What is your opinion of the involvement of drugs in performance body play/modification such as suspensions and pulls?  
  Voice your opinion: the Reader's Response section. Return to Round Table index  

former leader and webmaster of the Young Modders Alliance.

IAM Page: freakshow54

My opinion of the use of drugs in body rituals depends largely on the drug in question. As a general rule, I am strictly against the use of drugs while performing any body ritual whatsoever.

There are several aspects to consider with this issue. Among them are the mental and physical effects of drugs, the possible enhancement to the ritual brought on by drugs and the effects on the modification community. Marijuana has very little effect that would make me say that it shouldn't be used during ritual. Judgment is not severely impaired, nor is the body going through any undue stress.

While small amounts of alcohol are not much of a concern, large amounts can have very bad effects on ritual. Attention span and judgment are extremely impaired. This could result in accidents due to the person's inability to follow instructions from those assisting in the ritual. There is also an increased risk of fainting and blood loss. The use of alcohol should be strictly forbidden in the case of a pull, kavadi, or other similar rituals as motor skills are strongly affected. This seriously increases the risk of injury.

Hallucinogens, like LSD, have obvious possibilities of enhancing the ritual experience. However, the effects of hallucinogens are quite unpredictable. There is always the risk of a bad trip, which would leave the user far too unstable to perform any ritual safely. The physical effects can create a dangerous scenario when added into a body ritual. Increased heart rate, temperature and blood pressure are symptoms commonly associated with the use of hallucinogens, and are also common among those performing body rituals. The two combined could cause loss of consciousness and heart attack, among other things.

Prescription drugs should be researched thoroughly before use in rituals. The effects can be nearly non-existent to life threatening. Everyone involved should approach rituals with caution when the person performing the ritual takes prescription drugs, as prescriptions are often overlooked.

Cocaine causes physical effects similar to LSD. It also commonly causes tremors. Used along with ritual, there are many possible risks. Among them are loss of consciousness, heart attack and even brain aneurism.

The obvious risks are concerning the person going through a ritual being on drugs. However, I think the risks are far greater if any person assisting in the ritual is on drugs. It is imperative that those assisting are on top of their game. If their judgment is impaired, or their attention span is affected, the consequences could be fatal. There are already many potential risks associated with body ritual. When the groups facilitating these rituals are using drugs, these risks increase exponentially.

If someone gets seriously injured during the act of body ritual, the whole community suffers. New laws could be created, making rituals illegal. Old laws could start being enforced, resulting in the arrests of many people involved in suspension groups. If drugs are involved, this is much more likely to happen. That would also solidify the public's perception of our community as a bunch of addicts.

These possibilities are, in my personal opinion, far too risky to leave to chance. I think we should be doing our best to prevent a fatality rate. Allowing drugs in ritual will eventually insure it.


mod enthusiast, involved with the Om Summer Solstice Festival.

IAM Page: Flip

First of all I want to make it clear that I am not implying that any particular person or group has been using drugs at all, and I do not want to contribute to any stereotyping of suspension groups that may result from this question being posed. I am not aware of how common drug use during suspensions is, if it happens at all. Assuming that it does...

"I don't need pot to enjoy this. Just to enhance it"
    -- Otto the Bus Driver, The Simpsons (paraphrased)

My feeling is that there may be some backlash against people using drugs during suspensions, probably because it will be viewed by some as disrespecting a sacred tradition, and probably because people think that drug use may lead to some injuries or problems. I disagree with both of these ideas for various reasons that I will explain below.

While this type of behavior may shock (gasp!) and disturb (My goodness!) some people, I don't find it surprising or really troublesome. If people involved in suspensions have been using drugs to complement or enhance the experience that's their choice. I think that there are some guidelines and some ethical responsibilities that go along with that, which I will outline, but as a rule of thumb, I say...it's fine by me.

The fact that people who are running suspension groups may use drugs comes as no surprise. Suspensions are done typically to transcend the body or to achieve a paranormal state. I'm sure that for some people, this feeling is a real rush. So much so, that they start a suspension group and perform suspensions all the time all over the place. Just like any thrill, eventually it becomes old and you look for new ways to enhance the high or make it new and exciting. Taking drugs are a pretty sure-fire way to enhance and heighten any experience. It might make it worse, or too intense, and it might take away from the so-called 'pure' feeling of experiencing a suspension sober, but regardless, the effects of both the drugs and the suspension will intensify if you take drugs. And what's wrong with that? Why not try to go higher and get a bigger rush? It's your body and your life.

Some people might say that using these drugs is insulting to the cultures that have held these rituals sacred for years. But we've already changed these rituals to be a part of our new culture. Practices and rituals change over time. This is a part of our culture, and we've reshaped it to what we feel is acceptable. And if a big fat line of blow is a part of that picture for somebody, then so be it. Some people may carry on more traditional suspensions, and maybe some people won't. Maybe nobody will...and then that will be a part of the past. That's fine. Things change.

As far as people getting hurt, I think the chances of that are low. If you've got the balls to do a suspension while you're high on blow or whatever, then you can probably handle yourself already and you aren't going to wig out. I wouldn't recommend doing your first suspension high, or to take your first E while being hung. But if you can handle drugs and you can handle suspensions, you can probably handle them together.

There are some ethical responsibilities involved in this question I think, however. I wouldn't want to be pierced or hung by somebody and find out after that they were high. Drugs can and do affect your motor skills and perception, and piercing somebody while off your nut may not be a great idea. I wouldn't want to be pierced by somebody who was high. But as long as the person involved knows that his piercer is high and that there is a risk involved, then that's fine.


webmaster of UK.People.Bodyart, co-founder of the newsgroup uk.people.bodyart, and maintainer of the group's IRC channel, #bodyart-uk, on efnet.

IAM Page: smeg

There are a few things that make me say that this is a terrible idea for public events, and pretty much any private event too.

Firstly, let's go for the blatantly obvious. Legality. Cocaine, pot, speed, ecstasy, whatever, are illegal pretty much everywhere. If you are hosting a public suspension party and charging people admission then you have certain obligations to the people at the event. Running the show above board and legal is one. If the police busted such an event they are hardly going to be lenient if they find the people running it, the people throwing hooks and the people hanging from trees are high. It's such an irresponsible thing to do; I can't believe people have even gone there. It's a disservice to the people at the event, and the community in general. If the general public and police get the idea that suspensions = drugs, it would damage a lot of the public relations and education that BME and other education resources have already managed to get out there.

There is more to it, of course. Drugs alter your frame of mind, your judgment, your pain threshold, and your tolerances. Putting the legal side of it away for a moment, and focusing purely on the mental side...

I don't know what being high feels like. I don't know what tripping feels like. I've never taken drugs beyond alcohol. However, I don't disagree with drugs. They just aren't for me. For me, and from my perspective, I would want to feel the suspension properly and sober. I would want to know that if something went wrong, I would be in a state to deal with it. More importantly, I would want to know the person suspending me is in a state where they can deal with it too. For this reason alone, I feel that drugs and alcohol should never mix with a suspension.

However, I understand that there are many different people in the world, and that some people feel the need to have these drugs. Hell, some people are so hooked on the drug they can't imagine doing the suspension sober. If that's their choice, if that's how they feel they need to be to experience the suspension, and anyone involved understands and accepts it, then it's their call. Any consequence, whether legal, physical or mental, are entirely on their own heads.


Piercer and manager of The Edge Tattoo in Rhode Island, in the process of organizing a Boston based suspension group.

IAM Page: goddam

As a practitioner, I realize my views on drug use and body modification are a bit biased. I prefer to work on sober people because there is less of a risk of that particular person sitting horribly, procedures tend to be less messy and it's generally a smoother ride primarily for the client than me - but it does make things easier for me. I like things to be neat and tidy, so doing something that may lead to extra mess or chance of anything going wrong just doesn't make any sense to me.

For as long as I've ever heard about different performance style/ritual events there's more often than not been mention of some sort of drug use involved from peyote to beer and anything in between - it's not uncommon at all. In my opinion, if a person is at a point in their life where they are doing performance style body mod/play then they should be well aware of the possible risks associated with drug use during these types of events and should be able to make an educated and mature decision based on knowing their own body, the risks and so on. And if that person should have a negative experience as a result, hopefully they will realize they have no one but themselves to blame.

My issue in this lies is in the people who do so irresponsibly; for example, drinking large amounts of alcohol before a performance. Performance artists still do have a responsibility to portray themselves and these activities with due respect and most importantly to do so safely -- if you're a walking bio hazard because you had a few too many and your bleeding all over the place and not so aware of all your actions as alcohol has the reputation of doing even the most level headed of us, you've crossed the line. I'm not a fan of the whole "liquid courage" idea in any situation - whether it be to perform as an artist, an entertainer, a teacher or whatever. Do what you do because you want to and because you enjoy some aspect of it. If you can't, simply don't or reevaluate the caliber of your performance. I'm far from preaching here, and for the most part I believe if a performer wants to go out intoxicated as long as there isn't any added danger to the crowd or fellow performers I say go wild. Snort, inject, drink and or ingest your self into a blazing stupor.

To wrap this all up I'd like to leave you all with this thought. There is of course the school of thought that says "taking drugs is illegal therefore it's wrong to take drugs and even worse to take drugs while doing performances" or "being under the influence of drugs negatively portrays the community" or some variation of. The later could be true pending the observer and the situation. However, let's look at why drugs are wrong. Years ago the powers that be, or were if you will, deemed them to be something they didn't want people doing, so they made a law governing who could take what, where and how old you had to be to enjoy/abuse what, and what would be socially acceptable and not and to what level. This is as basic as it gets when it comes to "the authorities" telling us what we can and can not do with our own bodies (now before anyone starts rolling their eyes groaning "not another THE MAN" speech", this isn't - read on), Since then we have learned to accept that "drugs are bad" and made our choices accordingly making small progress along the way. Now we see the start of mass banning of certain body mods -- tongue splitting being one of them, implants, and even dermal punching! These aren't necessarily "performance" style body mods but there are many states and provinces where you'd likely be arrested if you took part publicly in a pull or suspension etc. Why? Because someone decided we needed to be told yet again what we can and can not do with our own bodies. It's easy to make the drug argument - one person's drug habit can easily affect other people negatively. I agree - it can. But in this case there is no such argument. So some of us live with this rule not because we agree, but because it's been generally accepted that we will tolerate being told what to do with the only thing in life that we will ever truly own. I can say I would prefer to see people not under the influence of drugs for safety reasons, but I'm not going to be the person who presumes to tell anyone what to do with their own body.


former staff member of BME's QOD.

IAM Page: saram

Drug use and body rituals such as pulling and suspensions have more in common than many people might wish to acknowledge. Both offer an opportunity to experience something outside of the realm of normal reality, to heighten the senses, to get a "high," and to test the limits of the mind and body. While I certainly wouldn't consider drugs to be a necessary part of engaging in rituals, I do understand that some participants might find the effects of certain drugs to be beneficial, pleasant, or otherwise a positive part of their rituals.

One of the most important and interesting facets of both drug experimentation and body ritual is exploring, learning, and expanding the limits of the human mind and body. Some people have reported an expansion of consciousness during a suspension not unlike that experienced while under the influence of a psychotropic substance. What could happen if both were combined? Would there be an epiphany, a new understanding of the self or the world or life? For the open-minded and experimental, the possibilities could be fairly endless and interesting.

However, I do feel that the decision to engage in body rituals should be made with a clear mind, and this may mean a sober mind. And participants need to be aware of the potential negative effects of drug use on their pain tolerance, mental state, and ability to heal and recover. Also, because of the illegality of these substances (and sometimes the rituals as well), the combination may need to be limited to private rituals. There is no innate "need" for drugs in body rituals, but they could have their benefits for certain individuals.


mod enthusiast.

IAM Page: Dragon Slave

I really don't think it has a huge bearing on the actual act of suspensions or pulls, etc. I'm sure it makes a certain few actually go through with it, but I'm not really giving the o.k. for such use, nor am I saying it's wrong. However I feel that if you are truly wanting to do it for the sake of something more spiritual (Native Indian practices, soul searching, etc) the best way to do it would be naturally -- the high of the act itself should be enough to catapult you into a higher level without the need for anything else.

Having the want to do a suspension for a good while, I haven't been on any drugs prior to play piercing, nor do I really plan to be on any mind altering substances when I finally do the suspension.

As of right now, I guess I could say I'm in suspense of having the suspension. Nearing my 21st birthday, I know it gets closer and closer, and that is enough to give me that high I need to continue with college, my plans after college, as well as anything else I may do in life.

Again, I'm certainly not saying I'm a hardcore straight edge about anything of that sort in my body before even so much as a tattoo or piercing, but I do feel strongly that the way to get the best feeling out of such an incredible experience would be to do it free and clear, so to speak.