Drug Club Night

Club nights are like bands. The better the name, more likely they are to draw a decent crowd. Up the ante by offering free drugs – or at least a safe space to celebrate the most prescribed poppers – and it’ll be a mob scene. Why, then, make adverts for such happenings, more complicated?

M first thought was that this flyer was a reference to the anti-anxiety pharmaceutical’s rising popularity as a party drug.  This (relatively) recent phenomenon has certainly taken hold of my imagination. During the 1980s and the 1990s, newspapers had reported on the alleged ties between government and drug cartels, claiming for instance, that the CIA used crack cocaine as a means of financing the Contra rebels in Nicaragua whilst flooding the inner city with the drugs as a means of creating or maintaining an underclass through addiction and gang wars. These are contentious, if persistent claims. And yet they resonate today in regards to a more legal drugs trade. Beyond the usual handwringing over over-medication (something that I sometimes fear heaps further stigma on mental illness, and prevents those suffering from depressive illness from seeking treatment,) there are some troubling issues.

In the past decade, pharmaceuticals have grown in popularity as recreational drugs; Oxycodone is called ‘Hillbilly Heroin’, which seems to be a reference to its affordability and availability more so than an effort to elevate the classiness of the street drug. And then there is the widespread prescription of ADHD drugs to school children, and alarmingly, to low-income communities in a manner that suggests behavioural modification of individuals to benefit institutions. The image fused the pharmaceutical industry with street drugs, creating a semi-official expression of this continuum.

The image suggests something akin to the Soma of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. This does not immediately appear to be an underclass destroying itself, or a legion of newly modified instruments of the institution: These people are disengaged—from the world, and in a manner from each other as they do not seem to be holding any suggestion of eye contact.  They are caught up in a world of pleasure, which tames any need to revolt. It would seem that both figures have a lot to rebel against, as they are subjected to a seemingly racist and sexist composition: The white woman straddles and covers the black figure, androgynous in that I could not determine their actual sex. Both are spread and displayed for the viewer, their bodies providing merely attractive background for the important information. “Free Entry” reads some of the text placed near the genital vortex. They have been utterly subjugated to the function of the poster.

Granted, one could argue that for every model. However, these people do not look back, or seem to be involved in anything but an artificial ecstasy. Perhaps a little Xanax would improve the experience.

Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit


  1. Well…sort of.

    Hillbilly Heroin is often set off by the unwillingness of its users to cross the threshold of admission (injecting drugs) that would irrevocably tie them to other “hard drug” users. Popping a bunch of pills is still in the same foreign-body hermeneutic as taking an aspirin.

    Similarly, heroin itself is crossing the same lines. As recently as the mid-90s, it was impossible to use heroin without injecting. Smoking or snorting lost too much in terms of bioavailability of the drug itself. Now, with increased purity, one can actually get off smoking or snorting the drug. And it gets cheaper by the year, as has cocaine. The drug war’s chief winner seems to be hard drugs appearing in the discount aisles even as simple weed elevates itself to designer-drug status/expense.

    So the phenom with drug party. It reads to me like an effort to re-Value the drug experience as one that is “mass”ively appealing, but targeted at a certain class. It’s the velvet rope by a club…a way of ensuring that a particular segment of the people get to attend. One that is superficially diverse, etc. But definitely a way to maintain a NOCD vibe to the outsiders.

  2. Thank you, Harreld. I love this idea of the name as virtual velvet rope and one that is so useful for something that purports to be diverse and inclusive.
    Meanwhile, if there are any thoughts on the term ‘hillbilly heroin’ I’d like to know them. This is such a highly classed term and one I wouldn’t have immediately associated with prescription drugs…

  3. To extend Herrold’s observation, even in regions that where just a few years ago oxycodone strongholds, an influx of white powder heroin is blurring the class lines of who is using dope. Snortable, strong dope has a cache unlike either oxy or black tar heroin. A lot of folks in my area, a rural slice of California, who might have otherwise avoided the stigma of the latter two, are getting pulled in by the former.

    Alfred McCoy, author The Politics of Heroin in East Asia, predicted this eventuality during the aftermath of the Afghanistan war. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to see that instability in a major poppy region results in decreased attention to opium eradication and drives up the need for cash to fund the machinery of ground level war. The result is an increased worldwide supply of better, stronger, cheaper heroin.

    I know of plenty local kids getting straight into snorting white dope, with pretty bad eventual results. From what I read, Afghani supply does not seem to increasing anymore, but there sure is a lot of white powder around where oxy used to reign.

  4. Actually I think that this picture was taken by Is Tropical band when they came to perform at our party.
    First of all, i am a bit disappointed as you could contact our press so that we could give you further details about our party and the design of the flyer.
    Second of all, the name has anything to do with the party itself, it is an indie rock party and our customers hardly are users of any kind of substance.
    Third of all, we just gave to public eye what they wanted to talk about it.
    I figure public opinion is so shallow and plain that is easly brought on fields you actually want to bring it and it doent even notice.
    Marty Party

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