Since all things go in 20 year cycles, we're about to be inundated with all sorts of '90s nostalgia. While I'm all for ironically dancing to "Poison" and embracing
M.C. Hammer harem pants, there is one relic from my good old days that needs to stay in the past: Special K.
I've heard anecdotal evidence over the past few months of people taking it recreationally at home or for nights out on the town. Today we heard that scientists say it cures depression instantly. Also today Jersey Shore waster The Situation's loser best friend The Unit plead not guilty to holding a large quantity of the tranquilizer. God, it really is having another moment in the pale yellow sun. Let a '90s survivor share a little secret with all of you: Special K is the stupidest drug ever invented.
K is a form of Ketamine, which is usually manufactured for street use from horse or cat tranquilizers. It usually comes in a chunky powder that is a very pale yellow. You snort it. There is a really gross aftertaste. As Wikipedia will tell you, "Like other drugs of this class such as tiletamine and phencyclidine (PCP), it induces a state referred to as 'dissociative anesthesia' and is used as a recreational drug." Yes, K is just like PCP, or angel dust, that drug that turns people into completely insane rage monsters and makes Helen Hunt jump out of a second story window in an after school special. Do you really want to be messing around with that?
If I remember correctly (and it's been more than a decade since I've done K) it sort of makes you feel like when you wake up in the morning and you can't tell whether you're asleep and dreaming or awake. It's a perpetual sense of not feeling like yourself, feeling completely like yourself, knowing what's going on around you, and having no clue how fantasy has invaded your reality all at the same time. Back in the day it was big in the rave culture where you would take it usually with ecstasy or LSD to heighten the trip on either. Since both of those drugs gave you plenty of energy, as it were, it kept the K's tranquilizing effects in check and you would wander around in a revery, watching the glow sticks whoosh and looking for any fellow raver with a furry vest for you to rub yourself up against and collapse in a pile in some dank corner of a warehouse next to rat turds and some girls puked-up magic mushrooms.
That all sounds wonderful, but the downside was the mythological K hole. If you took too much K or took it all alone, you would crash into this state where it was almost impossible to snap out of whatever scenario was running in your head and bodily movement was next to impossible. Like waking up and being in a dream state where the outside world is influencing what you think but your experience is something totally surreal and self-contained, that no one else would understand or enjoy even if they could.
I remember one night at a gay discotheque in Washington D.C. when I was still in college being slumped up against the DJ booth while he played a Madonna track. It seemed like the song was going on for hours, being played on repeat over and over and over again. In the span of three minutes, I thought I lived an entire evening. I thought I was dancing, and I thought Madonna was there. I thought I was dancing with Madonna. I was sure I was, flailing my limbs about as the Material Girl kept time with me, coaxing me to enjoy the party, matching me beat for beat as the lights did slow pirouettes around us. And she laughed at my jokes and told me she liked my outfit. Madge and I were friends! Everything was amazing and spectacular, but on the outside I was a drooling mess, unable to move, and embarrassing myself. When my friends finally carted me away, I started to hit them, shouting in as loud of a voice as I could muster. "Stop it. I don't want to leave. I'm dancing with Madonna. Madonna! Madonna!"
This is why K is so incredibly stupid. As a downer, it brings you way too down. As a club drug, it makes your experience way too solitary to fully enjoy the group experience of going out. As a sedative, it sure works, but who actually enjoys being on anesthesia? Certainly not me, and you probably wouldn't either. Mixing it with other things doesn't make it much better. You'll have a whole lot more fun enjoying the love and togetherness of a good MDMA pill if you're rolling on that alone than taking something that's going to make you feel and behave like one of those weird baby dolls that is filled with water and just blubbers around on the floor in a heap of never ending waves.
And everything you experience on K is a lie. I never danced with Madonna. I wasn't even dancing. I could barely keep myself from soiling my fucking Jnco jeans. That's not a cute look. The best drugs will heighten your experience, will make you feel good, will take the edges off. K doesn't do any of those things. It just gives you really bad dreams, something (as Blondie will tell you) you can get every night for free.
The '90s were a lot of fun the first time around, and there were tons of great things about the decade. We even did a lot of wonderful, powerful, mind-altering substances (including some that will make my unborn children grow gills). K was not one of them. K was a stupid mistake. Even a bigger mistake than Fat Boy Slim, P.L.U.R., and a strange affection for Ring Pops at the age of 20. It was one of the few things I look back on and think, "Man, that was really, really dumb. Why did we ever do that?" If the '90s are going to come back, take this lesson from someone who really enjoyed the first time around—leave the K for the cats.
[Image via AP]