Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. The drug culture, once a modest, seemingly reasonable bunch of misfits refusing to live through the “sober” eyes of their parents, once reached for marijuana as a way to tame the non-stop thrill ride known as life. Presumably, they watched mom and dad drink themselves stupid, pledging at their coming of age to rise above the social acceptance of the bottle and latch on to less debauched ways to thwart any miserable experiences. For a lot of folks, that was weed. Okay, and maybe a little cocaine. But mostly weed. Even though the plant was portrayed, at the time, as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, capable of making young people commit all sorts of despicable, unthinkable acts while leaving them squirming in addiction, most people who smoked the stuff understood that was all a load of poppycock. The real problem was those who didn’t stop at weed and eventually found the needle.
Fast forward a few decades and the devil’s lettuce has gone legal in one form or another in most parts of the country. Once a drug consumed mainly by hippies is now accepted and found in all social classes. Most of the population, even the lawmakers once hellbent on maintaining prohibition, realize by now that weed is a mild substance (with known & proven medical benefits) deserving of legal status. At the same time, while society got a bit more comfortable with marijuana, kind of like it did years ago with respect to tattoos, the dark drug culture, one where harder substances like heroin and meth are prevalent, went on a wild rampage to a next level sickness. Now, America’s gnarly drug behavior is more debauched than ever.
Not only is there a disturbing opioid problem in America – one that has become just as much about prescription medications and soccer moms as degenerates with needles dangling out of their arms -- but every street drug known to man is being laced these days with a potentially death-inducing adulterant known as fentanyl. Most people think fentanyl is a new development. However, this powerful opioid, which is entirely man-made, has been plaguing drug supplies since the late 1970s, becoming more problematic in recent years. It’s as dangerous as playing around in a snake pit full of venomous rattlers. Nearly 65% of drug overdose deaths from May 2020 to April 2021 were attributed to fentanyl, according to the CDC.
As if that isn’t frightening enough, drug users must now also contend with a powerful animal tranquilizer called xylazine. Traditionally, this stuff is used exclusively by veterinarians to calm large beasts. It’s not fit for human consumption, according to the FDA. ‘Tranq’, as it's often referred to on the street, is not an opioid like fentanyl, so it doesn’t provide the user with the same warm and fuzzy feeling, like everything is right in the world. Nope, it just comes with a case of the yawns.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it has unpleasant side effects. One of the most horrific is it causes body parts to essentially rot away – right down to the bone. People on Tranq often require amputation. I mean, I’m all for zombie culture – mostly in the movies and from the comforts of my couch -- but I don’t think any high imaginable is worth risking living in the body of the undead. Oh yeah, it gets better. Xylazine can also be fatal, and it doesn’t respond to overdose reversal drugs like Narcan. This drug is now in around half of illicit substances – perhaps a signal that the drug problem has gotten a heck of a lot uglier in recent years.
I’ve certainly watched it take a deep dive.
Several years ago, law enforcement started finding signs that the drug culture wasn’t happy with the classics anymore. Cocaine, meth, and heroin, presumably, were no longer enough to get them off, so drug dealers started experimenting with more power. Cops all over the country were reporting the discovery of bizarre drug cocktails during raids, some of which, at the time, seemed a little far-fetched, even considering that nothing, as far as drug users go, surprises me anymore.
In one case, I remember reporting for High Times, a wild drug cocktail consisting of ketamine, tramadol, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl was discovered in rural Tennessee. What good could possibly come from a drug like that? To me, this medley of mayhem sounded more like the concoction used to impose lethal injection on death row than anything consumed for fun.
Truth be told, most drug users are terrified of fentanyl. Although there may be some folks actively seeking it out, many are doing their best to avoid it. “You can’t even buy from people you know anymore because it’s all testing positive for it,” Heidi, a 31-year-old from Talladega, Alabama told The Bluntness.
Same goes with Xylazine.
At first, I assumed that kids today had grown so bored with normal drugs that they were risking both life and limb in pursuit of something to help them escape a less than attractive reality. Life is hard, after all, especially for young pups trying to make sense of it. However, come to find out, most drug users don’t have any interest in consuming horse tranquilizers.
“It was in the dope supply where I’m from and by the time anyone knew it, we were all addicted,” a Tranq addict that wishes to remain anonymous told The Bluntness. And it’s not an easy drug to stop once it takes hold. “The withdrawal off this stuff is much worse than a regular heroin withdrawal,” they said.
Unfortunately, street drugs have gotten more dangerous in the past couple of decades. Long gone are the days when even the shadiest drug dealer wouldn’t have intentionally poisoned their customers. But, sadly, there’s no more honor on the black market.
Now, drug users who still rely on the street to get drugs from pills to powder are being forced to test the product every time to ensure it’s not laced with dangerous adulterants. If they don’t, they could end up dead.
And if their dope tests positive for harsh cutting agents, what then? It’s not like the illicit street dealer has a return policy. “We’ve flushed hundreds of dollars of coke before because it had fentanyl in it,” Heidi said.
American drug users would be better off if they abandoned hard drugs and just stuck with legal weed and dare I say, psychedelics. Plain and simple. Marijuana is now legal in more parts of the country, and it’s tested for dangerous contaminants prior to distribution. It’s far safer than anything that can be purchased from a street dealer and it comes in high concentrations for those requiring a bit more from each hit. Unfortunately, drug users often complain that weed doesn’t fulfill their needs like the hard stuff. But it also doesn’t come with the risk of rotting flesh or an early grave.
Furthermore, the weed in America is now strong enough to choke a horse. It’s much more potent than it was back in the day before it went legal. I’ve seen cannabis products from edibles to concentrates turn some pretty serious stoners – those who claim they can out smoke anyone -- into pitiful puddles of perdition. Yet, the benefit is, they always live to get high another day.
So, if an aggressive, tranquilizer-type buzz is what the youngsters are looking for these days, let me tell you, it can certainly be found in marijuana.
“I saw some dude nodding off in the park one day and we went over to see if he needed help,” recalls Tristan, a 38-year-old from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “I seriously thought we were going to have to call first responders for help because he had overdosed,” Tristan continued. “But he was fine, just extremely stoned.”