Dan (Mandan) used crank for the first time when he was 21 years old. Dan was influenced to use partly because he had already been using LSD extensively. Though he never felt good about using crank, he did it anyway. His brother had used a lot of crank, and Dan was somewhat educated about the nature of crank from him. Dan says that he “wanted to shoot it up, but didn't because there were no clean needles.”
He ended up snorting the crank and immediately got a nosebleed.
In recounting the event, Dan recalled that “the drug was really powerful, though I didn’t feel it instantly. It took about five minutes to be gripped by the effects. I liked the immediate sensation of the snot dripping down the back of my throat, and the big rushes surging throughout my body." While Dan didn’t think it was the best drug he ever did, he liked it. He used several times after that, but notes that his experience with crank was not as extensive as that of many people. This was partly because he was sent to a correctional facility shortly afterward.
While Dan was in that facility, everyone talked about crank. Dan had liked it enough to be talking about it quite a bit, and at that time learned the methods of crank production. He really wanted to do it more, studied the method of fabrication, and made copious notes about how to do it.
By the time that he got out of boot camp, he was clean and didn't want to use crank, but Dan reflected that “the nature of that drug, if available, makes the desire to use quite strong." He was exposed to crank once again and began to use again.
He and a friend were at a trailer house, playing cards all night. "Life gets strange on crank," and suddenly he and his friend decided they would make it. He had never made crank before, and had only used it once, but he followed the directions his fellow inmates had given him, and it worked.
His friend got all the chemicals together, and with $60, they made $400 worth of crank. Initially, the intention was to “chop” the crank with vitamin B-2 or baby laxatives and sell it, but they ended up splitting it and "doing it up" themselves. Dan worked for a newspaper and maintained the required wakefulness with the drug. At this point, after four days and nights up on crank, things began to get really scary. He had done so much crank that he began to get all sketched out, and was horribly antagonized by “crank monsters.” Dan was really paranoid, hallucinated voices, and saw people who didn't exist. This was the only time that he hallucinated on crank.
Reflecting on the disastrous outcomes that inevitably follow methamphetamine use, Dan remembers that upon using crank, he instantly cared about no one. He likens his experience with using crank as leaving him feeling "cored out, being a shell." Even the first time he used, Dan didn't feel human, and this got progressively worse. He was one of the walking dead, and this was immediately much worse than anything else, even alcohol. The paranoia was intense, and he didn't trust anyone. Never once did Dan remember feeling good about doing crank; he knew it was wrong, and felt bad about doing it every single time he did it anyway.
Dan thinks of crank as the “crack of the Rockies," and hasn’t been in a town, big or small, where there wasn’t crank. He has been aware of the existence of crank since he was 15 years old, knew who did it, and where to find it from that time.
Violence, paranoia, and guns were the things Dan always equated with crank--especially guns. He recognized houses of crank users as being places where he might have gone to get weed, and seen a bunch of people just sitting around, doing nothing. While “tweaking," the users are rather reticent and reserved according to Dan. He describes these situations as having “a definite air of paranoia bordering on violence around the users.” Dan’s brother had done a lot more crank than him, all through prison, and was very familiar with the violent aspects of the drug. Dan remembers going to a house to buy a bag of pot once, and a tweaked-out crankhead pulled an AK-47 on him, thinking he was wearing a wire. This was the most dramatic experience Dan had ever had with crank.
Dan elaborates, saying he has met every kind of crank user--“the dealers, the cookers, the junkies"; and crank always creates paranoia. Another distinctive sign of a crank user, once clean, is that "they talk, talk, talk about crank to no end.” Dan never saw active crank addiction in any kind of a healthy way.
One residual quality of former crank users, in Dan's experience, is an attitude of "junkie pride…once they talk about it, they get a different light in their eyes, like they're feeling it all over again. They act like they have ADD; they talk or laugh too loud, and are nervous, twitchy - tweaky people, like they're kind of still on crank.” He has met a lot of people like that, stating that he could always tell a powderhead of any sort by the way they talk and act… “especially if you talk with them about drugs. Crank addicts will talk about drugs, if the subject comes up, for a long time. The guys I met in jail talked about crank all the time, ALL THE TIME.”
Dan talks about the methamphetamine underworld, a subculture which very few people know. Once discovered, however, it can never be forgotten. It is full of unwritten rules like, “don't talk to people, and don't keep talking, because you can really invade someone's space when you're just runnin' your mouth.” Dan relates these things, again, to “fear, paranoia, animosity…all the bad things in life are found around crank, only magnified.”
“Crank is not a social drug. It might be at first, but never in the end. I hung out with a lot of people who did it, and I was becoming like them. I wasn't in trouble in any way with the law, I never got caught for it, but I quit, maybe out of a miracle. I knew where I was headed with it, and after those last couple of times, I just said 'screw this.' I quit all drugs then…I still drank, but I quit all drugs after that. First pot, then crank. I felt that crank was the worst, though."
Discussing the slang of the methamphetamine sub culture, Dan says, “It’s not so much the lingo, but more the nuances in the conversations; not what people would say, but what they mean. It's not palpable…it's the look and the way that the people talk. It’s indescribable.”
He explains that “when people walk into the house when you're doing crank, they're not even in the same house, basically. It's just a different place. They might be drinking beers, and you're stuck together wherever you're stuck together…making secret trips to the car, trips to the bathroom, 'should we do this, or do you wanna do that'… things half-said. The thing is that you know, and the paranoia is that you don't want anyone else to know that you're doing it. You learn what is acceptable, and what is not, like sniffing with your nose.”
Dan talked with me about when he made crank, and cleared up some of my misconceptions about the differences between crank and meth. He says that meth (crystal methamphetamine) has the chemical propynol in it, which is a petroleate. “Incidentally, that's why Mexicans have so much crank, because propynol isn't a controlled substance in Mexico. Wyoming is a place to get propynol because of all of the petroleates they have there. Crystal meth will blow up, because heating the propynol separates the chemicals and the top layer is suctioned off, but if it is heated too much, it will just blow up.”
For fear of revealing possibly dangerous and influential information, I will not disclose this part of our conversation. It would be safe to say that crank is probably presenting such a problem in our culture partially because of how easily and cheaply it can be made. Dan synthesized crank only once, and did not distribute the drug because he just did it all instead. This might have been significant in convincing him to quit using crank, because at that point, Dan had done enough crank to really start experiencing some of the psychotic features of the drug.
Dan made the crank almost exactly one year ago. “I got out of that lifestyle--alien nation. You're living in the world, you're in the world, but it's just alien nation. I knew that I was becoming a part of that nation, and I didn't want that. You can't be around good people when you're f***** up like that, and I didn't want to be a part of that. That's what caused me to quit, just knowing that--and I don't think that anyone's who has been using crank for long enough has any delusions about where they stand in the social ladder of morality. Being connected with people, you just don't have any delusions, you're different. And I was sick of being that way.”
“ I got sick of it,
basically, and I don't know how to describe that process to you, but I wanted
to be a human again. I didn't feel like
a human, and I definitely didn't feel
like a human doing crank. I quit, and
that was the first thing I quit, and I'm an alcoholic more than anything else,
so I started drinking a lot. I didn't
drink to replace crank, I probably did crank to replace drinking, and I just
liked it a little too much.”
“I started drinking a lot, and again, I was still shut off. I think crank does that…it's too much knowledge, too much separation from the world, so you’re separate, and you’ve got that on your ticket. I lived in my house and drank in my house for about a week. I was scheduled to go to college while I was doing this stuff--I sat in my house and I didn't want to get in any trouble. I isolated. First I quit going to the bars, I was getting in trouble in the bars, the I quit going to house parties, ‘cause I was getting in trouble at house parties, and then there was nowhere to go, so I'd just sit by myself and drink, all the time. Watch the history channel. I was totally shut off from everybody.”
“Two months before I came to school I got sober. What made me want to be sober that time was that I knew that if I went to school, I could be a decent human being. I don't know why-I know that going to school does not translate that you're gonna be a decent human, but what it meant in my mind was that, ‘go to college, somehow enter the world, get a profession.' It seemed like that was hope. I figured out that I could make it to school, and again it was the one thing--I saw that there was a small, slight chance that I had hope.”
“If for nothing else, I just stayed in my house where I was drinking instead of going out and getting in trouble, just long enough to make it to school, I had hope. I think that if you're a crank addict and you don't have any hope, then why would you want to think you were going to change if you didn't think there was a way to change? I thought at this one time that there was a way I could change, so I went to AA--not very much, but for those two months before I started college I went A LOT”.
“I was still shut off from everybody and everything, but I basically stayed sober from Oct. 98 to March 12, 99. I had to drink one more time, but this time I was surrounded by positive people. That was the main thing. I had to abandon the whole lifestyle. I did a lot of it myself, and I had to replace it with a positive lifestyle and positive people”.
“I haven't drank since, and I've been totally into this way of life. Like crank was a way of life, I'm just in a different way of life now. It's way more positive. I don't know how you could solve the crank problem. I can't see how once a person who addicted to crank could…I got bad, but not even close to how bad I saw other people get. You see people got through complete hell, and they just do it and do it and do it…it steals your soul, and once your soul is gone, you can't do anything about it. There's nothing they can do about it aside from God, or a total moment of clarity”.
“Even then, I had to isolate. Isolation and slow submersion back into society, where totally positive things are happening. I think that the people I know that have recovered from crank just had to think, 'there’s hope, there’s hope.' Like a mantra, because their minds work so fast and they get negative all the time. I think in the case of long term meth use, treatment is the best thing. I don't have a high opinion of treatment, but for that bad of an addiction, I think you need it.”
“That underworld is so strong. Crank has a way about it that if you see it once, you'll be tempted to do it. It's just that powerful of a chemical, and I don't know why that is. I think it's worse that alcoholism. The vast majority of people who do crank are in it to win it; they do it A LOT. All the time. It just sucks you right in, and I think that’s the spiritual nature of the thing, it's just so bad. It cuts you off from anything good in life. You could be walking down the street, there's a whole world of sunshine, and you can't see it. Anyone who has ever done crank knows about that gray place."
Today, Dan remains sober from crank and alcohol, as well as all other intoxicating substances. He studies at the university, and is a dramatic example of a personal triumph over the demons of addiction. This is an important example for other people to see. Though much of Dan’s experience remains anonymous to the general populace. We, as the Native American youth, can benefit from the experiences of our peers, and hope to choose for our paths a different road. In turn, we will set the stories in place for the coming generations.