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Part Ten: Checking in

  1. Hayley Murray
    "This project, like all of her work, reflects her position that people who use drugs are the experts and that their personal stories are to be valued above all else."

Hayley‘s Lockdown Drug Use Diaries

How has corona affected the drug scene? How did young people who use drugs experience this past year under the conditions of covid? In this Poppi series, drug researcher Hayley Murray investigates and shares the users’ perspective on how they cope with their drug use during corona. This time: a check-in, part three

I revisited some of the people I had spoken to in March 2020 to see how, after more than a year, the pandemic had influenced their drug using lives. There was much to share, so this check-in comes in three parts. The first two parts shared stories related to specific using experiences: typical ones, new ones, best ones. This final part has factors that influenced a decrease in use, some harm reduction tips, and what you are most looking forward to once physical distancing is a distant memory.

Some of the stories presented below are a continuation of ones mentioned in the previous two pieces, so if you don’t like being confused, I suggest that you set aside a bit of time and click here and here.

 

Harm reduction lessons

These past 12 months was all about staying healthy and safe, acknowledging the risk of the virus and reducing your chances of being infected or spreading it. Safer drug use should be thought of in the same way: being aware of the risks certain choices entail and finding ways to minimize the harm. Below are three examples of harm reduction tips you’ve learned or passed on over the year.

 

Spread information, not viruses

A nice opening track was chosen to commence their mini house festival and the initiating lines were being offered around, yet Lieke spotted five lines but only one straw. Wait, one straw? Nope. Nuh-uh. “I was surprised. Covid or no Covid, it’s not safe to share things you put up your nose.” (Let me rephrase that: it’s not safe to share things you use to put up your nose). “So, I reached for my stack of Post-It notes and showed them how to make makeshift straws (tip! the adhesive side is your friend, use it as a structural enforcer) and we marked them in a way that we would know who’s is who’s for the rest of the evening. It was a bit uncomfortable to work past their looks of apathy and judgement. But better safe than sorry!”

 

Finding the benefit with benzo’s

When Matthijs and Nikita’s first attempt at nexus flip (combining MDMA with 2-cb) didn’t go as smoothly as planned and their hallucinations became too hard to handle, they reached for some oxazepam. It’s a benzodiazepine, a class of drug that is commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia. Matthijs’ hope was that it would put an end to the mental chaos and physical discomfort of an unexpectedly challenging trip. “We had heard that it can help decrease visualizations from psychedelics and once the second 2-cb pill hit, we really wanted them to go away. While I wish we didn’t have to use it, it did help bring me back to a normal-ish state of mind and after a while lull me into a kind of sleep. But yeah, fighting fire with fire isn’t necessarily the best approach, but at that moment I wasn’t necessarily thinking super coherently.” But what about next time? “I mean, I guess they are good to have on hand, I can imagine using them to make me a bit sleepy after well, basically anything else I use!”

 

Vitamins and supplements

As tough as this year was, Mila was able to look for the silver lining. “There’s been so much emphasis on health this past year, I think I started internalizing these messages and reconsidered how I can take better care of my body when using drugs. How exactly? “I finally did some online research, in a way that made sense to me, on supplements and vitamins that can help with recovery after a big night. They came in super handy during our final night of our long weekend farm party, I’m never taking ecstasy with these again!” Shout out to rave faves 5HTP and magnesium!

 

Decrease in use

There were plenty of stories indicating that some of you were seeing a decrease in your drug use. Sometimes that decrease was by choice, other times it was not.

 

A needed break

Hyram (25), a self-proclaimed regular user with a keen interest in the drug use scene, was using drugs with friends quite often before covid and the start of the pandemic was no different. “But I started to notice some warning signs in the summer. You know how sometimes you would go to people’s houses and they’d have a bowl of mints on the table? Well, my friends had that except it was lines of ketamine. It became totally too much for me, that ain’t healthy to do, during a pandemic or not.” Besides being an interesting way to welcome people into your home and ensuring they might not ever leave the couch, Hyram saw this as a red flag. “I really didn’t like where this was headed. Plus, I had recently lost my job in the tourist industry, so on top of feeling lost and fragile because of the pandemic and being in a bad scene, I was broke.” He wisely adds, “Certainly not the vibe you want to be bringing into getting high.”

So, he decided to take a break from all drugs for some months, besides cannabis, and distance himself from this group. He moved cities, started his own online business, and made a new group of friends with different interests than the old ones. And now? “Yeah, I’m using again, mostly research chemicals. But after that break and big life changes, I feel like I’m in a better head space for whatever comes my way with experimenting with all these new drugs. I feel in control again.”

 

Health scare

Last year when Kris and his girlfriend discovered they were pregnant, they were happy and sober. Unfortunately, soon after, they suffered a miscarriage. “Both physically and mentally neither of us were in a condition to use drugs after that. It wasn’t even a decision, really. We just stopped for months now.” Future drug use was “just out of the question.” They are slowly getting stronger, but Kris tells me that, “I still have a stash at home in the fridge and as we both slowly improve, it’s been tempting me more. I don’t know when the next time will be to use it. Our priority is of course, our health.”

 

Looking ahead

Let’s pivot and look to the future, shall we? What are you most looking forward to? The promise of an endorphin explosion of being on a packed dance floor? Flirting with strangers in costumes under the sun on a faraway field? Quieting the screaming voice inside your head at the one person who thinks they are *special* and never had to wear a mask inside the grocery store?

Kris answered my question nicely with one word: vrijmibo (happy hour). “Covid killed the happy hour! I’ve always cherished meeting a friend after work on a Friday to share stories over some beers, more friends might join, then maybe getting some pizza and sitting on the canal, and then perhaps a night of bar hopping. Those Friday evenings were always dynamic and I can’t wait to start hanging out with friends in that way again. It just a really good way to unwind after a week.”

 

Or, say, after 18 months.

 

If you have something to offer this discussion around recreational substance use and quarantine, which trust me, you do, please get in touch with me via Telegram @sharewithpoppi  or sharewithpoppi@gmail.com. Your anonymity will be guaranteed.

For those of you who already have shared with me: you are great, thank you.

 

Check back in with Poppi’s blog regularly as, with your help, I’ll continue to explore what this new reality means for recreational substance use(rs) in the Netherlands.

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