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10 Insane Modern Drug Crazes

C.J. Phillips

We live in a strange and scary world. Look around you, people—even the drug users are odd nowadays! Gone are the days when a group of long-haired hippies dropped acid and thought they could talk to faeries. Gone are the days when yuppies snorted lines of super-expensive cocaine in the bathroom stalls of fancy bars in major cities around the globe. Gone are the days when a group of deadheads stayed up all night listening to dance music and hugging each other while high on ecstasy. Now, kids find new and baffling ways to alter their minds. Even good old time-tested booze is passé.

10Pharming Parties

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Once upon a time, a group of teenage friends would invite you to a house party and expect you to bring a little something extra—booze. Sometimes the party organizers would accept an attractive “plus one” or, if you were a bit of a teenage tearaway, some marijuana. Not anymore. The gift du jour seems to be pretty much anything you can grab from mommy and daddy’s medicine cabinet.

Such gatherings are known as “pharming parties,” “pharm parties,” or “punch bowl parties.” After everyone has arrived, all the pilfered pills are put in a bowl, mixed up, and then taken by the fistful by each teen willing to risk their health in the hope of getting a buzz. It seems that in recent years, teenage abuse of illegal hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine has waned in favor of legal prescription tablets. The problem with these sorts of parties isn’t so much which pills are being taken (often stress relievers, attention aids, or light painkillers), it’s the uncertain dosages and the reckless mixing of various pills that can prove dangerous or even lethal. How can anyone be sure of what you’re popping? You could take a few too many painkillers coupled with some tranquilizers and end up in a coma. The phenomenon seems to be occurring primarily (possibly exclusively) in the US, but you can bet your biggest bottle of anti-depressants that it wouldn’t take much for America’s pharming party boom to become a full-blown pandemic.

9‘Bath Salts’

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If you start snorting your grandmother’s lavender-scented bath salts, all you’ll get is a frothy, fresh-smelling nose. If you start snorting one of the various narcotics known on the street as “bath salts,” you’re more likely to start eating your own feces and challenge law enforcement officers to fights. The term “bath salts” is used to describe various legal and illegal designer drugs that can be procured on websites, in head shops, or from your friendly neighborhood dealer. The exact chemical makeup of most of these drugs is unknown, making them potentially very dangerous and addictive. They’re insidiously marketed as “plant feeders,” “computer screen cleaner,” or, more obviously, “bath salts.”

They’re designed to mimic the effects of various white powder stimulants like cocaine and speed. “Bath salts” also exhibit some of the more negative side effects of ingesting the drugs they imitate: paranoia, insomnia, suicidal tendencies, and high blood pressure. The danger with these ever-changing drugs is that their legal status is hazy all over the world. Once one particular variant is banned, a quick tweak to its chemical composition and, hey presto! A new legal, potentially dangerous drug is born. Whether you think that that all forms of narcotics should be banned or that full-scale legalization and regulation of narcotics would put an end to this sort of dangerous experimentation, one thing is certain right now—bath salts are bad, all right?

8Sisa

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Greece is in a pretty bad place right now (they might as well move their politicians back into the ruins of the Parthenon), and when people find themselves without much income, they tend to take any way they can to cut costs—including that ever-so-expensive drug habit they may have.

Cocaine is very expensive—so expensive in fact that your average Greek drug addict can’t even come close to affording a gram of the naughty white powder. Drug abusers in other parts of the world turn to crime, stealing what they need from the more fortunate. But no one has any money in Greece—enter sisa, the new wonder drug. It costs a fraction of the amount you’d shell out for some coke, its effects are felt quicker, the high lasts longer, and (best of all) it gives you so much aggression that you’ll feel like ripping heads off marble statues ’til the small hours of the morning. Oh wait, that last one is actually a horrific side effect noticed in the homeless vagrants that use the drug. Reports of users beating people to a pulp, gangs of users raping women, and other cases of psychotic behavior are rife in downtown Athens.

Some of the crazy behavior rumored to stem from overuse of this drug may be just media hype or an urban legend perpetuated to deter people from using it, but what we do know is that sisa is also responsible for causing various ulcers. So, in conclusion, it’s a really crappy drug.

7Purple Drank

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We all lovingly remember the famous “Flaming Moe’s” episode of The Simpsons in wihch Homer invents a new wonder drink from random ingredients he finds in his kitchen cupboards, only to have it stolen away by local bartender Moe. But did you know that Homer Simpson was actually a drug baron in this episode? Well, not really. But had that episode been real life, he would have been toeing the legal line with the invention of his cough-syrup beverage—he’d have been making what is known in certain circles as “purple drank.” This tooth- and brain-rotting concoction is made by mixing cough syrup with a soft drink—usually Sprite or fruit juice. The food dyes present in the cough syrup give this brew a purple hue, hence its colloquial name.

It’s popularity rose in Houston, Texas and the underground hip-hop scene, first being consumed as far back as the 1960s. It was popularized by DJ Screw and is thought to have inspired the “chopped and screwed” style of hip-hop production. Much like LSD to the hippie rock scene or speed to London’s punks, purple drank seems to have been a major drug of choice for Southern hip-hop fans. The presence of CNS-depressing antihistamine promethazine in the syrup can cause respiratory and cardiac arrest, and when you’re downing the stuff mixed in with soda pop, you aren’t far from those issues. In fact, DJ Screw is one of the most notable deaths related to purple drank: he died of an alcohol-Codeine-promethazine overdose in 2006.

6Smoking Alcohol

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Other than describing the status of military deserters, “AWOL” is also an acronym for “alcohol without liquid.” It’s the brand name for a device popularized in 2004 for use in getting drunk without drinking. This alcohol nebulizer is now banned in many countries around the world and in many states in America. When using an AWOL nebulizer, you are literally smoking the just ethanol gases in booze as opposed to drinking all the non-alcoholic ingredients, thus (theoretically) avoiding the calories found in most sugary cocktails and mixers and just getting the buzz.

Other than the quicker rate of alcohol poisoning, this manner of high prevents your body from vomiting (the quickest way to get rid of the alcohol that’s making you ill). Although it’s unlikely that society will take up this fad, if it continues to prove popular, it might not be long before this becomes a very real, very deadly issue. Let’s hope this meme goes the way of “Chocolate Rain.”

5Ayahuasca

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Ah, the mighty Amazon! One of the world’s most amazing places—a great river, sprawling rain forests, majestic jungle beasts. Truly this is a paradise on earth—apart from the multi-billion dollar drug trade, pesky paramilitary groups kidnapping anyone with a pulse, dynamite fishermen, poachers, and illegal loggers. One particular product from this other Eden has taken the world of psychonautics by storm—ayahuasca. Even the name is enough to conjure images of tribal shaman flying over the forest canopy with bird-gods . . . but you’re more likely to see that by ingesting this brew than by simply reading the name.

This drug is very de rigueur. Sting did it in the ’90s and now trend-setting hipster bands like The Bees have popped down to Peru to embark on an inner adventure to discover the meaning of life—or at least to come to terms with their insecurities. Everyone raves about this boiled-up mix of jungle plants, and yet it’s illegal in most Western countries. Why? Who knows, really? Altered mental states can be scary: occasionally for the user, almost always for the rest of society. If you don’t know what someone’s mind is doing, how can you know they aren’t going to pick up an AK-47 and start shooting into crowds of people? That’s pretty much how various governments view powerful hallucinogens like ayahuasca. The long-term effects are not known but the short-term effects are said to be positively life-changing. However, if ayahuasca is responsible for turning Sting on to lute music, then I suggest it remains banned for eternity.

4GHB

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In May 2013, police turned up to a venue in Vancouver, Canada to find around 100 party-goers of various ages standing around outside a local social club after a night of dancing and boozing. Three individuals, however, were not standing . . . or even responding. A 14-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were curled up on the ground and foaming at the mouth. They had overdosed on the popular but deadly party drug, GHB (sometimes known as “liquid ecstasy”). In higher doses, GHB can be used to induce comas, and as a result, it is often employed as a date rape drug. The dangers of mixing too much GHB and excessive amounts of alcohol are well documented—it kills you pretty quick. And the line between “just enough GHB to get high” and “knocking yourself out cold for hours and stopping your heart” is incredibly fine (not to mention that it differs from person to person).

The three individuals in Vancouver were released from the hospital after a few hours, but there is a plethora of deaths related to abuse of this potent knockout drug. If the side effects of a drug include coma, extreme mouth burns, and foaming at the mouth, one must ask—is it really worth it?

3Whoonga

Most illicit drugs are often cut with some very dubious things. For instance, baking soda, baby laxative, and corn starch are used as adulterants in cocaine production. But South Africa’s latest street drug, whoonga, is a mix of some seriously crazy ingredients. A combination of marijuana and detergent powder sounds bad enough on its own. But then you add in powerful anti-retroviral (ARV) medicine to lengthen the high and you’ve got a potentially continent-ruining narcotic. ARV drugs are being given out by clinics in South Africa (often for free), to try and eradicate AIDS once and for all.

The inclusion of these potentially life-saving drugs in whoonga has spurred a worrying rise in crimes perpetrated against people who receive these ARV drugs from clinics in order to produce more of the narcotic. Many whoonga users and dealers also attempt to intentionally contract HIV themselves, so they can get a regular supply of ARV drugs without needing to commit any violent crimes. ARV drugs, which are intended to help the needy, are ironically becoming the cause for so much suffering. If all that wasn’t horrid enough, the drug is also known to contain rat poison.

2Yaba

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For the drug addict who just doesn’t get enough from his morning coffee, there’s a methamphetamine-caffeine tablet known as “yaba” (Thai for “madness drugs”). This uber-pill has been around since the 1940s—the Nazi regime used these tablets to keep their troops alert (and tripping pretty hardcore) on long marches through Europe. And so, from the people who popularized Zyklon-B showers as a means of getting rid of Jews, homosexuals, and anyone they didn’t like much, came this crazily dangerous “stay alert” capsule. Thailand took the recipe and renamed it “yaba.” Although its popularity as a party drug has waned in the Far East, the trend of importing yaba pills to other parts of the globe is growing. It almost seems inevitable that this drug will take hold in growing, right-wing neo-Nazi groups (if it hasn’t already). If wearing Nazi-inspired clothing and quoting Hitler to justify the harassment of Hispanic immigrants wasn’t quite edgy enough for them, I’ll bet they’ll all get a real kick from abusing Hitler’s very own drug.

Its effects are similar to meth but with a tiny bit of heroin in there too; habitual users stay up for days and experience euphoria and occasional hallucinations as well. The side effects are pretty rough—insomnia, loss of appetite, convulsions, suicidal tendencies, and the feeling that thousands of bugs are crawling under your skin. There are plenty of awful stories about yaba consumption: it isn’t pretty, folks!

1Flashblooding

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We’ve covered some pretty insane crazes so far: the apparent benefits of getting high on these wacky drugs are clearly outweighed by the horrific and often life-threatening side effects. But if we’re talking insane, and I mean really insane drug crazes, this entry beats all others hands down. The idea of flashblooding is simple: flashblooders literally steal blood from the veins of a tripping drug addict, usually while the addict is asleep, and then inject it into their own bloodstreams. So, it’s either “simple” or just “life-threateningly reckless.”

Not only is this an immensely dangerous practice for obvious health reasons (who knows what you’ll catch), there is very little evidence that flashblooding even produces a high in the user. The amount of blood taken rarely amounts to more than a teaspoonful. This makes the possibility of getting high from a junkie’s blood very unlikely. You’d just about need to replace all of your blood with all of theirs to feel any effects, and at that point it’s probably just easier to sniff random dollar bills in the hope of getting some residual cocaine. Users claim to feel a mild high and some even pass out after flashblooding, but these cases are more likely an example (albeit an extremely dumb example) of the placebo effect. Reports of this practice come from Zanzibar, Kenya, and Tanzania—all HIV hot spots, further cementing this trend’s place as possibly the craziest, stupidest drug trend of modern times.

C.J. Phillips is an actor and writer from Swansea, South Wales. He is a little bit obsessed with lists.