Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers


The DSM-V includes the category of ‘Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder’ (CRD), within which is found:

307.45( G47.26) Shift work type: Insomnia secondary to shift work, and/or fatigue which can include falling asleep unintentionally.

Shift Work Sleep Disorder then is a subcategory within CRD and has institutionalized the inability to physically accommodate the needs of capital as a medical condition. Several of my co-workers are prescribed Modafinil (brand name Provigil), a drug that years ago I’ve heard anecdotally described as oral cocaine– not surprising, since the drug company empirically verified that very observation:

“Modafinil has reinforcing properties, as evidenced by its self-administration in monkeys previously trained to self-administer cocaine”

Several more co-workers are prescribed a variety of flavors of amphetamine– Vyvanse (lisdexamphetamine), Adderall (a combination of racemic and dextro amphetamine) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)– officially for Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or simply off-label with a wink and a nod, brought to you by BlueCross/BlueShield.

Generally, what many people need to accompany speed are downers. Like the US Air Force and its ‘Go Pills’ and ‘No-go Pills’. Usually that’s one of the Z-drugs (Zolpidem-Ambien, Zaleplon-Sonata, Zopiclone-Lunesta), or a benzodiazepine or a novel or sedating anti-depressant like the aptly named Quetiapine (Seroquel).

There’s a particular irony that a company which has a strict and invasive drug testing policy and an absolute zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy tacitly supports the use of amphetamines, amphetamine type stimulants and downers among its employees. Of course, speed does increase the volume and intensity of whatever the user is doing. Whether cleaning an apartment, taking flashlights apart and putting them back together, or working on a line, there’s no question that it ‘works’.

Why ask questions when everyone is getting paid?

A study from 1998:

“Modafinil is a novel wake-promoting compound for which the mechanism and sites of action are unknown.”

A study from 2007:

“Modafinil’s mechanism of action (MOA) remains elusive as pointed out in a recent editorial on modafinil entitled, “Modafinil: a drug in search of a mechanism”

An article from 2016, after nearly a thousand studies on Modafinil were published on PubMed since 2007:

“Although many doctors very likely prescribe the drug off-label to help people concentrate—indeed, a 2008 survey by the journal Nature found that one in five of its readers had taken brain-boosting drugs, and half those people had used modafinil—trials have not yet been done on modafinil’s long-term effectiveness or safety. Studies of the drug have been “carried out in a controlled scientific environment and usually only looked at the effects of a single dose,” explains Oxford neuropsychologist and review co-author Anna-Katharine Brem—so no one yet knows whether it is safe for long-term use in healthy people. Nor is it known whether modafinil might lose its edge with repeated use, a phenomenon familiar to many coffee drinkers”

Firsthand experience using any flavor of speed will show you that evaluating a drug based on the experience of first-time use, or a single use without repeated administration, is an awful method to judge a stimulant. Most drugs have a honeymoon period at the beginning. Stimulants in general, more than other families of drugs, may have the highest peak at the beginning and lowest trough over time; that is, with repeated daily use.

A number of visible tendencies emerge when you work with people who have been prescribed stimulants over a long period of time. The first is that the overwhelming majority of people in general consume caffeine on a daily basis in a variety of forms. Combining caffeine with amphetamines or amphetamine type stimulants tends to exacerbate the physiological side effects of each. The most visible effect of such use is a general sense of nervous disinhibition, which is extremely dangerous among work processes involving machines that can crush or eviscerate you, tasks that could electrocute you or inject hydraulic fluid at high pressure into your body and chemicals that could burn or poison you.

Shift work, rotating and long shifts (10, 12, 12+ hours) take an enormous toll on the mind and body anyway. Sleep disorders give way to a variety of physical ailments and a perpetual state of fatigue and disorientation; fueled by uppers and downers, these can be compounded, which is extremely dangerous among work processes involving machines that can crush or eviscerate you, tasks that could electrocute you or inject hydraulic fluid at high pressure into your body and chemicals that could burn or poison you.

A positive drug test for amphetamines isn’t a factor in post-accident/incident investigation. How could it be, when the company already knows a sizable minority of workers are prescribed stimulants? It becomes clear that the company really isn’t concerned with safety, or the law, or the health and well-being of its employees.

Drugs in general have been the primary alibi by which ever larger segments of the working-class have been expelled from production. Due to ever-increasing application of new techniques and technologies to production, the rising organic composition of capital means that the number of machines/automated processes rises in proportion to a drop in the number of workers necessary to produce ever-increasing output. A mere tens of thousands of coal miners and steelworkers each today produce as much coal and steel as 500,000+ coal miners and 500,000+ steelworkers did even 60 years ago.

But those hundreds of thousands of workers didn’t disappear from society. Neither did their kids, their grandchildren, etc. They just aren’t working in productive industries for the most part. Drugs fulfill the social function of culling the herd for capital, of letting ‘us’ decide for ourselves who has a chance to produce surplus value in the mines, mills, refineries, factories, etc. and who gets to be the personification of a surplus population unnecessary to capitalism. But, not all drugs and not all of the time of course.

Just like Claypool’s observations in his lyrics, written based on his own firsthand experience of speed use in the building trades–

“His foreman would pat him on the back
Whenever he would come around
‘Cause those damned blue-collar tweekers
Are beloved in this here town”

some of us roll the dice every day at work in an environment that tacitly accepts occupational drug use.





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