We Spoke With An Expert On How To Reduce Overdose Deaths

Drugs, ever heard of them? If you’re on this website, chances are you have. And chances are you think of drugs in certain categories. Weed is famously tight, cocaine is that b*tch that you knew in college, and drugs like heroin, meth, or crack are “scary” ones that you only talk about as a joke or read about in the news. But what if it’s not the drugs that are bad, but rather our entire mindset around them? What if the way that we speak, think, and legislate around drug use is actually exacerbating the problem? 

A recent CNN article reported that Americans are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than a car accident. In 2017, there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in America, most of which were due to opioids—in particular fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine (that’s really f*cking strong, bruh). Fentanyl originated as a legal, prescribed pharmaceutical (classic) that was used for pain management. Nowadays fentanyl can often be found mixed in with drugs like heroin or cocaine, cut together by distributors who want to save money, and sold to unknowing buyers. Because fentanyl is so powerful, it can easily lead to an overdose, especially if the user doesn’t have a high tolerance for opioids. It’s definitely dangerous, and when you don’t even know you are about to encounter it, there’s no way you can be prepared for the outcome. So the question is…how do we avoid or prevent these kinds of overdoses from happening?

Many people’s first reaction is to take on the attitude of your middle school D.A.R.E teacher and tell everyone to just say no to drugs. But now let’s think about how well D.A.R.E worked. *jump-cut to a flashback of me and literally every teen I’ve ever met smoking weed out of Coca-Cola can*  At the risk of sounding like your cousin from Denver, you can tell people not to do drugs all you want, but the reality is that they are going to do them. With this in mind, we should probably find ways for people to use drugs more safely. It’s kind of like safe sex education. Since we know teens aren’t going to stop boning in the high school parking lot, we gotta teach them how to put a condom on a banana.

Approaching drug use in this way is called harm reduction. I spoke to Garrett Reuscher, a harm reduction counselor at Recharge who works in substance use with his clients at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). He told me, “Harm reduction is all about—get this—reducing harm. It’s about accepting that drugs and their use are a part of our world. We’ve seen time and time again the demonization and criminalization of drugs through an abstinence only framework does not stop people from using. When we accept this reality we can begin to shift our view of thinking and focus more on how to keep people safe, rather than use an outdated morality model created to stigmatize and shame. We need compassionate pragmatism.”

Reuscher pointed out that drugs serve a purpose, such as relieving pain or amplifying experiences, but we refuse to view the benefits of drugs, and this leads to a mindset that embraces abstinence and rejects harm reduction. He said, “The funny thing is we, as a society and as individuals, apply the harm reduction modality to our everyday lives. A perfect example of this is how we choose to wear seat belts when driving a car. Cars can cause harm but we don’t ban them. We add seat belts and airbags and put people through an education course before they hit the road. We have this tendency to holds drugs to a different standard. As if they’re naturally ‘bad’ and learning to to use them in a safer way is somehow condoning ‘poor behavior.’ It’s not. Harm reduction isn’t about condoning, nor is it about shaming. It’s about providing the tools to save and/or improve lives.”

Let’s take the issue of fentanyl as an example. You can actually buy fentanyl testing strips or a drug testing kit that you can use to test your drugs before you take them. This way, you know exactly what you’re taking before you take it. A lot of people don’t like encouraging drug users to test their drugs because they think it encourages them to keep using drugs, but as I’ve said, most people are going to use drugs regardless. People know the risks and are still willing to take drugs. So may as well help them do so safely. It’s all about education and providing people with a safe plan.

An additional, and more controversial, solution is safe injection sites. These are facilities where people can go and use drugs that are dangerous to use alone (like heroin) with trained staff on hand  to intervene in case of an overdose. They also provide sterile needles for people who need them, which prevents the spread of disease. Staff members at these sites have breathing masks and naloxone aka NARCAN on hand, which is an overdose antidote.

(Sidenote: administering NARCAN will stop an overdose from happening, and you can actually become certified to carry and inject this lifesaving treatment. It’s called being a hero Karen, look it up.)

And because Canada and Europe will forever be our much cooler cousins, they’ve already tested safe injection sites and found positive results. Researchers found that a particular safe injection site in Vancouver supervised more than 3.6 million injections and responded to more than 6,000 overdoses. No one has ever died there, and they saw no evidence of increased drug use. On the contrary, the research showed that along with a decrease in deaths, the injection site also led to users seeking out detoxing programs, like taking methadone, which can help wean someone off of heroin.  

And then of course there is the proposal of legalization. This one really gets people popping off. Many think legalizing hard drugs is totally f*cking absurd, but hear me out. Legalization doesn’t mean every man, man, woman and child gets to do as much heroin as they want wherever they want starting tomorrow. Like weed or alcohol, there would be rules, licenses, and other boring paperwork involved designed to keep the drugs safe and regulated. You couldn’t just go buy heroin at the kid across the street’s heroin stand. That is not the vibe I’m going for. 

Lastly, we have to address the way we talk about drugs and drug use. As I mentioned in my intro, we tend to assign certain stereotypes to different drugs. Weed is generally accepted as a fine drug these days. Cocaine is generally frowned upon, but it’s not stigmatized to the point where people who use it are ostracized from society. This is largely because it’s a drug associated with higher class people, typically rich white people. Crack is literally just cocaine in a different form, but it’s associated with poorer communities of color so it has a worse rep. Drugs like crack, meth, and heroin have been assigned stigmatizing, dehumanizing words to describe those who use them. I’m talking about words like “crack head,” “meth head,” and “junkie.” Language matters, and when we use these words to label people, we automatically cast them aside and leave them behind. Reuscher told me he sees this mentality affect his clients a lot. “We’ve weaponized terms like ‘junkie’ or ‘addict’ to such a degree that people are actually dying in order to avoid the shame that comes with those labels. People should never use drugs alone because it’s unsafe, yet do so because they don’t believe that they will be met with love, compassion, and acceptance.”

So many overdoses happen because someone was using drugs alone, in shame, and there was no one there to save them. If we talked about drug use more openly and a less stigmatizing way, it could literally save lives. I guess what I’m saying is maybe we should retire the word “crackhead” from the list of things we call coworkers who are a little too perky in the morning. 

Look, maybe you don’t agree with me on some or all of this. And maybe the solutions I have provided here won’t work. But guess what? What we’re doing right now isn’t working. People are dying. At an alarming rate. And the ways in which we are trying to deal with it prove time and time again to be ineffective. So why not try something new? Riddle me that, my queens.

You can learn more about harm reduction via The Harm Reduction Coalition here.

You can be certified to administer NARCAN by Garrett Reuscher by attending a training session. Narcan trainings are during GMHC regular business hours located at 307 West 38th street, New York, NY 10018. You can contact Garrett Reuscher at (212) 367-1221 or [email protected]

You can buy drug testing materials and educate yourself on the effects and potential dangers of specific drugs by visiting the Dance Safe website here.

Images: Giphy (5), Twitter @GarrettReuscher (1)

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All The Drugs The ‘Vanderpump Rules’ Cast Has Admitted To Using

It’s no secret that sobriety plays a small role in Vanderpump Rules. But while the Vanderpump Rules cast is open about their drinking, we’ve never seen so much as a bong on camera. (We know they’re smoking weed. They’ve all admitted to smoking weed.) This isn’t exactly surprising. But it was a pretty refreshing change when the Vanderpump Rules cast finally opened up a little bit about their use of drugs this season. Too many impressionable youths are watching this show for the cast not to disclose that their 72-hour benders, impossibly tiny figures, and frequent meltdowns are fueled by a little something extra. They’re open about the damage alcohol has caused—I’m glad they’re being open about this too. Here are all the drugs the Vanderpump Rules cast has admitted to taking, not counting drugs they are prescribed, because I don’t want to get my ass in trouble with HIPAA.

Kristen Doute/Stassi Schroeder

Drugs: Adderall, Xanax, marijuana

Kristen and Stassi both made this pretty easy for me. They’ve openly discussed their Adderall and Xanax use—Stassi on camera as well as off. Quick highlight reel of Stassi’s on-screen season 6 drug references: blackout on tequila and Adderall at her birthday party, Xanax and alcohol during the finale. For Kristen, we have her “Xanax and edibles” refrain about her travel anxiety in Mexico, plus some pretty explicit IG stories of late including her smoking a bowl and a collection of her beside prescription bottles. Side note: The Xanax may very well be prescribed. But mixing it with alcohol/other sedatives means they’re def not taking it AS prescribed.

We’ve discussed Stassi’s super scary mixing of alcohol and Xanax at some length. But in case you need a refresher: Side effects of mixing Xanax and alcohol may include: siding with your douchehat boyfriend, inappropriate smiling because you don’t know WTF is going on, and literally dying. Do not do this.

As for the Adderall use, Stassi admits to abusing it to get through long shooting days, keep her weight down, and drink the required amount of alcohol for a reality star without passing out. Ugh. Bravo, take better care of your people.

Scheana Marie

Drug: Marijuana

We all knew that Scheana was a “craaazy pothead”, hence repeating herself every single episode of this season. What I didn’t know is that Scheana was actually sued in 2016 for pot smoke pouring out of her apartment. Yikes. So ya girl does, in fact, smoke. But just in case we weren’t clear enough at this point, she’s also been IG storying what seems to be a weed tour through Hawaii. I guess once the entire internet roasted the use of weed as her excuse for her Robsession, she decided she needed to develop some receipts in a hurry. Which, yeah, if you’re going to claim weed gave you the level of foresight and mental acuity of the cast of Pineapple Express, I’m gonna demand you back that up.

Lala Kent

Drug: Marijuana

Like Scheana, Lala too has referenced her own weed smoking at some length. Less than you’d expect for someone who claims that Tupac’s “spirit lives inside her,” but some. (I love a good stoner girl, but I can’t help calling Scheana and Lala out here. They’ve always been in that weird guy’s-girl, wannabe-hood zone that aligns itself with exclusively taking two hits for the ‘Gram.) On her horrifying episode of Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald, Lala says she’s quit smoking, and switched to natural remedies. You know, like sucking on a “baba,” or on a dick. Starting to think we disagree on what “natural remedy” means.

Lala, after one hit off a blunt:

Everyone Else

Drug: Marijuana

Katie and Tom both seem like they’ve been hitting the edibles fairly heavily this season, which Katie admitted to taking before her wedding. Katie specifically mentions going to dispensaries because “they have lots of candies and chocolates and I like to eat the edibles.” And while Schwartz never admits to indulging himself, can we at least agree that he really, really seems like a die-hard stoner? (See: always wearing sandals, no real ambition to speak of, etc.)

Here’s one of my fave Schwartz-HAS-to-be-stoned-here GIFs:

As for the rest of them, James Kennedy talks about having been “first in line” at “all the clubs and clinics” since they let you in when you’re 18. (We get it James, you’re young.)  Jax and Brittany have video evidence of them lighting up in an airport bathroom, and Jax mentions that he picked the habit up from Brittany’s parents. Possibly the cutest fact about this couple. We know Ariana smokes as well from the time she referenced “hiding the bong” from Sandoval’s mother. (God, I pay way too much attention to this show.) I don’t have specific evidence for anyone else, but I’d assume Raquel at least needs some kind of memory-reducing drug to have not yet dumped James.

As for the burning question I’m sure you all had: We have no concrete evidence that anyone is doing coke. Plenty of people (Sandoval included) have suggested that Jax has a serious coke problem, but we don’t have any evidence other than his six nose jobs and everything he says and does on camera. All around, it seems like we’re dealing with a group of semi-stoners, a lot of anxiety disorders (don’t act like you wouldn’t develop one too), and a hopefully waning Adderall problem from the early years. Basically, your sorority pledge class. Celebs, they’re just like us!

Images: Giphy (5)

G-Eazy Got Arrested For Exactly What You’d Think

Back in college, I used to get wasted on Wednesday nights, but now my typical hump day evening consists of watching The Real Housewives of New York City before being in bed promptly by 11. Apparently, G-Eazy and I have very different lives. G-Eazy got arrested for assault and cocaine possession in Sweden on Wednesday night, which is crazy but also not that surprising at the same time. He was partying after the first European show of his Beautiful & Damned Tour, and things obviously got a little out of hand. There aren’t a lot of details yet, but let’s go over what we know about this Swedish train wreck.

First of all, just a reminder that G-Eazy’s name is Gerald. Sorry, I just still think it’s really funny. Anyway, he’s in the middle of his big fancy world tour, and Stockholm was the first stop, so naturally it was time to get fucked up. There was an afterparty, and the guests included a lot of Swedish people, G-Eazy’s girlfriend/overgrown scene kid Halsey, and Sean Kingston. Yes, Sean Kingston of “Beautiful Girls” fame. Honestly, Sean Kingston randomly being at this party is my favorite part of this whole story. I’m just glad he’s fully recovered from that tragic jet ski accident, bless up.

Gerald in Sweden last night via @joelighe, @alenrezai, @arooobert, @mirandauthardt, and @idalinneaskoglund #geazy #whenitsdarkout #thesethingshappen #mustbenice #endlesssummer #eazyseason #bayarea #thebeautifulanddamned #geazypics #gerald #hfk #halsey #hfktour #hopelessfountainkingdom #halseyandgeazy

A post shared by g-eazy updates ???? (@the.gerald.updates) on May 2, 2018 at 8:24pm PDT

God bless the G-Eazy stan account on Instagram for somehow having video of him fucked up at his afterparty, and also for posting concert photos today like nothing happened. You da realest. According to sources at the party, G-Eazy was having a really great time (read: on a lot of drugs) and started acting belligerent. So glad that’s never happened to me. When security tried to get him to calm down, he started swinging, and allegedly hit one guard in the face several times. Oops!

G-Eazy got arrested and was taken into custody on suspicion of assault, and then the cops also found coke in his pocket (oops again!), so he also got charged with both possession and use of narcotics. He’s reportedly still in custody, but I’m sure Halsey is planning an elaborate scheme to break him out of jail before his next tour date. Imagine the Lady Gaga/Beyoncé “Telephone” video, but grainier and taken in the Perpetua filter. Before you go berating me in the comments section, just look at his last posted Instagram and tell me I’m not right.

Sweden ???? @tristan_edouard

A post shared by G-Eazy (@g_eazy) on

Ah, look how pensive G-Eazy looks in his artsy Instagram photo, posted just hours before he would be passing out shots and doing bumps off of Halsey’s finger (I imagine). Simpler times, truly. There hasn’t been any sort of statement from G-Eazy or his team, but I’m sure there’ll be something dramatic as soon as he gets out of prison. Halsey will probably like, release 1,000 white doves into the sky to signal his innocence while they ride off into the distance on a motorcycle. Their entire lives are like that one week in your 2008 emo phase where you thought you were like, a very good poet.

While it seems like a cocaine arrest would finally give G-Eazy some much-needed street cred, it really just adds to his reputation as a glorified frat rapper. Seriously, punching a security guard in a drunken coke rage is behavior that matches 85% of the dudes in any fraternity. So if you have tickets to G-Eazy’s show on Sunday in Copenhagen, you might want to make other plans. Gerald is a little busy, that is unless the Swedish police are big fans of “Me Myself & I” and decide to go easy on him. I have a feeling he’ll be okay.

Images: @the.gerald.updates, @g_eazy / Instagram