drugs 101

At buzzcode.org, we recognize that drug use is part of the way some gay men socialize. As an organization, we believe that drug use can be harmful to both individual gay men, as well as gay men's communities. At an individual level we know recreational drug use can lead to a host of problems: bad trips, passing out, puking, overdosing, ending up in the hospital, unsafe sex, and even death. Careless drug use also leads to social harms: we all do things while we're high that we later regret, and we've all seen arguments or disagreements about drug use between lovers, boyfriends, tricks, and friends. This creates tension among a community that is already faced with enough tension. Moreover, overdoses, ambulances, and puking in parking lots and bathroom contribute to negative stereotypes, images our community can do without.

Our goal is to provide resources and ideas to help reduce these harms and, ultimately, promote gay men's health. We are not, however, naïve enough to think scaring people away from using drugs will work. We want to provide information and ideas that will assist those who choose to use drugs to make smarter decisions about drug use. This isn't about safe drug use-we don't believe there is such a thing-but we do think there are more conscious or attentive ways to consume drugs. If you are going to use drugs recreationally and you're interested in looking after yourself and others, we encourage you to consider some of the following ideas.

Knowledge
Knowing what you're consuming is one of the foundations of harm reduction. Spend some time getting to know your drug of choice. Ask around-but don't rely on what other people say. We all have vested interests in how we think about and talk about drug use. So research and read up on your drug-and try to get a balanced perspective. Look at DanceSafe.org and the Canadian Strategy on Drugs and NIDA.

Sourcing Your Drugs
Keep in mind that knowledge about drugs-what they do to your body and how they interact with other drugs is only part of any good harm reduction strategy. You will rarely be in a position to know exactly what you are getting when you purchase from a dealer. There are, however, some things you can think about:

  • Ask around. Use word of mouth to figure out who gets what where and whom others trust.
  • Do what you can to develop a relationship with a good dealer. If you or a friend have purchased from a certain supplier before, and have found the product supplied was 'clean', then consider buying exclusively from that source.
  • Ask your dealer if the drugs you are buying are from the same "batch". He or she may not know, but if they do-and you trust them- buy your drugs from only one batch at a time. Then test them-with a test kit. You can get them through DanceSafe.org. Or try the batch out at home. That way you can be relatively confident about the dose and composition of your drugs. Don't try them alone!
  • Stock up and consider buying in larger batches if you can-that way you'll have a stash of drugs whose effects you are familiar with for the next while.
  • If you're getting high and going dancing, get your stuff before you go out. Don't buy on the dance floor. Not only do your risks increase because you have not been able to research the source, but you increase the risk of legal action against you, those around you, and the venue.
  • Consider trying your drugs at home first-where you are relatively safe. That way you can get a sense of what the drug does for you before venturing out into the real world.
In the end, the more you know about the source of your drugs, the nature of your drugs, and their effect on your body, the better off you'll be. In the short term, this means you'll be less likely to puke or pass out from drug use. In the long term, this means that you have more information about the drugs you are taking and are in a better position to reduce the harms associated with drug use. Ultimately this means being able to make healthier choices. But don't kid yourself, these are not perfect solutions or strategies. All of these ideas hinge on imperfect knowledge: you never know what's in that powder.

Route
The method you choose to ingest your drugs has health consequences-if this idea is news to you, spend some time figuring out what risks your are exposing yourself to and whether or not there are ways for you to reduce these risks.

Snorting?

  • Snorting anything can damage your nasal passages. Sharing bullets, bumpers, or other devices for inhaling your drugs can also place you at risk of contracting hepatitis-particularly if you've already done a bit of damage to the tissue in your nose. Get yourself vaccinated if you can. And consider using your own bullet or bumper-or sharing it with those whose hep status you think you are sure about. Do you know where your bumper has been?
  • Spend a bit of time grinding anything you snort up your nose: the finer the grind, the less likely you'll end up damaging your nose. Use a rolling pin, a glass, or anything cylindrical. Keep in mind that some damage will occur, no matter how fine the grind. At the same time, also be aware that a very fine grind might actually increase the dose. It is possible that finely ground ketamine or crystal can impact you differently than a coarser grind. If your powder is very dry and very fine, more of it may be absorbed and transmitted to your brain than you expected, which could lead to trouble.

Smoking?

  • Smoking crystal can lead to burns in the linings of your mouth and throat. If you choose to smoke it, ask someone with some experience about how to inhale without burning your mouth or tongue. Consider holding the smoke in your mouth until it cools.

Hooping

  • We've all done it. Or at least we know someone who has. Hooping (taking your ecstasy, crystal, or whatever up the ass) can also do damage to the tissues around your ass-so if sex is part of what happens when you get high and you hoop your dope, keep in mind the inflammation associated with this damage can increase your risk of HIV (and other STIs) transmission.
  • If you use something to hoop your drugs with, don't share it!

Swallowing?

  • Taking things orally has the longest onset time-particularly if you've had food. Keep this in mind if you consume: the last thing you want is to get higher faster than you expected or up your dosage because you forgot about your full stomach. Expect anywhere between 30 minutes to 60 minutes if you swallow your drugs. Most party drugs lead to some form of upset stomach-take an antacid-this will help cut down on any discomfort and leave you less likely to puke. Wait and be patient before you decide to drop more.
  • Swallowing your drugs is also the safest, less damaging way to take your drugs. Consider swallowing your crystal rather than snorting it or smoking it. If you take anything orally, try an antacid as well-this will reduce any nausea associated with the drug and reduce the chance of puking.
  • You'll feel the effects of smoking crystal in about 30 seconds, while anything you snort will probably affect you in about 5 or 10 minutes.
If you experience any pain, bleeding, or swelling from the way you take your drugs, try another route for a while. Let things heal.

Concentration
Short of having a lab analyze your drugs, you have no way of knowing the concentration of the drug you have in front of you. Most of the problems we see when it comes to drug use are effects of taking too much. Some things to think about:

  • Maybe err on the side of caution-start with a small amount, see what happens, and then go from there.
  • Also consider spreading your dosage out over the course of the night or activities. So, if you plan to take two hits of ecstasy, consider splitting your tablets into halves and taking the halves over the night.
  • If you're buying ecstasy, think about buying pressed tablets rather than gel-caps-you can break tablets in half easier than you can break gel caps.
  • And about GHB: just because it comes in a vial, doesn't mean it's a dose. GHB will knock you out cold if you take even a little bit too much-be very cautious about your dose.
  • If you're snorting ketamine or crystal, don't use a key or your finger-spend a few bucks on a bumper or a bullet. That way you can have a relatively consistent sized dose. It's not a foolproof method, but the more control you have over your drugs, the better off you'll be.
  • If you share your bullet with others and you've ground out your bullet to increase your dose, tell them. They may be anticipating a smaller bump you're your bullet provides. And if you know that your bullet offers a larger dose than normal, tell them as well.
  • Don't share your bullet if you'v got a cold or are ill.

Plan Ahead
Figure out what drugs you are going to take before you take them-and have on hand only that amount. Deciding to take more drugs while you are already high is not a good idea. Stick to your plan--when we're fucked up we can forget what our limits look like. And if you don't stick to your plan, don't beat yourself up about it. This isn't about judgment-this is about your health. So spend five minutes figuring out what triggered the change in plans. Let friends know what you're taking, when you take more and pay attention to others as they consume their drugs. If someone is high and needs to sit down or go to the bathroom or they're not feeling well-go with them. Nothing worse-or more dangerous-than feeling like you're going to puke or pass out and not knowing where the fuck you are.

Wear a Watch
Timing your doses can reduce the risk of overdosing on party drugs. Stacking doses-when the combined effect of the drugs you've consumed hit you all at once- is probably the most common reason for people falling into k-holes and g-holes. One of the reasons this happens is because people are in a rush to get high or haven't felt the effects of the first round of drugs they've taken. Bring a watch, and learn how long a dose normally lasts for you. Time your second dose with this in mind. And if you know you'll be taking another dose, figure out what when you'll redose in advance. But also keep in mind your own tolerance for drugs changes from day to day. If you're with friends, time your doses with them. Let others know when you are dosing. Stick to you plan.

Interactions With Other Drugs
HIV meds (protease inhibitors), anti-depressants (monoamine oxidase inhibitors, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, and Tricyclic anti-depressants) and sedatives (barbiturates, benzodiazepines) all complicate the effect of party drugs by increasing the strength and effect of the drug. Combining these drugs has killed others; doing so can kill you. If you are on any of these medications consider reducing the dose of your party drugs--the effects of these drugs can be two to three times higher than normal. And this means not only being higher, but it also means the toxic effects of these drugs are more pronounced.

  • Mixing Poppers and Viagra can kill you.
  • Taking GHB if you've had Alcohol can kill you.

Remember you want to be high, not dead.

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