The ups and downs of the head shop craze
August 2005 was when I first heard of the appearance of heads shops. A friend informed me that he had heard that magic mushrooms were been sold in these stores. As a regular cannibas/marijuana smoker who dabbled from time to time with other drugs, this intrigued me. I had lived in Copenhagen for two years and was a regular visitor to the alternative community of Christiania where hash/marijuana and magic mushrooms were sold openly and legally. To buy magic mushrooms in a store in my home town of Cork seemed too good to be true.
In no time the head shop craze exploded. Despite the ban on magic mushrooms, such was the demand and widespread use of hash/ marijuana in society, that alternative marijuana smoke mixes appeared on the market. Spice was the probably the first of these. More like a heavy sedative affect than natural marijuana; it nevertheless seemed liked a welcome alternative than chasing down/networking for the ‘illegal’ stuff. If you ran out, you simply went out and brought more.
Trying new products
As I became a regular smoker of this Spice, soon stronger mixes came on the market. I became a marketing man’s dream…in consumer terms a product innovator…those customers who will readily try new products launched onto the market.
This article is not intended to be a confessional…I never had to steal money or be admitted to hospital. Nor is it intended to be an addition to the pro/anti legalisation of drug debate or head shops which I think is much more complex matter that certainly Ireland seems unwilling to acknowledge. What I would like to highlight is the insidious effect of taking head shop products long term.
Up until three months ago I was consuming these on a regular basis every weekend. Adding alcohol to the mix I became a bona fide closet poly drug user. I had been through various bouts of unemployment as I was working in a very unstable sector, and I had been through a painful relationship breakup. I was living on my own and getting high had become the fulcrum of my weekend. On Friday nights after a week at work I would visit the head shop, get my fix and proceed to get high on my own. Seeing people and engaging in other activities became secondary. I lied to friends about the regularity and quantity of my drug taking. When I was out socialising I would become edgy and wish to go home so I would be back in my lair to get high some more.
Spice contains a painkilling chemical called JWH-018, which produces the high effect similar to cannabis and marijuana. After prolonged use I noticed various side effects…flickers of light in my peripheral vision, akin to some form of brain zap, momentary throbbing in my head , muscle cramps. Adding the mephedrone and methylone powders to the mix generally resulted in insomnia, no appetite, so I was denying my body the two basic necessities of sleep and food. The comedown the following day was so negative that the only alternative was to get high again.
On one occasion having taken one of the speed alternatives, Vanilla Sky, I thought I was going to collapse at a work night out as the palpitations came and went repeatedly, my body battling with what was floating around my system.
Nothing herbal about these products
In short with head shop products you do not know what you are taking. In effect you are a human guinea pig. One particular head shop product which has been banned in the UK, and when consumed can produce an effect similar to ecstasy, was originally designed for stripping paint and removing rust. If you are going to dabble at drugs, it helps to know what you are taking and what the resultant effects it has on you both psychologically and physiologically. There is nothing herbal about these products.
Benefits of abstinence
In hindsight I now feel my regular drug taking was a contributory factor in watching two relationships downslide before my eyes. Getting high became a way of disengaging myself from issues that needed addressing. I no longer use head shop products. A period of abstinence and witnessing the continued benefits of that, in addition to the practice of yoga, have helped me continue on this path. By reconnecting with myself and that which is around me, I no longer chase that high. I have realised that easy availability of drugs and me do not mix well. On seldom occasions I will smoke a joint (natural cannibas/marijauana) in a social occasion with friends as some people may do with a drink, though I don’t seek it out.
What can I do now?
- Learn more about the effects of drugs on your mental health
- What to do when you're worried about someone's drug use
- Find out about treatments available for drug and alcohol dependence