72-Hour Party People

Meth: It's not just for the white-trash crowd.

It comes wrapped in red foil and purple tissue, this intricate figurine molded in the form of a Japanese demon, with clawed feet, a mane of fire and a thick tongue jutting from a bloodthirsty smirk. Transparent, the size of a child's fist, it looks like a tiny ice carving or a statuette of glass. It is neither. In fact, it is 25 grams (a little less than one ounce) of nearly 100 percent pure crystallized methamphetamine hydrochloride, known on the streets of Asia as "Shabu." It was almost certainly manufactured in a clandestine laboratory in China, then shipped to the Philippines and on to Hawaii, and finally to Denver. Here it was purchased on the black market for $5,500 -- nearly five times the street value of an equivalent amount of cocaine and ten times that of low-grade, powdered crystal meth.

Shabu is so expensive because it is so pure -- and therefore so powerful. Most of the home-cooked speed in Denver is only 10 to 20 percent actual crystallized methamphetamine, adulterated with toxic by-products of the makeshift ingredients used in crude manufacturing processes. While any tweaker with a hot plate can whip together a batch of bathtub speed, Shabu requires a trained chemist working in a fully equipped laboratory with uncorrupted components. The result is pharmaceutical-grade meth -- 95-plus percent pure.

As much as the word can be applied to an illegal drug, Shabu is clean.

"There's no horse deworming medicine in this shit, okay? You can't make this kind of shit out of road flares and cold pills," says Nick, delicately unwrapping the Shabu demon atop the burnished steel of his Swedish designer coffee table.

"This is the shit JFK was getting jacked in his ass during the Cuban missile crisis. I shouldn't even be calling this shit 'shit,' because it's disrespectful."

Nick peels away the last scrap of foil and positions the demon in the center of the coffee table, surrounding it with a careful arrangement of long-stemmed glass pipes, miniature butane torches and razor-sharp utility knives.

On this Thursday afternoon in late summer, Nick is preparing the second-floor recreation room of his fashionably appointed Highland home for what has become a twice-a-month ritual of extreme indulgence for a revolving group of five to ten fellow hip, young and successful citizens of Denver.

"Basically," he says, "we blast off Thursday night and don't pull the chute until Sunday."

During their 72-hour run, he and his friends will eat little solid food save fruit, so Nick's fridge and freezer are stocked with the makings for smoothies. Along with yogurt, organic apple juice and frozen blackberries, strawberries and mangoes are five bottles of Moët champagne, a dozen bottles of Italian sparkling water, four cases of microbrew, two bottles of chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a discount-warehouse carton of 400 Otter Pops.

Speed-binge supplies of a different nature have been cached in a master-bathroom medicine cabinet -- one bottle holding ninety Valiums and another with forty tablets of ProVigil, the market name for the experimental drug Modafonil, a sleep suppressant the U.S. military tested on fighter and bomber pilots in Afghanistan and Iraq. Modafonil is now prescribed for cancer patients to combat the chronic-fatigue side effects of chemotherapy. Nick has laid in a supply because he claims he's found that combining Modafonil with Shabu takes the edge off the undesirable psychological whammies of sleep deprivation, including auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions.

"One night without sleep is just staying up all night," he says. "People do that straight or just with coffee all the time. You feel a little zoned-out in the morning, but by midday, your natural rhythm kicks in. So long as you get some sleep that following night, you're cool. But when you ride the party train two nights in a row, or three nights, things can start to get a little odd, a little slippery. And if somebody spins out, it's no fun."

In other words, a sudden case of amphetamine psychosis really brings a party down.

"I consider this shit an excellent use of my tax dollars," Nick says, rattling a bottle of ProVigil. "It helps keep people from going werewolf around hour 50."

He buys his ProVigil from a psychiatrist friend of a friend who works in several Veterans Affairs hospitals counseling and treating terminal cancer patients. When the patients die, their families don't know what to do with their ProVigil pills, so they give them to the psychiatrist, who gives them to Nick's friend, who sells them to Nick.

All he'll say about this Shabu is that it comes from Hawaii and that he has a source -- another friend of a friend -- who flies to Honolulu once every other month, buying two or three statuettes at a time for resale in Denver and Colorado Springs. It's no big syndicate, just small-time narcotics smuggling where the payoff is a free trip to Hawaii, a little extra spending money and the rush of getting away with it.

The rush of Shabu itself is freakishly powerful. A single minuscule hit -- about one-tenth of a gram, vaporized and inhaled -- is enough to keep a weekend warrior like Nick riding the lightning for twelve hours.

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116 comments
Steven M Palmer
Steven M Palmer

From back when WW wrote actual articles and had a physical paper and not just a web site...

Glen Dehahn
Glen Dehahn

They aren't promoting anything. Why is everyone such a whiney bitch. This is just a good article written to please the masses. It's no different the. Every time you pass fear and loathing over on Starz. You don't feel the need to spew pissyness about that do you? Jesus Christ go read an article about how dogs are mistreated and bitch about that.

Sarah Orlowsky
Sarah Orlowsky

So they have 5k to blow on good drugs, another with another 5k on party favors......... anything original here?

Kris Denton
Kris Denton

Well It Seems Like A Chord Was Struck With Some. To the long time reader lol deuces. The one who submitted a book over a year ago for review.. do I need to say more? Yeah please let's have another article about the green and microbrew lifestyle so we can all nap through it. Also not only Meth ruins lives. Alcohol, cigarettes and even women ruin lives.

Chris Perkins
Chris Perkins

I submitted a book to the Westword for a review over a year ago. Why don't you try fitting that in somewhere?

Ashley McSwain
Ashley McSwain

Wow, Hannah. Impressive that your vocabulary and spelling is pathetic and yet I'm the (brain cell void one of us) imbecile who doesn't understand the point of the article. If you read the article fully (which you don't seem capable of) you'd notice that not once does the author note the health hazards or risks associated with this kind of "partying". Instead the author celebrates the fact that the host and his cohorts choose to voluntarily spend three days high beyond comprehension, and since no one wants a Debbie Downer they stock the pantry with more illegal pills to bring you back from the brink...you're right I'm sorry I missed the part where we were bringing awareness to the using problem... As far as "stupid" I'm far from that my uneducated keyboard opponent. I actually hold a college degree and a full time job. What do you do? O.o

Hannah Bear
Hannah Bear

ashley, did you ever stop to think (im sorry...all your brain cells are dead from all the mary jane you smoked, so thats probably impossible), the reporter is bringing awareness to what this type of addiction does to people, rather than promoting it? O.o go smoke another blunt you stupid bitch, not like you can get any more stupid than you already are. you've done hit the wall on that.

Molon Labe
Molon Labe

Westword is going downhill fast.

Molly Louise
Molly Louise

I enjoy reading about green lifestyle and microbrew culture. But what kind of well-written garbage is this? Klassy. Bye, Westword.

Casey Allan
Casey Allan

Where are the good current articles? Haven't read one of those on here in quite some time

Randy Smith
Randy Smith

You just lost a long time reader,goodbye.

Ashley McSwain
Ashley McSwain

Pretty sure I said illegal and illicit. I smoke green, whatever. But meth? I mean cover your face in sores, not even once, hide yo kids shit and they're posting an article about how funny it is? I mean come on?? You're telling me you think that we should promote meth use now?

Erica Truskolaski
Erica Truskolaski

Yeah! Let's keep it all very secret. In fact, let's just tell them all drugs are the same level of BAD. Totally worked for the 90s kids and DARE! \U0001f611

Katies Mind
Katies Mind

There's wayy cooler stories in this city

Jr Montour
Jr Montour

I wanna hear the rest of the story, like what happened that weekend? How does the rest of his life go?

Guerilla Garden
Guerilla Garden

That was interesting…Why do I like reading stuff like this…I don't know but I dig the willingness of Westword to get grimy.

Victor Carrillo
Victor Carrillo

Wtf!! The only shit you found to cover as a story!! You will write a story about anything!! Come to my house and spend the weekend with me and hang out in bathroom everytime i shit!!

William Halley
William Halley

What an incredible tale of modern decadence. A well represented microcosm of the ennui suffusing society.

Ryan Hatfield
Ryan Hatfield

It's a story of users on a binge. Much like On The Road by Jack Kerouac. They used 'bennies,' which essentially is meth, but it was found in inhalers back in the 40's and 50's. Drugs have always been an interesting part of American culture. I have never used meth myself, but this was a great story. Despite the fact that meth is a terrible drug, but it doesn't change the fact that this was well written and a fact of life is that dark, strange things live in the most unexpected places.

Christy Articola
Christy Articola

Meth is evil but that was a great article. Very well written - answers the question "how could anyone get hooked on that shit?" The answer is, everything can be fun at first - and almost anyone can innocently be susceptible to the allure of even the most devastating of substances - thanks westword.

Ashley McSwain
Ashley McSwain

Hey Westword, how about you don't post an article that glamorizes and encourages illegal and illicit activities that'll kill our kids. Mmmmkkk thanks :)

John Smith
John Smith

Rodrigo Araya. Dan Doesthespeedlimit. Wtf

Conrad Luethy
Conrad Luethy

Drooling damn I've been clean for seven years and now I feel like getting high

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

Why are you glamorizing Meth? Denver Westword

Rachel Eastwood
Rachel Eastwood

I used to do this. Hang around me stoned pals and mess with 'em

Korina Rojo
Korina Rojo

Ah I would've loved to photograph this.

Divya Patel
Divya Patel

My response to this is, the article made it clear that the participants in this orgy of stupidity was both increasing in number and frequency. They are also using other drugs in addition to the meth. Pure or not, it is a highly addictive drug, and very, very expensive. So these "wealthy" people get a habit, and spend thousands of dollars a month on this. This is glorifying drug use because it shows young, stupid people with more income than sense- They can afford multiple illegal drugs, to take off to Vegas and party at the drop of a hat. People will over look what the author down played- smoking out of light bulbs, neurotic obsessive behaviors, and gross negligence of people traveling, driving, etc., while high as fuck. This is no better than a back alley meth addict who steals hub caps for drugs.

Shari Walsh
Shari Walsh

Morbidly fascinating. Like watching a train wreck.

Chris Sanford
Chris Sanford

While I certainly don't condone the use of hard-core methamphetamine or any other drug, I think you're missing a lot of what this article actually illustrates. First off, lets realize that what these people are consuming is nearly 100% pure authentic methamphetamine. This doesn't mean the drug is "harmless" by any sense of the word, but it does mean that it's not a concoction made of batteries, gasoline, and household cleaners like most of today's meth, but rather the pure chemical itself; a far cry from the world of meth as we know it. While the world of Breaking Bad is a written fantasy, Shabu is literally in essence what the characters of the show produce. Still extremely addictive, it doesn't have the same chemical compounds found in today's ordinary black market meth because it's derived of the actual chemical process and foundation of real methamphetamine. Again, that's not to say it's healthy by any standard, but consumed in short quantities like these people do it is a lot less destructive. Secondly, you have to really, truly step outside your societal naughty-box to realize with an open mind that these people are sincerely and quite literally just having a good time. It's not about being subjected to peer pressure, being part of a particular group of no-gooders, or stumbling upon a way to escape your awful reality, but instead an actual, legitimate adventure away from the normal, mundane life of our everyday reality. Anyway, my point is, it's not the same as what you know and it's a group of (very wealthy obviously) people having an extremely good time using something that is taboo in our culture in its purest form, and nothing more. Now, does that mean it hasn't affected them in a negative way and caused any one of them to become a drug addict? No, certainly not. But if they're as intelligent and as open-minded as they're represented then perhaps it was nothing more than that, an incredible 3 day binge that produced positive experiences they may never forget.

 
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