4.3 Methods of drug use

in general, drug users are pretty flexible in the way they use drugs - especially in times of emergency. If no syringes can be found they smoke on foil. If the foil finished too, the drug is sniffed or smoked. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Shooting up intensifies the 'rush' but also increases the risk of HIV infection. 'Chasing the dragon 'is healthier than injecting but requires the necessary knowhow: Beginners often see their precious drug literally go up in smoke. Moreover, smoking on foil is damaging to the lungs. A summary of advantages and disadvantages:

Sniffing (snorting)

Method for: Cocaine, speed, (less often: Heroin). The powder (cocaine for example) is laid out in a line' and inhaled into the nostrils through a straw pipe. 

Advantages 

When cocaine is sniffed or snorted the effects are felt within minutes. When injected or freebased the effects of the (freebase) cocaine are felt even more quickly but also wear off faster. Snorting takes little time. Snorting requires very few implements.

Disadvantages

When used excessively the mucous membranes of the nose might become infected. This is very painful and might also cause perforations of the nasal septum. Sniffing can lead to a chronic infection of the airways, a chronic cold, nose bleeds, headache and decreased sense of smell and taste. Sharing a straw pipe can spread hepatitis C.

Freebasing

Method for: Crack, freebase cocaine. The crack or freebase cocaine is smoked a water pipe or special crack pipe. 

Advantages 

Freebasing takes little time. It gives an intense 'rush' (without using a needle!).

Disadvantages

Most lung problems are caused by freebasing. Freebasing can cause irregular heartbeat. Sharing a base pipe can spread TB and hepatitis A.

Chasing the dragon' smoking on foil) 

Method for: Heroin, cocaine, crack, freebase cocaine, and 'speedballs' (combination of cocaine and heroin). The drug is placed on a piece of aluminium foil and heated. The vapour is inhaled into the mouth through a pipe and directly enters the lungs.

Advantages

* 'Chasing the dragon' is a safe alternative for injecting. It prevents abscesses and reduces the risk of getting infected with HIV and hepatitis.

* 'Chasing the dragon 'takes little time.

Disadvantages

When a plastic pipe is used, the user might inhale damaging chemical vapours into the lungs. 'Chasing the dragon' irritates the airways and increases mucous production. Most lung problems are caused by ammonia-based freebase cocaine. Freebase cocaine based on sodium bicarbonate is less damaging.

Injecting

Method for: Heroin, speed, cocaine, (less often: Certain benzodiazepines). A little heroin is placed on a spoon or torn off bottom of a (soda) can, dissolved in water and acid, (ascorbic acid or lemon juice) and heated. The solution is sucked into a syringe and injected into the vein. Cocaine is dissolved in water.

Advantages

* The 'rush' is more intense than with any other method, although long-term users no longer get this short, euphoric feeling.

* The user has the notion that he/she is getting the most out of his drug.

Disadvantages

* Injecting with non-sterile utensils and not disinfecting the injection site can cause abscesses.

* Injecting can cause a 'shake'. A shake is a fever attack caused by bacteria which enter the blood during injecting. The dirtier and blunter the needle, the bigger the chance of getting a shake.

* Injecting with other people's utensils (syringe, needle, filter, spoon, water) can spread hepatitis and HIV.

* Cocaine, not properly dissolved in the water, leaves little lumps. After injecting, these lumps can cause blood clots and blocked veins.

* 'Sterile infections' can only occur after cocaine injections. These are infections which are not caused by bacteria but by dying dermis (true skin). After prolonged intravenous drug use, veins can 'disappear'. When a user has I run out' of veins on the arm the alternatives are grim: Injecting into hands and feet hurts, shooting into groin and neck can be fatal due to the arteries in the immediate vicinity of these veins. If an artery is hit, the needle must be withdrawn immediately and hard pressure applied to the vein for five to ten minutes. Medical help is a must, Subcutaneous injecting (for example in the lower abdomen) or injecting into a muscle can only be done with heroin. If this is done with cocaine or speed, the tissue will die. Sometimes the sleeping medicines temazeparn (Normison), tuinal or ketamine are injected. Then, the gel-like substance is removed from the (eggshaped) capsule with an injection needle, sucked into the syringe and injected into the vein. The oil might clot and coagulate in the veins which easily can lead to infections of the heart valves. If 'dri nki ng' methadone is injected its sugar may damage the vascular walls and may cause infections on the injection site.

Smoking

Method for: Cannabis, crack, freebase cocaine (less often: Heroin).

Advantages

* Socially more accepted.

* Sharing a joint is good fun.

Disadvantages

* Smoking tobacco, crack and freebase cocaine can damage the lungs.

* When smoking hash, the cannabis is crumbled onto a bed of tobacco and in the fold of a rice paper rolled into a joint. This joint is smoked like a normal cigarette. Smoking hash or marijuana can damage the lungs just like smoking tobacco but cannabis smoke contains more carcinogenic substances than tobacco smoke. Also, the way the smoke is inhaled is a factor. When smoking hash or marijuana, the smoke is usually inhaled very deeply and held in the lungs as long as possible.

Eating

Method for: Cannabis ('space cake', brownies), mushrooms.

Advantages 

* Eating cannabis is better for the lungs than smoking.

Disadvantages

* There is a risk of taking too high a dose. Due to the slow absorption by the blood, the effects only set in after a while. An impatient individual could easily take too much. With mushrooms, it is not possible to tell how potent the active substance is, which increases the risk of experiencing a 'bad trip'.

Swallowing (pills/paper trips)

Method for: Speed, Ecstasy, LSD, sleeping medicines and tranquillizers, methadone.

Advanatages

* Easy to take.

Disadvantages

* Without actual testing, one never knows which substances a pill really contains (with the exception of sleeping medicines or tranquillizers).

Drinking

Method for: Alcohol, methadone, mushrooms (tea). 

Advantages

* Methadone can be dosed easily.

* Drinking alcohol is socially accepted.

Disadvantage

* Excessive alcohol use can cause cancer of the mouth, larynx, throat and oesophagus. Liquid methadone contains a lot of sugar and therefore is bad for the teeth when they are not brushed regularly.