Browsing Tag

february

Christian Hazes DRUGS - February 2018

Up in Smoke

Written by Christian Hazes, Staff Writer

I have had the privilege to enrich my life with numerous fascinating trips. Be it the vast and pristine landscapes of arctic Norway or the quaint, calm and sun-soaked French villages; every journey is unique and provides a different experience. Lately, however, I started to realize that all these trips have one thing in common: that there is one ever-recurring question that is dropped shortly after telling people that I was born and raised in Amsterdam. I am talking about the simple and obvious question, fired at me before I can finish my sentence:

“How is the trip?”

I refrain from snapping and answer politely that the trip is amazing, ditto for the country and people, before being bluntly interrupted again:

“No dude, I’m talking about the drugs! You’re from Amsterdam!”

In my mind, images of me facepalming myself play; I ought to know by now this is to be expected. It’s proof that the Netherlands, and predominantly Amsterdam, are still the very embodiment of everything that comprises vice and complete liberty for many outsiders. Question is, for how long will I be confronted with drug-driven curiosity?

Without a doubt, the marriage of Amsterdam with weed is largely a result of the coffeeshop – and they are an endangered species these days. Despite still being omnipresent in the typical streetscape of Amsterdam, the number of coffeeshops is in swift decline.

In 1995, there were 350 coffeeshops in Amsterdam. Since then, 183 Amsterdam coffeeshops had to shut up shop, predominantly due to political pressure from governing bodies. That’s about half. In The Hague, the Dutch political capital, ferocious plans have been devised to combat the soft drugs industry in the Netherlands. However, in the case of Amsterdam, the approach has merely led to the deterioration of the situation and, due to its numerous adverse effects, cannot only be characterized as deeply flawed.

Amsterdam has a reputation for being one of the most liberal and progressive places in the world, which has a long history. The Netherlands was a hub for early enlightenment thinkers, among them Baruch de Spinoza, Erasmus of Rotterdam or Hugo Grotius. Already in the 17th century, the Dutch embraced individualism and had a dynamic entrepreneurial class. And the harbor town had state-enforced laws to make its diverse citizenry engage in their different religious practices and respect other faiths. So one would assume that some core liberal principles such as tolerance are embedded in Dutch culture.

Notwithstanding the fact that there is some truth to the claim, this point of view is not wholly correct. Especially in relation to the present-day Netherlands and Amsterdam. When it comes to soft drugs, tolerance has its limits, and they are tighter than one might expect. Many refer to the supposedly detrimental effect of consumption on society and particularly abhor the cannabis industry that attracts tourists to Amsterdam en masse. Amsterdammers are sick and tired of tripping over and confronting the near-comatose tourists that overflow the streets. Even Eberhardt van der Laan, the beloved-and-habitually-permissive former mayor expressed his concerns back in 2014, saying to the then-incumbent mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that he should visit Amsterdam and watch his compatriots loudly running around scantily clad. Despite the subliminal mocking sentiment, it is clear that the situation is getting out of hand and it is hardly to be denied that the soft drugs industry is mainly a tourist attraction.

And yet, the number of tourists that visit the Dutch capital is rising. One in four of these tourists will visit a coffeeshop. The perceived negative effects of soft drugs and surging drug tourism in the Southern parts of the Netherlands, have pushed the Dutch government to come up with an action plan to eradicate drugs tourism, and reduce the scale of the soft drugs industry. A policy that forced many coffeeshops to close makes it compulsory for coffeeshops located in Amsterdam to be at least 250 meters away from schools. Allegedly, young people would then be less exposed to soft drugs. Furthermore, a project called “Project 1012” aims at improving the image of the area of de Wallen, the center of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, required the closure of multiple coffeeshops. Also worth mentioning, the city council of Amsterdam employs a “no-growth policy” which means that the city will not give out any licenses for new coffeeshops at all.

Amsterdam’s coffeeshop supply is rapidly declining as a result of the advocacy of those that seek the end of the weed industry. On the other hand, it’s not blowing smoke if we say that the path chosen by the Dutch government is not heading in the right direction. In part because the demand for coffeeshops is skyrocketing to unparalleled heights.

But isn’t the elimination of competitors a blessing for the surviving coffeeshops? At first glance, yes. In reality, the decimation of Amsterdam-based coffeeshops has numerous grave drawbacks. The remaining coffeeshops are unable to facilitate the enormous demand. Increased appetite for the good stuff culminates in several undesirable consequences, such as people smoking on the streets due to a lack of space and coffeeshops turning into cannabis supermarkets instead of being cozy and serving a social function. Moreover, imbalanced supply and demand increases the number of illegal street dealers and this exacerbates the degeneration of neighborhoods; exactly what Amsterdam was trying to prevent. Lastly, the amount of cannabis a shop is allowed to have in store is limited, so shops must resupply multiple times on a busy day, increasing the probability that couriers will be robbed. The current policy approach is simply riddled with cracks.

Amsterdam prevails when it comes to attracting tourists and having a reputation for being one of the most tolerant, open-minded and liberal places in the world. So the only way I can see to avoid the “How is the trip?” question is to never bring up my roots, but I’d rather do that than see the city continue on its restrictive path.

 
Contributing Writers Creative Pieces DRUGS - February 2018

Mind-Altering Holiday

Written by Reinilde Jonkhout

It’s a little-known fact that Sinterklaas has a long lost psychedelic loving lesbian twin-sister, Cindy Claus. Her existence is little known because for the last few centuries she’s been peacefully dreaming in the far-off cosmos. In that time Sinterklaas became a dominant world destroyer, grinding “bad kids” into holiday treats, roasting non-Christians on open fires the size of entire forests, and otherwise being aloof.

Thankfully Cindy has returned to Earth! After weeks of partying with his sister Sinterklaas has penned the following confession:

What is the best holiday gift, but an altered mind, illuminating for us the darkest days of the year and seeing the return of the light before it actually happens?

Children who need presents the most don’t get them. I have been giving presents to the wrong children all along. I won’t let children work in slave labor conditions anymore. Constructing presents for other children, made with water they can no longer drink. I will close my factories. Instead, I will show children the gift of giving.

It was MDMA that made me unafraid to touch the same sex, and I will research that further. MDMA made me realize all my fears are not a given. Touching another man was inconceivable to me before, being a traditional Catholic. Thinking of all the hugs I missed out on, physically reminds me of that deficiency by way of a cold current shooting through my body.

When I was on LSD, I saw the magnitude of things that aren’t me. Trees were majestically towering over me. They suddenly looked so much bigger, and the wind I normally hate I admired. Sitting in a swing under a tree, I felt the tree itself swinging me. I never understood those outdoorsy,  mountain climbing folks, but I get it now. Even in the grey and rain, I wanted to be near nature and outside. The water of the river was an ever-changing abstract painting, sometimes even a pastel van Gogh. It was as deep as my lover’s eyes. I challenge every world leader to take LSD.

On ayahuasca I have gone through everything that I have repressed. And truthfully, I have been abused sexually as a child. In society that’s a secret and shame I can’t talk about. While tripping, I came across a drawing I had made as a child. Suddenly I realized, I can be that child again, that child not ruined by adults, and the drawing was beautiful. It was a flower, that I drew, and suddenly the flower was towering over me like a 90 story building. The sheer amazement of things I never considered possible or could never visualize, when did that end? When did I stop taking creativity seriously?

I am still that child. We who forget the potential of a flower drawn in the corner of a page, we destroy children, and our future, with our lack of empathy and imagination. Realising all the wrong I’ve done, and that we’re beyond the point of really saving the world, I need to give up my immortality and pass the torch onto my sister Cindy Claus.

What I need is to be born again as an ant to be stepped on and crushed soon after birth. We can see where the universe will take me from there. Birth is wonderful. In LSD hypnotherapy I have given birth, a magnificent and unexpected experience, showing that the soul has no gender.

My last realization is that a person can have too many dogs. While ending my journey I saw a woman walking maybe, nine dogs. Nine similar little, yappy dogs. That’s just too much.


Reinilde Jonkhout, is an Amsterdam-based artist from Curaçao. You can check out her other work at http://www.reinilde.com.

Contributing Writers DRUGS - February 2018

Let’s Talk About Drugs

Written by Anonymous

Through my story, I want to share a different take on drug use.

I arrived in Amsterdam as part of my exchange year when I was 19-years-old. Beforehand, I had studied psychology for two years in France and was quite ignorant when it came to drugs. Years of watching South Park had taught me basically that, drugs were bad. My country lived in the hypocrisy that smoking a pack a day and drinking a bottle of wine a night was far better and more respectable than ever touching a joint.

My personal history with drugs is quite special. I don’t drink, and I’ve only barely tried cigarettes, I’ve been prescribed Ritalin and Xanax for my attention and anxiety disorders. Yet, I despised people who took drugs for ‘fun’. I remember rejecting advances from people high on ecstasy at parties on the belief that I thought I was better than them.

Arriving in Amsterdam, the smell of cannabis in the streets and the magic truffles on display quickly led me to rethink what I knew about drugs. Clearly, a country like the Netherlands couldn’t tolerate this if it threatened the security and well-being of its citizens.

In the first few months of my stay in Amsterdam, my life was becoming increasingly stressful. My big question was what am I going to do in life? I feared I had lost connection with myself and my anxiety was intensifying by the minute. I met a medical anthropologist specialized in psychedelics, and although our encounter was brief, I owe him a lot and will cherish those moments for a very long time. He promised me tripping on magic truffles would bring some clarity.

Photo by Amritanshu Sikdar

As an aspiring researcher, I seek truth and value empirical evidence. The Netherlands has softer regulations than other countries when it comes to drug trials and this allows progress. Whether or not you’re against drugs, we should all encourage research. Scientific research on all drugs is the best way to make them safe, and to protect all users (for example 2CB is widely used drug but is still unstudied). No matter where you stand, educating yourself on drugs serves your side.

After hours of conversation, and digging around on Erowid (the online Bible for substances), I thought, why not? It was a very spontaneous decision, but I’m a woman of science, and the evidence suggested it was the right thing to do. Researchers are aware of the healing potential of psilocybin (the molecule in magic trufflesand are coming to very promising conclusions.

It was by far the most meaningful and powerful experience of my life, changing me forever in a way I could never have imagined before. The experience is hard to describe with words, but I explored myself and the universe, and found peace. I came back to reality purged of all sense of worry, and for two months I walked the world with confidence and calmness.

A few months later, when the magic of my trip faded and anxiety crawled back in, I had exams coming up and little-to-no motivation or concentration whatsoever. I had read promising articles on microdosing psychedelics to study. Hofmann, the scientist who first synthesised LSD said micro-dosing could “have gone on to be used as Ritalin if it (LSD) hadn’t been so harshly scheduled (in the USA).”

I went and bought another box of magic truffles and divided them into ten portions. I took a portion every day or every two days after lunch and the results were convincing. The best way to describe it is increased stamina. You have increased sensory perception but not in a scary reality-distorting way, more in a sense that you progressively become more aware of your environment, like if you saw the world in high definition and had never realized that setting existed to begin with. Your attention becomes more narrow and sharp but not like with amphetamines when you think your heart is going to blow up. Your movements flow much softer and your head feels good without ever feeling high or like you’re tripping. I studied much better, became kinder to myself, and was relaxed and happy with myself throughout my entire break before finals.

From my experience with psychedelics I have become a much more open person. I doubt tripping every time you face difficulties in life is a good idea, and I doubt relying on substances to study thinking it’s going to save your grades is a good idea, either. But I do strongly believe there are good stories like mine out there that people should be willing to hear and share. Educate yourself on the chemistry, on your purchase, and on your body.

Be critical, because there is a difference between what’s legal, and what’s moral. Be careful about what you do as a person and what you inflict on your body. You’re not in a position to judge someone who does coke every Saturday night if you binge eat burgers and never work out. Drugs can be a blessing or a curse. Set limits for yourself (perhaps skip heroin), be aware of the dangers and possible drifts.

If nothing else get to know yourself and drugs better.

   
Chloe Gregg DRUGS - February 2018

Change the System, Not Your Brain

Written by Chloe Gregg, Staff Writer

Smart drugs, study aids, cognitive enhancers. They’ve taken over Madison Avenue and hacked the offices of Silicon Valley. If you’re studying at university or have a job in a competitive workplace, I bet that you’ve already heard of them. Maybe you’ve already tried them?

These little pills, also known as ‘nootropics’, are prescribed to treat neurological disorders such as sleep-deprivation, narcolepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One of the most prominent nootropics, Modafinil, was introduced to me through a legitimate prescription.

I had to use Modafinil during my high school final exams to counter the sedative effects of the sleeping pills I had also been prescribed. All I knew about them was that they helped me snap back from the fog my brain was kept in by the sleeping pills. The only times I took Modafinil were on the mornings of an actual test.

I suffered less and less from insomnia during the first year of my bachelor’s degree, so I decided to drop the sleeping pills, and naturally forgot about Modafinil. Then the second year came. Spending entire days with my classmates at the library, we came to discuss ways of keeping up with the workload. Ignorant as I was to the other uses of Modafinil, some mentioned they were using the medication to help them study. They didn’t suffer from sleep-deprivation or any other medical condition that would have allowed for a prescription, rather this was self-medicated, brain-boosting doping.

Scanning through scientific journals and opinion articles, I found that there was an abundance of substances out there that qualified as nootropics. I discovered a multitude of cognitive enhancers ranging from special herbal supplements, ADHD medications such as Adderall and Ritalin, to even legally prescribed methamphetamines. While certain articles warned against the consumption of the most recently developed drugs, for lack of research, many more articles touted a number of benefits which would appeal to the young university student or start-up entrepreneur.

For my fog lifting drug, the effects on reducing fatigue, and enhancing cognition were most noticeable in studies involving sleep-deprived doctors and military personnel, while research conducted in 2012 showed an increase in motivation and performance in completing tasks amongst perfectly healthy individuals. A more consistent and significant result has been the improvement of working memory, which supports the use of Modafinil in preparation for exams. Fewer studies also support claims of an increased sense of well-being and increased attention.

Even with the short-term side effects of using nootropics, like headaches, loss of appetite and insomnia, the potential gains of their occasional use to manage intense periods of work and study can easily outweigh the costs. Especially since the average price of a Modafinil pill sold online is lower than your ordinary take-away coffee.

So why shouldn’t you take it? I’m not here to lecture you on the moral objections against taking cognitive enhancers. Neither am I going to convince you that you should hold off using them because of the gap in scientific knowledge regarding their long-term side effects. Rather, I’d like you to look at the bigger picture. Imagine the way society would look if everyone were to become accustomed to using nootropics.

On the individual level, a person would no longer be able to identify the fruits of his or her labor, and those of the drug. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine this may lower self-esteem, and create a detachment from the self that could eventually lead to much greater alienation. Such an estrangement would only deepen the anxieties that have propagated under the development of Western capitalism.

On the social level, the concentration of nootropics among the academic and professional elite would only deepen the current social inequalities that traverse the industrialized world. Today, the academically privileged often hold an advantage over those left within the traditional education system; even without cognitive enhancers. This is exacerbated by the way smart drugs have infiltrated the lives of healthy human beings – through society’s elite. Their most prominent use is amongst students from high-ranking universities and cutthroat businessmen or entrepreneurs. Spheres that are already ahead of the game. These drugs risk widening the socio-economic gap that persists in post-industrialized societies. Smart jobs draw smart drugs. Giving everyone access to Modafinil would bring all people to a higher cognitive capacity, yet the gap would remain.

As our society becomes increasingly narcotized, it seems that we’re losing touch with our fundamental human nature, which may be tied to consequences we cannot even conceive of yet. In one of his blog entries describing the effects of a variety of cognitive enhancers Dave Asprey, a US entrepreneur who boasts of successfully hacked his own biology, states that “When you first start taking nootropics, sometimes you’ll feel like nothing is happening. That’s what I experienced. Then, a week later, I quit taking them, and noticed their absence immediately”. This statement is a chilling reminder of how close we are to the dystopian novel Brave New World, where most people are numbed and controlled through drugs.

Whether you decide to take ‘noots’ or not, you’re playing a part in defining what our society should look like.

With the intensifying pressure created by competition, it is only natural to seek better ways to keep up the pace. However, self-medicating doesn’t seem to provide a definitive solution. Rather it is a symptom of the neoliberal machinery that has spun out of control, a new tool for perpetuating the system that is compelling us to alter our brain chemistry to better compete.

So let us slow down a moment and imagine where we’re heading. Let us evaluate the consequences of using nootropics and determine whether they promise enough to make it worth exploring their potential. We cannot blindly accept them as another quick fix.

Contributing Writers DRUGS - February 2018

Doping Music

Written by Jonny Walfisz

I think Lance Armstrong deserves to keep his trophies.  

As a self-aggrandizing non-sports guy, it’s possible that I just don’t get it. The only conceivable justification I find is that, perhaps, he had an unfair advantage on account of his testicles. Specifically, how the void in place of his testicles may have made the ride a little smoother, on account of the bicycle seat’s continual insistence on being unendurably uncomfortable.

Moving away, momentarily, from the subject matter of balls and bicycles, I really do believe that Lance Armstrong earned his Tour de France wins.

The competition is straightforward: We’ve got a really long road here, and we’d love to know who can do the spinny thing with their legs the quickest to get to the end first. I may not be a sportsman, but the simplicity is elegant, also in its conclusion. Lance is the one who did the spinny thing with his legs the best.

Yeah, sure, he took performance-enhancing drugs, but most of the other riders did too. This only speaks to how widespread the issue is. So let’s be real here. When should a person’s achievement be disregarded because they enhanced their performance in some way? We decided that the line should be drawn before steroids, but after protein shakes.

Lance took his drugs and that’s one reason he won the Tour de France. But the guy that came second couldn’t have done it without the bowl of muesli he had that morning. I fully expect his tearful apology on Oprah to follow shortly.

What if the same arbitrary rules, so casually demarcating what constitutes real human achievement, were applied beyond sports?

Photo by Ryan Loughlin

While researching this article I came across a rather incredible piece of journalism by one of Duke University’s music professors Carl Schimmel on doping in the music industry. The article contained outlandish claims about the use of a drug called ‘ÜBERnunu’ by famed musicians, a rank including Schoenberg and John Cage. These composers have been using ÜBERnunu to stimulate their orbitofrontal lobe, giving them an incredible advantage in their composition abilities. As societal pressures rose around these figures they were forced to drop the drug and it quickly disappeared from the medicine cabinets of talented musicians worldwide.

Now to clarify, the article is a satire. Nu-nu is a reasonably obscure drug from the Amazon and its relation to John Cage is one that can only be found in this lone article. What’s clearly the issue here is that this so-called professor-cum-journalist wrote without the necessary eye-winking candour that typically comes hand in hand with a satirical piece. The mini-bio at the bottom of the page boasting of Schimmel’s Yale-based education only serves to add gravitas to any wild statements he made previously. The tell, for those reading the article is one dime of a sentence, which I’ll quote:

“Authorities have discovered that some users have been unwittingly buying nunu that has been cut with dangerous fillers such as powdered bleach, rat poison, and French postmodernism.”

In a long article, this comes as a schism in the unique process of reading a piece of genuinely brilliant journalism. That nunu may be being cut with both rat poison and Derrida’s Writing and Difference, is both, (1) a dear worry to any frontal lobe’s health, and (2) effectively a train in wall scenario for the perception of the article as a great bit of journalism. Now it’s left in tatters as either eloquent satire or shoddy fiction at best.

But the experience of reading it was real. I had a great time finding out that Cage was an ÜBERnunu fiend and that this was the secret to his success. Cage wrote great music regardless of his drug habits. John Lennon created stunning art in the midst of a decade-long acid binge. Many great names produced brilliant work on drugs including Huxley, Bowie, Lou Reed and so on.

We value many artists for their ability to share an intimate part of their humanity with us. Yet much of the time they’re in an affected mental state.

Artists have always had their achievements credited to them regardless of their conscious cognizance, why not extend the same courtesy to those expressing themselves with their bodies and physical prowess?

This leads me to a few conclusions, truth is old-hat, participation is 80% of success, and Lance Armstrong deserves his medals back.

He lost his balls for Christ’s sake!