This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Primary school. Am I right, guys? Those lazy, crazy days of eating Cheestrings, doodling Slipknot logos, and being horrible to everyone all the time.
Then comes secondary school and most people's first flutter with drugs. Depending on your background, your initial dance with the blurry-eyed devil will differ. It could be a bang on some of your older brother's Emphysema Haze. Or, for the popular kids, perhaps a line of cocaine gifted to you at party you're not really supposed to be at. Or, if you're moving in very dodgy circles for a 15-year-old, a quick go on some Bad Drugs.
Your average British school's attitude towards drugs will be—and, for the most part, has to be—the same as your parents': don't do them, you'll die of benefits cheating. You will be cheating the benefits system for so long that the abject distress of it all will make your once healthy, rosy skin wither away until you're reduced to just a dole form and a pen attached to its holder with a metal chain.
But adults tell children lies all the time to protect them from themselves. I was once told by someone who worked for Transport for London that a man got his coat caught in the tube doors and the tube dragged him into a wall and he died. This didn't happen, and also just couldn't have happened, for more reasons than I care to state here. But the bottom line is: Adults don't respect your intelligence, kids.
So I thought I'd do the honorable thing and debunk some of the stuff they teach you about drugs at school, while also passing on some extra tips for free. The way I see it, people do drugs and that's not going to stop, no matter how many thousands of hours of police time are spent stop and searching people. So it makes sense to provide some realistic lessons for everyone who already ignored what they were told in PSE class.
DOING ONE TAB OF ACID WON'T MAKE YOU PEEL YOUR OWN SKIN OFF
It may be a drug forum cliché, but don't do acid unless you're absolutely 100 percent sure you want to do it and that your brain is capable of handling it. If you're not down for it, don't do it. If you are, fine. If someone spikes your drink with it, punch them as hard as you can in the face and go and find somewhere quiet to sit with a big bottle of cold water.
Broadly speaking, one dose won't do all that much. It won't make you scalp yourself with a steak knife or hurl yourself out of a window in the belief you can fly. It will make colors more colorful and you'll laugh quite a lot. That said, always be aware and careful of dosage. If you're going to take more, wait the other one out and don't rush into taking loads in one go, because that's when you run the risk of losing yourself in the throes of the trip and try to climb into a needle collection bin because you think it's a bouncy castle.
Long-term LSD use can also lead to depression, anxiety and flashbacks, which, apparently, can last up to a year. Unless you're friends with the types who go to Burning Man and loudly make a point of not washing their hair, regular acid use is a bit of a bummer for you and everyone around you. No one wants to chill with someone who spends all day talking about expanding their consciousness.
KETAMINE IS A HUGE WASTE OF TIME
Look, I'm not about to get into any sort of drug fascism here; most have their merits, they all have their downfalls. But, objectively, ketamine is fucking stupid. Snorting a horse tranquilizer is not only incredibly bad for you—K is one of the worst club drugs in terms of harm caused to its user— but it's also popular with the sort of people who get really into electro-swing at Boomtown and spend their entire life trying to draw glitter hearts on your face and convince you to stop using any shampoo that contains chemicals (before snorting half a gram of very toxic chemicals in one massive line).
Your school will tell you that ketamine is just like all other powdered narcs: bad and for losers without salaries. But they should really go in harder on it, because it genuinely is awful. Too many people end up doing it all the time, and doing too much of it will make your bladder fail, meaning you'll have to do your A Levels with a colostomy bag leaking all over the invigilator's shoes. No A* for you, young lady!
SOME OF THEM WILL KILL YOU, BUT MOST OF THEM WON'T IF YOU'RE NOT AN IDIOT
Most of the things you hear about drugs in school are related closely to how quickly they will bring about your untimely death. One minute you're doing a dab of MDMA to "Where Are Ü Now," the next you're on the front page of The Mirror with the words "DEAD FROM DRUGS" unceremoniously stamped beneath your most recent school photo.
You don't like the thought of your poor old mum crying as your body is incinerated in a suburban crematorium, do you? So be sensible. With club drugs—the mind-altering substances you're statistically most likely to try first, bar weed and alcohol—moderation is everything. Take ecstasy, for example: You might be sold pills containing PMA rather than MDMA. PMA has a much steeper dose response curve than MDMA, meaning it takes longer to kick in, meaning people take another before the effects come on properly, meaning they collapse when it all kicks in.
Get into meth, crack, GHB, and heroin territory, and generally you'll start to experience harms much quicker; according to Addiction blog, nine out of ten American poisonings are drug overdoses. So my best advice here is: Do not get into meth, crack, GHB, and heroin territory. Fear-mongering about drugs is counterproductive for the most part, but it's important to remember that fear exists for a reason, and if it stops you from filling your blood with a fatal dose of opiates at any point then that's undoubtedly a good thing. Use your wiles, your street smarts. Trust your gut, children!
COCAINE HABITS ARE A LOT EASIER TO DEVELOP IF YOU GET USED TO DOING IT WITH BOOZE
Unless you're a billionaire drug baron doing bumps of Charlie off a knife in your beach house on the Caymans, chances are your cocaine consumption will go hand-in-hand with your alcohol consumption. You get hammered, start to feel a bit tired and woozy, and look for a pick-me-up delivered to you by a sullen man in a flash car.
But be careful. Mixing the two creates an all new drug called cocaethylene, which, while producing a sense of euphoria, can also be quite toxic to the old ticker, according to some studies. Plus, it gets really fucking expensive: $100 and a blocked nose every time a pint turns into four is not a sustainable habit.
Also: You have to do a shitload of gear to lose your septum (multiple grams every day for months), so unless you're a banker or you have a main role in an HBO show or whatever, I wouldn't worry too much about those photos of Daniella Westbrook they put up on the OHP. You literally cannot afford to wear away your flesh with coke.
IF YOU TRY HEROIN, YOU WILL NOT INSTANTLY BECOME ADDICTED TO HEROIN
Around 23 percent of people who use heroin develop a dependency to it. Still, as I mentioned before, it's probably best to just steer clear of it altogether, unless you're really into, like, sweating profusely and selling your fingernails for dirty coins.
ADDICTS ARE NOT INHERENTLY BAD PEOPLE
The traditional stereotype of the addict is the itching, scratching, moseying mess found urinating on a century-old grave in a gloomy churchyard. But the truth is addiction takes many shapes and forms. Piss-heads are addicts, people who smoke an ounce of weed a week are addicts. Most of your favorite musicians from both ends of the spectrum are addicts.
The point being, school will teach you to think of addiction in a derisory way, which will in turn make you treat addicts in a derisory fashion. These are some of the most vulnerable among us, so it's best not to mock them for the intense wrong turns they've made up until this point. Instead, maybe just ask them if they're alright, or something.
TALKING ABOUT DRUGS HAS NEVER BEEN AND NEVER WILL BE COOL
In school, your desire to impress is greater than it ever has been or ever will be again. You want people to know you're #thatguy, cock of the walk, that you have more Snapchat followers than the whole of Year 9 combined.
And sure, bragging that your older sibling managed to bag you a spliff is fine when you're 14, but if you carry on being #thatguy into adulthood you'll end up trying to impress people on Tinder by saying you can hoover a whole gram of showbiz in one sitting. Understandably, no one likes that guy. No one has ever sounded cool talking about how many and what drugs they do.
START OFF SLOW WITH THE WEED
You don't have to dive headfirst into the world of LA imports. Don't start smashing out dabs of oil and giving yourself sleep apnea. If you want to try cannabis, again, moderation is key: Get some shit weed on the go first; a bit of stringy Thai, some of that Rasta bush weed. Crap stuff that gives you a bit of a buzz.
If you start by blazing up the sticky icky, you might find yourself powerfully stoned and unable to swallow without the aid of liquids, and then look foolish in front of your peers.
Also, while we're here, let's talk about the weed-definitely-being-a-gateway-drug thing: Of the British drug users surveyed, 93 percent have smoked the Lord's plant. But does that mean that 93 percent of drug users in the UK are also tapping their forearms impatiently, or sifting through the fibers of their carpet trying to find a crack rock? Clearly not. Weed is no more a gateway drug than alcohol or cigarettes. The company you keep is a far greater indication of whether you'll end up honking on Satan's exhaust pipe a few years down the line.
PILLS HAVE THE HIGHEST REWARD-TO-RISK RATIO
Ecstasy does not put holes in your brain. The majority of deaths reported as caused by ecstasy are actually caused by PMA, that slow-burning substance I mentioned earlier. On a harm scale put together by Professor David Nutt, former drugs advisor to the British government, it ranked lower than basically everything (including alcohol and nicotine) other than mushrooms and LSD.
I'm not saying take ecstasy. Taking pills is still more harmful than not taking pills, and doing so does come with its own set of dangers. But the reality is that a lot of people will try it, and will subsequently experience a euphoric, beautiful sensation unmatched by any non-chemical stimulant. It's important to be very careful when you take any drugs, to dose responsibly and make sure you don't do anything stupid, like drink too much or not enough water, or try to go swimming in all your clothes.
However, it's important to remember that certain drugs sometimes get a disproportionately bad rap from the media and the government—two institutions that don't always know what they're talking about.
Follow Joe on Twitter.