Friday, January 18, 2008

Under the Influence

Yeah, it’s true! At one point in history cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD, opium and heroin were perfectly legal and in some cases given away- free. Now these drugs are considered illegal, harmful, and addicting. “It was better than sex; it was better than the best thing I ever tried; crack, marijuana, cocaine- put me in a state of mind where I did not care about anything or anyone I just wanted to get high.” These are all statements made to me by individual in jail or in drug rehab about how they felt being “Under the Influence” of drugs of abuse. How could chemicals that soothe pain, inspire intense euphoria, and temporarily allow us to escape from the problems of the day be harmful? Lets explore two of the popular drugs of the hip-hop culture and see how they affect the body.

Ecstasy (MDMA)
The “love drug” was first synthesized in a laboratory in Germany in 1912. Believed to have no medical use, it sat on the shelf for years; that was until 1977 when ya boi Alexander Shulgin, a chemist living in California, re-synthesized the compound and introduced it to local psychotherapist. It was not illegal and was given to patients by doctors to help couples communicate, to treat posttraumatic stress disorder, and treat anxiety and depression. The drug was called “empathy” until it hit the party scene where the name ecstasy was coined. Ecstasy was so wide spread in cities like Dallas, TX that you could buy it over the counter at bars- LEGALLY, doctors gave it to patients for group sessions and everything was all good, right? The sense of emotional well being, confidence and love produced by the drug comes from its effects on the brain. Ecstasy stimulates the release of serotonin, which affects our mood, energy and emotions. Normally in the brain, a little bit of serotonin gets released at time; when using ecstasy, all of the serotonin stored in the brain cells is released at once and the nerves goes “bananas” producing intense euphoria, strong emotions, and feelings of love, happiness, intimacy, openness, and empathy. This dramatic release of serotonin is also what makes the drug potentially dangerous, as the nerves may not ever function the same after repeated use of the drug. The agony begins when the ecstasy wears off and is often called “suicide Tuesday’s”. The user feels tired, fatigued, depressed, and is unable to sleep. Some ecstasy user’s have literally danced themselves to death or have seizures, go into to a coma, and die due to increased body temperature (up to 107 degrees) and water intoxication. An average 100-milligram dose last 6 to 10 hours and cost between $25 and $45 per pill depending on where you live. There is still a push to make this drug legal and to be used by psychotherapist.

Opium is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy. Heroin, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and dihydrocodeine are all derivatives of opium. They are highly addictive substances that are commonly used by physicians for medical purposes: to treat diarrhea, nausea, and more commonly pain. Vicodin, Lortab, and Oxycotin (hillbilly heroin) are all examples of the prescribed derivatives of opium. They have legitimate uses in medicine, however the abuse potential is great. Prescription drug abuse has become a huge problem in our society and both the patient and the doctors are to blame. Have you heard of “dat Lean”, syrup, or sizzurp? Once just a “cough medicine”, this codeine based drink has become a cocktail of the hip-hop culture. Just mix your cream soda or fruit punch with some promethazine with codeine, and voila… you have the cheap, sweet drink made popular by the Houston hip-hop scene and DJ Screw who died from a mixture of codeine, alcohol, and marijuana. Codeine, a commonly prescribed and effective drug used to treat pain, diarrhea, and to suppress cough, is the most widely used and naturally occurring opiod or narcotic (medicines that produce pleasure and calmness) in the world. Promethazine, which does not contain codeine, is the generic name for a sedating, anti-nausea chemical that is often combined with codeine in cough syrups. Symptoms of codeine abuse include slow breathing, seizures, dizziness, weakness, confusion, tiredness, cold and clammy skin, small or constricted pupils, loss of consciousness, coma and possibly death! To experience the effects of codeine, the human body must convert the drug to morphine. The effects of codeine start 10-30 minutes after ingestion, peak within 1 to 2 hours and may last 4-6 hours, depending on how much taken. Within two to three weeks of repetitive use a physical and psychological addiction may develop. Misuse will lead to an apathetic, dulling-type effect, a lack of co-ordination and dulled responses.

Every illegal drug to date has started out perfectly legal, freely used and widely accepted. They are considered medical miracles until the side effects develop. One major problem with these illegal substances is that there is no long-term studies to tell us what will happen to the body after long-term use. What I can tell you is that destruction of lives, time spent in jail, and the risk of being infected with HIV or other STD’s, motor vehicle accidents, violence, and rape have all occurred “under the influence”. The fix is temporary and the cost is high. Lets seek out the natural highs in life: love, children, music, a good job, a loyal woman, great mix tapes, seeing bootleggers arrested for jacking music, and real hip-hop! Holla!

(c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. This article was published January 2008 by Ozone Magazine.