One clerk said the raid was a regular if random and unwelcome act perpetuated by functionaries needing to justify their positions. Another said he figured the police were taking preventative measures should lawlessness ensue following an upcoming World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Mexico. Many store owners simply sighed and shook their heads, their resignation fueled by the experience of scores of such raids. The only official notice came from a state Health Department press release, which informed the public its inspectors were looking for irregularities at Tijuana drug stores.

Whatever the reason for the sudden appearance of cops, I got my drugs, but it was a hassle. First, I tried stores where there were no guards and was informed flat-out nothing was available. Nobody was talking or willing to part with any controlled substance—or even admit to its existence. "We don't carry that," clerk after clerk told me. Outside in the square, numerous hawkers invited me into their shops, tittie bars or restaurants. One asked, "Cerveza, mi amigo? One dollar!" "I don't drink," I told him, "but I am looking for something else." "What do you need? I can get you anything," he said. But before I could answer, Mexican police stepped out of the shadows, demanding from him some sort of identification. When he failed to produce the correct papers, they hustled him off to some unknown but certainly ungodly location. I leave him, and immediately, another man approaches, claiming the same. "Come upstairs to the restaurant, sit down, have a drink, and I'll get you whatever you need," he said. I did, but suddenly it occurred to me this is becoming a nightmare. Like scoring weed in Santa Ana or copping LSD in Fullerton, I'm waiting on a drug dealer.

Anyone with rudimentary experience in drug use knows that addiction can cause physical, mental and emotional breakdown, shatter the future, break your life. While slowing everything to a second-at-a-time crawl, Soma and Valium also makes bad ideas seem good. During a particularly destructive and insane run a few years back, one buddy of mine wrecked his car four or five times, lost his license, and had his friends pull an intervention on him. He was so strung-out that he suffered a nervous episode days after getting off the drugs.

And then there is OxyContin. The FDA approved drug-maker Purdue Pharma LP's OxyContin in 1995. Taken orally, its construction releases the powerful narcotic oxycodone into the system over time. Chronic pain sufferers and many cancer patients hailed it as a godsend, but OxyContin also launched a subsidiary industry comprised of people who like to get high. Some users have traded their lives for it. In April 2002, the DEA (which, sure, has a stake in high numbers) implicated OxyContin as the direct cause or main contributing factor in 146 deaths and a likely contributor in an additional 318 deaths. In 88 of those cases, the victim also had moderate to high levels of alcohol in the blood.

But I ignore that and take OxyContin anyway because it's a great high. Though constructed of a brawny narcotic,the pills crush easily and slide nicely up the nose and down the throat. By crushing the pill, you break down its time-release component and get its full effect immediately. The first effect is the absence of any ache. Then you get an itch, which is so pleasurable to scratch that you can sometimes open sores on your arms and legs. Everything gets fuzzy and warm, and over time, the nausea develops into something pleasurable because it means you are getting off. Close your eyes on an OxyContin ride, and it's almost like tripping. Mandalas, minarets, Arabic figures, curved swords, baggy silks, shoes with upturned toes, flying carpets and other Eastern images slither in and out of your consciousness. Grand castles float on clouds of pink cotton candy. Angels land in your pockets. The most mundane thought becomes a product of genius. Sleep is wonderful. Most times, I fall so deeply and thoroughly into slumber that I wake hours later, still high, but somewhat unsure what has happened. On other occasions, I nod off for minutes at a time, waking only to scratch. Snorting OxyContin first thing the next morning starts the whole wonderful adventure over again. Beautiful stuff.

So I waited for the drug dealer, but paranoia set in. All manner of ugly scenarios crossed my mind, but there I sat. He could get me anything, he said, but the Somas, normally $40 for 100 pills, would now cost $100. The $12 OxyContin were now $30 each. Valium had gone up from $1 per pill to three bucks. The price of Vicodin was similarly inflated. Setting straight my priorities, I ignored the cops, making mental room to do the math.

"At those prices, I can only afford the Somas," I said. He returned 20 minutes later, handing me the pills tucked into a menu. I carefully concealed them before making my way to the pedestrian line re-crossing the border. It occurred to me that I might have just been set up, but I banished the thought from my mind.

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