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tkp

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"The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« on: January 23, 2023, 09:49:31 AM »
The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years. Could Deaths Have Been Prevented?
Written by David Sjostedt
Published Jan. 23, 2023 • 5:00am

Source:
https://sfstandard.com/public-health/the-killer-of-a-skateboarding-legend-went-unnamed-for-years-could-deaths-have-been-prevented/



When it was reported that San Francisco skateboarding legend Jake Phelps died peacefully in his Bayview home on March 19, 2019, the legions of global fans familiar with the brash counterculture icon knew there had to be more to the story.

Phelps, who would rather crack his head on the concrete than walk away from a skateboard trick he couldn’t land, wasn’t known for being peaceful.

Found with the neck of a guitar still resting in his hand and traces of fentanyl in his bloodstream, it was hardly the first time that Phelps’ family and friends felt the need to cover up his addiction. And over three years later, the official cause of death for the 56-year-old Thrasher Magazine editor-in-chief remained unpublished until now: acute fentanyl intoxication.

His death is part of a troubling trend that finds renowned skateboarders dying from fentanyl overdoses without public acknowledgment of how they really died.

Some now wonder whether the secrecy shrouding these deaths is preventing lives from being saved, given pervasive drug use in the skateboarding community.


Jake Phelps at the Thrasher Magazine offices in Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. in January 2016. | Andrew Paynter


Jake Phelps at Potrero Del Sol skatepark in San Francisco in January 2016. | Andrew Paynter

Phelps’ overdose occurred as the number of American fentanyl deaths exploded, with such fatalities increasing 1,000% from 2016 to the time Phelps died, marking a national toll of more than 18,000. 

In San Francisco, the city’s annual overdose deaths doubled in the years since Phelps’ passing. Among over 2,000 lives lost to drug overdoses in San Francisco since 2019, there were at least two other prodigious skaters, Mark Dillard and David Abair, whose names and faces are emblazoned in artwork across the city.

The use of drugs in the skate community combined with the deadliness of fentanyl makes it likely that there are other skaters among those thousands of names.

“It’s like they tried to hide the truth,” said Marcos Castro, a friend of Dillard and Phelps. “Nobody cared how they died.” 


A composite image of skater Mark “Nosey” Dillard. | Courtesy Cam Ennis/Thrasher Magazine; Tom Shattuck/Thrasher Magazine

Surviving a rough upbringing in the Portrero Hill neighborhood, Dillard—or Nosey, as his friends called him because he was always asking questions—died in his Mission District apartment just as his life was taking a turn for the better, Castro said.

By the time he was 22 years old, big skate brands were sending Nosey free gear, and he was touting a sponsorship from the brand Blood Wizard. But with his local popularity came an inherent danger.

On Sept. 18, 2020, before leaving his apartment to meet friends at a bar, Nosey fatally overdosed while using cocaine that he didn’t know was laced with fentanyl. His friends and family didn’t find his body for several days. 

“We’re in San Francisco, where everything is available and the city swallows people up,” Castro said. “I was telling him, your life will be gone so [a drug dealer] can have a couple bucks.”

Abair also ingested cocaine that was laced with fentanyl. His family declined to be interviewed to avoid revisiting his death. 


A skateboarder makes a turn on a bowl featuring a mural of Marc “Nosey” Dillard at Potrero del Sol/La Raza skatepark. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Even within the tight-knit San Francisco skating community, the cause of the skaters’ deaths has gone largely unmentioned.

The cruel double-edged sword of the sport’s unwritten doctrine, which preaches ruthless individuality, is that it sometimes discourages its members from influencing one another’s behavior or caring about what other people think.

“They don’t hold people accountable. Nobody’s going to tell you, ‘Oh no, don’t do that,” Castro said.

Tony Vitello, owner of Thrasher Magazine and a lifelong friend of Phelps, said that skaters are unusually disposed to using drugs because of the culture’s marriage with partying, the likelihood of injury and the ubiquity of open-air drug markets in San Francisco, where many world-famous skate spots are located.

“It’s a naturally dangerous lifestyle, and you do it in the streets,” Vitello said.


Tony Vitello, the owner of Thrasher Magazine, on Dec. 21, 2022. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

The spread of overdose deaths comes as illegal drugs are increasingly cut with fentanyl, which at $3 per pill costs about one-tenth the price of a dose of heroin or cocaine.

Jeff Grosso, another famous skater in Los Angeles, died of a fentanyl overdose in 2020, and many more lower-profile skaters have died in the community of dedicated skateboarders.

Alexander Tsai, a researcher at Harvard University who published a study about how stigma is hindering society’s response to the overdose crisis, said that families withholding this information are likely anticipating the shame that could be placed upon people associated with the victim of an overdose.

Tsai noted that shame and secrecy also enabled the surge in cases of AIDS and crack addiction during the 1980s and 1990s. Both of those affiliations were subjects of shame, which resulted in secrecy surrounding victims’ cause of death, thereby ensuring that the suffering flourished. Today, secrecy surrounding fentanyl is having a similar effect. 

“Were these overdoses not stigmatized, you can imagine family members talking to their friends about what happened,” Tsai said, “and other people who are on the same precipice might benefit.”


A skateboarder walks to attempt a trick at a SoMa West skatepark on Dec. 1, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

‘Jake Didn’t Bail; He Ate Shit’

While many of his friends either quit the sport or stopped pushing themselves due to injuries, Phelps kept going.

He couldn’t walk away from a trick, no matter how many times he fell. And though he was hobbled by broken bones and concussions, friends say that he was more tormented by his inability to skate the way he used to.

Phelps was the top editor of Thrasher Magazine for 26 years, but he was unsure about how to write the rest of his own story, Vitello said.

“He needed skateboarding. It was his fucking lifeblood, and he just kept doing it when he was hurt,” Vitello said.


Jake Phelps during the Day of Hell Contest at Hilltop Parka, aka The Dish Skatepark, in San Francisco on Oct. 5, 1985. | Courtesy Mofo/Thrasher Magazine

He would never jump off his board to escape injury; he would rather be badly hurt than give up.

“Jake didn’t bail; he ate shit,” Vitello explained.

Marie Phelps, Jake’s sister, said that she noticed a shift in Phelps’ behavior after he had surgery on a repeatedly injured elbow a few years before he died.

A gruesome video from 2010 shows Phelps filling his elbow with a synthetic fluid to treat a popped bursa—a fluid-filled sac that protects the elbow bone from impact.   

“I’m going to show you what it takes to keep skating for a long time,” Phelps said in the video, unwrapping his bandaged arm to reveal a two-inch deep hole in his elbow. “This is just another monster.”

Following the surgery, Marie remembers receiving phone calls from the pharmacy, notifying her that Jake was attempting to refill his pain pill prescription before he was due.

“He had so many close calls. I think he thought he was invincible,” Marie said.


A skateboarder makes a turn in a bowl below where Jake Phelps is written at Potrero del Sol/La Raza skatepark. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Still, she was surprised when her brother died and recalls seeing him in good spirits and clean from alcohol only a week earlier.

Until a September phone interview with The Standard, Phelps’ uncle Clark Phelps said he thought that Jake had died from a bad heart or a stroke.

“He was in a lot of pain, and I assumed he took pain pills, but I didn’t know,” Clark said. “He was discreet about everything, and he didn’t have anything to hide ’cause I didn’t judge.”

Unlike Abair and Dillard, Phelps died with only fentanyl in his system.

Once Phelps was gone, Marie said that her parents’ deteriorating health initially swayed her to keep her brother’s cause of death secret. But having gone through recovery herself, she expressed hope that his story could now have a positive impact on the skate community.


Tony Vitello remembers Jake Phelps with another Thrasher employee at the magazine’s offices on Dec. 21, 2022. | Brian Feulner for The Standard

Vitello also struggled with the decision to withhold Phelps’ cause of death, admitting that he still carries guilt for covering for Phelps while he was alive.

“He couldn’t really form a sentence. He was slurring his words and drooling,” Vitello said. “I can’t totally dodge the idea that I had somebody working for me that was a danger not only to himself, but to other people.”

Phelps long prided himself on being the smartest person in the room, a title that Vitello said his addiction stripped from him. He said that the stigma and shame for Phelps didn’t come from the pressures of society, but rather what his drug use turned him into.

“I felt bad for Jake because I knew that wasn’t a fair representation of the brilliant person that he was,” Vitello said. “It just wasn’t him. It wasn’t what he wanted to put forth. But he couldn’t stop.”


Jake Phelps walks down Division Street in San Francisco in January 2016. | Andrew Paynter

David Sjostedt can be reached at [email protected]

Eivetsskates

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2023, 10:03:37 AM »
Tough read but a good article.

Lin Thizzy

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2023, 10:11:33 AM »
This was word on the street from day one after his passing, but to read it as a published article hits different.
The fent epidemic is still raging and its fucked.
My heart is with anyone who has been affected by that abhorant substance.
RIP Phelper
RIP Nosey

Free Whirl

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2023, 10:18:44 AM »
this article is very well written for how heavy the subject is, wow. It's hard to read for sure but being able to openly discuss addiction, or at least attempting to converse about it, is a step in the right direction and will hopefully rid the stigmatization of drug addiction.

Damn we have lost too many people:(

DaleSr

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2023, 10:21:46 AM »
If you suffer from addiction, reach out, get help, get treatment

If you haven't ever tried opiates, don't. Shit is no joke and it will fuck up your life

Fongstarr.

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2023, 10:23:41 AM »
I am unfamiliar with The Standard but why did Vitello give an interview to them about the death of Phelps as apposed to other media sites?
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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2023, 10:24:51 AM »
Thanks for posting. I worry a lot about my friends still getting high on Mission Street coke, but I try and always tell them so.


SatanicPanic

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2023, 10:27:00 AM »
Fucked up they’re putting it in coke. I don’t even like coke that much but I’d rather not feel like I’m risking death on the rare occasions I have some.

IpathCats

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2023, 10:36:06 AM »
Pretty much my whole highschool crew struggled with opioid abuse. Some are clean, some are in jail, some died. I really hate this shit.

Thanks for posting. I worry a lot about my friends still getting high on Mission Street coke, but I try and always tell them so.



Fucked up they’re putting it in coke. I don’t even like coke that much but I’d rather not feel like I’m risking death on the rare occasions I have some.

for real. i dont even get the reasoning behind that, you're just gonna kill your clientele, they dont have an opiate tolerance that can handle that. Most people dont, thats why it even kills heroin junkies.
.....Nah

Newphone

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2023, 10:38:35 AM »
Fucked up they’re putting it in coke. I don’t even like coke that much but I’d rather not feel like I’m risking death on the rare occasions I have some.

I try to tell everyone, you can’t do coke anymore.  It sucks but you are risking death for sure these days.


This place is to blame for covering up Phelps too, everyone was so pissed at people telling the truth when he died.  People should be telling everyone when friends and family die from this shit, it’s fuckin terrible.

Jehoshaphat Augustus

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2023, 10:40:57 AM »


if it's a powder say no
if you need to use tin foil to enjoy it say no
if you need to inject it say no

my father is a medical examiner and he always finds a way to say
"if it weren't for Harleys and Fentanyl...i'd be out of a job"

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2023, 10:43:41 AM »
Please get fent test strips and test your drugs before using, many pharmacies and health clinics offer them for free or low cost

Edit: even if you don't use, I'd highly recommend learning how to administer narcan/naloxone and carrying it with you
« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 11:01:30 AM by NotTheCars »
what quality posts do you have under your umbrella son of a bitch

Underpressureflips

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2023, 10:55:13 AM »
Pills and powders are wack. Beer weed and shrooms for life.

roba

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2023, 10:55:25 AM »
i don’t understand the reasoning behind lacing shit with fenty, as another poster before me said you’re just going to kill your clientele. i’m sure that people who actually do sell hard drugs don’t really care about the well-being of their clientele, but isn’t it kind of counter-intuitive? i don’t get it at all.

fortunately this shit isn’t so common where i live and most of the people i know who use hard drugs aren’t skaters, but that story was still scary and alarming. i had an acquaintance who overdosed on fent or some other opioid and i had some closer friends lose their fucking minds from abusing drugs and that shit scared me off any hard drugs, even the safer ones like amphetamine, haven’t done that in years. hopefully reading this will have the same effect on some other people, especially the skate community. just fucking stick to weed if you need to get high
Skateboarding isn't a sport because when I'm in these streets I don't play
@grandroba

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2023, 11:28:10 AM »
Heavy stuff. I appreciate the way it is handled in the article. Didnt know fentanyl could be found in coke and also that Grosso died because of it. So fucking sad!

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2023, 11:33:54 AM »
Heavy stuff. I appreciate the way it is handled in the article. Didnt know fentanyl could be found in coke and also that Grosso died because of it. So fucking sad!

I was mostly shocked on that news if any from this article. I thought he died from a heart attack. 
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fulltechnicalskizzy

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2023, 11:37:00 AM »
wtf i thought he died trying to slappy hollywood high

manysnakes

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2023, 11:37:25 AM »
Expand Quote
Heavy stuff. I appreciate the way it is handled in the article. Didnt know fentanyl could be found in coke and also that Grosso died because of it. So fucking sad!
[close]

I was mostly shocked on that news if any from this article. I thought he died from a heart attack.

Really? I know nothing about the skate industry, but the moment he died, I immediately assumed it was an opioid overdose or otherwise related to opioids.
This is not my SOTY. I'm telling my kids there was no SOTY for 2021

modern life is war

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2023, 12:14:08 PM »
The writing on the wall was pretty clear for both Phelps and Grosso but it's still fucked up to get confirmation. Fentanyl and meth are such big fucking issues right now and it's just getting worse because the country is so divided on how to address it so nothing actually gets done.

dr.prestige

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2023, 12:20:37 PM »
Great article, pretty heartbreaking read. It really hurts to hear that Grosso succumbed to an overdose after struggling with his addiction his whole life. I had forgotten that he had been dealing with surgeries in the year or two prior to his death, that must have been what led him to relapse. Does anybody else have more information regarding his passing?

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2023, 12:26:04 PM »
Expand Quote
Expand Quote
Heavy stuff. I appreciate the way it is handled in the article. Didnt know fentanyl could be found in coke and also that Grosso died because of it. So fucking sad!
[close]

I was mostly shocked on that news if any from this article. I thought he died from a heart attack.
[close]

Really? I know nothing about the skate industry, but the moment he died, I immediately assumed it was an opioid overdose or otherwise related to opioids.

I just Googled it and it's all over the place how Grosso died from an autopsy. I guess for whatever reason, I never saw that.
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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2023, 12:32:01 PM »
Was afraid about overdosing from the beginning
with Jake and Jeff. Fucking Fentanyl.
Getting the confirmation hurts, this fuck me up
we shoud speak out!
Drugs destroy your friendship, possible sexlife, your family and finally will kill you.
We have two main problems in our society- mental health issues and drug consume. Often both is connected. You can get help. You just need to ask and need to want to change.
No more silent - speak with your friends and family about mental health and drug consum.
Lost to manny to early - was not able to help back then.
Woud I be able to help today - I dont know - people need to want to make the change happen.
At least you can stay off shit yourself and creat a healthy circle around you. If people want to get off - you and your circle can embrace them and gave an opportunity to change.

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2023, 12:34:47 PM »
My coworkers grandpa od’d on coke with some fentanyl a couple months back, 70 years old shit is crazy. A bump of shitty 2023 coke is definitely not worth dying over, I’ve dabbled but I wouldn’t touch it nowadays

BillTetley

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2023, 12:37:58 PM »
Pretty much my whole highschool crew struggled with opioid abuse. Some are clean, some are in jail, some died. I really hate this shit.

Expand Quote
Thanks for posting. I worry a lot about my friends still getting high on Mission Street coke, but I try and always tell them so.


[close]


Expand Quote
Fucked up they’re putting it in coke. I don’t even like coke that much but I’d rather not feel like I’m risking death on the rare occasions I have some.
[close]

for real. i dont even get the reasoning behind that, you're just gonna kill your clientele, they dont have an opiate tolerance that can handle that. Most people dont, thats why it even kills heroin junkies.

My thinking is that nobody purposely is putting fentanyl in coke, the contamination is occurring when dealers are packaging the drugs back to back on the same table or with the same tools and little or no cleaning between. That is the only answer that makes sense to me.

Jehoshaphat Augustus

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2023, 12:41:01 PM »
it's all over the place how Grosso died from an autopsy
We got bad news: you died by our hands
we got good news: atleast we know how it happened

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2023, 12:42:03 PM »
Painful to read but important to start this discussion in skateboarding.
Talk to your friends, check in with them, & don't be afraid to speak up before it's too late

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2023, 12:42:29 PM »
i don’t understand the reasoning behind lacing shit with fenty, as another poster before me said you’re just going to kill your clientele. i’m sure that people who actually do sell hard drugs don’t really care about the well-being of their clientele, but isn’t it kind of counter-intuitive? i don’t get it at all.

fortunately this shit isn’t so common where i live and most of the people i know who use hard drugs aren’t skaters, but that story was still scary and alarming. i had an acquaintance who overdosed on fent or some other opioid and i had some closer friends lose their fucking minds from abusing drugs and that shit scared me off any hard drugs, even the safer ones like amphetamine, haven’t done that in years. hopefully reading this will have the same effect on some other people, especially the skate community. just fucking stick to weed if you need to get high

The producer don’t care about you, the consumer or the pusher.
He just produce fast and cheap as possible - the main distributer will find new pusher and the pusher clientel…
Selling drugs is like selling weapons- people will die sooner or later - you need to keep up running the traffic not making happy the final client.
El Chapo Didn’t get rich with customer relationship and satisfaction.
Sorry to say - dope and alcohol is the same system just lower risk / margin.

ShyLow

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #27 on: January 23, 2023, 12:53:20 PM »
Why is Tony giving an interview to a low level SF blog instead of putting an article in Thrasher? This information could have saved lives in the community. Just weird when the conclusion was ' this should have been publicized' then have the #1 guy who could have gotten the word out confirming it.

EdLawndale

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #28 on: January 23, 2023, 12:54:15 PM »
Lost to manny to early - was not able to help back then.

RIP
"Was just about to say, wtf is up with this EdLawndale guy?"


SatanicPanic

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Re: "The Killer of a Skateboarding Legend Went Unnamed for Years."
« Reply #29 on: January 23, 2023, 01:07:59 PM »
Expand Quote
Fucked up they’re putting it in coke. I don’t even like coke that much but I’d rather not feel like I’m risking death on the rare occasions I have some.
[close]

I try to tell everyone, you can’t do coke anymore.  It sucks but you are risking death for sure these days.
Aren’t you mr no fun

Edit- I’m mostly kidding, like I said not a big fan- feels OK for a little while and then the next day I’m a wreck. Not really worth it.

That being said not every dealer is a terrible person who doesn’t mind killing customers but I’ll still be more careful going forward. I’d never buy shit off the street. Really we should legalize so at least people don’t OD like this.