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DRUGS – February 2018
Welcome to the first Pandemic Podcast!
Interested in getting a deeper insight into study drugs, or the impact of cocaine in Colombia? Ever wondered about the consequences of drug legalization? Are drugs really that bad as your parents told you? Together with your hosts, we’re going to discuss drugs on a societal level, zooming out from our usual individualistic perspective.
Stay tuned until next month for our episode on political utopias!
Length: 46 minutes 6 seconds
Music: Down Homey by DATAMONKEY
To read more about the topics from this episode, check out the following articles:
Addiction: The View From Rat Park (Bruce K. Alexander)
Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it? (The Guardian)
A Comparison of Harmful Drugs (Rijksinstituut voor Volkgezonheid en Milieu)
The UN’s war on drugs is a failure. Is it time for a different approach? (The Guardian)
Post-Vietnam heroin use and injection by returning US veterans: clues to preventing injections today (US National Library of Medicine)
Written by Miriam Schröer
I remember I liked drawing a lot as a teenager. However, I gave up on drawing sometime during my last years of school. I didn’t notice the practice of drawing vanishing from my life. Yet, if reflecting back on it now, I think at that time I was much too focused on delivering only the best of me. I’ve always been a person who likes control (or the illusionist feeling of being in control of things). I only would have continued drawing if I had expected to become an excellent artist. Drawing would have demanded a lot of time and energy, and I would have needed to invest a lot of discipline and practice. But my life plans didn’t paint me as a painter.
Today, I feel confused about the extent to which I fell victim to a notion of optimizing my life, and accordingly my activities. When I moved to Amsterdam and got into the habit of smoking weed occasionally, I noticed how my mind could liberate itself from this notion of perfection.
I have stuck to keeping a diary pretty much all my life. When I smoked joints, I started making little sketches in my diary again. It came naturally. I let go of my perfectionist expectations. To just draw and see where it went felt like a rediscovery of knowledge I had when I was younger, but that got lost somewhere along the way.
It was an unexpected reconnection to the act of enjoying just doing stuff without expecting a specific outcome. I could find great sense in the act of drawing in my diary and wasn’t bothered by the fact that I didn’t find the drawings particularly meaningful – or even beautiful – when looking at them again the next day.
This picture is a visualization of what the joint does to my mind. I tend to feel free from my linear self-critical thinking and societal expectations about what to do with my life and how to behave. The joint gives me ideas that feel closer to my most genuine conscience.
I don’t think smoking joints every day would be a good idea for me, but adding ideas that I have when stoned to my sober ideas has been an enriching practice for me. When a joint makes me feel at ease making sketches in my diary, my sober self can tolerate doing fun stuff like that more easily.
So thank you, weed, for letting me embrace the pleasure of taking it easy.
As we near the close of this month’s issue, it’s worth remembering that every drug statistic is an aggregate of individual lives. In the following poem, Dinora Escobar shares the story of a young woman living with drug addiction far from home.
Written by Dinora Escobar
Tijuana, a famous city on
the border of Mexico and California, USA.
An area known as Zona Norte, by the Tijuana Arch.
The Arch is well known. At the entrance of Tijuana, right in the heart of Zona Norte.
It’s like a “ little Vegas”, as many tourist say, but much more poor and dangerous a place; full of drugs,
prostitution, crime, poverty. A place where everything has a price, even your freedom.
Law enforcement is corrupted, a place where many come to fulfill their fantasies, and go home like nothing
ever happened. But what about those that this is their reality. A fast lane life, a place that, to many is a fun,
tourist place and to others this is home. A place to survive.
A place to easily get caught up and lost, where many end up like Ieesha Shiann.
Ieesha Shiann, is a female aged 24, born in mid east of the United States.
She resides in the “zona norte”
located at 1st and coahuila.
Ieesha, living life day by day.
To support her drug habit and to get by she is also a worker of the streets, prostitution. She uses heroin and crystal methamphetamine, also known as “criko”or ice” on the streets.
Ieesha has a story that no one knows. A lot of people wonder, but don’t understand her due to the language barrier, and that she’s mostly in her own world of hallucinations. It is hard to get a full story or even a full sentence without distractions.
I asked Ieesha if I could interview her. She seemed a little scared, uncomfortable with the idea of it, but then she agrees.
Ieesha where were you born?
In Minnesota with the snow and where I lost my babies.
You have kids?
Yes two and I lost them.
How did you lose your kids?
The system took them from me and put them with another family and I don’t know where they are.
Why and how did you start doing drugs?
I lost my kids, don’t know where they are.
How did you end up here?
If you’re not from here?
He left me here.
A men we got high. I was so high on drugs I can’t remember, but we were here together getting high. High, for a couple of weeks and one day he left, I couldn’t find him I didn’t know what to do.
How long you been here?
I think three years
Where’s your family?
Don’t know I need to contact them, someone to let them know where I’m at.
What do you consume and how do you get by as far as financially?
“You want sex?” That’s all I say to get “globo”.
Globo means balloon in English. A word that is used for the little plastic containing the drug.
Where do you sleep? Shower?
If I have money motels sometime, or a client will pay for a room all night and if not I sleep like the” dogs and cats”.
What does that mean?
Wherever I can lay down on the streets. If is cold or rains I can use boxes to shield myself from the cold.
Ieesha has asked me in the past if their are any Rehabilitation Centers here in Tijuana.
Yes there are but as private organizations. So there’s a fee.
At times I just wonder about Ieesha. She comes in says “hi”, she stares around. and she cries. Cries and she only speaks of what I believe is a constant memory to her, in her head. What she can still remember and acknowledge; her kids that she lost and a man that left her here.
Why don’t you cross the border if you’re a USA Citizen?
I never go to border or cross. Nope never cross.
Why? You can get help out there.
Is too late. Where do I go?
Like many others Ieesha randomly sleeps in the streets and hopes for shelter.
She goes around to the local stores at times to ask for food, including my work place.
Many people that know her will hand out clothes to her. They say she wasn’t like this at first.
She was a normal, healthy, young girl,
but drugs have made her lose herself to the streets.
Written by Jurek Wötzel, Head Writer
You wake up. Headache. Nausea. Weakness.
Not again, you think. The cosy darkness of the night again seduced you to leave the world behind. Ethanol, a simple molecule consisting just of a few carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms had made its way through your body and done its damage.
What did I do, you wonder. You recall fragments of conversations. Friends, Strangers, and, oh god, your crush was also at the party. A fist of anxiety hits your diaphragm. Frantically you pick up your phone. You can only hope you didn’t talk about your feelings. In a rush of panic, your shivering fingers massacre your phone screen: “Soooo sorry, I really really wasn’t myself last night”. Sent.
That’s such a standard phrase, though let’s be honest, does anyone believe that? It sounds like a cover up. A cover up for the fact that everyone knows that last night’s drunk version of you was actually your truer and more genuine self.
In vino veritas, in wine there is truth, is a deeply ingrained wisdom. Alcaeus’ famous aphorism seems so evident, so unquestionable to us that we don’t even consider the possibility that it might be otherwise. Yet, alcohol may actually only influence the self, rather than reveal it.
Across cultures, drinking is understood as the magic potion that works as a mirror to our soul. “It is a peep-hole to man”, Alcaeus continues. For the ancient Chinese it was clear that “wine is followed by truthful speech”. The Persians were sure that “if you are drunk, you speak the truth”.
It seemed so promising. A way to freedom from social constraint. You remember your first drink, your second, your third. How light and pleasant the atmosphere was. Soon though, the memory becomes blurry.
In the morning, the black feeling of regret takes over. It is Judgment Day. You feel vulnerable, having shown something, having committed something, having dropped your moralist veil for a good while. Unwanted self-revelation is the name of the viscous liquid that bitterly runs up your throat as acid reflux.
Yes, it is hard to get the thoughts of self-hatred out of your mind after a night of heavy drinking, but please don’t draw quick conclusions. Humanity has yet to find out exactly what alcohol does to us. In case you accidentally confessed your love, your crush would do well to be suspicious of whatever you said last night. Let me be your hangover psychiatrist for a little while.
First of all, the self is a mythical thing. No one really knows what it is. I know, everybody says they know a little more about their, or their friends, real selves after a proper night out. We believe that we know more about our real desires, our real attitudes and our real abilities. Real, as though there is a real self that is unexpressed due to the prison of social norms.
But the self is not a stable thing. Instead, it is constantly subject to change. The self exists in a state of constant becoming, such that only a momentous pause in time could ever give us a concrete, graspable idea of what it actually is.
There is no natural you. If you feel like social norms make you behave a certain way, it does not automatically mean that you would like to behave another way. Since where would your other desire or need come from? It could come from your family, your school, your football club.
The point is, the self necessarily forms from social interaction. Without social influence, you wouldn’t know anything about yourself at all. Social influence is never done and over with, but will continue to affect you for the rest of your life. Anything you could know about yourself is just the most recent accumulation of social cues.
Whatever the self means as a concept, it changes as we live, we perform it. As Aristotle said that the virtuous man is he who acts virtuously, as Sartre said that the genius is he who realizes his genius, so are you only the role that you continuously play.
My dear hangover patient. As much as you were wrong when you said you weren’t yourself last night, anyone who would take your drunk self as your ‘real’ self would be wrong, too. There may be some truth in what you said last night but how many times did you exaggerate, deceive, or blatantly lie when you were drunk? I bet often enough to downplay the seriousness of any love confessions.
Heads up, you poor party veteran. Alcohol doesn’t really reveal who you are. Perhaps just a little bit of who you would like to be. Now take some time, stay in bed, drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can.
Written by Jessica van Horssen
When I was 17, I was hanging out with squatters and others in the alternative scene where drugs were common at parties. People who use drugs recreationally may feel like they’re part of a special club, but the membership isn’t that exclusive. I tried and experienced it all, but more than just being fun and exciting, drug put men on a journey of self-discovery and healing. When they couldn’t give me any new insights into myself, I quit them all together.
After that I was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin, which I quit even faster because it turned me into some kind of speed zombie. I was able to operate better with a strict regime of physical exercise. Still, drugs may creep back into my life because life seems to less and less doable without some medication.
What’s in a name?
Being Dutch has given me a particular perspective on the word and the phenomenon of drugs. In Dutch we have separate words for prescription drugs, medicijnen, and recreational drugs, drugs (yes, we have adopted the English word). Then within the framework of the word drugs, we make a distinction between soft drugs (hash/marijuana), smart drugs (mushrooms), and hard drugs (your typical schedule 1 drugs).
Rationally making a harsh distinction between prescribed and recreational drugs is hard to justify when you have the facts. Looking at the workings of both prescription and recreational drugs, one will find that they are in fact quite similar. Ritalin, for example, looks very similar to cocaine molecularly. There is a slight difference in effect though, making cocaine a bit more addictive than Ritalin. Nevertheless, there are also many people addicted to Ritalin.
A piece of history
Over the course of human history, mankind has been using drugs. Drugs such as opium, caffeine, cannabis etc. have been extensively used for both pleasure and medical treatment. Psychoactive mushrooms have been used by shamans of indigenous cultures. Ethiopian priests started roasting and boiling coffee beans to stay awake through nights of prayer after a shepherd noticed his goats frolicking after eating coffee shrub. Opium was once prescribed for melancholia. You don’t need to look to distant cultures for prolific uses of what are now illegal substances. My own country has a long history with drugs as well.
The Dutch and drugs
World famous for our coffeeshops, where people over 18 can smoke a joint without being prosecuted, the Dutch used to lead in progressive drug policies. But there are also dark chapters in our history.
The Netherlands made a fortune selling opium in Indonesia at the end of the 19th century with a state-run opium factory in Java. In the early 20th century The Netherlands had the biggest cocaine factory in the world. The government made tons of money during WW1 supplying warring countries with that cocaine. Theodor Aschenbrandt, a German scientist wrote in his 1883 report “Die psychologische Wirkung und Bedeutung des Cocain” how cocaine increased German soldiers’ stamina, and how it decreased their hunger and fear, and made them get worked up much easier. That’s not even the end of it, because the same cocaine factory sold amphetamines to German soldiers during WW2. Soldiers who eventually occupied our country.
The end of the war wasn’t the end of the factory. It continued producing narcotics and funding for the Dutch government until 1963 when surrounding nations stepped up the pressure for it to shut down.
Healing properties of drugs
The Dutch case is a clear sign of abuse; they used drugs as a weapon. There is another side of drugs, as alternative medicines.
We know people have better lives because of the use of antidepressants or ADHD medication. Are they cured? Maybe not, but they sure as hell operate on a better level than without those meds. In a similar vein, people claim to have healed childhood trauma and addiction through drugs such as ayahuasca, also known as entheogens. I’ve tried it myself and it was quite healing indeed. It’s a shame it didn’t last for me, but for others it did. Why should one treatment be criminal but not the other?
Personally, I have had some healing experiences on MDMA. I got closer to the people I took it with. I’ve seen others get closer to their spouses. People who, after 50 years, finally started to talk honestly about their feelings. I have seen people change tremendously (in a good way) because of drugs like MDMA or LSD. Good thing there are organizations like MAPS who are researching the healing properties of recreational drugs like MDMA.
There is no one size fits all kind of approach. Everyone must find their own way. And that’s hard with the war on drugs going on. While some benefit from prescription drugs, others can be healed by smoking hash or taking XTC.
Who is the addict?
I am obviously not saying that no-one is helped by prescription drugs. I’m expressing my deepest concern for how many people and children are (over)medicated, and all the finger-pointing that’s been done.
Most politicians are publicly against recreational drugs. They seem to be very opinionated about people who occasionally pop a pill at a rave, use MDMA with their partners, or trip on mushrooms to get a spiritual experience. Funnily enough, I’ve also met recreational drug users very much against people taking prescription drugs. It’s clear there is still a lot of independent research is needed on both prescription and recreational drugs.
Being baselessly anti- something doesn’t make for an open mind, but being blindly pro- something doesn’t either. Drug policies in the USA, for example, turn recreational drug users into criminals, while 44.5% of the nation is using or has used prescription drugs. Nearly half the people! It just isn’t right to criminalize recreational users when pharmaceutical companies are the biggest drug dealer in the country.
We need to keep the debate going. And we need to listen to everyone involved. Keep an open mind, experiment with some if you desire, and inform yourself about what you’re taking. Whether it’s a pill at a party or meds prescribed by your psychiatrist. There is a lot of nasty business involved on both sides, but there are many positive possibilities too.
Keep your eyes open people. Unless you’re tripping balls, in which case you might want to close them.
Written by Christian Hazes, Staff Writer
I have had the privilege to enrich my life with numerous fascinating trips. Be it the vast and pristine landscapes of arctic Norway or the quaint, calm and sun-soaked French villages; every journey is unique and provides a different experience. Lately, however, I started to realize that all these trips have one thing in common: that there is one ever-recurring question that is dropped shortly after telling people that I was born and raised in Amsterdam. I am talking about the simple and obvious question, fired at me before I can finish my sentence:
“How is the trip?”
I refrain from snapping and answer politely that the trip is amazing, ditto for the country and people, before being bluntly interrupted again:
“No dude, I’m talking about the drugs! You’re from Amsterdam!”
In my mind, images of me facepalming myself play; I ought to know by now this is to be expected. It’s proof that the Netherlands, and predominantly Amsterdam, are still the very embodiment of everything that comprises vice and complete liberty for many outsiders. Question is, for how long will I be confronted with drug-driven curiosity?
Without a doubt, the marriage of Amsterdam with weed is largely a result of the coffeeshop – and they are an endangered species these days. Despite still being omnipresent in the typical streetscape of Amsterdam, the number of coffeeshops is in swift decline.
In 1995, there were 350 coffeeshops in Amsterdam. Since then, 183 Amsterdam coffeeshops had to shut up shop, predominantly due to political pressure from governing bodies. That’s about half. In The Hague, the Dutch political capital, ferocious plans have been devised to combat the soft drugs industry in the Netherlands. However, in the case of Amsterdam, the approach has merely led to the deterioration of the situation and, due to its numerous adverse effects, cannot only be characterized as deeply flawed.
Amsterdam has a reputation for being one of the most liberal and progressive places in the world, which has a long history. The Netherlands was a hub for early enlightenment thinkers, among them Baruch de Spinoza, Erasmus of Rotterdam or Hugo Grotius. Already in the 17th century, the Dutch embraced individualism and had a dynamic entrepreneurial class. And the harbor town had state-enforced laws to make its diverse citizenry engage in their different religious practices and respect other faiths. So one would assume that some core liberal principles such as tolerance are embedded in Dutch culture.
Notwithstanding the fact that there is some truth to the claim, this point of view is not wholly correct. Especially in relation to the present-day Netherlands and Amsterdam. When it comes to soft drugs, tolerance has its limits, and they are tighter than one might expect. Many refer to the supposedly detrimental effect of consumption on society and particularly abhor the cannabis industry that attracts tourists to Amsterdam en masse. Amsterdammers are sick and tired of tripping over and confronting the near-comatose tourists that overflow the streets. Even Eberhardt van der Laan, the beloved-and-habitually-permissive former mayor expressed his concerns back in 2014, saying to the then-incumbent mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that he should visit Amsterdam and watch his compatriots loudly running around scantily clad. Despite the subliminal mocking sentiment, it is clear that the situation is getting out of hand and it is hardly to be denied that the soft drugs industry is mainly a tourist attraction.
And yet, the number of tourists that visit the Dutch capital is rising. One in four of these tourists will visit a coffeeshop. The perceived negative effects of soft drugs and surging drug tourism in the Southern parts of the Netherlands, have pushed the Dutch government to come up with an action plan to eradicate drugs tourism, and reduce the scale of the soft drugs industry. A policy that forced many coffeeshops to close makes it compulsory for coffeeshops located in Amsterdam to be at least 250 meters away from schools. Allegedly, young people would then be less exposed to soft drugs. Furthermore, a project called “Project 1012” aims at improving the image of the area of de Wallen, the center of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, required the closure of multiple coffeeshops. Also worth mentioning, the city council of Amsterdam employs a “no-growth policy” which means that the city will not give out any licenses for new coffeeshops at all.
Amsterdam’s coffeeshop supply is rapidly declining as a result of the advocacy of those that seek the end of the weed industry. On the other hand, it’s not blowing smoke if we say that the path chosen by the Dutch government is not heading in the right direction. In part because the demand for coffeeshops is skyrocketing to unparalleled heights.
But isn’t the elimination of competitors a blessing for the surviving coffeeshops? At first glance, yes. In reality, the decimation of Amsterdam-based coffeeshops has numerous grave drawbacks. The remaining coffeeshops are unable to facilitate the enormous demand. Increased appetite for the good stuff culminates in several undesirable consequences, such as people smoking on the streets due to a lack of space and coffeeshops turning into cannabis supermarkets instead of being cozy and serving a social function. Moreover, imbalanced supply and demand increases the number of illegal street dealers and this exacerbates the degeneration of neighborhoods; exactly what Amsterdam was trying to prevent. Lastly, the amount of cannabis a shop is allowed to have in store is limited, so shops must resupply multiple times on a busy day, increasing the probability that couriers will be robbed. The current policy approach is simply riddled with cracks.
Amsterdam prevails when it comes to attracting tourists and having a reputation for being one of the most tolerant, open-minded and liberal places in the world. So the only way I can see to avoid the “How is the trip?” question is to never bring up my roots, but I’d rather do that than see the city continue on its restrictive path.
Written by Reinilde Jonkhout
It’s a little-known fact that Sinterklaas has a long lost psychedelic loving lesbian twin-sister, Cindy Claus. Her existence is little known because for the last few centuries she’s been peacefully dreaming in the far-off cosmos. In that time Sinterklaas became a dominant world destroyer, grinding “bad kids” into holiday treats, roasting non-Christians on open fires the size of entire forests, and otherwise being aloof.
Thankfully Cindy has returned to Earth! After weeks of partying with his sister Sinterklaas has penned the following confession:
What is the best holiday gift, but an altered mind, illuminating for us the darkest days of the year and seeing the return of the light before it actually happens?
Children who need presents the most don’t get them. I have been giving presents to the wrong children all along. I won’t let children work in slave labor conditions anymore. Constructing presents for other children, made with water they can no longer drink. I will close my factories. Instead, I will show children the gift of giving.
It was MDMA that made me unafraid to touch the same sex, and I will research that further. MDMA made me realize all my fears are not a given. Touching another man was inconceivable to me before, being a traditional Catholic. Thinking of all the hugs I missed out on, physically reminds me of that deficiency by way of a cold current shooting through my body.
When I was on LSD, I saw the magnitude of things that aren’t me. Trees were majestically towering over me. They suddenly looked so much bigger, and the wind I normally hate I admired. Sitting in a swing under a tree, I felt the tree itself swinging me. I never understood those outdoorsy, mountain climbing folks, but I get it now. Even in the grey and rain, I wanted to be near nature and outside. The water of the river was an ever-changing abstract painting, sometimes even a pastel van Gogh. It was as deep as my lover’s eyes. I challenge every world leader to take LSD.
On ayahuasca I have gone through everything that I have repressed. And truthfully, I have been abused sexually as a child. In society that’s a secret and shame I can’t talk about. While tripping, I came across a drawing I had made as a child. Suddenly I realized, I can be that child again, that child not ruined by adults, and the drawing was beautiful. It was a flower, that I drew, and suddenly the flower was towering over me like a 90 story building. The sheer amazement of things I never considered possible or could never visualize, when did that end? When did I stop taking creativity seriously?
I am still that child. We who forget the potential of a flower drawn in the corner of a page, we destroy children, and our future, with our lack of empathy and imagination. Realising all the wrong I’ve done, and that we’re beyond the point of really saving the world, I need to give up my immortality and pass the torch onto my sister Cindy Claus.
What I need is to be born again as an ant to be stepped on and crushed soon after birth. We can see where the universe will take me from there. Birth is wonderful. In LSD hypnotherapy I have given birth, a magnificent and unexpected experience, showing that the soul has no gender.
My last realization is that a person can have too many dogs. While ending my journey I saw a woman walking maybe, nine dogs. Nine similar little, yappy dogs. That’s just too much.
Reinilde Jonkhout, is an Amsterdam-based artist from Curaçao. You can check out her other work at http://www.reinilde.com.
Written by Anonymous
Through my story, I want to share a different take on drug use.
I arrived in Amsterdam as part of my exchange year when I was 19-years-old. Beforehand, I had studied psychology for two years in France and was quite ignorant when it came to drugs. Years of watching South Park had taught me basically that, drugs were bad. My country lived in the hypocrisy that smoking a pack a day and drinking a bottle of wine a night was far better and more respectable than ever touching a joint.
My personal history with drugs is quite special. I don’t drink, and I’ve only barely tried cigarettes, I’ve been prescribed Ritalin and Xanax for my attention and anxiety disorders. Yet, I despised people who took drugs for ‘fun’. I remember rejecting advances from people high on ecstasy at parties on the belief that I thought I was better than them.
Arriving in Amsterdam, the smell of cannabis in the streets and the magic truffles on display quickly led me to rethink what I knew about drugs. Clearly, a country like the Netherlands couldn’t tolerate this if it threatened the security and well-being of its citizens.
In the first few months of my stay in Amsterdam, my life was becoming increasingly stressful. My big question was what am I going to do in life? I feared I had lost connection with myself and my anxiety was intensifying by the minute. I met a medical anthropologist specialized in psychedelics, and although our encounter was brief, I owe him a lot and will cherish those moments for a very long time. He promised me tripping on magic truffles would bring some clarity.
As an aspiring researcher, I seek truth and value empirical evidence. The Netherlands has softer regulations than other countries when it comes to drug trials and this allows progress. Whether or not you’re against drugs, we should all encourage research. Scientific research on all drugs is the best way to make them safe, and to protect all users (for example 2CB is widely used drug but is still unstudied). No matter where you stand, educating yourself on drugs serves your side.
After hours of conversation, and digging around on Erowid (the online Bible for substances), I thought, why not? It was a very spontaneous decision, but I’m a woman of science, and the evidence suggested it was the right thing to do. Researchers are aware of the healing potential of psilocybin (the molecule in magic truffles) and are coming to very promising conclusions.
It was by far the most meaningful and powerful experience of my life, changing me forever in a way I could never have imagined before. The experience is hard to describe with words, but I explored myself and the universe, and found peace. I came back to reality purged of all sense of worry, and for two months I walked the world with confidence and calmness.
A few months later, when the magic of my trip faded and anxiety crawled back in, I had exams coming up and little-to-no motivation or concentration whatsoever. I had read promising articles on microdosing psychedelics to study. Hofmann, the scientist who first synthesised LSD said micro-dosing could “have gone on to be used as Ritalin if it (LSD) hadn’t been so harshly scheduled (in the USA).”
I went and bought another box of magic truffles and divided them into ten portions. I took a portion every day or every two days after lunch and the results were convincing. The best way to describe it is increased stamina. You have increased sensory perception but not in a scary reality-distorting way, more in a sense that you progressively become more aware of your environment, like if you saw the world in high definition and had never realized that setting existed to begin with. Your attention becomes more narrow and sharp but not like with amphetamines when you think your heart is going to blow up. Your movements flow much softer and your head feels good without ever feeling high or like you’re tripping. I studied much better, became kinder to myself, and was relaxed and happy with myself throughout my entire break before finals.
From my experience with psychedelics I have become a much more open person. I doubt tripping every time you face difficulties in life is a good idea, and I doubt relying on substances to study thinking it’s going to save your grades is a good idea, either. But I do strongly believe there are good stories like mine out there that people should be willing to hear and share. Educate yourself on the chemistry, on your purchase, and on your body.
Be critical, because there is a difference between what’s legal, and what’s moral. Be careful about what you do as a person and what you inflict on your body. You’re not in a position to judge someone who does coke every Saturday night if you binge eat burgers and never work out. Drugs can be a blessing or a curse. Set limits for yourself (perhaps skip heroin), be aware of the dangers and possible drifts.
If nothing else get to know yourself and drugs better.
Written by Chloe Gregg, Staff Writer
Smart drugs, study aids, cognitive enhancers. They’ve taken over Madison Avenue and hacked the offices of Silicon Valley. If you’re studying at university or have a job in a competitive workplace, I bet that you’ve already heard of them. Maybe you’ve already tried them?
These little pills, also known as ‘nootropics’, are prescribed to treat neurological disorders such as sleep-deprivation, narcolepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of the most prominent nootropics, Modafinil, was introduced to me through a legitimate prescription.
I had to use Modafinil during my high school final exams to counter the sedative effects of the sleeping pills I had also been prescribed. All I knew about them was that they helped me snap back from the fog my brain was kept in by the sleeping pills. The only times I took Modafinil were on the mornings of an actual test.
I suffered less and less from insomnia during the first year of my bachelor’s degree, so I decided to drop the sleeping pills, and naturally forgot about Modafinil. Then the second year came. Spending entire days with my classmates at the library, we came to discuss ways of keeping up with the workload. Ignorant as I was to the other uses of Modafinil, some mentioned they were using the medication to help them study. They didn’t suffer from sleep-deprivation or any other medical condition that would have allowed for a prescription, rather this was self-medicated, brain-boosting doping.
Scanning through scientific journals and opinion articles, I found that there was an abundance of substances out there that qualified as nootropics. I discovered a multitude of cognitive enhancers ranging from special herbal supplements, ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, to even legally prescribed methamphetamines. While certain articles warned against the consumption of the most recently developed drugs, for lack of research, many more articles touted a number of benefits which would appeal to the young university student or start-up entrepreneur.
For my fog lifting drug, the effects on reducing fatigue, and enhancing cognition were most noticeable in studies involving sleep-deprived doctors and military personnel, while research conducted in 2012 showed an increase in motivation and performance in completing tasks amongst perfectly healthy individuals. A more consistent and significant result has been the improvement of working memory, which supports the use of Modafinil in preparation for exams. Fewer studies also support claims of an increased sense of well-being and increased attention.
Even with the short-term side effects of using nootropics, like headaches, loss of appetite and insomnia, the potential gains of their occasional use to manage intense periods of work and study can easily outweigh the costs. Especially since the average price of a Modafinil pill sold online is lower than your ordinary take-away coffee.
So why shouldn’t you take it? I’m not here to lecture you on the moral objections against taking cognitive enhancers. Neither am I going to convince you that you should hold off using them because of the gap in scientific knowledge regarding their long-term side effects. Rather, I’d like you to look at the bigger picture. Imagine the way society would look if everyone were to become accustomed to using nootropics.
On the individual level, a person would no longer be able to identify the fruits of his or her labor, and those of the drug. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine this may lower self-esteem, and create a detachment from the self that could eventually lead to much greater alienation. Such an estrangement would only deepen the anxieties that have propagated under the development of Western capitalism.
On the social level, the concentration of nootropics among the academic and professional elite would only deepen the current social inequalities that traverse the industrialized world. Today, the academically privileged often hold an advantage over those left within the traditional education system; even without cognitive enhancers. This is exacerbated by the way smart drugs have infiltrated the lives of healthy human beings – through society’s elite. Their most prominent use is amongst students from high-ranking universities and cutthroat businessmen or entrepreneurs. Spheres that are already ahead of the game. These drugs risk widening the socio-economic gap that persists in post-industrialized societies. Smart jobs draw smart drugs. Giving everyone access to Modafinil would bring all people to a higher cognitive capacity, yet the gap would remain.
As our society becomes increasingly narcotized, it seems that we’re losing touch with our fundamental human nature, which may be tied to consequences we cannot even conceive of yet. In one of his blog entries describing the effects of a variety of cognitive enhancers Dave Asprey, a US entrepreneur who boasts of successfully hacked his own biology, states that “When you first start taking nootropics, sometimes you’ll feel like nothing is happening. That’s what I experienced. Then, a week later, I quit taking them, and noticed their absence immediately”. This statement is a chilling reminder of how close we are to the dystopian novel Brave New World, where most people are numbed and controlled through drugs.
Whether you decide to take ‘noots’ or not, you’re playing a part in defining what our society should look like.
With the intensifying pressure created by competition, it is only natural to seek better ways to keep up the pace. However, self-medicating doesn’t seem to provide a definitive solution. Rather it is a symptom of the neoliberal machinery that has spun out of control, a new tool for perpetuating the system that is compelling us to alter our brain chemistry to better compete.
So let us slow down a moment and imagine where we’re heading. Let us evaluate the consequences of using nootropics and determine whether they promise enough to make it worth exploring their potential. We cannot blindly accept them as another quick fix.