Ecstasy fused my brain!

Courier columnist denies drug link

All over this land, desperately vulnerable people lie twitching and jerking in the savage grip of hallucinogenic delusions, their mouths foaming and their lips forming silent, angry words as uncontrollable paroxysms of chemically induced hysteria tear through their weak, ravaged flesh. Yes, once again people who tend to read the Daily Mail have driven themselves apoplectic over "the growing drugs menace threatening our society", and then reached for the valium. Turn on the radio and major pop stars urge their fans to pop as many tabs as their livers will stand. Open the newspaper - well, assuming it isn't the Cambrian News - and right wing columnists berate left wing columnists for promoting liberal attitudes. Watch the television and discover it's all in Welsh; then turn over from S4C and see reports of another Ecstasy-related teen tragedy. As I write this, a young mother on the pavement outside stops to inject a syringe full of heroin into her pockmarked arm and top up her baby's feeding bottle with amphetamines. It seems that the only section of the populace not concerned about this "rapidly growing problem" are the young, and that's because they're too stoned out of their boxes to care.

Speaking as someone who even made a conscious decision to reduce his caffeine intake some years ago, I'm feeling extremely left out. I never even seriously considered taking drugs until all the fuss in the media made me wonder if perhaps it was uncool not to indulge for recreational purposes. Previously, my plan had been to wait until I was fifty - by which time I could afford to take a few chances with my health and I'd need some stimulants anyway - then ingest everything I could get hold of. That meant declining a fair number of joints over the years (because hey, I've hung around people who smoke dope so I'm not, like, totally uncool, y'know?), and I'm going to be pretty pissed off if my self-control is eventually rewarded by a zero-tolerance crackdown. Besides which, I feel it's really limiting my creative abilities; do you know how hard it is to write this stuff straight?

However, I also have to be careful after all the Space Dust I did in the seventies, man. I don't even recall my ninth birthday, or most of 1978. (Note for those too young to remember: Space Dust came in little packets on the front of comics, and consisted of small orange crystals that, when swallowed, popped and jumped on your tongue and made your head fizz. It was not uncommon to see groups of boys in playground corners mixing it with Coke - or Tizer - and trying to "turn the chicks on". Popular legend has it that Dust was eventually banned because of a supposed health risk, and the fact that it was only one small step from dropping acid.)

Last month, Brian Harvey, whose name is now preceded by the words "Former East17 star", earned himself an impressive amount of publicity for a few incautious words on his idea of a good night out. Unfortunately, the other members of his band could not countenance the dangerous threat they felt this posed to their record sales; hard men indeed. When Noel Gallagher weighed in on Harvey's side, Tory MPs - now thankfully a shrinking menace to our society - sprang up like rabbits all over the Commons to promote laws banning the expression of radical views like these. Strangely, they didn't go so far as to ban the most radically dangerous material of all: "freedom of speech". Anyway, a law against any potential Gallagher/Harvey collaboration would be a far greater public service.

It's very odd that the government should be against Ecstasy use; after all, in their prolonged quest for the elusive "feel good" factor, you'd think chemically-induced mood alterations would be their last hope ("Heyy! I just wanna say something! I LOVE JOHN MAJOR! I love you, John!! Respect!"). I'm surprised they don't advocate adding it to tap water. Instead, they're squeezing in as many laws as possible to reduce and prohibit the number of opportunities for chemical indulgence. Does the father of Leah Betts hold the key vote in a marginal constituency or something? Perhaps legislation outlawing the tabloid press would prevent at least a few deaths caused by an overdose of ignorance and hysteria, and be only slightly less offensive. Still, the concern is understandable; you will doubtless have heard about the large numbers of parents whose children died in joyriding accidents that are urging parliament to outlaw cars.

The oft-mentioned reckless and widespread recreational "abuse" of Ecstasy provokes other, more curious and less widely debated questions. Users of E claim the drug makes them gregarious and induces feelings of deep love for other people, including strangers. So why is society now leaning on artificial stimulants as a crutch for positive emotional expression? Are we heading towards the day when we rely on drugs to feel anything at all, when, to paraphrase the Jefferson Airplane, "one pill brings you laughter and one pill makes you bawl"? Is taking E preferable to kicking someone's head in outside a club? (Answer: depends who they are; tabloid journalists reporting on drug abuse are fair game.) And if Ecstasy really is such an effective promoter of true love, why aren't the UN smuggling it into places like Bosnia and Palestine?

Such apathy puts the increasing fondness for marijuana into context. People smoking dope don't really care about much at all, although they will often take an inordinate interest in carpet fluff and very bad rock albums. Dope is said to be a sociable drug, partly because it is traditionally shared with friends. In fact, what happens is that you spend ten minutes trying to stash it under the furniture before opening the door, because you're certainly not going to waste your last ounce on anyone else (should have popped an E, you selfish bastard). It is most definitely not a sociable drug when you're the only one smoking it within a group of people who aren't, because they won't be able to stand the amount of total bollocks you're going to utter: smoke shit, talk shit. If you've never seen it before and would like to know what it looks like so you can identify it for scientific reasons, it most often resembles a large wad of crumpled clingfilm with a tiny brown lump somewhere in the centre. But be very careful someone isn't playing a particularly nasty practical joke on you. You may now like to investigate the contents of your fridge to check that the item at the back really is a piece of rotten broccoli as your housemate claims.

Other drugs like cocaine and heroin are only affordable to the rich, and rich people on drugs are considered irrelevant rather than a problem; for one thing, their parents might be MPs. Alternatively, you could opt for more natural remedies such as magic mushrooms; details from the walking club, if they can string a coherent answer together.

Should you decide to turn yourself into an organic chemistry experiment, despite the fact that this is highly illegal, bear the following in mind:

  1. Seek advice on the effects and side-effects, including possible long term damage. For example, ask Paul McCartney about his experiences, and remember that he hasn't produced anything good for decades.
  2. Know your limits. One toot on a joint isn't going to bring the pink giraffes stampeding your way, nor will it help you write the next Sgt Pepper. But before going further, consider whether you envy Keith Richards his looks; women probably don't. Also, heroin addiction is only a plus if you're promoting a new Depeche Mode album, otherwise a corpse is soon forgotten.
  3. People who won't spend the cash on proper drugs are uncool, so a tin of shoe polish is just sad and a black nose will make you look stupid.
  4. If you're going to take acid, remember that you can't fly! Avoid high ledges, migrating ducks, airport control towers and hitting the ground at 10m/s2.
  5. There is a large amount of unproven speculation that drug abuse leads to brain damage in later life. Ex-hippies are a strong argument in favour of this. But take comfort from the fact that you'll probably go senile anyway.
  6. Remember that some things are more readily available at university than at any other time of your life: sex is one; drugs are another (there's a rumour that education is a third, but that's probably just hype).
  7. Should you have any spare change after buying gear, please consider a donation to the "Free speech, Free Ade Rixon" campaign.

Ade Rixon
(Free to good home)