Humans have been getting high for as long as there have been humans, but in the past few years, a series of debates on drug policies have spread around the globe, charging the subject with a sudden urgency. Can powerful substances normally used for recreation be used to treat mental illness and addiction? Does arresting and prosecuting drug dealers really lead to a safer world? What should we do about new synthetic drugs that can turn people into empty husks of addiction? Is marijuana actually an incredibly potent medicine? Why is marijuana illegal, anyway?
We've been delving into these issues for years, sending our far-flung correspondents to talk to not just policy experts but dealers, users, manufacturers, and everyone else who has a stake in the global drug economy. Below are a sampling of our favorite drug-related videos.
Swansea Love Story
VICE befriends a gang of young addicts caught up in South Wales' largely ignored heroin epidemic. Our intimate look into their lives shows how economic depression, family breakdown, and addiction create unbreakable cycles for the people in their grip.
Russia is the biggest consumer of heroin in the world. The Siberian town of Novokuznetsk lies on the Kazakhstan border, the area hit hardest by the country's heroin problem. In this doc,we visited the hub of the heroin trade, saw religious cults disguised as rehab centers, and witnessed the effects of a bootleg drug called Krokodil, which eats its users from the inside out.
Getting High on Krystle
At the dawn of the millennium, all the inhabitants of the world's largest LSD laboratory were arrested, except one—Krystle Cole. We tracked her down to get the story in this episode of Hamilton's Pharmacopeia.
Every August, while Europe's bankers, lawyers, and other desk jockeys head to the beach, the junkies of Prague set up camp in the poppy fields outside the city for a vacation of their own. For one glorious month, there are no cops to run from, no dealers to skirt—just acres of vermilion blooms and as much free opium as you can collect before nodding out.
One year, we joined the junkies on their heroin holiday to learn how to turn the same poppies that seed our morning bagels into potent injectable narcotics and sample the most all-natural, locally sourced opiates Europe has to offer.
Getting High on HIV Medication
In 1998, the antiretroviral drug efavirenz was approved for treatment of HIV infection. Though the drug was highly effective, patients soon began to report bizarre dreams, hallucinations, and feelings of unreality. When South African tabloids started to run stories of efavirenz-motivated rapes and robberies, scientists began to seriously study how efavirenz might produce these unexpected hallucinogenic effects.
In this doc, correspondent Hamilton Morris travels to South Africa to interview efavirenz users and dealers and study how the life-saving medicine became part of a dangerous cocktail called "nyaope." He even tracks some down and tries it himself.
You can watch a bunch more VICE documentaries here.