|APAGear II Archives||Volume 5, Number 1||February, 2003|
Note: this article is part two of a two-part series on Utopian drugs. Part one can be found in the previous issue of APAGear. -ed
The unique strains and pressures of life on Utopia have led to a burgeoning subculture of illegal drug abusers. To Utopians it is abundantly clear that humans are ill-equipped to live in underground warrens, no matter how gargantuan, and after generations of life in the Deep Cities even individuals who have never felt direct sunlight on their skin cannot help but harbor the nagging sense that there is something profoundly //wrong// with their lifestyle. Stress-related illnesses, violent crime, and the rampant use of narcotics are some of the most obvious manifestations of this largely unspoken psychological distress. As this constant discomfort impacts all social classes indiscriminately, Utopian drug abuse is not a phenomenon limited to the poor and marginalized, as it has sometimes been at other times and places. The ranks of drug abusers include everyone from Anglefolk, the working class, the military, even the highest levels of political authority.
The drugs used on Utopia come from a wide variety of sources. The mention of illegal narcotics has the tendency to conjure images of discredited chemists cloistered away in accident-prone makeshift laboratories, but the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of substances currently abused were originally created by professionals for a legitimate purpose. In these cases, while the drugs themselves may be legal, they are being used in an illegal fashion.
Unsurprisingly for such a martial world, the bulk of drugs abused are military in origin. Vast quantities of stimulants and narcotic pain-killers were created and dispensed liberally during times of war, and massive stockpiles still exist. While combat drugs and prescription medications with recreational potential tend to be stored in secure facilities, oversights and out-and-out corruption are far from unknown. On Utopia as on other worlds, money talks, and in a voice that carries.
While the military and the medical industry are the two main, albeit inadvertent, producers and suppliers of black market drugs, the influence of the illicit drug labs mentioned previously is not to be discounted. New designer drugs are constantly being innovated, and preexisting drugs are frequently replicated, some more effectively than others, in an effort to meet demands when a given narcotic is in short supply. This often leads to a "family" of different drugs, often with wildly different and/or potentially fatal side-effects, masquerading under a single popular street brand. Factor in the ubiquitous practice of boosting profits by "cutting" narcotics with various foreign substances (chalk dust, pipe cleaning agents, insect repellent, etc) and it is readily apparent just what a gamble black market shopping can be.
The most unusual source of Utopian drugs is the planet's surface ruins. The Ore Magnates' decadent land cruiser-based drug buffets are all but legendary, and in the centuries to follow innumerable narcotic cocktails passed in and out of favor with the drug-using community. Due to the massive upheaval involved with the relocation of the planet's population underground, most of these "vintage" narcotics never made the transition to the subterranean market and have consequently been completely unavailable to Deep City dwellers. However, after the discovery of an intact cache of pre-Great War hallucinogens by a group of Wastrel scavengers a decade ago and the subsequent black market rush to acquire them, the search and recovery of illegal pharmaceuticals has become a profitable, if shady, line of business for adventurous surface dwellers. Pharmaceuticals are fragile and tend to become unusable if not stored under very exacting conditions, and with the devastation of full-scale nuclear war, finding viable narcotics, especially considering the lengthy time periods involved, is an Herculean task. However, on those rare occasions when undamaged drugs, the most limited of limited editions, are discovered, the seller may name her price. Purchasing vintage narcotics has become a sort of fad among the astronomically rich, who have ironically labeled the practice "Antiquing." Wealthy dilettantes hoard these drugs like works of fine art, sometimes sampling them, other times analyzing and replicating them, occasionally selfishly keeping the drugs to themselves. The closest the average drug user can ever hope to get to one of these "classics" is when a knock-off derivative product filters down to the street markets.
Due to mutual paranoia, the isolated nature of Deep Cities, and the stranglehold the CEF has on international movement, the transportation of illegal drugs is challenging. While global trafficking does occur, the difficulty and expense involved ensure that much of the drugs produced in a given nation or Deep City tend to be consumed in that region rather than exported. The notable exception, however, is the trade in salvaged pre-War drugs, as the buyers of vintage pharmaceuticals have both the finances and the power to overcome the trials involved with smuggling controlled substances into the Deep Cities.
For those drugs that are moved internationally, however, surface transport is the mode of choice. The reason for this is that although Utopian airport security is notoriously tight, the difficulty of patrolling wide stretches of devastated, irradiated landscape ensures that surface convoys are generally less closely scrutinized. While guarded, the security of surface entrances, as opposed to airport customs, tends to have more weak points that can be exploited by clever traffickers.
While the occupying CEF forces are invariably exceedingly harsh when they detect evidence of illegal arms dealing, with summary executions almost guaranteed for the suspects, Higgler and Wastrel convoy members have found them to be surprisingly lenient when it comes to the discovery of illegal drugs. More than one perplexed smuggler has been released without question after being caught with dubious pharmaceutical cargo that would have even the dimmest of Utopian customs agents sounding the alarm. There has been no comment, official or otherwise, by Earth representatives about this peculiar double standard.
Though they may be produced in the Deep Cities, the purchase, transport, and sale of illicit drugs on the surface world is dominated by those consummate middlemen, the Higgler merchant clans. Concerned more with profits than morals or laws, the proportion of Higgler clans that do //not// engage in the trafficking of narcotics is a tiny minority. In fact, Elder Jyan Finn, the Clanfather of Hilltown (itself the prime trading post for the overland narcotics industry) is often overheard saying, "We have a word for those clans that don't deal in drugs: poor!"
Interestingly enough, despite their reputation among Deep City dwellers as ne'er-do-wells, the Higglers and Wastrels of the surface world have miniscule rates of drug addiction. Utopia's wastelands are too unforgiving an environment to allow the sort of mistakes that can occur around a drug abuser, and should a Higgler or Wastrel begin to go astray, her comrades are likely to set her straight. After all, their lives are at stake as well.
Because of the cramped quarters Deep City residents are forced to live in, when it comes to illegal drug use, discretion is the key.
The smoking of substances has been almost completely abandoned. For obvious reasons, the Deep City governments have enacted incredibly strict air quality standards, and they are enforced with an iron fist. In the early years of Deep City life, more than one careless addict found himself caught in the act by police tipped off by sniffer drones roving the ventilation ducts.
Those drugs that are gaseous in form are generally inhaled via a small tank connected to a modified gas mask. This minimizes the escape of fumes and concentrated the effects of the drug, but while the risk of detection is almost entirely eliminated, this method leaves incautious users vulnerable to overdose and suffocation. As desperate junkies are not known for being either especially careful or mechanically inclined, inhaled drugs are on the decline.
Casual drug users prefer their drugs in either pill or adhesive patch form, and the market has responded. Because most legitimate pharmaceuticals, including those prescription medications popular among recreational users, are generally manufactured in either capsule or dermal patch form, the bulk of the most commonly used drugs are distributed in one of these two forms. Both patches and pills are highly portable and concealable, and have the advantage of being extremely easy to use. Frequent patch users must take care when disposing of their garbage, however, as dead skin cells have a tendency to cling to the adhesive side of the patch, providing a convenient source of DNA evidence with the potential to lead clever investigators directly to the user. The drawback of pills is that when several are taken at once the stomach may react adversely, and users in a weakened and semi-conscious state when this occurs frequently aspirate and subsequently choke on their own vomit.
Hardcore drug abusers tend to shun pills and adhesive patches, unwilling to wait the longer time period required for these forms of drugs to be absorbed into the body. These users prefer hyposprays as their means of delivering the high. Because the drug is introduced directly into the bloodstream users are able to feel the effects almost immediately. Under normal conditions hyposprays are clean and safe, with minimal chance of blood-borne disease transmission even if the hypospray is shared by several users. It is also virtually painless, leaving only a slightly raised red bump that disappears within minutes. Because the hypospray is a means of delivering liquid into the bloodstream, powdered or crystalline drugs must be melted or dissolved before injection. While this process, known colloquially as "cooking", is easily carried out, it does require the use of some household items that, when found in conjunction with the hypospray, provide fairly damning evidence of illicit drug use. In most Deep Cities hyposprays are generally not illegal to own, but anyone without a documented medical condition discovered in possession of one can expect to be regarded with suspicion. One additional consideration is that the drugs associated with hyposprays tend to be much more intense and dangerous (i.e., harder) than the dermal patches and tablets favored by more casual users. While long-term users often have the experience to avoid some of the dangers associated with their lifestyle, neophytes are especially prone to both purchasing substandard goods and fatally overdosing.
The pride and joy of the Greenway Federation's Alexandrian Grand Vineyards, this wine is in demand all over Utopia. There are now more than three dozen different vintages, varying in quality and affordability, with the establishment of more planned in conjunction with expansion of the vineyards.
Effects: euphoric / analgesic
Onset Time: 20 minutes
"Anglefolk Whiskey" is actually a broad term describing several varieties of crude homemade alcohols produced by people living on the fringes of Deep City society. While the actual product itself is generally legal, operating the unlicensed stills used in its manufacture is almost always a criminal offense. Anglefolk Whiskey often incorporates potentially poisonous ingredients. It is consumed only by the desperately poor, who use it as a type of mental anesthetic; a means of escaping the pain of everyday life.
Potency: 5 to 7, depending on manufacturer
Effects: sedative / euphoric / analgesic
Onset Time: 10 minutes
This is the street variant of a stimulant originally intended for combat use. Designated ComStim-75 Mk II, it was used to keep Kogland troops awake and alert on long patrols. Overuse led many soldiers to develop a habit for this drug, leading to a thriving black market trade. While the Industrial States of Kogland Armed Forces discontinued its use nearly two decades ago in favor of a weaker, less habit-forming alternative, Wakey-Wakey continues to be popular on the streets. It comes in the form of a flesh-colored adhesive patch that is placed directly on the skin, generally on the wrists or the neck.
Onset Time: 30 minutes
Named for the immediately recognizable yellow and black capsules the drug comes in, Yellowjacket is a cheap and widely available designer narcotic. Originating in the Independent States, similar narcotics soon filtered into all the other nations. Yellowjacket is relatively easy to manufacture, but some of the chemicals involved are extremely volatile, which has led to accidental fires and explosions in poorly managed drug labs. Yellowjacket's abundance and low price means that it is popular among youth and other individuals without the wealth to sustain a more expensive habit, but its ubiquity has led connoisseurs to look down upon it in favor of more fashionable highs.
Effects: analgesic / euphoric
Onset Time: 15 minutes
Officially known as TS-V, this drug was originally created by the Steelgate military as an interrogation tool. Like similar so-called "truth serums", it acts not so much by forcing the subject's honesty than it does to place him in a relaxed, altered state of mind in which he is less resistant to reveal the information the interrogators seek. While TS-V did have the desired effect of making the consequences of blurting out the truth seem distant and insignificant, in practice, the drug's unexpected hallucinogenic side-effect made portions of the information surrendered less than reliable. One of the most infamous cases of reality being tainted by fantasy at an interrogation occurred during the latter half of the Great War. When questioned about the composition of Kogland's new drone armor, a captured engineer under the influence of TS-V calmly responded "Alien polymers and rainbows. Lots of rainbows." While it has not been purged from the Steelgate inventory entirely, fiascos like this have led to a deemphasizing of the role of pharmaceuticals in interrogations. Ironically, it is the very characteristic that interferes with the legitimate use of this drug, its hallucinogenic properties, that makes TS-V so popular among recreational users. Sold under the street name "Looselip", this drug is most commonly distributed as a liquid for use with a hypospray.
Effects: euphoric / hallucinogenic
Onset Time: 7 minutes
This is one of the few known remaining natural drugs on Utopia, a gray crescent-shaped fungus that was discovered growing on the trunks of some of the trees housed in Deep City Alexandria's surface laboratories. Scientists have not yet discovered the origin of this fungus, whether it was a preexisting species or a relatively recent mutation, but as Grenarian Gray seems uncommonly resistant to Utopia's surface radiation, the fungus is being examined with considerable academic interest. A weak hallucinogen with no apparent long-term side-effects, Grenarian Gray is at the center of the small but vocal Greenway Alliance drug legalization movement. Grenarian Gray is generally used as the main ingredient in a variety of tea.
Onset Time: 20 minutes
These pills were created by an Independent States pharmaceutical corporation as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. ProLong proved to be tremendously popular, with Ankara BioTech's landmark profits surging even higher once it became common knowledge that the drug was able to produce some rather impressive aphrodisiacal effects in perfectly healthy men as well. The bubble burst when independent studies discovered that long-term use of the drug caused rapid deterioration in the lining of the very blood vessels the drug had been designed to stimulate. The public was understandably furious, and a serious of class-action lawsuits and record-breaking settlements drove Ankara BioTech into bankruptcy. It is no coincidence that massive quantities of ProLong pills were dumped on the black market at the same time the corporation began to have financial difficulties. Despite the damage ProLong causes in its users, the drug has been embraced wholeheartedly by Nineveh's extensive hardcore pornography industry, and actors who refuse to take the drug soon find themselves unemployed, unable to compete with those who will. In the porn community, users of ProLong tend to have short but brilliant careers, desperate to earn as much money as possible before they are inevitably forced to retire.
Effects: stimulant, aphrodisiac
Onset Time: 25 minutes
A new arrival, Icepick is without a doubt the hottest drug on the market, one that is taking the underworld by storm. It exploded onto the Independent States' narcotic scene before appearing roughly simultaneously in the remaining Utopian nations. Unlike many drugs, which have a clearly identifiable military or civilian predecessor drug, Icepick is unlike anything that came before it. Because of this, there are those who suggest that it may be off-world in origin. Others argue that it could be a newly rediscovered "vintage" drug salvaged from one of Utopia's ruined cities. Icepick is cheap and relatively easy to find. It is also highly potent and extremely addictive. While the physical form of Icepick is invariably the same (i.e., tiny blue snowflake-like crystals meant to be cooked and injected via hypospray), the strength and effects of the drug vary widely with each batch, as if several competing formulas of Icepick were released in one fell swoop. Because of this wild fluctuation in potency, even experienced drug users often have difficulty judging the safest dose to take, making it an especially dangerous drug to deal with. However, as hazardous as Icepick may be, the incredible high and addictive quality of this drug has created a clientele that is willing to take the risk.
Potency: 15 *
Effects: analgesic / euphoric / stimulant
Onset Time: 3 minutes *
* Note: this is just one of numerous varieties of Icepick currently in circulation. Game Masters are advised to adjust these statistics from shipment to shipment dramatically and without warning.
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 5, Number 1||February, 2003|
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