Say no to drugs, kids. Just say no. This injunction is a public service message from List Gecko because we care about you. Now – assuming you’re going to blow off that advice the way you do with the daytime TV commercials with the same message, take this one to heart at least: Say no to specifically to these hazardous drugs. They will ruin your life.
Jenkem is the name given to a drug substitute that, like all good ideas, started in Zambia. There, homeless street children who got hooked on drugs they couldn’t afford found themselves living underground in Zambia’s no-doubt delightful sewer system. When raw human waste mixes with runoff from whatever was on the street in a desperately poor African country, it tends to ferment in the sewer, releasing noxious gas into the closed environment. This gas induces hallucinations that can last for up to an hour after exposure, depending on the dose.
Harnessing this to get high in the most disgusting way imaginable, African drug addicts started keeping human feces in plastic bags, softened with a bit of urine for the discriminating customer, and letting it rot in the sun for a week or two. Open the bag and take a deep whiff, and your hallucinations are on their way. Like everything else in the world of improvised narcotics, the American media picked this up and wildly exaggerated it until every kid in the country was one bad decision away from becoming a lifelong jenkem addict. That didn’t happen, but the drug does occasionally turn up, mostly in Florida.
Vint started as a bad Russian copy of Pervetin, the speed-based pills that kept the German army nice and enthusiastic throughout WWII. The Soviets never got the hang of making medical-grade pharmaceuticals, especially as go-pills for soldiers who, in all honesty, would probably be dead in a month anyway, so they came up with vint. The stuff has some water-soluble amphetamines as its base, but the chemistry doesn’t get cooking until formaldehyde gets added to it. Shoot it into a (soon-to-collapse) vein, and it’s an instant party. Modern Russia doesn’t go in for various First World touches like showing your ID when you buy Sudafed, so it’s pretty easy to cook up a batch of vint in any Russian city, where it sells for a fraction of the cost of bootleg Ritalin.
Like cashews, cocaine comes from a tree. Also like cashews, it will kill you if it isn’t extensively processed before you put it on your face. The multistage process starts with leaves from the cocoa plant being scraped and pressed in a bathtub full of sulfuric acid, and then it goes downhill from there. When the job is done, the manufacturer is left with a pile of clean white marching powder that commands sky-high prices in the United States, as well as a collection of acidic green-and-black garbage that no sane person would touch with his bare skin.
That stuff is the basuco, which finds its way into impoverished neighborhoods across Latin America as a smokable resin like hash. Often, it’s heated and poured over marijuana or tobacco, and as an additive, it seems to be useful mainly for frying brain cells and burning the soft tissues of the respiratory tract. It’s also flammable, so addicts have a nice combination of vacant stares, open picking wounds, and burn scars on their faces.
Dagga is a West African term for marijuana, and if that’s where the story ended, it would hardly be worth mentioning. This being Africa. However, the whole story naturally has to be depressing and horrible.
While millions of Africans smoke or eat dagga on a daily basis, the real harm comes from the shallow THC content of locally grown weed. Since it doesn’t get people high enough to deal with living in a slum in Monrovia, users often sprinkle the dagga with cocaine, PCP, heroin, or random mystery garbage they found that morning. One variant uses melted latex from condoms to pound home the “hit” of that first draw, so rest assured that all those family planning programs Western taxpayers have been financing for decades have finally gone to a good cause.
5. Bath Salts
It’s not fair to beat up on Africa and Russia too much here, so it’s worth mentioning bath salts for a bit. Bath salts are the colloquial name given to a speed variant that recently grabbed headlines in America because it was turning people into zombie cannibals. Say what you will about the American media, they’re not the ones to walk past a story about a drug addict chewing the face off of a homeless man. For what it’s worth, most bath salts users manage not to cannibalize anybody and wind up naked in the middle of the street, where they lose wrestling matches with whichever police rookie lost a round of rock-paper-scissors and had to make the arrest.
Pruno is the kind of dope you do after your bath salts-fueled antics have landed you in prison for a stretch. Made from whatever fruit juice, applesauce, canned oranges, or cooking grade grapefruit juice can be filched from a prison kitchen, pruno is a form of bootleg liquor that hits like a boxer. The materials to make pruno get poured into a hidden still, open sink, or – five will get you ten – the toilet in an inmate’s cell and left to ferment for a few days, during which the prisoner is presumably obliged to slip into other cells to use the facilities. Once it’s good and smelly, the stuff is scooped out and sold to other inmates for postage stamps and Spam, which is an excellent way to prepare for life on the outside.
7. Inhalants – Paint/Glue/Nail Polish Remover
Inhalants are a class of recreational drugs so broad that it includes, on one end, legitimate pharmaceuticals (and whipped cream propellants) such as nitrous oxide, and at the other some of the most corrosive poison humans make. Popular among homeless addicts who can no longer steal enough to buy $5 worth of crack, common inhalants include gold and silver spray paint and model airplane glue. These substances are most often poured or sprayed into a plastic bag and huffed until the user is talking to goblins.
Users may stay high for hours from a good huffing session, and the effect is cumulative, meaning that the more you do it, the more intense the experience. Using this garbage induces confusion, forgetfulness, blurry vision, hallucinations, and so much brain damage that you’ll eventually need help tying your shoes. If that doesn’t appeal to you, take comfort in the fact that you might kill yourself the first time you try inhalants, since the chemicals involved can zip right into your blood and destroy your heart muscle in seconds.
Gasoline can be used as an inhalant, where it manages to permanently disable or kill you just as quickly as correction fluid, but it’s also a common drink among the less upwardly mobile Australian Aborigines. Like native populations all over the former British Empire, many Aborigines have a hard time with substance abuse. Like many other indigenous people, they also have a hard time buying the good stuff. That’s where gasoline comes in.
In many places throughout Australia, it’s not uncommon to find passed-out First Nations people lying in the street next to the jerrycan of gas they spent the night drinking from. This usually merits a trip to the (publicly financed) emergency room, followed by detox and a handful of pamphlets being handed out. Once the user has recovered, it’s off to the filling station for another Friday fill-up, and the cycle repeats. The Australian government, which has repeatedly expressed deep concern about the many terrible things Aborigines deal with but somehow has never fixed any of them, has expressed concern about gasoline drinking. It has also done nothing to stop it, though it isn’t clear how to do that without restricting gasoline access in the remotest parts of the country.
9. Choking Until You Pass Out
Only the classiest drug addicts can afford to freebase cocaine. Users who can’t afford the $100 a dose hit of smokeable pure cocaine may opt for crack. Crackheads who run out and can’t get their drug of choice might turn, in a moment of desperation, to huffing glue. When you’re all out of glue, there’s always the choking game.
Choking to get high is an excellent example of why drug laws never seem to get the problem under control. Deprived of all illicit substances, a hardcore addict will ask a friend to grab him by the throat and choke him until the blood swells up in his head and he passes out. When this is done in a sexual context, it’s known as erotic (or auto-erotic, for masturbators) asphyxiation. When it’s done to get the rush of endorphins that comes with narrowly cheating death, it’s not called anything. You just run a statistically non-zero chance of dying right there if your arteries don’t open up when your friend lets go.
This is the drug that launched a thousand internet articles. This Russian heroin substitute works in such horrible ways, and with such unreal effects on users’ bodies, that click-bait articles can hardly not go into gruesome details. For starters, it’s made from basically random opiates, which are helpfully available over the counter in Russia, mixed with all sorts of vitriolic solvents. For an extra kick, you can boil up a dose of eyewash fluid, which allegedly intensifies the high, while accelerating the decay of the user’s flesh.
This drug gets its name from the scaly patches of skin that inevitably develop, first at the injection sites and then all over the addict’s body. The patches dry out and crack; then circulation dies off in the area, which leads to huge lesions forming where the skin, muscle, and sinew is all dead and black. Eventually, whole limbs go, followed by bits and pieces of the user’s face. Krokodil addicts tend to hobble around on crutches and wrap themselves in bandages to hold in the decaying bits. Fortunately for just about everyone involved, the average Krokodil user has a life expectancy of about 18 months from the first dose so that this problem might solve itself in time.