Marching Orders For...

Marching Orders

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Marchers

Straight Guys

Lesbians

Crystal Meth Dealers

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Gay Sex Workers

The Writers of 'The L Word'

Gay People Who Have to Go to a Lot of Straight People's Weddings and Baby Showers

Seattle Homos

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The Media

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Pride Calendar

For the majority of humanity, responsible intoxicant use is a tricky endeavor. On one side are the repellent echoes of Nancy Reagan and her '80s campaign to "Just Say No"; on the other, the equally simplistic siren song of unfettered indulgence—doing all the drugs you want, whenever you want to, if only to spite Nancy Reagan and whoever the hell is the Drug Czar these days.

For the gays, the path to sane intoxication can be even more treacherous. Having learned firsthand that conventional morality sometimes means bigoted bullshit, many gays feel entitled—even compelled—to experiment with social taboos, and "drugs" frequently land at the top of many young homosexuals' to-do lists. But when rejection of mainstream mores is considered a basic step in the right direction, moderation is key, and gay drug adventurers must find their ways carefully. As Jacob Sullum points out in his vastly levelheaded drug study Saying Yes, "[T]he dose makes the poison. Many things that are benign in small amounts—aspirin, vitamin A, water—are harmful, even deadly in large amounts."

Sullum's right, but in the world of contemporary drugs, there exist some substances so rife with awful potential that intelligent use is almost impossible. Regarding these drugs—cocaine, heroin, crystal meth—I can only parrot Nancy Reagan and just say no. But beyond these few eternally damned drugs is a world of substances that, when used properly, can provide hours of unique pleasure. It's all about choosing wisely, which, when you're dealing with substances strategically designed to impede your decision-making skills, can be tricky. Armed with the pointers below, any queer can find the right drugs and the best way to use 'em.---

MARIJUANA

Depending on your mental and physical makeup, marijuana will either send you to heaven—amplifying good feelings, diminishing bad feelings, and heightening appreciation of art, sex, and food—or trap you in a hell of nonfunctioning paranoia. For those in the latter camp: Move on, and don't feel bad about never looking back. For those in the former: Intelligent pot use requires the sort of strategizing you cannot do while stoned—one of many reasons you shouldn't be high all the time. Not only does overuse dull pot's best effects, it's stupidly expensive, and if you find yourself making weird concessions—rationalizing your persistent hacking cough, not leaving the house for eight weekends in a row—you've gone too far.

ECSTASY

With its celebrated power to boost empathy, fuel smooching, and send self-esteem skyrocketing, Ecstasy is a much-loved drug among the gays. Despite specious medical warnings, it's not even that bad for you—if you get the good stuff (always iffy) and use it in moderation. But taken in excess, Ecstasy can provide an immediate crash course in dumb drug use, speeding users down the path of "This feels great!" to "Let's do more!" to "How can six tabs do nothing?" to "Where's all my money?" (and, if you're sensitive to serotonin manipulation, "Where shall I hang this noose?"). Still, careful use of good Ecstasy can be a glorious thing. Do it once a year, even if you don't want to.

PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS

Here's where narcotics-lovers get their fix without resorting to the needle or the gutter: the wonderful world of prescription painkillers, home to Vicodin (hydrocodone), Percocet (oxycodone), morphine, Canadian aspirin with codeine, and countless other configurations. But make no mistake: All are essentially St. Joseph's Baby Heroin, and the importance of moderation can't be overstated. Luckily, it's easy to measure overuse: Have you stopped pooping and started sweating? Then you're doing too much, too often. Best bet for temperate use: the "lazy forager" method, wherein the only pills consumed are those that cross one's path organically. (Remaindered painkillers of friends: fine. Bulk Vicodin ordered over the internet: not fine.)

BOOZE

Often underrated but never duplicated, the pleasures of the booze buzz have been praised for centuries. Unfortunately, no intoxicant is more easily abused, making responsible boozing an art unto itself.

Good judge of excess: the classic signs of "a problem," including making changes in your life to support your drinking, blacking out, throwing up in bed.

GHB AND KETAMINE

To be honest, this group of consciousness-clobbering club drugs almost made the "forbidden forever" list. However, I do have one friend who seems to enjoy both drugs in responsible moderation, so do with that what you will. Still, any substance designed to incapacitate bulls isn't a rational regular-use party drug. Smoke some pot instead. ■

schmader@thestranger.com