Do Any Other Meth Users Find These Labels Pretty Arbitrary?

    If any of you use stimulants and have a particularly good system for waking up on time, I wouldn’t mind hearing about it, because mine is getting more and more elaborate without working any better.

    I still set multiple alarms on my phone, but because these are not to be trusted I also have an analog alarm clock that makes a sound I viscerally hate. The alarm clock is at least 5 feet away, and on top of it is at least one boofing syringe I’ve filled with somewhere around .1 grams meth the night before. There are two more next to my bed; I need the alarm clock to be out of arm’s reach so I have to get up to make it stop, but I need enough meth to be within arm’s reach to be able to do this.

    Over the past six months I have gradually trained the cat, kind of, to yell at me for breakfast around 6 am rather than 4:45 am. This is not a foolproof system either, so there’s usually another pre-loaded syringe in the bathroom in case I forget to use enough of the bedside ones. Sometimes a few scattered around in places like the fridge, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me.

    Stimulants and sedatives are what separate daytime and nighttime, more so than the position of the sun.

    Stimulants have been how I start my day almost every day for the past decade. But sedatives determine whether my day starts in the morning, and whether it’s one with 24 hours or one that’s going to surprise me.

    If the day is the 24-hour kind, I’ll boof somewhere around half a gram of meth from between when I wake up and when I switch to nighttime drugs. There’s a rotating cast of a dozen licit and illicit substances, not all of which are technically sedatives, but one way or another help me go to sleep. They get stacked on top of each other in whatever combinations make sense, sort of the way opioid agonist medications are prescribed in Canada. Usually two at a time, but sometimes three, based more on availability than preference.

    Often I start using them at an hour that would be considered bedtime, but it can also be 5 am or 5 pm or not at all. Stimulants and sedatives are what separate daytime and nighttime, more so than the position of the sun. If I’ve switched from uppers to downers, the day is over.

    My meth use would fall under “addiction” for people who use the term, “substance use disorder” to the non-substance users in harm reduction, probably “chronic substance use/abuse” to medical professionals, “self-medication” to anyone else not sure what to call it and “off-label medical use for treatment-resistant depression” whenever I switch from meth to Adderall. It’s also “chaotic/problematic use” depending on how you squint at it, and “recreational use” because meth is fun.

    I don’t think of myself as a polysubstance user, but it’s what the overdose data would call me if I died.

    People are hard to put neatly into categories, but data is easy. A few years ago we began to characterize the overdose crisis as having evolved past the point of being opioid-specific; we’re in a polysubstance use crisis now, a fourth wave marked by stimulants and especially meth. I don’t think of myself as a polysubstance user, because it’s not really a term people use in real life, but it’s what the overdose data would call me if I died.

    When post-mortem toxicology reveals both fentanyl and meth, the next thing we say is that we don’t know whether they were meth users whose supply was adulterated with fent, or polysubstance users who mixed meth and fent intentionally. I have no idea why this matters. The opioid supply is also adulterated with fent, even for people who prefer it to heroin. No one got to choose—in the cases where people intended to consume fent, they probably didn’t intend to die.

    Everyone’s a polysubstance user if you base that off a single moment in time, which is all death data ever does. Many meth users, including myself, don’t think of themselves as fent users but do use it sometimes. In my case, access to drug-checking allows me to go about it in a way I feel more or less comfortable with, which has been handy. It’s the downer that’s always available.



    Photograph courtesy of Kastalia Medrano

    • Kastalia is Filter‘s deputy editor. She previously worked at a number of other media outlets and wouldn’t recommend the drug coverage at any of them. When not at Filter, she works with drug users in NYC and drug checkers in North Carolina to track hyperlocal supply changes, and cohosts a national stimulant users call with Isaac Jackson.

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