Hidden in This Beautiful Jewelry is a Secret Drug-Science Reference

Much as we love the present trend of sticking drug-molecules on everything from coffee mugs to t-shirts, we crave something new. Fortunately, science-themed artist Delftia has a novel take on subtle drug jewelry: pendants that replicate spider webs spun under the influence of psychoactive drugs.

Hidden in This Beautiful Jewelry is a Secret Drug-Science Reference

Image Credit: After Peters et al. and Witt, 1956 via Biology of Spiders

The effects of psychoactive drugs on spiders' web-spinning abilities were first documented in the mid-20th century by Swiss pharmacologist P. N. Witt. The results were visually striking, to say the least, as most drugs "[tended] to have a negative influence on web regularity."

Witt's experiments have since attracted quite the following. You'll find references to them everywhere, from cannabis.net, to University webpages, to the pages of the esteemed research journal Science, where investigations by pharmacologist J.A. Nathanson helped rekindle an interest in Witt's findings in the mid 1980s. In 1995, Witt's studies were repeated by a research group at NASA in a study that not only replicated Witt's original findings, but analyzed the spiders' webs with modern statistical methods. The study wound up proposing that spider webs could be used to assess drug toxicity.

Hidden in This Beautiful Jewelry is a Secret Drug-Science Reference

Image Credit: NASA Tech Briefs

These studies almost definitely owe a good deal of their reach and staying power to the urge that they inspire – and it is an irresistible urge – to dissect what, if anything, these webs say about the the effects of the drugs themselves. Like a sober spider, the images of erratic, jumbled, and half completed webs seem to say, a sober human will produce work that is elegant and orderly. On marijuana, however, a person is likely to give up mid-task, too sleepy, hungry or disinterested to complete the job at hand. (A factoid that inevitably pops up in online drug forums: Small doses of LSD actually resulted in more orderly webs.)

Anyway, back to jewelry: What's great about sticking one of these spider webs on a necklace is the subtlety of it all. Lots of people may be familiar with these experiments, but we're willing to bet that their numbers are fewer than those who can spot the chemical structure of caffeine, or THC. (Perhaps more relevant: Even if someone can't tell you what chemical is hanging around your neck, most people probably see a molecular diagram and think: Chemistry!) What's nice about Delftia's necklace is that, even if someone has seen or heard about the webs of drug-addled spiders, it's hard to imagine them spotting this necklace and saying "Hey! That's the web of a spider high on pot, isn't it? Nice!" More likely it'll be something like "Why's that dreamcatcher look all wonky?"

All this is to say that replicating a spider web spun under the influence of THC and making a necklace out of it – as Etsy user Delftia has done – is a new approach to subtle, in-the-know drug references that we can totally get behind.

H/t Mindy Weisberger