Since the first introduction of synthesised drugs to synthesised music, they’ve been a pair which have crossed society hand-in-hand.
During its spread from the warehouses of Chicago to the rest of the world, the only thing which matched the popularity of house music was the substances which the music often was enjoyed with.
However, whilst ‘uppers’, drugs such as MDMA and cocaine which stimulate the body, have been used by clubbers at a near constant rate, the last few years have seen a huge increase in the usage of ‘downers’ by those in club environments.
Arguably one of the most common ‘downer’ used by clubbers is ketamine, a horse tranquiliser which can leave the user feeling disassociated or even hallucinatory, dependent on dosage.
The usage of this drug has skyrocketed in Leeds in recent years, with sharp increases in people being referred to urologists with bladder issues caused by prolonged misuse of the drug.
I have no doubt that much of the usage of ketamine in our city is in a club environment, as users of the drug are easy to spot, often finding it impossible to keep their balance, or in a ‘K-hole’, where they cannot move whatsoever.
Another ‘downer’ students have been drawn to is benzodiazepams, or ‘benzos’ for short, which suppress certain neurotransmitters within the user’s brain.
The result of this is that users feel incredibly relaxed.
Benzodiazepams are increasingly prominent in club users due to their availability, being marketed to sufferers of anxiety as ‘Valium’ or ‘Xanax’.
In 2015, 266 people were killed from benzodiazepam-related overdoses, a number which exceeded that of overdoses related to cocaine, speed or MDMA that same year. Obviously, the rise of ‘downers’ in club culture is a pressing issue, but one which many blame on the increasing availability of these drugs rather than focusing upon the effects of their usage.
It may seem questionable that people would want to take drugs which both slow them down and make them more introverted in a club environment, but I would like to offer two reasons as to why.
Firstly, many individuals who have reported taking downers claim they take them with a cocktail of other drugs, and that the synergy between them creates unique experiences.
This explains both why people take them within clubs, and also why the deaths from such uses are so high.
Secondly, perhaps the need for introverted escapism, even when in a highly-charged social situation, says a lot about the generation which I am part of.
Much has been made of how the proliferation of mass media, the competitivity of the school system, and the introduction of social media has created a generation which feels as if they are constantly being compared and contrasted with their peers.
Is it really such a mystery as to why they seek a feeling of isolation?
Reece Parker is Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University