The 17 Best Drug Stories We Published in 2023

Does ketamine therapy work? Why are people taking psychedelic toad venom? Answers to all these questions and more.
A butler holding a joint
Image: Cath Virginia
Looking back on the biggest stories of the year.

We’ve published a hell of a lot of words about drugs this year. Our writers have ventured deep into the history of drug culture, gone on therapeutic retreats, interviewed world-leading experts, and uncovered the stories behind trends, crazes, crimes and moral panics.

From the recreational to the therapeutic, from the heroic to the micro, and from the cartels to the nightclubs, we’ve covered it all. Below you’ll find a list of what we feel are 17 of the best things we’ve written around drugs this year. So get some tabs open, flex your bookmarks, or save them to your Pocket app. Or, if the prospect of even more screen time saddens you then, hell, download them as PDFs, print the damn things on paper and read them by candlelight in your living room. Whatever your method, these stories are worth getting your head around.


So, without further delay, and in no particular order, here’s our best drug stories of 2023.

If you’ve been to a club or rave in the last year, it’s more than likely you knocked into a shambling, spaced-out ket zombie. Is that changing the vibe of the dancefloor for the worse? Reporter Daisy Schofield spoke to DJs to find out.

The psychedelics pioneer Timothy Leary was once described as the “most dangerous man in America”, and was eventually jailed for his beliefs. But he was also the father of three kids. UK writer Mattha Busby went all the way to Jamaica to interview Leary’s son, Zach, about growing up in the shadow of the “Pied Piper of the psychedelic 60s” and what it’s like to do LSD with your dad.

For some, smoking weed via a big glass pipe is just too overwhelming. For others, it’s the epitome of blissed-out relaxation. This comprehensive guide from writer Katie Way – which runs through how to buy a bong, how to identify a good one and how to use it properly – is for the latter camp.

31 Rules for Doing Drugs Without Being a Dick

Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned party pro, VICE staff clubbed together to compile a list of good manners and etiquette that applies to almost any social situation involving drugs, from house parties to nightclubs to festivals.

Sure, drugs are cool, but what about cacao, orgasms, and breathwork? Writer Suzannah Weiss embarked on her own ancient odyssey to elevate her consciousness without using even a whiff of psychedelics.


Since the harrowing war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, we’ve reported on the fighting from numerous angles. Perhaps the most left-field approach was this story about a neuroscientist and peace activist who has been running ayahuasca ceremonies with Israeli and Palestinian attendees, with a view to build mutual reconciliation between the two communities.

The mainstream uptake of psychedelics has focused mainly on scientific studies, clinical trials and the medicalisation of particular substances for conditions like depression and PTSD. It’s a far cry from the ancestral knowledge and cultural traditions that first uncovered the social and spiritual power of psychedelic experiences. In an eye-opening story, Holly Regan interviewed the BIPOC-led groups who are seeking to decolonise our contemporary understanding of these drugs.

After nine years on and off antidepressants and therapy, writer Becky Burgum tells the story of her own experience of a groundbreaking new treatment from the UK’s first ketamine-assisted psychotherapy clinic. “And no, it's not micro-dosing,” she writes, “I was literally injected with the stuff.”

It’s no secret that microdosing has exploded in popularity in recent years. Since Rolling Stone hailed LSD microdosing as “the hot new business trip” in 2015, microdosing has gone from fringe hobby to mainstream lifestyle “hack”. In this definitive guide, Eloise Hendy reports on how to prep yourself for the process, where you can legally source shrooms, and how it might affect you.


CBD is now all the rage. There’s CBD drinks, oils, gummies, creams, shampoos, gels and even massage balms. But, as writer Simon Doherty uncovers in this investigation, there's something you should know about the difference between the shop-bought stuff, and the medicinal products that are backed by science.

Tianeptine isn’t approved for medical use in the U.S., but it’s sold in gas stations across the country. In this deep dive from senior reporter Manisha Krishnan, users report that this so-called natural supplement has left them with a crippling addiction.

The Revival of Grimy Drugs

There’s certain drugs that have always carried a reputation for being grotty, grimy, and gross. For millennials it was mcat, and before that it was speed. But, as writer Heloise Shadbolt reports, more people than ever seem to be returning to these cheaper stimulants, despite their shady past.

A strange affliction has fallen upon the UK city of Stoke-on-Trent: It’s become the global capital of a potent new synthetic drug known as “monkey drug”. Global drugs editor Max Daly dug beneath the headlines and scare stories to report on what is actually a shocking story of government neglect.

In this globe-trotting feature, intelligence and crime reporter Mitchell Prothero reveals the year he spent investigating the cocaine cartels that have taken root in Europe and ushered in a new era of violent crime.

As the UK took steps to ban the possession of nitrous oxide earlier this year, our writer Simon Doherty took it upon himself to interview people about their weirdest experiences – which include orgasmic hallucinations and a reverie of how the world began – on balloons.

When Vancouver resident Jerry Martin opened The Drugs Store, it was the only known brick-and-mortar store in Canada and the U.S. that sold heroin, cocaine, meth and MDMA. Less than two months later, he passed away of an overdose, Manisha Krishnan reports.

America has a new church, but it isn’t based on scripture or sacraments. It’s a bunch of army veterans, yogis, and psychonauts who claim to have created a new religion after crossbreeding magic mushrooms with hallucinogenic toad venom. Read Mattha Busby’s report on the Church of Psilomethoxin. Weirdly, not the only toad venom story we published this year.