(Disclaimer: The Sherp does not advocate the use of any stimulants and this article is purely on a need-to-know basis.)
There has been a long standing war between alcohol and drugs and we have all played some part in it. Be it listening to that one friend who religiously advocates marijuana and its benefits over alcohol any day to collective media constantly telling you to just say no. It’s all very confusing and sometimes you forget where you stand.
Music festivals are the only place where this battle plays out in its entirety. Alcohol works as water and drugs, well as everything after that. The number of people queued up at the bar is almost equal to the number of shady dealers who will approach you to sell drugs. Though alcohol is available inside legally, the amount of drugs slyly smuggled in are way more than enough to balance it out. So what is this entire debate about? Which of the two is advisable, or rather not advisable? The Sherp gives you a step by step breakdown of how each of these substances affect your body. Again, we condone the use of any artificial stimulants and this all purely for educational purposes. So let’s get started, shall we?
First of all, lets talk about the effects these stimulants have on your body. The effects vary greatly and this is one of the major reasons people dabble with them.
Your body on alcohol
Being drunk is basically a physiological state, that may also include changes in consciousness, that is forced upon the body by the ingestion of ethanol. In plain words, we feel drunk when the alcohol enters the body much faster than it can be metabolised by the liver, which works constantly to break it down into non intoxicating parts. A person experiences extreme emotions such as euphoria or acute sadness under the influence of alcohol and a fall in social inhibition is quickly noticed! So all in all, alcohol makes you feel pretty dope. Depending on what your poison is, the effects might vary slightly, but overall the increased ethanol content in your body is enough to make you feel like texting your ex at 3 a.m. is superb idea.
Alcohol at music festivals is usually the only hydration that festival attendees bother paying attention to and this is exactly where it starts getting dangerous. Most attendees spend most of the day out in the sun, stoked out for the artists that they don’t want to miss out on. This coupled with the dehydration caused by constantly consuming alcohol can have scary results, with people passing out from heat strokes all the time. Not to mention that it wrecks with your immune system!
Your body on drugs
Now drugs, are a very vast field, so lets narrow it down, shall we? The most famous drugs consumed at music festivals are MDMA, LSD, cocaine, mushrooms and the likes.
MDMA, or ecstacy or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine is one of the most popular party drugs used nowadays. MDMA acts on a neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which many medical experts believe is the key to shaping the mood and behaviour of a person. Low levels of it are associated with acute sadness and depression. MDMA is said to increase the presence of serotonin and dopamine, another very important neurotransmitter that affects moods.
Then there are the hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD and ‘magic’ mushrooms. They play heavily with our sensory perceptions and thought processes. They do this by simply altering the way messages are sent and received by the brain. LSD, or acid, is most commonly taken by eating stamps, a square piece of paper that has been soaked in the drug. The most popular way of consuming mushrooms, is to eat them. The LSD ‘trip’ usually lasts for about 8-12 hours in which a person experiences extremely vivid visual hallucinations.
The drug is known to, for lack of a better term, loosen filters that the brain usually holds up, to let an individual experience the outside the world with no filters or screens. At a much higher level, the trip begins to merge into something known as syntheasia, where your senses overlap and you can see sounds or hear colours.
Mushrooms have a lot in common with LSD as well, as both immediately affect the central nervous system and induce visions of a distorted reality. Feelings and emotions intensify, as colours and sounds are enhanced.
Now that we know what exactly consuming each of these substances does to our body, lets observe their effects, mostly short term.
Effects of alcohol
We have all been there. Waking up on a Sunday morning with the worst headache, a little (or a lot) of puke on your shirt and absolutely no idea about what went down last night. Yes, we are talking about the dreaded hangover. Hangovers, or veisalgia, are the terrible combination of nausea, headaches, drowsiness and excessive thirst one experiences after consuming great amounts of alcohol. It is one of the most common effects of alcohol, along with absent mindedness, losing control of your judgement and decision making skills. So what exactly is a hangover?
Surprisingly, hangovers have very little research attributed to them. As hard as it to believe, we still don’t know for sure what causes the hell we go through the next morning. One of the most common explanations is dehydration. People who are on a drinking binge don’t really consume a lot of water at the time and the constant visits to the loo due to the influx of alcohol do not help either. This leads to your body being severely dehydrated. But dehydration explains only some of the symptoms such as feeling light-headed and dizzy. Another is how alcohol manages to screw with the chemical balance of your body. The Alcohol Hangover Research Group, has conducted intensive studies into the matter and pinpoint low and high blood sugar, intensified by acute dehydration for some of the reasons for the proverbial hangover.
Effects of drugs
Though the trip itself makes one feel and hear sounds that are not real, the effects of drugs are not just limited to that. While under the influence of LSD, people supposedly undergo increased blood pressure, rapid emotional shifts, dry mouth, excessive sweating, loss of appetite and tremors. Its influence on neurotransmitters brings about quick mood swings, that are intensified due the chemical shift. Time perception is highly changed during this period, as things seem to time seems to either slow down or speed up. It’s not easy to have control over your individual self while under influence.
Magic mushrooms function on mostly the same principle. MDMA, or ecstasy, can set off involuntary muscle clenching and teeth chattering, aggressiveness, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, rise in body temperature and blurred vision. It gives you a high that is powered by brilliant energy, that is why most people choose to use it during festivals or parties. They are usually the ones out all night on the dance floor or quietly tripping in a corner. Another common drug used is cocaine, which gives a considerably shorter high compare to other drugs, but has addictive qualities. Snorting it warrants an easy 25-30 minutes high whereas smoking it is known to last for 5-10 minutes minimum. Large amounts of cocaine lead to erratic, irrational behaviour, a notable fall in energy levels, loss of appetite and anxiety.
But when you regularly use them, its better to focus on the long term effects to get an idea about the changes your body goes through.
Long term effects of alcohol
Alcohol has to be the most popular recreational substance used and abused by most. It’s easily available and liked by most. Most importantly people have found a way to deal with its short term effects, discussed earlier. One sick leave to get over that hangover and you are good to go. But what about the long term effects? It isn’t the first thing you’re going to be thinking of when your friends call you for a night out. The long term effects of continued alcohol consumption include alcohol poisoning, nerve damage, failing libido and liver diseases. Regular and badly monitored alcohol intake is almost poison for some very crucial organs, which include the heart and liver. Other effects include increase in risk of cancer, skin problems and poor nutrition.
Long term effects of drugs
Each drug affects the body in a different manner. It also depends on the age, weight and health of the user for the drug to take effect. But there is one thing common for all of them, they most popularly known for their short term effects. Take LSD for example. It is one of the most commonly used drugs, mostly used by people in school in colleges at parties and raves. People have experienced lingering effects long after the influence of the drug has passed, such as sleeplessness, panic attacks and the most common one, flashbacks.
They are much more intense if a person has experienced a bad trip and there is no predicting when each one will occur. But for those who have had a good trip, LSD is said to change the way you think about things. It is very common for people to chance upon rare insights and solutions while under its influence. Almost the same applies to mushrooms, as both have similar effects on the body.
MDMA tends to have much more severe when its long lasting effects are concerned. One of the major issues is the quick dependency on the drug that users develop. Users are at a risk of kidney damage due to to continuous use of the drug, coupled with serious dental issues as users tend to suck on and grind their teeth under influence which leads to a lot of cavities and gum diseases. But probably the scariest is the risk of losing out on cognitive and memory storage abilities. Some users take months to recover mentally from an intense trip due to loss of concentration and damage done to the production of serotonin.
So here it is. The basic guide to all the stimulants that you are most likely to encounter in a music festival.
Do your research, know what you are getting into and most importantly, stay safe!