It’s easy to imagine people who use drugs as being as indiscriminate with their choice of substances as a drunk person at McDonald’s is with their choice of meals—anything goes, whatever’s available. But that’s just not true.
Many people who use drugs prudently pick their proverbial poisons and give some substances a hard pass. Some say “no” to a drug indefinitely after a bad experience, while others are too cautious to try certain drugs even once. Some are made hesitant by what they see in the media. Others are warned by what they see close to home.
Mia, 26, explained that while she goes on the occasional technicolor acid trip, snorts the odd white line, and smokes bowls of that green, she would never do crystal meth. Mia requested the use of a pseudonym to protect herself from the legal repercussions of doing drugs.
“I just know too many people who have fucked up their lives over it,” she said.
The people whose lives she saw fall apart because of the drug include neighbors, cousins who “ruined their families,” and uncles who died of overdose.
“One guy went on a rampage chasing his son around the village with a wooden plank,” said Mia.
Crystal meth—otherwise known as crystal, shabu, and ice—is a highly addictive central nervous stimulant known for its rapid effects. It’s usually injected or smoked. The intense rush comes with an instant euphoria followed by increased energy and alertness. Consistent use of the drug can result in severe anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, delusion, and psychotic symptoms.
“I don’t want to be another family member that OD-ed because they had to chase a good time,” Mia said.
For Mia, part of what separates the drugs she does from the ones she doesn’t is that the former are “easier to come by and they aren’t as immediately addicting.”
“I mean, blow (cocaine) kind of is, but I don’t have the money for that anyway,” Mia said.
While Mia is watching out for the possible negative effects of crystal meth, Sasha, 23, is watching out for the perceived positive effects. Sasha requested the use of a pseudonym to protect herself from the legal repercussions of drug use.
Sasha said she does weed, benzos, MDMA, and shrooms, but also wouldn’t do crystal meth. She explained that she uses the drugs she does because she trusts her ability to manage the ways she uses them, as well as to take care of herself while she’s on them. Crystal meth, she said, probably doesn’t fall under the same category, and she worries it might prove too addictive for her.
“I hear nothing compares to the high you get from meth. I’d rather just not give myself the option,” said Sasha.
Raven, 27, regularly smokes weed and has had his time with cocaine and ketamine. Raven requested the use of a pseudonym to protect himself from the legal repercussions of drug use.
He’s OK with weed, he said, because everyone he hangs out with does it, too. Cocaine and ketamine, on the other hand, really put him on edge, but he would still consider doing them if he was offered. There is, however, one drug he said he’ll never do—heroin.
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid that people usually inject, snort, or smoke for a rush of pleasure or relief from physical pain. Long-term use of the drug is said to cause skin infections, liver and kidney disease, collapsed veins and infected heart valves, and deterioration of white matter in the brain.
“I have never tried it, but I just feel like it’s the drug that would get you really addicted and put you in a downward spiral,” said Raven. “It’s not even a case of ‘just try it once to see what it’s like.’ I’m afraid that even trying it once would be so addictive that you just can’t stop chasing that high.”
“I’m afraid that even trying it once would be so addictive that you just can’t stop chasing that high.”
Raven said he doesn’t know what the chemical differences are between the drugs he’s OK with doing and the ones he isn’t, and he doesn’t want to find out. His mind is set, he said, on not doing heroin.
“The occasional party drugs would be great, but to be addicted to a substance that would destroy your body is not the thing for me,” he said.
The negative effects of crystal meth and heroin are well-known, so it’s easy to understand why even people who do other drugs avoid them. But for 26-year-old Paolo, the one drug he doesn’t do is one that’s considered to be less toxic than other drugs—LSD.
LSD—otherwise known as acid—is a psychedelic known for inducing long trips that bring heightened experiences of color and sound, altered perceptions of time, and “enhanced connectedness.” But it’s also known for bad trips characterized by paranoia, loneliness, and fear.
Paolo is so particular about what he puts in his body that he’s so far managed to never try tobacco or nicotine. He has, however, tried and enjoyed LSD. Paolo requested the use of a pseudonym to prevent possible repercussions in his professional life.
Like Raven, Paolo enjoys the occasional joint. He also considers alcohol a drug, and said he raises a glass every now and then.
“I partake in these drugs because of the utility I see in them,” Paolo said, explaining that weed helps him relax after the strain of his workouts, while alcohol helps lubricate social interactions. He’s also cognizant of the balance between the highs and the risks of certain substances, and thinks that he’s using them as safely as possible.
It was Anthony Bourdain, he said, who ultimately convinced him to try LSD, noting a video in which the late food and travel icon talked about his positive experience with the drug. Paolo decided to take his first trip days after he watched the video.
“I took three strips in the span of three months at a very pivotal moment for me, and these trips were the most profound events of my life,” said Paolo. “I learned a lot from these life-changing experiences because it provided a lot of perspective to where I was in my life.”
It wasn’t a bad trip that made Paolo start saying “no” to LSD. It was more like the trips were too good.
“I think everyone who has taken LSD before will agree that it provides incredibly significant experiences where we can learn and grow. Bourdain felt that these are indeed enlightening experiences, but [Bourdain also said that] doing it repeatedly turns these to more of a masturbatory experience,” said Paolo.
Paolo believes that going on frequent acid trips “dilutes” the value of the experience.
“What use is it to be enlightened over and over again without being able to take the learnings I have during my acid trips into action in my everyday life?” he said.
“What use is it to be enlightened over and over again without being able to take the learnings I have during my acid trips into action in my everyday life?”
The door between Paolo and LSD is closed, but it’s not locked. He said there may come a time when he’d try it again, when there might be new things to learn from it. The reverse is also true for weed and alcohol, which he said he may one day quit.
“If my consumption of either alcohol or cannabis gets to the point wherein they become detrimental to my everyday function, I will stop. If it affects my relationships, my work, then I will definitely hold back,” said Paolo.
“Everyone should be able to identify signs that taking substances is becoming detrimental. It is better to prevent the dangers than recover from them.”
If you’re struggling with addiction, you can visit the official website of SAMHSA’s National Helpline for treatment information.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the interviewees. VICE neither endorses nor encourages consumption of narcotics/psychotropic substances.
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