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Raving in Scotland

J for Jellies

My quest for information started recently in Scotland. For those of you who are feeling the scene is getting a little jaded take my advice and go North! Excluding House clubs (which are much the same as in England), I was amazed by the differences on the other side of the border. Claire Wyburn from M8 magazine explained this dichotomy:

"The music is harder and faster and there are more PAs. Many English DJs are excluded from Scotland but we've strong links with Holland. This relationship is probably to do with Nationalism. Although the Ravers aren't political in the sense that most don't vote SNP, they still cry if England beats Scotland at football, and they don't want Rat Pack coming up from England because they think Q-Tex are better."

Other magazines have described the Scottish dance music scene as being like England was in 1991. At both Stirling's Fubar and the Rezerection event I attended there were more than a smattering of white gloves and light sticks. Rather than finding this embarrassingly outdated, it was refreshing that people there were not tempted to mimic the attitudes prolific in 'post-rave' England. I think it is sad that in many clubs we are now expected to 'keep a lid on it', dancing with a smile on your face and your hands in the air becoming a faux pas among trendy clubbers. Claire Wyburn went further, she thinks Scotland's scene has created its own identity:

"Saying Scotland's years behind England is patronising. Scotland stopped trying to follow English trends and moved in a different direction - towards the Dutch gabba scene. I think there's a lot to be said for PAs like The Rhythmic State and Q-Tex. They are producing a combination of gabba and American hardcore Lenny Dee type stuff and coming out with this happy 'out ya box' music that is really different"

Based at the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow, Alasdair Forsyth has been researching drug use for ten years. We discussed the contrast between the behaviour of Ecstasy users and those of the other drug users he had studied previously:

"E users don't fall into the stereotyped image we have of drug users. Many are holding down a 'proper' job, most don't commit crime (apart from dealing) and they don't tend to take escalating amounts of E. Basically they're nice people".

Alasdair has also found differences in the way Ecstasy dealers operate:

"Its different to the way the junkies deal - they were all about ripping each other off, often stealing money to buy drugs. A lot of E users buy more at once and give pills to their friends, this is called what we call a 'trading charity'".

Alasdair's research has, however uncovered a worrying statistic. Half of the Ecstasy users he interviewed also take jellies. It seems then, that the differences in music Claire Wyburn had outlined, are reflected in the drugs used by Ravers and clubbers in Scotland.

Jellies or wobbly eggs are Temazepam, a prescription drug in the Benzodiazepine family (this group includes other downers like valium). Many Ravers are taking jellies to smooth the come-down off Ecstasy and speed. Temazepam is cheap to buy, at only 50p to £3 each, which may be why its popularity is spreading to the North of England and increasingly London.

As with most things in life, the true costs of taking jellies are hidden. Taken orally and mixed with other drugs the effects can be disorientating especially if trying to fight the drowsiness caused by jellies, Alasdair Forsyth compared this state to a bit like sleep-walking. Aggression caused by Temazepam has been reported, with 'jelly-heads' frequently getting into fights. How much of this is caused by the direct effects of the drug remains unclear; disorientation may leave the jelly-user unable to negotiate themselves out of trouble.

The seriousness of the side-effects of Temazepam were highlighted recently in an article in The Observer, in which Helen Nowicka writes:

"Temazepam is a sleeping pill popular among heroin and amphetamine users. It has been linked to 50 deaths last year in the Glasgow area alone."

A more direct physical cost of jelly use comes when they are injected. The Temazepam formulation was altered at the end of the 1980s to try and make it uninjectable. It was soon discovered that the new gel could still be injected if it was first melted down. Unfortunately there have been reports of the gel re-solidifying in the blood stream causing circulation problems and even gangrene.

The much publicised deaths at Hangar 13 in Ayr, have cast a shadow over the Scottish scene. Much of the press there have had a field-day reporting sensationalised stories of "The Agony of Ecstasy". I visited Crew 2000, a harm-reduction team based in Edinburgh to find out how their education policies have coped amid this witch hunt.

Crew 2000 member Graeme, told me that their aim is to provide young people with accurate information about drugs, not to rather than moralise to them. Crew 2000 describes itself as 'Raver friendly', some of the members do drugs themselves and user experience of drugs is incorporated into their advice for others. Graeme is concerned that sometimes their message is ignored:

"There are still people out there who drink Buckfast by the bottle, neck seven or eight Es then a handful of jellies. How do you get through to them?"

I find this excessive attitude really upsetting. For those of you who, like me, are old enough to have been out in clubs before Ecstasy became popular this harks back to the macho-beer-monster's mentality, of bragging about how many pints you can drink. The whole E-scene is about developing better attitudes than these, it should not simply be left to organisations like Crew 2000. We all should show responsibility in our drug taking, we need to remember hammering our bodies is not big and it's not clever, and it gives the press ammunition to fire at us.

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