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The Coast’s back to school guide to drugs 

Taking a (p)harm reduction approach to awareness

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A survey last spring by researchers at UBC says young people hate being told to ‘just say no’. The truth is, there are drugs out there. You might meet people who do them.  If you decide to try them, there are risks. Last year, 56 people in Nova Scotia died of accidental opioid overdoses. We don’t want any more. With the UBC survey in mind, The Coast has compiled a few tips for making bad choices smartly. Don’t forget, the best thing for your body is not to do drugs. Don’t piss on your health like it’s nothing.

KETAMINE (SPECIAL K)
Ketamine is a dissociative drug, which means it disconnects your brain from its senses. It makes you unconscious, but your eyes stay open. Recreationally, you will probably find it in powder form. It doesn't look different from cocaine.

What to expect: It will sting. It will take about 20 minutes for the drug to reach its full effect. You may slur your speech and be clumsy. Ketamine makes you salivate. Sound is muted and warped. You might end up in a K-hole, which is the brink of coma. Your brain will be almost completely disconnected from your body. Sometimes you'll hallucinate.

Safe use: Chop it as finely as possible. If you snort with a straw, keep your straw to yourself. Blood particles on a straw can be a transmission vector for viruses like HIV. After a bump, dip your finger in a glass of water and moisturize your nostril. You don't want to damage your sniffer any more than necessary.

The danger: An overdose of this drug can affect the breathing reflex in the same way opioids do. It's worse if you're drinking or taking other drugs. You could become comatose and stop breathing. Your muscles might become extremely stiff. Your blood pressure might change drastically. You might puke. Seizures are a rare side effect.

Since you're in an unconscious dream world, you might have a waking nightmare. Ketamine terrors could traumatize you.

Long-term use can fuck up your bladder and make you piss yourself at random. It might cause liver cancer. It can even make the inside of your lungs swollen and wet.

First aid: If it's you, and you're feeling overwhelmed, sit down. Try to make sure you're not alone and ride it out. It will take at least a couple of hours to pass. If you need to puke, puke. Drink lots of water. Really. If you're losing it, call 911. Trust the paramedics. You won't get in trouble.

If you can't dial numbers, remember Siri can call for you. If you're caring for a friend, put them in the recovery position. Never hesitate to call for help if the situation is dangerously out of control. A party can become an emergency before you realize what's happening.


STIMULANTS (COKE, SPEED)
Speed is amphetamine, similar in effect to cocaine. Study drugs like Adderall are amphetamines. Both make your heart race and your blood pressure rise. Both inflate your ego. Cocaine has the unique effect of restricting bloodflow to the heart while it works harder, making it more unhealthy. Since these drugs are often cut, you might find other drugs in it, sometimes laxatives. Don't be surprised if soon after snorting a line you have to shit. Any powdered drug might have fentanyl in it.

What to expect: It will sting. The high of a snorted stimulant will hit you almost instantly. You might suddenly feel like royalty. Your pupils will dilate. You might become more talkative, social and horny. Depending on purity, a coke high will last 10 to 30 minutes. A speed high can last for hours. Later, the comedown can feel like a crushing depression that might last days.

Safe use: Like other powder drugs, it's a good idea to test with a strip if possible and use your own straw. Several small doses are better than one big one. Keep track of your drinking and have some water. Stimulants can make you feel less drunk, but they don't last as long as alcohol. Once they wear off the drinks will hit you full force.

The danger: Seizures, heart attacks, strokes. Risk-taking behaviour. Coke plus alcohol makes cocaethylene, which increases euphoria but also increases liver damage and heart attack risk. Chronic use means frequent nose bleeds and early heart damage. If you feel sleepy right away it could have fentanyl. About five percent of cocaine in Canada has fentanyl in it.

First aid: Stop toking, drink water, wait. For chest pain, drowsiness or other severe symptoms, 911.


OPIATES (FENTANYL, MORPHINE, OXYCONTIN, PERCOCET, LEAN)
Opiates are the classic downers. They slow down your heart rate and breathing, and lower your blood pressure. You will probably get them in pill form. They sedate. If combined with alcohol, you might fall asleep and never wake up. Lean usually has codeine and might have dextromethorphan in it, another heavy-duty cough suppressant.

What to expect: After at least half an hour, sedation. Relaxation. Drowsiness. A warm feeling throughout your body. Apathy. Nausea. Vomiting. The key giveaway of an opiate high is pinpoint pupils.

Dangers: Strong opiates depress the breathing reflex. You might breathe so slow your body doesn't get enough oxygen. That leads to death. There may be seizures. Memory loss.

First aid: Narcan (or Naloxone) can reverse opiates. You can get a kit for free at a pharmacy. It's good to have, just in case. If a user's lips get blue, or they can't be woken up, it's time for 911. (Read more about Naloxone on page 6.)


ANXIOLYTICS (XANAX, VALIUM, ATIVAN)
Since anxiety is prevalent, the drugs that treat it are easy to find. Benzodiazepines are sedatives that have similar effects to alcohol. They are prescribed to treat hyperactivity of neurons in the brain that cause seizures or anxiety.

What to expect: Similar to drunkenness, a benzodiazepine overdose will make you slur your speech and lose your balance. Your pupils will dilate. You will get sleepy. They will make your heart rate and blood pressure go down.

Safe use: Have at least one sober friend in case things go too far. Don't combine with alcohol.

Dangers: They can sedate you to death. It can make you fidget endlessly, a condition called akathisia.

First aid: There is no home remedy. Call 911.


PSYCHEDELICS (ACID, MUSHROOMS)
Psychedelic drugs (Lysergic acid, Psilocybin, mescaline) are some of the most fascinating substances on the planet. According to the global drug survey, 66 percent of Canadians have tried shrooms—more than in any other country.

Psychedelics change your perspective. The walls breathe; you can see music; you lose all sense of time and place and even yourself. The exhilaration can cause a higher pulse and blood pressure, but otherwise the physiological effects are hard to measure.

What to expect: Your mind-state before you trip will probably be maximized beyond reason with these drugs. It's a slow come-on, up to an hour, with an unbelievable ramp up to peaks you have never felt before. You might feel like you're melting. You might have epiphany after epiphany. Mushrooms are a good six-hour trip. Acid takes around 12 hours to come and go. Expect to be thoroughly worn out afterward. Cancel anything you're doing tomorrow.

Safe use: Remember, you can never un-toke. Mindset and environment are of the utmost importance with these drugs. Your perspectives change. You will be very sensitive to your surroundings and other people. Do it with old friends. If you love parties, that's a good place to do it. If you tend to get overwhelmed by crowds sometimes, do it outside in nature.

Dangers: Bad trips. If it's not pure, or if your mind is susceptible to psychosis or other mental health problems, psychedelics can cause extreme anxiety and might push you over the edge. If there are mental health issues in your family, there is a risk your own potential mental health problem will be triggered.

First aid: It's a waiting game. If you or someone you're with is totally freaking out, remember 911. Paramedics want to help you. Hopefully you're not in the unlucky population of people who have schizophrenia triggered by the experience, or who get stuck in their high for weeks or months, a condition called Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder.


MDMA (ECSTASY, MOLLY)
MDMA stands for Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine. MDMA is a special amphetamine. It's like speed, but promotes feelings of empathy. It is the second-most-used drug in the world. It may be the most common party drug after alcohol. Ecstasy is an impure drug, as it almost always comes from some street manufacturer. Some pills in Nova Scotia have turned out to be meth. That means you don't know exactly what you're taking.

What to expect: Like anything ingested, you'll have to wait at least half an hour for the come-on. It will probably last from two to four hours before you start to come down. You may feel some chest pressure as your heart beats faster. You may feel happy for no reason, and suddenly feel love and understanding for everyone around you.

Safe use: Drink lots of water or Gatorade. When you sweat a lot you lose salt as well as water. Take breaks. If you're willing to crush your pill before popping it, you can test it with a drug-test strip.

Dangers: Overheating. Depending on what you do, you might sweat or vomit too much and end up with low salt, low potassium and not enough water in your body. Combined with overheating (drug-induced hyperthermia), this can lead to an irregular heartbeat, seizures or sudden death.

First aid: If someone is looking out of control and overheating, go outside. Drink some water. Cool off. If someone is losing it and having a bad trip, go to a different setting. Remove unwanted stimulus like loud music or a big crowd of people. Ride it out. If you get nervous, 911.

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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 26
November 21, 2019

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