Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Drug Report: November 2011

[The OG had previously blogged on/about drugs HERE.]

When Dale Pendell, Andrew Weil, Ronald K. Siegel and a whole bunch of other doctors and PhDs and intelligentsia argue, at different times in different books in their own contexts, that the need to change our state of consciousness should be considered a primary "drive," it makes sense to me. I thought it so before I even read or heard anyone say it. Kids (including me) love to spin around until they get dizzy and fall down, laughing. For no good reason; it was just something we had to do. I always noticed how "special" I felt just after I went for a vigorous swim or bicycle ride. When I discovered masturbation it was like finding the Golden Ticket. As a 13 year old I stole a couple of my mom's cigarettes and smoked them in a secluded place behind our swimming pool. I felt a giddy strangeness from the tobacco, but the knowledge of what cigarette smoke could do to me outweighed the advantages.

I well remember getting very sick from food poisoning at age 16. I was hospitalized for nine days, three in the ICU. I hadn't known it, but there were a few days when the doctors told my dad I might not make it. I had been very very sick with the "flu" for four days before my dad took me to the doctor and doc said, "Get him to the hospital now!" I rebounded and was discharged at 79 pounds, looking like a concentration camp survivor. Non-stop diarrhea and only an IV drip for 13 days would leave you somewhat less than "in the pink" too. I guess I was about 5 feet 10 then. But recovering from being sick had some sort of euphoric component to it; I've never seen an adequate description of it in "the literature;" only repeated assertions that recovery from illness has mind-altering effects that are often considered quite pleasant. Maybe the knowledge I wasn't going to die affected my dopamine system? 

And then there's listening to music, being in love, doing good deeds, accomplishing a goal hard-won, winning a competition, entering an altered state and world of a movie or novel...Any one of us could list many other "natural highs." We must be hard-wired for dopamine and its analogues and accomplices, because evolutionarily we were "paid" for doing something that would further the species, or our own genes. Like orgasm...

Then there are drugs. 

Because I have blogged long enough to assume I have a pretty hip audience, I won't go into the problem of "drugs" semantically. Suffice: I will consider ANYTHING material that we take into our nervous systems, with conscious intent to alter consciousness (at first, at least) as drugs. (A caveat: I must add that it appears we also ingest something that we don't know at first to have mind-altering effects, only finding out later. This seems a relatively rare case, but an interesting one. Consider the person who consciously seeks "comfort food" when under stress as an example. Many coffee addicts started by ingesting a culturally-sanctioned and refreshing "breakfast" drink.)

Possibly every drug I mention has some upside, some a considerable downside. There seem to be some drugs that have awesome powers, when acting synergistically with a human mind. Others you just wish folks would eschew forever. And because I'm a monist when it comes to body/mind - my main model of Mind is that it needs Bodies, and therefore any drug, any pill that affects the Body affects the Mind in some sense - I will consider pharmaceuticals too, maybe not in this month's Drug Report, but surely in future ones. It's just drugs, drugs, drugs all the way down, once I get knee-deep into this schtuff...

I'll start with some that seem pretty nasty to me, although I confess I've never tried them!

For the Reptile in All of Us?: Krokodil
Have you read the latest William Gibson novel? In it there are some outcastes near the Arctic Circle, living in areas that were once part of the Gulag Archipelago, where people cook up a mixture of codeine, paint thinner, gasoline, iodine, hydrochloric acid, and the red stuff you strike a match with from a matchbook: red phosphorus. Which they then inject into what veins they can still locate. It's their ultra-cheap version of heroin, and they cook it with little stoves, using syringes and vials. You get high for about 90 minutes, then you NEED to take it again. Gibson is so marvelous with these garish inventions; he rivals one of his main influences, William S. Burroughs, in this regard. Get this next bit:

At the injection site, your skin turns green and scaly. That's why it's called krokodil. It's supposed to be something called desomorphine, but no one really cares what you call it. It's a designer drug, but the designer should've never been accepted to Design School in the first place.

There are some drawbacks. Besides the scaly green skin, your face swells up, the rest of your skin turns grey and peels away, exposing bones, literally. The muscles rot and hang in bags of skin from the body. There goes your dream of a modeling career. This stuff makes meth addiction look like a Pez addiction.

Okay, it's not really in Gibson's latest book. It's really happening in Russia, right now. From 2007-2011, roughly 30,000 people have died from this stuff, which is mostly used in rural, remote places in Russia, where there are no jobs, no hope. Death comes from stroke, internal hemorrhaging, gangrene untreated, and meningitis. The state is quite ill-equipped to act, so who takes up the slack to help those who want to kick? Pentecostal Christians!

So: if you find a detox place and you successfully kick, you're lucky. One estimate has the life expectancy of the typical krokodil user at one year. Three at the very "luckiest." A user in a detox home operated by Pentecostals, once the immediate withdrawals and sleeplessness/nausea/pain subside, is susceptible to Hepatitis C, their teeth falling out from rotten gums, disfiguring sores everywhere, a lobotomized-like vacant stare, speech impediments and herky-jerky body movements because the motor cortex is permanently damaged. 

I've given it a lot of thought, I've talked it over with my family and my zen master and I've decided to pass on this one. For the exceedingly morbid-minded, the sorts that take Halloween ultra-seriously, there's some video HERE. One final word: YIKES! I had to turn away at around 2:05.

Jeez, I remember thinking when crack cocaine arrived, that was the nadir. Nothing worse could come along that got brewed up in a batch in a shack in the Bad part of town. What's next? You mix 12 ounces of cough syrup with three ounces of gasoline, chug it, then practice fire-swallowing for the intense buzz it brings on until you literally explode in giggling, sick laughter? I figure by next April, the Cruelist Month...

There's Gotta Be A Better Way
This story is a second cousin to the krokodil story. Ever heard of suboxone? I hadn't until I read about the problem of prison smuggling of suboxone in the NYT

This one reminds me of the scene in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, when Woody goes back in time to grade school, and the little kids say who they are as an adult now, and one cute little boy, about eight years old, says, "I used to be a heroin addict, now I'm a methadone addict." Suboxone is supposed to treat opiate addiction. It's sold on the streets. Why? Yep, that's the question. Once we get into this it's sheer craziness. 

It turns out methadone can only be dispensed by a federally-licensed clinic. Okay, I've never understood how heroin is terrible and illegal, but methadone is legal and about "trying to get your act together." Methadone is addicting too! When I first tried to understand this, it was part of my overarching realization that the State has it's head up its collective ass when we're talking about drugs.

When you read the story about the ingenious ways suboxone is smuggled into prison, including drying onto paper and then having a child do a crayon drawing over it, one marvels at the lengths people will go to get high, or help others get high. Prison officials throw into the "burn barrel" anything in the incoming mail with stickers, glitter glue, crayon, "or any foreign substance." It's found in the seams of clothes, in shoes, spines of magazines, and of course, in the glue behind the stamps used to mail the letters.

Why not just let it go? The drug has a ceiling. You take it a tad too often and it doesn't work. What if your kid was sending you an honest crayon drawing, with glitter glue? You're in for five years because you got caught selling pot to make your mortgage and couldn't afford a decent attorney. When I read this kind of stuff I just want to brain some judge or lawmaker who thought it was a good idea, and when the law against suboxone passed, he went out and got wasted drunk with his rich asshole lawyer buddies. And drove home.

A final layer of idiocy here: if you're gonna smuggle opiates for your buddies, why not just go for some good heroin? Some crushed-up Vicodin or Oxycontin? Jeez...

                                                      Who knows WHAT this stuff is?

Some Vital Alcohol Studies
A study done in Denmark showed that no, you can't get drunk by standing in vodka for three hours, and please find something better to do with your time. Transcutaneous alcohol absorption is a non-starter. Mom and I thought you had so much promise! Learn some guitar licks or begin that novel you've always wanted to write. Or fer crissake, call your mother. Read the Bhagvad-Gita, something!

Here's another vodka story, even more preposterous. What is it about vodka?:
"Butt-chugging" is bunk and won't work, so please don't try it. It'll only cause you pain. I first saw this on The Colbert Report: some school cop in Arizona claimed that girls inserting vodka-soaked tampons into their vaginas to get drunk at school was an epidemic. It seems widely believed - by some adults - that this is happening all over Unistat. Kids are trying to avoid the Bowery Breath by jamming this stuff into their own sacred orifices, boys using their rectums and who knows what delivery system. HERE's a story on it. Since this story, Snopes has recently come down with the verdict: hokum. Not physically easy to do. The logistics aren't right. And a Huffington Post writer tried it herself and felt intense, unremitting pain, and almost zero buzz. This story follows the idiotic pour-alcohol-into-your-eyes and my favorite: brush your teeth so hard your gums bleed, then pour alcohol onto your gums. 

Hey kids: what's wrong with smoking a little pot? Would it kill you to just spark up a jay? 

As If Beer Wasn't Doing Fine on Its Own...
I haven't followed up on this story, but the micro brewery Brew Dog earlier this year came up with an IPA of 7.5%, which is around normal for an IPA. But this IPA - produced in very limited supply - was called Royal Virility Performance, and appears to have tried to capitalize on some sort of wedding last Spring between in-bred "royals" somewhere...the UK if I recall from reading the report. 

The thing about this brew was that it contained the alleged aphrodisiac horny goat weed, and one that's not classified as an aphrodisiac but has a proven track record of sexual enhancement: Viagra. Yes, beer laced with Viagra. Crass? I think so. But I applaud the attempt to be creative in cashing in on a wedding between filthy rich people who did nothing to deserve their riches, except to be a modern throwback to the old Neolithic Sun King game: "I am your King! I have dominion over all of you...the Sun sez so!" This game still putters on, but was played quite seriously up the beginning of the 20th century, even a bit after 1900. (Why?)

Or something like that. We are a wonderfully odd species, eh?

The thing that gets me: you had to drink three bottles of the IPA to get the equivalent of one dose of Viagra, but they would only sell you one bottle, due to its "potency." 

Sounds sorta impotent to me. Best to cruise to the city park around 2AM, pick up some suboxone to mail to Uncle Freddie, who got busted trying to smuggle krokodil back from Russia into JFK, score some street Viagra there, jam it up my butt until I get home safe to my stash of wonderful vodka...Oh hell: I think I'll just smoke a joint instead. I'm conservative that way.


Thom Foolery said...

"When I read this kind of stuff I just want to brain some judge or lawmaker who thought it was a good idea, and when the law against suboxone passed, he went out and got wasted drunk with his rich asshole lawyer buddies. And drove home."

Too funny! Nothing challenges my faith in the USAmerican people and our vaunted democracy more than the War on (Some) Drugs. A nation of people who can't figure that out is going to deal successfully with resource depletion and global warming??

Annabel Lee said...

I just have to put this out there. I wrote about Rick Perry when he made his famous quip about sending US troops into Mexico and it turned into a rant about legalizing marijuana. It was quite interesting the amount of information about how the "War on Drugs" was a complete and total failure. I figured I'd just put the link here, leave it to the genius of Michael to decide what he wants to say about it


michael said...

@Thom Foolery: I hear ya, and sorry for writing 22 paragraphs; most blog experts say three is more than enough. So thanks for slogging through my tripe.

re: It's not at all clear that Americans actually go for the War on Certain People Who Use the Wrong Drugs; numbers I've seen have shown an increasing dubiousness by the electorate towards this TOTALLY INSANE "war." The dire Q is: what does this imply about power now?

"Fuck the people: we're doing the Biz for the 1%, and proud of it!" We're just following orders and keeping the rabble in line. It doesn't matter what's 'sane' or what 'the people' want!"?

I think resource depletion is too difficult to grasp right now, for Most. And, truly disheartening, more people believed global warming was manmade and a dire threat a few years ago, until the oil companies spent scads of (pocket change for them) cash on a vast PR campaign to cast doubt that the problem even exists...and it looks like it's working.

I confess that, if I had a vote, I'd go with No Confidence in the American electorate.

michael said...

@ Annabel: I read that blog post. I agree. The thing is: I've spent so much time studying this issue - at least 25 years - that, like Wordsworth's "world" this issue is too much with me. I'm too close to it.

Sometimes I have to pull back from it for awhile, because of the sheer maddening nature of it.

Rather than go on and on about the futility of the "War" on drugs, which is a war on people, a huge sop to LEOs and the Prison Industrial Complex, a kind of State-sponsored terrorism that seeks to justify military actions all over the world, etc:

Why do Americans allow technological gadgets to infliltrate their nervous systems, gleefully, while they seem to be horrified of certain chemicals? I find that an interesting question. Is it about an illusion of control?

Anonymous said...

I feel like a self absorbed pawn who reads from the hip till I read again the words describing my own frustration at the machine that eats without appetite. I'm watching day by day the effects of stimulus outside of what I choose affect my 2 year old son, my 3 year old daughter. Cable was cancelled last year. Netflix for the children's programs and that's seriously on the chopping block. I watch my son buzz around the flat screen, hypnotized by primary color until it all becomes too much and he either melts down or surrenders to stupefied eutopia. Fuck Dora the explorer and her pal boots too. Fuck the Wi and the Xbox. I'm refocusing my children on what worked in Glendora circa 1970. Let's talk, let's cook, let's read, let's play music and dance and yes when you're older we can even smoke some of the medicine daddy keeps in the garage together and look at it from a distance if you want to. Thanks for writing it Michael. Kind regards, Mike W.

michael said...

@Anon/Mike W: Man, I started reading this comment on a post about drugs, and the person is talking about their kids and the overstimulation of everyday (electronic media) life, and I'm feeling my second (out of around 300) unfriendly comment coming on: is this person going to attack me for "glorifying" drugs? (For most dippy right wingers: just TALKING/WRITING about drugs in any way besides "Don't take 'em they're evil and only the bad people take 'em" is tantamount to "glorifying" or "condoning" their use.)

I guess I'm a little jumpy.

Then I find out it's you. Wheesh! A relief.

You're on my wavelength re: info overload. I'll be writing more on that topic. (I used to call it "Mental Hygiene," but two of my better female readers said they don't like that phrase, so I'll change it to something else.)

There's data. There's information. There's knowledge. And then there's wisdom. How does data connect to wisdom? I'm guessing much more "downtime" or off the grid time, for reflection. I recently told a writer colleague that there are days when I don't even turn on my computer, and she couldn't believe it, saying she'd die w/o daily, constant Net.

A couple months ago I watched an hourlong interview with a genius in robotics at Berkeley. He's about 35 years old, has a wife and kids. A world-class wiz in artificial intelligence, patenting "smart systems," all kinds of things. And he's jewish. And he said he and his wife have started to observe the Sabbat by unplugging completely for that one day per week. No Net, email, cellphones, cars (unless emergency), TV, radio, nothing. Except books and play and talk. He said it was one of the best things, ever! He felt time "slow down." I wish this would catch on in the wider culture. I recently heardthe comedian Mark Maron say that texting while driving was more dangerous than drunk driving, because at least when you're driving drunk, SOMEONE is driving the car!

I'm glad to have you as a Reader, Mike. Thanks!