Updated: Nov 16, 2019
Before I start reminiscing about my drug days, let me be very clear, I am in no way advocating or encouraging the use of narcotics. I don’t even approve of the irresponsible way many doctors prescribe legal pharmaceuticals. I believe there is an important difference between using drugs and abusing drugs and, in my day, I did both. So this is meant to be a sort of “Don’t try this at home” disclaimer. The ’60s and ’70s were a unique time that was fueled by the drug culture. Which was nothing like the prescription abuse or opioid crisis in our country today. For one thing, there was a lot more dancing involved. What can I say? You had to be there.
You have to remember that, back in the ’60s, children were never prescribed medication by psychiatrists. Nobody knew anything about ADHD or autism back then. Everybody just assumed you were either bad or stupid and treated you accordingly. The idea of giving kids prescription drugs for aberrant behavior would have been like making them a stiff drink after a tough day at school. The first time I became aware of any drugs harder than children’s aspirin was when they started being used for fun. They were glamorized by our role models on TV shows, movies and music. Many of us were first exposed to them in safe surroundings by older friends or relatives. (Thanks, sis.) We were raised in a time when illegal drug use was crossing over from the counter culture into pop culture. Even our cartoons were obviously inspired by people who were tripping their brains out.
By the time I became a teenager, drugs were commonly used for recreational purposes. We either got the illegal kind you could buy from dealers in your neighborhood or the pharmaceutical kind you could steal from your parent’s medicine cabinet. My mother kept Valium and Seconal in the house but never kept track of them. (This made me very popular at parties.) The Rolling Stones had a great song that called them, Mother’s Little Helpers. They might have helped mom get “through her busy day” but they also helped her children experiment with drugs for the first time. Now my generation takes drugs regularly as a matter of necessity for either our deteriorating bodies or for our distressed minds. How I long for those innocent days of recreational drugs.
Most of us started with marijuana. (Actually, I was tripping on acid before I ever smoked pot but that was probably just me.) It was cheap and easily accessible and completely different than the weed you buy today. Most of it came from either Jamaica or Mexico. Occasionally, you’d come across the high-end stuff like Thai Stick and feel like you were a Texan who just struck oil. Today there are literally hundreds of strains available with such highly imaginable and sometimes inexplicable names as Turbo Mind Warp, Russian Rocket Fuel, Girl Scout Cookies, Gog & Magog, Buddha’s Sister, Devil’s Tit and Cat Piss, just to name a few. Nothing we bought was nearly as strong or as refined as the pot they sell today. Back then, you could smoke a whole joint by yourself and attend all your classes and nobody would even notice you were high. Probably because most teenagers act like stoned idiots most of the time anyway.
Quantities of pot were usually measured by weight on scales but this was an impractical method when purchasing on the streets or in a car. In which case measurements would have to be made against your hand. If you were paying top dollar for an ounce (which was about $25 at the time) you would expect to get a full “5-finger bag”. This was measured by holding your extended fingers together (like a salute) alongside a baggie filled with weed. The only problem with this method was those afflicted with chubby hands often felt like they were getting ripped off. We would then have to spend inordinate amounts of time cleaning the sticks and seeds out of the pot before we could smoke it. Much in the same way that miners used to pan for gold in the 1800’s.
If you were really into pot then you were probably also into the paraphernalia that went along with it. Once you stopped being a kid and you outgrew collecting baseball cards or comic books or whatever your innocent little mind was into, dope offered you a whole new world of collectable items. There was a wide variety of rolling papers, roach clips, pipes and bongs that provided us with hours of unwholesome fun. Head shops became the new toy stores and a fancy new bong became a stoner’s status symbol. Of course, once again, none of that compares to the cornucopia of paraphernalia and delivery methods available to potheads today. Now you can smoke it, vape it, eat it, drink it, rub it, spray it, swallow it or fuck it. (That’s right. You heard me.) They actually have cannabis flavored condoms now. Personally, I think that sounds disgusting but I did come up with a new slogan for them –
Put a little hemp in your hump!
They used to say, pot is a gateway drug to harder drugs. I used to say, yeah right, in the same way that milk is a gateway beverage to alcohol. Although, I can’t deny that I did go on to use harder drugs. (Again, thanks, sis.) Remember Quaaludes? How about Black Beauties? Ever take Placidyls? Ever trip on acid, LSD or psilocybin mushrooms? We were very open and were willing to try whatever trendy new drug came along. I remember trying something called Chocolate Mescaline in college once. I had no idea what it was but I was young and stupid and everyone else was doing it (which I believe is the definition of being a teenager). Besides, it had chocolate in the name. And who doesn’t like chocolate? I wish I could tell you what it was like but all I remember is waking up in the bushes two stories below my dorm room window.
Cocaine wasn’t as popular in the rock ‘n’ roll charged ’60s but certainly came into its own in the disco driven ’70s. I still believe it’s the only reason so many people put up with that music for so long. The two just seemed to go together. Probably because everything goes better with coke. By the ’80s, cocaine broke out of the clubs and into the workplace and it’s how a generation got its jobs done. Man, did we work hard and fast and long hours. And we didn’t even mind. The only bummer was when you’d run out before you were done and would have to run out to score some more. From the worker bees to the top executives and from Wall Street to Hollywood Blvd., for a while our economy was fueled by cocaine.
If you were a regular drug user then you always had to have a “Guy”. And by that I mean a “Guy” who supplied you with your illegal drugs. Everybody had at least one “Guy”, depending on what you were into and how badly you were into it. These “Guys” never had a last name. At least, not that you cared about. You used to have to go to the “Guy’s” house to score and you’d usually have to make awkward small talk. Sometimes your friend could be the “Guy” but the “Guy” could never be your friend. Either way, you had to be friendly with the “Guy” because you wanted him to like you so he’d be there when you needed him (sometimes you’d be calling very late at night) and so he wouldn’t screw you on the deal (it’s not like you could call the cops). Then, one glorious day, the “Guy” started delivering and the world became a better place. It was like when the first Star Wars movie came out. It changed everything. Of course, it didn’t alleviate the need for awkward conversation and now this sketchy character knew where you lived but it was worth the price. Which included the mark-up you had to pay for delivery.
Those of us who survived the ’70s and the ’80s were pretty much forced to grow-up and settle down in the ’90s. We could no longer party like there was no tomorrow. Tomorrow had come. So we abdicated the drug scene to a younger generation that continued our traditions. (Although, we still liked to occasionally dabble in the excesses of youth.) They gave rise to narcotics like Ecstasy, Poppers and a variety of designer drugs. Along with stronger and scarier substances like Crystal Meth, Crack and Heroin that became popular to the point of starting a fashion trend called “Heroin Chic”. Which did not last long for obvious reasons.
At my age, doing drugs takes on a whole new meaning. You can’t do the fun kind anymore because they might kill you but you have to take the serious kind because they might keep you alive. To me, it’s always been one of life’s great ironies. When we’re young and have our whole lives ahead of us, we are reckless and take all kinds of risks that could get us killed. But when we’re old and only have a few years left, we get all cautious and careful in a frightened attempt to prolong our lives as long as possible. Seems to me it should be the other way around.
I never had any kids of my own and I have no intention of ever running for political office, so I can be completely honest about my history with illegal substances. When I was younger and my old stoner friends were having children, I would often ask them, what are you going to tell your kids when they ask you if you ever did drugs? It was interesting and kind of fun to watch them squirm as they considered this inevitable and dreaded question. Don’t forget that ours was the first generation that had to grapple with this moral dilemma. Usually I got one of two responses. The first and most common was, “I’m going to lie.” The other frequent response was, “I’m going to tell them the truth, of course. Just not the whole truth.” From this I can only surmise that no child ever really knows how bad their parents once were, the extent of their crimes or the depth of their depravities. And I suppose that’s the way it should be.