This article was originally published on VICE Canada.
Ahh, the end of the year: a time to reflect on the progress you've made in your career, think about the parts of yourself you'd like to improve on, and, if you're like some of us, consider the amount of substances you've consumed over the past 12 months (and possibly the amount of money spent on said substances—or, maybe not). Don't worry, you still have time to make it part of your New Year's resolution to cut back. In preparation for 2k16, ready your straws and join us as we go on one last bender to present you all the ways we got fucked up over the last year. What a deranged, lovely, and sometimes outright awful 365 days it's been.
MDMA (or Whatever the Fuck Research Chemical You've Been Accidentally Doing)
2015 was the year that many, like myself, became blatantly aware that what they'd been popping to roll their faces off at festivals was not MDMA at all. Maybe it was mephedrone, maybe PMA, or, most generally, some fucked-up concoction of white crystalline powder shipped from a research chemical facility in China. Sorry to break it to you, but odds are that it was unlikely pure MDMA. If you haven't purchased a testing kit to confirm the M you've been buying is actually M by the end of 2015, then you are a certain dumbass. No one can help you.
This year, we watched in horror as people freaked the fuck out over and over about a super-concentrated form of THC extract. Foregoing the fact that shatter is simply derived from weed, mainstream media and police were convincing parents everywhere that a meth-like substance had suddenly come to wreak havoc on their communities. "[Police] say it's not as addictive as methamphetamine, but still poses a high risk for overdose," an article published on CTV claimed in March when reporting on a drug bust in Stratford, Ontario. "According to police, shatter is a toxic and highly addictive drug that's 10 times more potent than a marijuana cigarette."
By November, cops in Canada still hadn't learned. "Parents!!!! Please educate your children on the dangers of 'Shatter'. We cannot lose any more young people to senseless overdoses" read a tweet from the Vancouver police force's gang unit, referring to an absolutely bogus scenario that has never happened. Vancouver police later had to apologize for the fear mongering.
Though taking a dab can really, really fuck you up to the point of spontaneously ghosting on your entire group of friends at a vapour lounge to go take a green nap, THC is still not comparable to Class A drugs.
And somehow, in the same country that's going completely ape-shit about shatter, full-on cannabis legalization is looming. In October, Justin Trudeau was elected as Canada's new prime minister, and with him came a promise to start the process of legalization. Following Trudeau's win, we watched in amazement as marijuana dispensaries started multiplying like rabbits in Toronto. And in November, it became officially legal to smoke medical marijuana in public in Ontario.
However, some Canadian cops still have different ideas pending full legalization—"We will charge on a leftover roach if we can," one working in Saskatoon told VICE in October. "It's how we feel about the use of illicit drugs in this area."
Looking to next year, our latest anxiety about the soon-to-be legalized marijuana industry, in Ontario at least, is that you'll be buying your kush alongside booze in provincially run liquor stores. Please, please, please no.
Never mind cops' and media's unwarranted overreaction to shatter; if there was something to be a bit freaked out about this year, it's how fentanyl has impacted the country. 2015 marked the year that more Canadians died than ever before due to the opiate.
On average, fentanyl is purportedly 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. You can imagine why, at that strength, it could be dangerous to opiate users in general—after all, it's become an issue among users that heroin can easily be tainted with fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of overdose. In November, police in Calgary declared a full-on public health crisis in response to the alarming number of fentanyl-related deaths the city, and province in general, had been experiencing. From a month's span between October and November in Calgary, police had responded to 26 fentanyl-related overdoses. And in just the first half of 2015, 145 Albertans died due to the drug.
Alberta is far from the only province experiencing a fentanyl problem. Amidst concerns over the summer that BC's fentanyl death toll was rising, cops released a video in September that showed how a machine found in a residential home in the province was able to churn out 18,000 fentanyl-laced pills in an hour. Wow, that's comforting…
It was the year your friend from art school left the city to go live in the Peruvian jungle, trip balls, and try to become a shaman. Yeahhhh, he's never going to be the same, but at least he's enlightened! As the year comes to a close, America is getting its first legal ayahuasca church—located in Elbe, Washington—where people can down the DMT-laced, sacred brew in spiritual ceremonies.
But, hey, it's not peace and love all the time at ayahuasca ceremonies, apparently. Let's not forget that time earlier this year a guy from Winnipeg fatally stabbed a British man (who was his friend, by the way) during an ayahuasca ceremony in Peru. I guess not all encounters with the spiritual world in the jungle end in a new appreciation for and connection with your fellow humans.
Microdosing and Other Health Treatments With Illicit Drugs
This year, we found out that a lot of the substances we use to get off our faces partying on the weekends could actually help with real-life health issues. Forget medical marijuana—that's pretty much a given. Psilocybin, the chemical in psychedelic mushrooms, could be used to treat depression. While we're on the subject of perpetual sadness, that weird, white powder classically used both as an animal tranquilizer and to put you in a k-hole so deep you think you are made up of polygons, ketamine could also help some people with depression.
Leaving no baggie unturned, we also found in 2015 that cocaine could temporarily help one cope with grief. In California, researchers continued to explore the possibility of MDMA as a treatment that "could alleviate social anxiety and trauma in autistic adults." And then there was this dude who's been taking nine grams of GHB, a date-rape and regular fuck-me-up-really-hard drug also known as liquid ecstasy, every night to treat his narcolepsy.
Sure makes the War on Drugs seem a little shortsighted.
2015 was the year Narcos was released on Netflix, which underlined the historical downsides to the new-aged cocaine renaissance we currently seem to be experiencing (see: the fact that we learned cocaine bars are a thing that exists in Bolivia and that there are motherfucking cocaine-making classes in Colombia).
But it's not all bumps and lines, for this year was also the one that confirmed to some that there may be very, very little cocaine in those bags they've been grabbing before heading out to the club on the weekends.
Lawrence Gibbons, Senior Operations Manager for Drugs at the National Crime Agency (NCA), told VICE UK in March: "We are regularly seizing huge quantities of substances which have zero traces of cocaine. An ounce at the moment is never more than 22 to 25 percent purity, and after that it is cut again before it hits the street." Oh, and then the National Crime Agency tried to get young people to develop a conscience and stop blowing coke using this video:
VICE asked a few 20- and 30-somethings their thoughts on cocaine usage following the film:
VICE: Do you think you'll think twice about ordering another gram now?
Tracey, 21, Student: Realistically, I know I won't stop taking it just because I know these things a bit better now.
Apparently the NCA didn't get that doing coke can really fuck with your empathy.
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