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Title: Speed: Everything You Need to Know (and Then Some)
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: March 2011
Catalog Number: 152


..Bad Mojo in Edge City

You see it everywhere — from
the rush to school in the morning to the crush in the cafeteria
at lunchtime, through the long afternoon countdown to the final
bell.

It seems like
all anyone wants is to zip past where they are to get to where
they’re going next.

That’s not
the reason they call it the human race — but it could be.

It’s not like
it’s bad that things are that way.

If people didn’t
want to go faster, we’d probably all still be tooling down Main
on good old pedal-power. Heck, nobody probably would have bothered
to invent the bike — or the wheel, for that matter — so we’d
all be walking.

And if people
didn’t like the idea of speed, we probably wouldn’t have Roadrunner
cartoons or Air Jordans or Sonic the Hedgehog or a million other
things a lot of us consider essential.

On the other
hand, the drive to race through life and hang ten at the edge
of existence isn’t always good, either.

Example? Consider
the group of drugs known as “speed.” They’re the original
who-says-you-can’t-have-it-all drug group that supposedly lets
you burn the candle at both ends (Watch out for that drip!),
and have your cake and eat it, too. (Burp!)

People use
them for the same reason they run red lights and put off studying
until the night before an exam — because they think they can
get away with it.

What they get
instead is a short burst of jangled energy that they hope sets
them apart from dull-witted mere mortals (like you and me) who
have to do boring stuff like eating and sleeping and homework.

What they also
get instead are problems. And speed can cause a ton of those:
to both mind and body.

That’s the
point of this pamphlet. In it, we’re going to talk about stimulant
drugs. We’ll describe how they work and discuss some of the problems
they cause.

And they do
cause problems.

In fact, in
a lot of ways for a lot of people, the only thing that speed
really speeds up are problems. And that’s worth considering in
a world where you have to choose as fast as you do in this one.


Fast Facts

The word “speed”
itself can refer to any of a number of stimulant drugs, which
do just what their name implies: they stimulate, or speed up,
the body and brain.

Lots of speedy
chemicals have been used throughout history in the quest for
fast times, but the Big 3 are still the Big 3: caffeine, amphetamines,
and cocaine.

Caffeine

The most common
pick-me-up in the world is caffeine. About a billion people use
some form of it every day — maybe even you.

It’s a drug
that occurs naturally in coffee and chocolate, and one that’s
added by the ton to colas and other soft drinks for the lift
it provides. It’s also an ingredient in stay-awake tablets and
painkillers.

One reason
for its popularity is its mild stimulating effects. But caffeine
has a downside, too.

For starters,
it makes some people jittery and irritable. (Ever hear of “coffee
nerves”?) And it can also cause sleeplessness.

It’s also habit-forming,
which means that the first cup of Folgers in the morning (or
the first Dr. Pepper) often leads to another — and another.
Hey, man, can you spare a buck for some Mountain Dew?

But since its
effects are mild and most people tolerate it well, caffeine has
earned a permanent place in the hearts and minds of people today.

But it’s still
a drug. And believe it or not, it’s not all that different from
other forms of speed.

Amphetamines

These are the
drugs most people think about when they talk about “speed.”
And amphetamines have gotten a lot of attention lately, thanks
mostly to methamphetamine — also known as “crank”
or “crystal meth.”

It might surprise
you, but amphetamines were once considered “wonder drugs.”
That’s because they work so well at blocking hunger and fatigue
that no one got around to checking out how they work.

When they did,
doctors linked dozens of problems to the drugs, including increases
in blood pressure and heart rate and major vitamin and mineral
deficiencies.

When they dug
even deeper, they found that the drugs work by tilting the balance
of chemicals in the brain that regulate attention and mood.

Amphetamines
make users feel like the mayor of Edge City itself — powerful,
confident, in charge.

The problem
is that they only get to stay in office as long as they’re wired
(and keep on taking more speed) and mayors in Edge City tend
to get assassinated anyway.

Cocaine

Here’s another
stimulant drug that’s famous for turning heroes into zeroes and
the living into the no-longer-living.

Sold as a white
powder that’s sniffed or injected or as rock-like chunks that
are smoked (“crack”), cocaine causes the same basic
effects as other forms of speed, but which usually don’t last
as long.

That might
seem like a good thing, but it isn’t.

Since cocaine
lasts such a short time (crack’s effects wear off in minutes),
users have to keep using it to stay high. And it’s the first
part of the high — what users call the “rush” — that
hooks people.

That’s also
the riskiest time for users. That’s when blood pressure and heart
rate soar, sometimes completely off the charts. (See paragraph
one above for what happens when that happens.)


..Spin Cycle

Stimulant drugs
do more than produce similar effects. They also cause similar
problems.

That’s because
they make the body run hotter and harder than it’s meant to.
And you know what happens when you push something too hard for
too long: It breaks.

Some problems
happen all at once — overdose, for example. Others take longer.

Since speed
zaps appetite so well, the body can run out of the vitamins and
minerals it needs to run on and repair itself. And even though
it can draw on stored supplies for a while, when they’re used
up, serious problems can result.

Teeth and bones
lose calcium, and cavities and weakened bones result. The heart,
liver, and lungs can also be damaged.

Other problems
stem from lack of sleep and changes in brain chemistry.

But no matter
where they come from, some of the psychological problems that
speed can cause (including violence, paranoia, and mental illness)
aren’t pretty or fun — or easy to get rid of, after the fact.


..Thin Air

For a long
time, people thought that stimulants somehow created their effects
out of thin air.

They were wrong.
Speed and cocaine only let you borrow energy from tomorrow (or
the day, week, or month after) to use today.

Real energy
has to come from somewhere, since it doesn’t come in pills or
powders. Where it comes from is inside the person who’s using
the drug.

That’s one
reason so many people get strung out on speed.

They get hooked
on energy they’re borrowing from the future, from parts of their
lives they haven’t lived yet, and they burn it all up at once.

And while it
might seem like a cool idea to be able to keep bopping and buzzing
along for days at a time, if you’re not in control of your own
body and brain in the present and you’re burning up your future,
it doesn’t matter how fast you’re going, because you’re not really
going anywhere.

Ask anyone
who’s ever been there, but remember: You don’t have to go to
know.

Edge City isn’t all it’s cranked
up to be.


This is one in a series of publications
on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation.
Please call or write for a complete list of available titles,
or check us out online at
www.doitnow.org.


 

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