Wayne Hansen: Speed
August 18-31, 1967
It is seldom that a single problem strikes a chord strong enough to interest the entire staff of AVATAR. Recently, however, Bud Burns came to us and talked strongly about the abuse of amphetamines, particularly methedrine, and its all too frequent effect, serum hepatitis. The staff agreed unanimously on the seriousness of the problem, and we all began to re-examine our own experiences with the world of the speed freak and to look into medical and personal studies of the problem.
At the moment a situation exists in Boston of which many are unaware. Because of a recent influx of people from Haight-Ashbury and New York, and, in part, because of the speed scene already existing in Boston, serum hepatitis may become a very great problem in the next few months. While there is no need for alarm, there is great need for the responsible people to deal with the situation immediately. The meth scene is a breeding ground for hep. While the speed freak world has a multitude of other problems associated with it, it is this one which right now presents the most danger. Hepatitis is not only communicated by unsterilized needles, it can be caught by anyone in a weakened physical condition. There is no such thing as a physically healthy meth freak. AVATAR devotes much space in this issue to inform and to further enlighten those directly or indirectly involved in the scene. We will continue to give important space to the abuse of amphetamines with the hope that everyone will become more conscious of this serious problem. SPEED KILLS is not an empty phrase.The Editors
Boston City Hospital, 818 Harrison Avenue, provides treatment for serum hepatitis.
Anyone interested in donating to the Boston City Hospital Blood Bank to aid in the treatment of hep should call 424-5300 for an appointment. No one who has had hepatitis is qualified. People 18-21 should get the written permission of parents. This blood will be used only at Boston City.
Just to clear the air a little, let me say that there is the use of marijuana and other psychedelic drugs for sincere internal investigation and then there is the drug scene. The two, easily confused by both participants and outsiders, are in truth a world apart. In the first case, the drug is a key which, if taken with awareness, may be used to open worlds of high-level experience, worlds which exist within the mind and the soul, areas which in everyday consciousness are closed to the mind of the everyday person. In the second case, the aim is to get high, however, wherever and whatever and this escapism runs the whole route from smoking opium to rubbing down with Absorbine Jr. (see Letters this issue). Those of us who have made both trips now face a time when we see a good half of America's high school and college students experimenting (both the "just to see what it's like" crowd and the conscious and serious investigators), and a good number becoming intensely involved in the use of grass and acid (the "mind" drugs) and/or opium and its derivatives, along with amphetamines and barbiturates (the "body" drugs). Those who persist in the belief that these students are the misfits, the poor students, and the psychologically unbalanced, are just flat dead wrong. While I am in the possession of no impressive percentages, I know from my own contact that these are frequently not only the most creative students, but often the ones most recognized by established academicians. I cite students here just to give some idea of the immensity of participation among those young people often looked upon as the most promising members of the society. When this great involvement is taking place, I feel the need for some kind of discretion and judgment, some kind of responsible consideration of just exactly what is going on, especially when I find that in my own experience both marijuana and LSD created important and profound changes in my life. I find the only useful point of departure to be the progress of mankind in the world, and a thing, if it contributes to this progress, I find useful; if it harks backward to some lesser existence, I find it, to be not growing, to be dead and a useless thing. When I see so many people getting into a situation so powerful as the use of drugs (in the loosest sense), then I see that it is time for consideration of just how much do these things contribute and where do you draw the line? I can see no other way for this young generation to recommend the use of grass and LSD than for it to simultaneously put the use of the body drugs in the same place it has thrown alcohol (yuggh).
The particular problem now is the use which is abuse of the amphetamines, and I refer to the suburban housewife diet-pill head as well as my own people. No matter how you look at the use of these artificial stimulants, it is hard to see them as anything but a tool for regression in the human race, a pitiful movement toward coldness and lack of feeling, something which adds to the obstruction, not the construction of a new age. Add to this great fault the more immediate though less historically important problems of disease: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual deterioration.
My own experience with amphetamines resulted in no gains and, finally, not even in pleasure. It began with breaking the monotony of my Lower East Side poverty, a dearth of affection, excitement, interest and maybe even a lack of desire to keep on going. It began with the search for mild kicks, by drinking a small bottle of Spanish-manufactured nasal inhalant and ended a year later, after intermittent use, with three days of a tired and sick body, everything tasting and smelling as if my head were a casket of green snot. That was after just a short (two-day) meth trip and I never shot it, just ate it or sniffed it the people who are far enough into it to have shot it for the kick they want and the people who've been lost on it for ten or twenty years (damn few speed freaks go anywhere near that long; physical death usually steps in to relieve the suffering), those people, those people would laugh at my mild discomfort, my three-day comedowns with a tight throat and shrunken stomach, my eight-hour comedown paranoid hallucinations. Those people would give a raspy laugh, if they have anything left to laugh with.
Meth, if you don't shoot it (some descriptions of that are elsewhere in these pages) takes a little while to get to work. The first thing that always happened was the dehydration process. You find yourself getting jumpy and running off to the john every six minutes. Your joint gets shriveled as the blood rushes away from your extremities to fill up your over-activated brain. After you piss, you don't know whether the urine is all out or not, you can't really tell because you've already lost a good bit of your sense of touch. But it doesn't really matter since you feel elevated, like you'd just had the juiciest lay, the best meal, the most restful sleep, and you're passionately interested in everything. Usually you get hung up in rapping with somebody else who's just done up perhaps, getting into something you ordinarily just like to do and now you find it intensely compelling, something like playing the banjo for five hours straight or drawing complex patterns endlessly, or, if you're not that much into something, just scratching at something like your face or hands, unconsciously, until suddenly you snap out of your coma and realize you've worn a hole in yourself.
Sooner or later, the time comes when you start to slow down, maybe three or four hours, if you're shooting a lot, or six to eight if you're dropping it, and then it's time to decide whether to do up again or go through the pain of a comedown. But usually there's more stuff around and it's not much a decision, really, to take more. You're really dried up by this time. You get even drier. You drink water and it runs right through you. By now, you've used up most of your spare energy and it's not quite so exciting and you don't get into playing the banjo any more, you're more likely to sit around rubbing holes into yourself. When you do manage to choose to come down, and that's usually because you've run out of stuff and can't get any more soon enough, you start to see some of your fantasies take a physical as well as a mental form. You begin to project them around you, almost always paranoically, like seeing cops running down the hallway to bust you and your worn-out heart leaps to your throat, you see little men with machine guns on the opposite rooftops moving in for the big kill. (For some reason you think you're important enough to warrant that great an assemble). The Man's helicopters overhead and the people across the alley with the telescopes are beginning to bug you too, and you're sure that the sounds on the roof mean that you're going to see an axe bust through the plaster and a little badge pop through (and you do if you want to badly enough).
Finally, when your nerves shake back to a semi-relaxed state and you can sleep, you fall off fitfully, often drooling, for a few hours and wake up with most of it cleaned out of your system and just the traces of a dull drained feeling running through you. Like everything else, meth makes its own balance. Just as far as you go up, just that far you go down. But it takes a couple of weeks before your nerves really get back to normal, sometimes longer.
Meth drains your body's strength and all its reserves. It leaves you without any resistance to disease, without any control over your environment, without any measure by which to judge what is actually there, and how much you're making there. Nobody wins with ups. You might find that your mind becomes brilliant for a while, but it gets so brilliant that the insane connections it makes with words and such are just too far away from the world to communicate with anyone else. It speeds up your mind and it robs your feelings. You become cold, physically and emotionally, You feel strong when you're high and scared to death when you're coming down. And when the need becomes great enough and everything is bugging you, you'll do your best friend wrong without knowing it, and without caring. Meth reduces you to your lowest self, and, as far as you're concerned, that's just groovy baby, that's just fine, because he was becoming a pretty nasty son of a bitch himself. It's so far down and so ugly, such an easy and wonderful and satisfying an escape, that you just couldn't care less. You're just groovy cool, and that's fine, just fine, and you'll babble the rest of your worthless life away, until your nervous system and your mind have rotted, your synapses have quite, and your soul is sealed off and you're a walking, blabbering, slobbering, lifeless, deathless, feelingless, nothingness shell of a man. And that's just so groovy, man, just so fine, just so vluh, vluh, vluh.Wayne M. Hansen