Methamphetamine has reclaimed a place in the lexicon of “party” drugs. Hailed by nocturnal adventurers, condemned by raver idealists, is speed a sleepless dream or an addictive nightmare? by Brian Otto Here at the end of the millennium, the pace of modern life seems fleeting — a whirl of minutes, hours and days. In dealing with the changes, humans have equipped themselves with the tools to move faster, more efficiently. At the same time a dependence for the marketing, high-speed transportation and pharmacology of this modern age has evolved.
In a race to outdo ourselves, we have moved angerously toward the fine line between extinction and evolution. Therefore, the human capacity to handle the velocity becomes a fragile balance. Our generation (see Gen X, 20-somethings) could be considered the sleepless generation. An age of society’s children weaned on the ideals of high-speed communication and accelerated culture has prided itself in mastering many of the facets of human existence — doing more, sleeping less. The machines of this age have in a way enabled us to create a 24-hour lifestyle.
We have pushed the limits of the modern world further — ATMs, high-speed modems, smart bombs and ullet trains. However, the limitations of human existence, like sleep, may still provide the stumbling block for infinite realization. That is, without chemical aid. In many ways, capitalism fuels the idea. Our society is based upon the mass consumption of these substances. Cultural ideals, while seemingly benevolent as “Have a Coke and a smile” have sold the link to chemical substances like caffeine and nicotine to “the good life. Today, stimulants are the bedrock for consumer culture. For our generation, this appeal was heightened by raising the stakes in the ’80s on what it meant to have fun. Late night clubs, high speed music and 24-hour lifestyles brought the specter of drugs to the fold as a necessity for being able to attain more. Leaps away from the psychedelics of the ’60s, in the ’80s these stimulant drugs became tools — utilitarian devices to gain wealth, intelligence and prestige. Sleep became a barrier for success.
Dreams were the frivolous luxuries of childhood. Raves, founded equally in the post-conservative underground late-’80s and the chaotic early-’90s, are part of the pastiche that has consequently become more dream-like, more unreal and still somehow manageable. The hyperreality of today oes hand in hand with the drugs being administered. It’s 6 a. m. Around the speaker bins are small packs of animated dancers grinding their feet into the floor and shaking their hands in front of them. The lookie- loos and weekend warriors have long since gone home.
Absent from their faces are the smiles of midnight, replaced by the blank, vacant stare of sleepless dreams. They have a name in the rave community, they are “tweakers. ” “Tweaking,” the common name for sniffing lines of speed, the drug methamphetamine, (popular for its availability and price) has somehow replaced MDMA and LSD as the perfect ave drug, allowing users the clear head and stamina to keep dancing long after their bodies have gone to sleep. A prominent opinion during the aftermath of the Los Angeles Summer of Love was that speed killed the rave scene.
Where speed had been seen in every scene from metal to the punk scene, for some reason it was shocking for some to see methamphetamine take hold, even though MDMA (an amphetamine-like substance) had been circulating for years. Some likened the rise to the quash of young newcomers, some equated it with the greed of drug dealers. Judging from today’s oster of events throughout the nation, raves are still alive and well. However, many old-schoolers have been turned off by the newbie vibe that came with speed’s rise in popularity. Some were casualties themselves of the drug’s addictive nature.
Others say that speed alone is what fuels the rave scene, keeping it from dying. Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887. First popularized by pharmaceutical company Smith Kline & French as the nasal inhaler, Benzedrine, in 1932. (Amphetamine is widely known as a bronchio dialator, allowing asthmatics to breathe more freely. A probable direct reaction to the Depression and Prohibition, the drug was used and abused by non-asthmatics looking for a buzz. Jazz great Charlie “Bird” Parker would remove the inhaler’s Benzedrine strip and soak it in his coffee.
Methamphetamine, more potent and easy to make, was discovered in Japan in 1919. The crystalline powder was soluble in water, making it a perfect candidate for injection. Also smoking the drug creates a similar rush. It is still legally produced in the U. S. , most often prescribed for weight loss, sold under the trade name Desoxyn. As the name “speed” suggests, amphetamines elevate mood, eighten endurance and eliminate fatigue, explaining the drug’s popularity with the military. Hitler was supposedly injected with methamphetamine.
Speed rose to popularity in California, home of many of the largest meth labs in the country, riding on the back of biker gangs. Bikers have been historically blamed for introducing the drug into the psychedelic ’60s, subsequently bringing down a whole Summer of Love with violence and angst. Since then, speed has been given a bad rap. It has been called a trailer park drug for decades, due to the fact that it can be cooked up so cheaply and easily. It’s the drug of choice for ong-distance truckers and college students pulling all-nighters.
Over the counter ephedrine, or “white crosses,” has taken the place of pharmaceutical amphetamine as an easy-to-get alternative. What is often misunderstood is the relationship between speed and crystal meth. The common reference to speed in the rave scene is the methamphetamine salt (HCl powder), whereas “crystal” usually refers to the free-base form of methamphetamine. Another form “Ice,” a higher-grade, purer form of crystal meth is smoked, a single hit creates a high that lasts for hours and several hits can wire a user for days. However, its high price prevents it from taking hold.
A gram of “ice” commands about $5,000 on the street. Speed came to the rave scene in 1992. Theory: when the parties in ’92 started to get really good, the police were cracking down more on the prime-time parties — partiers needed to find late-night/early morning activities like after-hours. Consequently, the price of taking 3-4 pills of ecstasy became too expensive an option, speed took over as an easier to get and cheaper alternative. Now, the standard street price in Los Angeles for a gram of speed is approximately $100, where ecstasy sells for approx. 150 or more. One major misconception is the link between methamphetamine and ecstasy [MDMA]. Ecstasy does not necessarily contain speed, yet both contain the methamphetamine structure. However, each affects a far different region of the brain resulting in different psychological effects.
Ecstasy primarily effects serotonin in the brain — the center for self-satisfaction and emotional systems. Speed affects dopamine primarily, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward. (Oddly, alcohol also affects a dopamine center. Often, MDMA is “cut” with speed to lower the street price of the drug, thus changing the overall effect. The two are similar in chemical makeup but one cannot be made from the other. Slightly changing the chemical makeup produces a wholly different effect in the human brain. While both have addictive potential, speed, because of its dopamine ties, is much more profoundly addicting. Qualitatively, speed and ecstasy supposedly give off “glows” that are far different. Ecstasy has a definite link to the rave scene. In some places it is synonymous.
Speed too has been linked to the rave scene — some say it was the death of the ideal. What’s unusual, given the qualitative similarities between the two, are he differing opinions about speed. While many admit openly to taking MDMA, they will not condone or even accept speed as a “valid” recreational drug. The stigma that goes with “tweaking” can be quite severe. “Speed is evil,” says Dominic. “I have seen more people’s lives twisted up off that drug than anything else in the world. I was first introduced to it about five years ago by a girl I was dating.
I basically watched her use of it turn from an occasional party thing to basically the sustenance of her life. Her body withered way, and everything she did revolved around speed. ” Speed does not belong in the underground scene,” he continues. “Something that is so damn negative could never co-exist with the positive ideals that we try to promote. If you want to get amped, feel energy and stay up all night, try alternatives — using speed just to stay up is a total cop out. ” However, his opinion is that ecstasy has opposite effects and could actually save the rave scene. [MDMA] induces a sense of spiritual enlightenment, happiness, and sometimes social understanding, something that could never be achieved by shoving a few rails of driveway cleaner up your nose. ” I’m all for consciousness expansion, even if by chemical means,” says another critic, Michael.
“Preferably organic chemistry. The problem is major parts of the scene moved away from enlightenment, transcendence and betterment of the self through involvement in community” A regular user of the drug is DJ Velour, 19, also finds some criticism for it. I believe that speed/crystal is one of the most psychologically addictive drugs around,” he says “Whenever I get tired or wish I had more energy, I always think how nice it would be to have some speed. In that respect, I am addicted, because t is definitely a part of my thought pattern now. And I haven’t done speed for over 3 weeks now. ” Even though his experiences have not all been good, he is still connected to the drug. “Amphetamines, in my mind are not evil,” says Velour, hoping to defend the drug against his critical peers. They are simple chemicals, if there is anything evil it is the society we live in which dictates that they are illegal and thus makes them harder to get. ” “I will admit one thing, it is very addictive,” he goes on.
“Once you take it a few times, you will continue to think about it after you stop. I haven’t done peed for a month now and still some days will go by where I have only had 3 or 4 hours sleep, and I think to myself, ‘You know, speed would really help out right now. However, that is what makes me a more responsible user. I not only realize my desire for speed and other amphetamines and I curb the habit. ” He feels that his ability to control his habit is more powerful than his lust for it. “Many of my friends are long time users of speed. However, by no means have they ruined their lives. ”
DJ Velour believes that the rave community can co-exist with a drug like methamphetamine. He also, among others, mentions speed’s many different ppearances that make for different psychological outcomes. Speed and other stimulants can be a positive part of a raving community. However, just like any other drug it depends upon the person taking it and the purity/mixture of the drug. As strange as this may sound, different speeds can evoke different emotions. They not only stimulate latent emotions, increasing their strength, but they can also enforce emotions much in the way ecstasy can. I have had some very “happy” speed that made me feel as happy as when I was on X. On the flip side I have had some lower grade speed that made me feel depressed. “