Inhalants Are Terrible, Please Stop Using Them
In July, TMZ reported that former child star Skye McCole Bartusiak, who played the role of Mel Gibson’s daughter in The Patriot, had died at the age of 21. At the time, reports suggested that she choked to death in the midst of a “seizure,” but now the gossip website is suggesting that her death was actually the product of an ugly drug overdose, a fatal combination of pain killers and huffing.
Huffing is awful. You know it, I know it, and it’s probably fair to assume that Bartusiak probably knew it too. Even though inhalants are drugs in the sense that they will make you feel weird when you use them, putting them on lists of “drugs” next to other substance doesn’t feel right. Acid, DMT, marijuana, and other social lubricants can make lame parties more interesting, sex more intense, and college kids more passionate about the musical stylings of Phil Lesh. At best, inhalants make you feel foggy and out of it.
The mechanism by which the chemicals you inhale get you high isn’t even quite clear, because the primary effect doesn’t come from the chemical itself, but from oxygen displacement, or tricking your body into thinking what it just breathed was oxygen. In other words: You’re not getting high from what’s in a can of duster. You’re getting high because it’s not oxygen.
And yet, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants are still relatively popular among younger teens. Though most kids disapprove of using them, a survey from last year found that one in 20 eighth graders huffed at some point in 2012, while only one in 30 tenth graders used them over that same period. Though these numbers are down from what they were in the 90s, young people of all ages abuse inhalants more frequently than almost every other illicit drug: more than hallucinogens, ecstasy, cocaine, meth, or heroin.
An Illustrated A-Z of Drugs
Check back next week for E to H.
OK, So I’m Doing Something About My Drinking Problem
It’s 1 AM on a Saturday and I’m sober. I definitely don’t want to be, but I am. Sobriety at this hour is completely alien to me, as bizarre as the idea of being drunk at 8 AM, which is something, I shit you not, I’ve never done—despite the fact that everyone and my mother now sees me as the world’s largest lush.
I’m sober tonight because I wasn’t last night. Last night, I was shitfaced. My excuse? It was someone else’s birthday. A cavalcade of pals at the party I attended complimented me on the piece I recently wrote about my drinking problem, raising their glasses to meet mine. I accepted their kind words with the only grace I could muster in my highly altered, bleary-eyed state. I drank enough to brag about my junior high wrestling career. (I received a bronze medal for placing third in the state, but only because two other girls were in my weight class.) I drank more than enough.
I woke up at 3 PM today, ruined for the world, just like old times. I allowed myself to get fucked up because I did so in the context of a social gathering—my new rule is to never drink alone. But when surrounded by other warm-blooded mammals, I have permission to knock down a can (or eight) of shitty American macrobrew. Telling myself I can’t drink alone only means I stay up as late as humanly possible, imbibing in the presence of others. My new rule, as rules go, is fairly useless.
LSD Helped Me Quit Smoking
For 18 years I was a light yet stubbornly addicted smoker. Perhaps my habit was a result of growing up with a Dutch mom who handed me wisdom like: “Thijs, you’re 11 now. It’s time for you to learn how to roll smokes for your mommy.” There were periods where I’d just smoke one cigarette a day, and there were times when a pack wouldn’t see me through. But quitting—reallyquitting—was something I found I was able to manage for a week at most.
I was also a terribly annoying smoker. The kind that tries to quit for years by not buying his own packs, thus becoming the friend everyone avoids at parties (sorry, guys). I would smoke during school, but not during work. Like I said—light smoker, ridiculously addicted.
Earlier this year, I reached a few conclusions that seem completely obvious, but are still the kind of truths that addicts love to ignore:
- Smoking is a boring, useless addiction. The only joy in smoking is giving in to the addiction.
- There is only one moment out of billions of years of history in which I’m alive. What a waste to shorten that blip of time with something so boring.
- Going out with friends can be fun, but if we all went out for shots of apple juice instead, I’d be just as content. Smoking is more like a random compulsive activity than an actual experience.
Those thoughts started running through my head earlier this year, and went on for about a month. In the end, it was almost like something broke inside of me. I realized that smoking now filled me with self-hatred, and that realization came during a weekend binge on LSD.
We Asked Doctors How Different Illegal Drugs Affect Your Sperm
Life is full of hard truths. One of the hardest is that you can only party for so long before your body starts asking you nicely to please chill out, or you accumulate so many responsibilities that drinking five beers and popping a molly just isn’t wise anymore. And when you decide you’re ready for the ultimate responsibility, having a kid, you’ll have to hope your genetic material isn’t so damaged from shoving coke mixed with Ajax into random orifices that your offspring have to suffer serious medical problems.
But what if you knew how badly you’re screwing your body up before it’s too late? Not to get all Daren the Lion on you, but I asked two reproductive experts—Dr. Ricardo Yazigi of Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland and Dr. David Nudell, a Bay Area-based male reproductive urologist—plus Fernando Caudevilla (also known as Dr. X, the drug whisperer) to explain the way drug use can negatively impact sperm. The general consensus is that the use of just about every illicit drug causes damage to the testicles and prevents the creation of testosterone—the linchpin substance for the entire male reproductive system.
For the purposes of this piece, we leaned heavily on a 2012 study called “The Insults of Illicit Drug Use in Male Fertility” from the American Society of Andrology’s Journal of Andrology, which is available here.
According to the 2009 National Study on Drug Use and Health, marijuana has the highest usage rate of any illicit drug in the United States, which means you probably have all or some of these problems with your sperm.
The cannabinoid compounds in marijuana are actually synthesized by the human body, so our cells have natural receptors for them. If the cannabinoids latch onto cells in the testes or the sperm themselves, some unwanted side effects could occur and ruin your day. According to Dr. Yazigi:
"About 33 percent of chronic users will have low sperm counts. Binding of the active components and metabolites of marijuana to receptors on sperm themselves has also been shown to lead to decreasing motility rates. What is less clear are the effects of more occasional users—no good studies have been done but the prevailing thought is that while these men will have rapid recovery to their sperm function with briefer cessation in use, they should avoid use when trying to get pregnant as well."
Coke is, of course, the legendary “boner killer,” in that it causes vasoconstriction (the narrowing of blood cells), which leads to erectile dysfunction. It’s difficult to pinpoint what else it does, because any studies done on human beings are going to be complicated by the fact that cocaine just makes you want to party more. I asked Dr. Yazigi why we don’t have more information on coke’s effects, and he responded that human tests aren’t pure “because most of the time there’s coexistence of the use of cocaine along with alcohol and cigarettes and other drugs, so the single cocaine users are almost a rarity.” Also, he reminded me that you can’t force a group of people to do cocaine and then reproduce. You know, ethically.
The Story of Dakota Joe, a Jailbird on the Appalachian Trail
It was the winter of 2013, and Dakota Joe thought he was about to die. Hail was beating a crater into the mountain’s bald face, and his Kmart jacket had stopped keeping the cold out a long time ago. His pants were soaked through to the skin—wet denim is slow to dry and wearing it on the Appalachian Trail is generally a bad idea. Every muscle in his body was tense from miles of hiking through the Georgia wilderness. There was no feeling left in his arms and legs, just a stinging cold and more than a little fear.
If it’d been summer, Joe might have taken in the panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He might have looked down on the half-dozen towns dotting the Trail, catching a glint of the sun off some aluminum siding on barns or shabby general stores. Instead he had to turn away from the summit and slide inch by inch down the icy path, each rickety step putting him on the verge of a twisted ankle or a deadly tumble.
Somehow Joe managed to make his way onto a dirt service road. There, a state trooper picked him up and brought him out of the wilderness, although not out of kindness. Dakota Joe was wanted in Florida for violating his probation. A warrant was out for his arrest.
Within a few weeks, Joe was booked and shipped off to Punta Gorda, Florida, for an eight-month bid at the Charlotte County Jail. It would be a year before he’d see the Trail again.
In early 2014, a crippling cold front had dropped temperatures in my hometown of Milwaukee to a wind-chilled 50 degrees below zero. A few friends and I decided that it was the perfect time to drive down to Georgia to hike the first 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Known affectionately as the AT among trailblazers, the southern tip of the 2,181-mile long path stretching from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine, felt like anything but a winter wilderness. Although most of the trees were already stripped bare by the frost, the area’s thick rhododendron bushes and dense mist gave the forest a jungle-like feel, abetted by the occasional waterfall and stream.
It Was the Best of Teens, It Was the Worst of Teens
It was 4:20 and the teens felt great, man, but they also had impaired cognitive abilities. It was the post-9/11 era, the effects of which were being felt in increasingly tragic and bizarre ways. It was the season of light beer, the season of darkness, the season of hope. Teens were on Cloud 9, teens were going to Heaven, and the two things may have been related becauseCloud 9 was a synthetic drug sending Michigan’s youth to the hospital. History was changing, literally. In Colorado, AP US history students protested a conservative school board’s plan to emphasize “topics that promote citizenship, patriotism, and respect for authority.” It was a time a lot like the past; there was a new Bill & Ted’s movie planned and another sequel to Dumb and Dumber, featuring original stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Does technology shape the culture, or does the culture shape technology? The answer to most questions is, “It’s complicated.” Yik Yak didn’t help us write this column and it was unclear if teenagers, “less concerned about privacy and data security than others,” would take tonewly-launched anti-Facebook social network Ello. Internet consumption was still high, though, as was consumption of the “rave drug Molly.” That’s why a father shared a photo of his daughter on life support, following her attendance at a Denver rave. “This could be your child. Mine was responsible and did well in school. These raves are death peddlers.” Snapchat remained a popular way for teenagers to run afoul of the law. A Wyoming high school student took a selfie whilst giving a boy oral sex and now persons who shared the image could be charged for having child pornography. Two girls were kidnapped at knifepoint after sneaking out of a slumber party. Depending on how you look at things, cell phones either helped them to safety or allowed thousands of people to listen to their harrowing post-escape 911 call.
We Spoke to the Alaskan Reporter Who Quit Her Job on Live TV to Run a Weed Dispensary
Last night, after hosting a segment on the effort to legalize weed in Alaska, local KTVA news anchor Charlo Greene quit her job in true “fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool” fashion. Charlo went off script and told her Alaskan audience, on live TV, that she owned Alaska’s only cannabis club and that she would be leaving the news world behind— in order to put all her energy towards supporting the marijuana legalization movement in Alaska. Effective immediately, Charlo has begun a new life advocating for the movement by continuing to run the only weed dispensary in the home state of Sarah Palin. Before signing off, she also added: “Fuck it, I quit.”
Unsurprisingly, the mix of weed, unexpected swearing on live local news, and the thrill of someone quitting their job scorched earth style, resulted in Charlo’s final news broadcast going viral. So, we caught up with her earlier today to talk about her decision to bail on the glamourous life of local news reporting, her cannabis club, and the legalization movement in Alaska.
VICE: So when did you start the cannabis club?
Charlo Greene: We purchased a business license on 4/20/2014!
How’s the business been going?
It’s been going great! Well enough for me to feel comfortable in walking away from a career that I’ve spent all my adulthood building.
Why did you decide to quit in such an extravagant fashion?
[Laughs] To draw attention to the issue. You, as a journalist, know that all of us are replaceable. The people aren’t really going to miss you, or me, or any random reporter for the most part. So why not just use the position I was put in to make sure that my next chapter is just wide open for me?
What was the aftermath like in the studio?
Thank goodness it was on a Sunday night when most of the people were in the downstairs studio. I was doing my live hit in the upstairs one, so I didn’t see anything happening in the actual newsroom itself, but there were a couple of higher ups that were on my floor that were kinda freaking out—a little panicked. The phones were ringing off the hook, and I was escorted out. That was it.
And there’s been no fallout since?
The station took down my bio and all that stuff, but no one has been in touch with me.
I Went to Montreal’s New Cat Cafe on Shrooms
I have a broken relationship with cats. Once in a while, they take a moment from shitting in boxes and lurking in dark corners to glare at me with indifference or distrust, but that’s about it. Up until now, we’ve been working under the unspoken agreement to not really give a shit about each other. So when VICE asked me to visit the new cat café that had just opened in Montreal, my dysfunctional relationship with cats came to the fore.
Café des Chats is the first establishment of its kind to open in Canada. If you’re not familiar with the concept of a cat café, it’s basically a coffee shop with a bunch of cats living inside it. I thought the concept seemed a little contrived, and the thought of drinking espresso in a room that’s crawling with eight unimpressed and distrusting creatures initially sounded like a bit of a nightmare. But, framed the right way, this could be a great opportunity to face my fears and heal my relationship with felines. Maybe throwing them into our neighborhood cafés is actually a great idea.
Either way, I probably wasn’t going to enjoy myself or learn anything by going in my current headspace, so I decided to take some mushrooms before crossing the cat café threshold.
I spoke with the owner Nadine a few days before my visit, and she agreed to have me come by half an hour before it opened on Friday, at 9:30 in the morning. I met up with Stephanie (our photographer) beforehand to drink mushroom tea and have some grounding, sober thoughts while I still could. I sat on the edge of her couch at 8:45, taking careful sips as the sun glanced off her bookshelf. I watched the cluster of green mushroom bits swirl into the tea, thinking of how the fate of my morning rested in its murky depths.
After I finished my cup, we biked over to the café in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood, and stood outside to take a photo of me nervously laughing outside.
I was still clear-headed, but knew by the way my fingers were tingling I was on my way to ShroomTown. I watched Stephanie fiddle with her camera and realized that while we were in there, she would be the only other human that knew I was tripping. I made a mental note to remember that if things got out of control.
The co-owner Youseff saw us standing outside and came out to greet us.
“Welcome,” he said. “Come on in.”
Weediquette: Stoned Moms
If you get the moms smoking then you can get almost anybody. That’s the plan of the legal cannabis industry, and they’re searching for ways to get moms around the country to set down their wine and light up.
We travel to Denver with Jessica Roake, a mother of two from the suburbs of Washington, DC, for a mom-friendly cannabis tour. She gets blazed beyond belief in the name of market research.