparation and Newsweek reported in December of that year that Nexus had become one of the most popular drugs at raves and dance clubs. All this sybaritic activity didn't go down too well with the U.S.Federal Drug Administration who summarily banned the active ingredient of Nexus.

On the advice and insistence of the United States, other countries followed suite by outlawing its sale and possession. These countries include England, Germany, Switzerland and most recently, South Africa, where Nexus is now a Schedule 8 substance, along with other prohibited drugs like dagga, LSD and Ecstasy. However it still remains legal in various countries, such as Holland, Spain and some eastern European countries. Banned or not, its popularity - especially amongst members of today's rave youth culture - is rapidly growing.

According to a group of people interviewed at a recent rave in Cape Town, the main reason why Nexus has become so popular is that it increases one's appreciation of the music and enhances the enjoyment of dancing. Said one starry-eyed UCT student: `When I take Nexus, I merge with the music, become one with the crowd, and fuse with the whole of Planet Earth. This isn't a drug, it's a trance-dance sacrament.' In regard to its effects, another young man described it as `a cross between the warm, lovey-dovey feeling produced by Ecstasy and the visual patterning you get when you take magic mushrooms'. However, others interviewed were less enthusiastic about its effects. Said one 18-year-old female raver: `I tried it once and all that happened was that I felt jittery, disorientated and strung out for the entire evening.' One of the most interesting developments on the local scene in regard to Nexus is that this compound is the active ingredient of a medicine called Ubulawu Nomathotholo (a Xhosa phrase which roughly translates as `Medicine of the Singing Ancestors'). Up until recently, Ubulawu Nomathotholo was available at various African herbal shops where it was sold as an aid in traditional healing.

According to the written information inside the pack: `Ubulawu Nomathotholo opens the mind to messages, visions and dreams from the Ancestral spirits. This makes it an excellent medicine for use by African traditional healers during intlombe, xhentsa, vumisa, divining, healing and thwasa treatment.' Ubulawu Nomathotholo is marketed by a Lesotho-based company called Inkwazi, but according to a spokesman for the company, Mr Solomon Daba, because of the banning in South Africa of their medicine's active ingredient, it is no longer being sold in the Republic.

`This is a great pity,' said Mr Daba. `The problem that many sangomas in South Africa are faced with is that because they live in the townships, far away from the countryside, they are unable to get hold of many of the plants and herbs used in divining, initiation ceremonies and healing. Ubulawu Nomathotholo is a very safe and effective alternative to some of the traditional plant drugs that affect the mind, but which many sangomas in the cities now find impossible to get hold of.

`We would like to see a reversal of its ban in South Africa, but we have been advised by the Medical Control Council in Pretoria that this would be a long and expensive process with little chance of success.' Another person who would like to see the ban reversed is Dr Manton Hirst (Ph.D), an anthropologist at the Kaffrarian Museum in King William's Town and one of the country's leading authorities on traditional forms of Xhosa healing.

According to Dr Hirst, who has been studying and writing about traditional healing in South Africa for the past 20 years: `Xhosa diviners and herbalists, like other shamans worldwide, use psychoactive plants and substances to induce altered states of consciousness in initiates who are being trained and inducted into the profession. Psychoactive plants are highly valued as a means of communicating with the ancestors and gaining insights into the spirit world.' `However, nowadays the plant roots traditionally used to induce visionary experiences in novices are very hard to come by. This is due to a combination of several factors such as the over-utilisation of wild plant resources by herb-sellers and healers, and drought and over-grazing. However, even when these plants are available, they are quite toxic. Consequently, poisoning, and even death, can occur as a result of taking the wrong dosage - which even experienced healers sometimes have difficulty estimating.' During his field trips, Dr Hirst has met a number of diviners who have used Nexus as a substitute for traditional plants. `At the dosages recommended on packs of Ubulawu Nomathotholo there appears to be no toxicity or physical discomfort, and some of the therapeutic results have been quite impressive.' One initiate who was administered five Nexus tablets by her teacher reported afterwards that she found herself transported to a beautiful forest where she met wild antelope and carnivores who revealed that they were the messengers of her tribal ancestors. According to Dr Hirst: `This transcendent experience had a profoundly beneficial effect on this initiate who, up until this time, had lacked confidence in herself and her calling to be a healer.' Another case history recounted by Dr Hirst was that of a male diviner who became pathologically depressed after the tragic death of one of his children. Even after the conclusion of the traditional period of mourning he continued to be morose and avoided all contact with this patients, referring them instead to his colleagues.

The diviner told Dr Hirst that after taking Nexus he had a visionary experience in which he found himself face to face with uDali (the Creator) who revealed to him the underlying meaning of the death of his child. `With his faith and confidence restored, he continued his work as a successful traditional healer.' Ancestral spirits in the guise of wild animals, visionary encounters with uDali - these are things that the average white person in South Africa will probably have some difficulty getting his mind around. However, for millions of blacks, especially out in the rural areas of the country, these are spiritual issues that are pivotal to their lives.

What if Nexus really is a safe and effective alternative to scarce and often dangerous plant medicines? What if this substance really does put African healers more in touch with the magical, mysterious realms of consciousness that have been the cornerstone of African belief for thousands of years? And what if South Africa's tens of thousands of traditional healers were to collectively demand that this medicine be made readily available to them? What is probably certain is that Nexus is going to be generating plenty of controversy during the months and years ahead.

How dangerous is Nexus?

Nexus has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system, usually causing a slight rise in blood pressure and a quickening of the heart rate. As a result, Nexus could pose a danger to those suffering from diabetes, epilepsy or cardiac problems. At low dosages Nexus brings about a feeling of relaxation, euphoria and an intensification of taste, touch, hearing and smell. Objects may appear to have an `alive' quality to them, often with patterns flowing across them, and emotions will be considerably magnified. At high dosages, there may be hallucinations and general disorientation. Driving a vehicle under the influence of Nexus would be extremely dangerous.

As is the case with its close relative Ecstasy, Nexus is not physically addictive (as is the case with cocaine, mandrax or heroin) however if used very regularly, there is the possibility that psychological dependence could develop. When used at raves, there is always the danger that someone who has taken the drug will over-exert themselves due to the drug's stimulatory effect, thereby causing dedydration and possible collapse. However, to date there have been no deaths attributed to this drug.

Nexus is available on the underground market in South African black in a number of forms, the most widespread being yellow capsules, purple tablets and white tablets. Prices paid vary from about R30-35 per capsule and R20-R25 per tablet (the capsules are reputed to be twice as strong as the tablets). The usual dose taken is 1-3 capsules, or 2-6 tablets.