By Lola Sasturain via El Planteo.
In the post-pandemic, live music and especially raves are back with more popularity, more force and more voracity than ever; it is a fact and it happens all over the world.
This current year, 2022, is the first since the start of the pandemic where clubs, festivals and shows have resumed activity without interruption and record attendance. And, with that, consumption in these spaces has also skyrocketed.
Each region has its own music, festivals and substances. And circulating in European evenings are substances that are very rare in this part of the globe. If Europe is the continent of rave; nowadays, what drugs are used at these parties? Are different substances circulating than those circulating here?
To learn more about these substances, their contexts of consumption, their effects and their risks, we consulted Dimitris Ntarras, member of the Awareness Team based in Berlin. This team works with generally gay, sex-positive, and body-positive groups to create safe spaces for fun.
“I find it very important that the team members have a foothold in the scene, which means that they too are ravers, and have close experience with drug addicts and the culture around the queer raver community. “, explained Ntarras.
Its actions in the rave context unfold on several levels. Ntarras lists: harm reduction through the material they disseminate and provide, finding and caring for people who are tired or uncomfortable at the party, non-violent intervention in situations of abuse, discrimination and segregation, emotional support for misguided people or that they have a bad experience inside or outside the party through anti-authoritarian restraint and empowerment where necessary.
“And last but not least, the feeling that our values are protected by our presence and our visibility in these spaces. We are here to take care of each other as peers,” Ntarras added.
Part of the culture
Asked about the most consumed drugs, he is categorical: these are of course cases of abuse, but fortunately this mode of consumption and its consequences are not the norm in the European raves and clubs in which they work. .
Most people consume conscientiously, even if it means choosing in certain cases when and how to lose control. And the cases that they witness overdoses or people in real danger are few. “Ravers consume consciously to achieve a certain type of experience or to inhibit others. To connect deeply with their body, physically and spiritually,” Ntarras explained. “Although in recent years it has spread and appeared on catwalks around the world, there is still a lot of stigma and ignorance surrounding rave culture.”
Recreational drug culture in Europe does not refer to clubs, he reflected, but extends to bars, parks and “chemsex” or sex parties (very popular in some European cities, notably Germany , the Netherlands and Eastern Europe).
Simplification would lead to prejudice and it is not possible to speak of a single type of drug for a context or a single fashionable consumption. “There are those who only drink alcohol for the rave, others who only drink water, others who prefer ketamine with speed (they are called old school),” Ntarras added. .
Basic powders: ketamine, coca, speed
Ketamine, a drug widely used in the Americas, deserves a mention. This anesthetic originally used in veterinary medicine, which originally comes in liquid form and is cooked until it acquires the texture of crystals to be snorted, is experiencing a peak in popularity on the old continent..
“Berliners love their ketamine and I can’t blame them,” Ntarras said. In post-pandemic raves, we see ketamine circulating much more than other drugs more historically associated with the context, such as MDMA or ecstasy in tablets. Although the same, such as popper and inhalants, continue to enjoy popularity.
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A very popular use is ketamine mixed with a stimulant, either speed or cocaine. The latter is such a common combination that it already has the status of a drug in itself: it is called “Coketa”. Two drugs that are taken nasally, some users take it by mixing the two powders and others intercalate, a few seconds apart, a shot of each. The combination, unsurprisingly, mixes the dissociative and psychedelic effects of ketamine with the euphoria and alertness of cocaine.
The two drugs have the effect of “regulating” each other but, according to the information tables of ‘Échele Cabeza’, a harm reduction platform based in Colombia, this combination is high risk since it involves mixing an anesthetic with a stimulant and this can lead to physiological complications.
But there is also a strong circulation of party drugs of which little or nothing is known in Argentina. Some of them are speed, mephedrone, GHB and its precursor GBL.
Speed is a very cheap amphetamine that is usually given as crystals through the nose. With a use similar to that of cocaine, it is used for its stimulating effects and for inducing a state of alertness and concentration. It is a recreational substance in the same family as legal drugs used to study and previously used to treat ADHD such as Ritalin and Adderall..
Widely used in raves in Germany and Spain, speed is, according to Ntarras, “hard to find in Greece and Italy, where cocaine is normally preferred.” This is characterized by its effect without effect: it’s a hard-core, very cerebral stimulant with virtually no hallucinogenic or empathogenic effects, without the obvious physical effects of other raver drugs.
Its effects are sometimes more maintenance related and that is why it is easy to overdose, which can lead to impaired motor states and sleep deprivation for several days. Ntarras explained that it is a drug rarely used in the context of chemsex parties (sex parties where certain substances are consumed to have sex) because it hinders erection and general sexual response.
New rare empathogens (for us): crystal, mephedrone, GHB and GBL
“The one that’s very popular at sex parties is meth, no matter what city you’re in,” said Ntarras.
It’s not as Breaking Bad a picture as it first appears. This substance is mainly consumed orally (crystals and capsules) and nasally, and its effects are much more powerful and immediate than those of amphetamine itself.
This is why it is recommended to take it small and consume less than what you would consume if you were taking speed or cocaine. It is also consumed smoked and injected and these are much more risky routes of administration, not only because of all the risks that the bite already entails but also because, with this rapid entry into the bloodstream, it tends to develop tolerance and dependence much more quickly.
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The crystal is widely used in sex parties because it generates effects similar to those of amphetamine (alertness, energy, concentration), added to a feeling of well-being. Like amphetamines, it decreases feelings of fatigue and sleepiness.
Mephedrone, 4-methylmethcathinone, “mefe” or also known as “meow”is another nasally administered drug widely used at parties in Europe. It belongs to the synthetic cathinone family and usually comes in the form of a white powder with a bitter taste. “Amsterdam has a long history with GHB just as London has an even longer one with mephedrone,” said the specialist.
‘Mefe’ acts as a central nervous system stimulant and has both stimulating and psychedelic effects. Widely used as a substitute for ecstasy as a party drug, it has effects similar to this, causing empathy and a feeling of well-being but also alertness and muscular rigidity similar to that of cocaine. Mixing with other stimulants is not recommended due to its synergistic effect. Neither with antidepressants nor benzodiazepines.
One substance that has been of great concern in recent years is GHB and its direct precursor, GBL. These are high-risk drugs that people take for their euphoric, energizing and empathogenic effects.
They call it “liquid ecstasy” and for these payments it shows up in some circles although its use is much less common. Its most common form of administration comes as a colorless liquid mixed with other beverages. The concern surrounding it is not just because of its effects but because, due to the ease of its administration, cases of drug use by people without their consent have been reported. The advice is always the same: when in doubt, do not accept drinks from strangers.
This substance acts as a central nervous system depressant. After the high, the effects of which can usually last between an hour and an hour and a half, comes a pronounced low which induces relaxation, sleep and, depending on the dose, even depression of respiratory functions. For the same reason, it is not recommended to mix it with other depressants or benzodiazepines.
In Berlin, Ntarras described, GBL has much more circulation than GHB although sometimes people confuse the nomenclatures. GBL is also metabolized to GHB once ingested. GHB is illegal to carry, but GBL is not, which makes it more common in circulation.
It is a drug widely used in orgies and chemsex parties due to its effects of increased sensitivity to touch, erectile capacity and general sexual response. Its danger lies in the fact that its pronounced highs and lows and difficult dosage make it easy to overdose. And the consequences of that overdose can mean a lot of things. Among them, death.
With GHB and GBL, the difference between active doses and overdoses is very small. “It’s a particularly unreliable drug because a few milliliters can make a huge difference when it comes to taking a dose,” said Ntarras.
GHB and GBL are consumed in one dose, between 0.5ml and 1.5ml a safe measure, spaced at least one hour apart. But even so, it is difficult to determine the concentration, and the consumer’s self-control and self-knowledge play a fundamental role in not increasing the dose after a drop.
Not all overdoses of these substances are fatal, but unfortunately they are common and very unpleasant to see and experience: muscle spasms, empty eyes, vomiting and loss of consciousness, among others.
In any case, it is recommended to have a test station nearby (there are also parties, clubs and festivals) and to analyze the sample intended for consumption, to avoid overdoses and the effects unexpected.
Photo: Courtesy of El Planteo