There, we said it. Whatever you may think of the radical, youth-centric perspective of VICE Media, it’s surely gone and blown some perceptions of science straight out of the water. Educating a new generation on the adverse effects of illicit drug taking and the pharmacological phenomena, cultures and attitudes that surround them and their production. There is a fine line between glorification and education, yes, we wholeheartedly agree.
If you’ve not heard of Hamilton Morris, the owner of a very natural ‘vocal fry’ (there are whole youtube threads about it) and purveyor of consistently dry sense of descriptive humour, you should look up some of his (journalistic*) work, notably the Pharmacopeia. In brackets is because it’s controversial, if you find that sort of stuff controversial. The willing use of yourself, as, er, a psycho-pharmacological crash test dummy…it isn’t aufait with the status quo but we’ll leave the scientific ethics on a back seat.
We do understand why Hamilton has taken this approach. Many scientists have tested the effects of drugs etc. on themselves as part of their research e.g. Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of lysergic acid (LSD) and Kevin Warwick of ‘project cyborg’ in the 1990’s.
Why are we talking about this strange niche of science communication? Education is important, education surrounding where drugs come from is highly important. In a world of ‘Big Pharma’ and sensationalist, although sensitive journalistic lights being shone on the growing Heroin epidemic in the US (Louis Theroux: Dark States (BBC)), Morris does a sound job communicating what drugs are in a chemical sense to us while cutting through societal (“it’s wrong, you shouldn’t do it!” and “here are examples of why”) red tape.
No sob stories. Hamilton takes a rocket to the highs of human consciousness while sounding like the warnings side of your paracetamol packet. There is method to getting delightfully weird in front of a single camera. Hamilton basically illustrates to you the basis of chemical scientific experiment (on himself). He works under modal dosage and increases dosage if he feels that the effects aren’t prominent enough for him to establish differences in physiological response. Neat huh? To the untrained non-scientific ear he is just plainly describing how he feels. We don’t recommend this unless you are Hamilton.
It’s refreshing to see a media organisation and a scientist-journalist, basically a ‘science communicator’ (someone who’s simply passionate about the chemical makeup of ‘street drugs’/cultural highs) do that. In a serious manner.
Is pharma-cultural research a thing? Did we just coin that?
The discussion on pharma-cultural phenomena didn’t really exist until Hamilton Morris fused the two and didn’t arrive until at least 2012 (or did it intersect?) and that’s a big thing, groundbreaking even. A new frontier.
It took an emerging twenty-something with an interest in psychoactive drugs and a growing media organisation to disseminate correct and unbiased drug information about unregulated substances. It’s difficult to look on to big pharma to disseminate drug information to us in that manner, commercial drugs are firstly products to fix a problem and secondarily not recreational in any way, sense or form. However some commercial drugs began life in the bathroom lab of someone, somewhere.
Lastly, we don’t condone recreational drug usage but we do marvel at how VICE and Hamilton have managed to make understanding guerilla drug production and it’s cultural development, manufacture, distribution and chemical makeup relevant to a generation in a scientific sense.
Pharmacological science is controversial, psychoactive research a quagmire. How we share it is controversial and this is no different. The only difference between good information and science is how we record it and Hamilton is making waves recording the unrecorded.