The Rise and Rise of the UK’s Student Drug Dealers
If the greatest architects, theorists, and social planners who’ve ever lived were revived to design the perfect marketplace for drug dealers, they’d come up with a dorm. A nest stuffed with trainee adults, bankrolled by mom and dad, waiting like baby birds with their beaks wide open for their next life-changing experience. Dealers might not be allowed to actually vomit the drugs into the mouths of students, but dorms—which are often called “halls” in the UK—nontheless remain a drug merchant’s wet dream. Which is why they’ve been living in them for decades.
Nearly three quarters of Britain’s 2.5 million university students have taken illegal drugs. So it follows that somebody has to be there feeding the country’s future politicians, business leaders, and unemployed actors their weed, MDMA, cocaine, and ketamine (that last substance is up to ten times more likely to be used by students than non-students).
In fact, the student drug market is so sought after that dealers have been known to enroll in colleges specifically to take out student loans and sell drugs on campus. Then, of course, there are all the student dealers—those who begin their higher education with good intentions, but realize that working at a bar isn’t much fun and start selling drugs as a source of quick cash. If you live in halls and don’t know who this guy or girl is yet, take it as a sign that you should get some more friends.
You don’t have a lot of time for rational thought after dropping a pill. Three Mitsis in and you’re almost entirely preoccupied with finding out what people’s scarves feel like, or trying to focus on literally anything through your rapidly flickering eyes. So you’d have thought that amid all the euphoria and heart palpitations there surely wouldn’t be space to get hung up on the ethnicity of the people around you.
It turns out, however, that the brain’s biochemistry during a blissed-out club night may not be too dissimilar from its status at a KKK rally. This is thanks to a hormone called oxytocin, which has been described by many as "the love hormone" or the "cuddle drug." The hormone has been linked to developing trust between mother and child during breast feeding, and between partners after intercourse. Its release is also triggered by MDMA, and that loved-up feeling you get after swallowing a pill has been attributed to the effects the hormone has on the brain.
However, research by professor Carsten de Dreu at the University of Amsterdam showed in 2011 that oxytocin had a slightly more sinister side. His experiments revealed that what many thought of as the “moral molecule” actually contributed to what scientists euphemistically refer to as “ethnocentrism,” or what the layman would call racism.
Participants in de Dreu’s study were presented with a dilemma in which they had to deny one person access to a lifeboat in order to save five others. In the double-blind experiment, Dutch men were given either oxytocin via a nasal spray or a placebo. The results showed that those taking oxytocin were more likely to spare men with Dutch names while sacrificing those with Muslim- or German-sounding names. For those who were given the placebo, however, the name of the potential victim didn’t matter.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the UK’s Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the legislation that effectively banned raves and sent the whole British scene into the expensive confines of legitimate clubs and venues. To mark the occasion, photographer Tom Hunter is exhibiting his series Le Crowbar—a documentation of his time traveling through Europe in the mid-90s in a convoy of converted coaches, ambulances, and buses, setting up raves and impromptu festivals. See it at the "Life on the Road" exhibition at LCC in London’s Elephant and Castle.
After relocating from Dorset to London at the age of 15 and spending some time as a tree pruner in the Royal Parks of London, Tom Hunter bought a year-long ticket to America. It was on this trip that he began taking photos, but unfortunately, as he told me, “I came back and [none of the pictures] turned out. The lens must have been broken or something.”
Nevertheless, it was then that he decided he wanted to be a photographer—so, in 1991, he enrolled at what was then the London College of Printing. During his time at college, Tom got involved in the squatting scene in Ellingfort Road, Hackney—a thriving community of travelers, converted vans, and derelict buildings that later became the central topic of his 1994 graduation show.
MDMA has caused something of a stir here in the US recently. Ever since Miley bragged about “dancing with molly,” like one of those tedious nerds who brags about ripping bongs for breakfast, columnists have had a field day analyzing why we’ve all fallen in love with MD. And policy makers, concerned after a spate of MDMA-related fatalities hit the headlines, have also started to take notice.
As you might expect, not everyone has taken a deep breath, put things into perspective, and reacted in a calm, rational manner. My alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, hascanceled all EDM shows on campus. They don’t want to deal with the negative headlines and potential lawsuits that come hand-in-hand with a molly overdose. Our federal lawmakers even managed to notice the drug as they staged their drawn out game of financial and political brinksmanship.
In the second episode of our new Big Night Outseries, Clive Martin ventures into the little-understood world of psytrance. After coming across a forest rave deep in the English countryside, he finds himself amongst swinging dreadlocks, “poi artists,” evil clowns, inexplicably poshMade in Chelseaextras, and a scrotum-headed demon.
When ecstasy became widely available three decades ago, it was largely consumed by suburban white kids wearing baggy cargo shorts who sucked pacifiers in abandoned warehouses, while listening to electronic music of some sort or other until they collapsed in exhaustion. Over the past decade, it seemed to fall out of favor with drug users, who veered more toward cocaine and other stimulants to fuel their partying needs. Then some narcotics-marketing genius (I’m convinced this is a real job) decided to rebrand MDMA, ecstasy’s key ingredient, as “molly,” and everyone from Kanye to Rick Ross to your little sister at this very moment is putting it in his or her mouth and asshole with reckless abandon. The hip-hop community’s embrace of the drug has been especially striking, since historical stereotypes dictate that rappers are normally more interested in chilled-out drugs like cough syrup and weed. But one hip-hop group from Brooklyn is not onboard. Stereo Marz, a trio who formed earlier this year, titled their debut track “Anti-Molly,” and the message is pretty clear: “Yo, this drug is fucking wack! / [they] ain’t fucking with that molly / and if you do you can’t come to my party.” I spoke with two of Stereo Marz’s three members, Desi Dez and Shaun “Bizy” Gabriel, about what was wrong with a drug that makes you love strobe lights and songs and sticking your tongue down some stranger’s throat all night long.
VICE: Why do you hate molly so much? Desi Dez: I’m disgusted, in fact, very disgusted with all these artists being big advocates for this molly thing. We’re totally against that—for us, it’s weak. We don’t feel that.
Shaun “Bizy” Gabriel: The atmosphere in schools has changed in the past five years with kids doing molly. They’re selling it in candy wrappers, tricking kids.
Why do you think its popularity has increased so much over the past few years? Most rappers seem to love it. Desi: That’s the reason! All these top-notch artists are the voice for this drug, so the younger kids see it as cool. Same with any propaganda, if it’s repeated enough, people just accept it.
Bizy: I don’t know if people are being paid to rap about molly, but I’ve heard people say that could be a possibility. It just came out of nowhere. What we do know is it’s being promoted every day.
Do you think molly will become a sort of new crack epidemic? Desi: Definitely. It’s targeted at kids. That’s what it’s geared up for. The suppliers are going to put more stuff in to make it more addictive, and by that time, you’ve got a lost generation caught up on this, just like what the crack game did. It’s all a setup.
Do you have any parting words for rappers who can’t get enough of it? Bizy: Man, pop the molly up your ass! We don’t respect molly.
Union Beach, New Jersey, like much of the state, is a mess thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Its residents who are sticking it out and hoping to rebuild have to figure out a way to clear their lots of debris and condemned structures. Regular relief groups don’t provide aid for this kind of work, and contractors aren’t going to cut a break for flood victims. It has left an altruistic void, one that has been filled by a bunch of people who every year head out to the middle of a desert in Nevada to do a bunch of drugs, dress up like gay aliens, and light a bunch of shit on fire.
Yes, a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have rapidly formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t.
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