It's like Yelp, but for heroin. Jynxies Natural Habitat, an anonymous blog dedicated to reader reviews of local dope and its packaging, has operated largely unnoticed by non-users for nearly five years. But as with New York City's heroin trade in general, the site garnered new attention last week following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman of an apparent overdose. Among the dozens of glassine baggies of heroin reportedly discovered in Hoffman's West Village apartment were some marked "Ace of Hearts," a brand reviewed (and graded a 7.5 out of 10 overall) just weeks prior by a Jynxies reader from Brooklyn.
The coincidence could be cause for concern: Following Hoffman's high-profile overdose, the NYPD publicized its search for his dealer, resulting in the quick arrest of four people and increased scrutiny on the subcultures that swirl around the drug. But it's also opened up the conversation surrounding addiction. Daily Intelligencer spoke via e-mail to the blog's proprietor, identified only as Dequincey Jynxie (a literary drug reference), about running the site, shifting public perception around heroin, and the creative marketing techniques of branded stamps.
Can you start by telling me a little bit about the blog — its history and your mission with it?
I started the blog in 2009 just as a way to sort of keep track of what I was personally coming across in the market at the time. It was private for a while and at some point I opened it up and gained a small readership. I got involved with a harm reduction community online and began to see the wider potential of keeping both a visual record of a unique, taboo market that will indelibly be phased out in the future, as well as providing an interactive space through which people can access and share information that might just save their lives. The Internet's shroud of anonymity often brings out the worst in people but in some instances, it can be freeing and allow for positive exchange.
Critics of the blog have occasionally taken issue with the casual/tongue-in-cheek tone, interpreting it as an attempt to "normalize" something that should be eschewed. I think what many people fail to understand about harm reduction is that it is not necessarily the ideal, nor is it an actual solution to "cure" addiction. In many ways, it is simply a practice of self-preservation, established to inform and educate users how to take the best care of themselves. Disseminating this information is challenging as there is no concrete "community" of active users out there, compounded with the fact that in addition to being isolated, many of us inevitably forfeit both our self-worth, as well as our "free" will, when we become dependent on a substance. There are so many people out there in exactly the same boat and we need to look out for each other. That voice comes from within the community. So if its inclusive smirk reminds someone feeling hopeless out there that they are not, in fact, alone, I feel it has hit the right tone.
In an interview with Vice in 2012, you were described as a female user in New York. Is that still accurate?
In 2011, I left the "market" and since then have relied solely on reader submissions, which have been remarkably consistent, and if anything, prove the need and usefulness for a space like [Jynxies]. I've never actively advertised or promoted the site, but over the years I've answered occasional interest from the "straight" press.
How many submissions do you get? Are you friendly with any of your readers or reviewers?
Since 2012, I've averaged about 50 submissions per year. Occasionally readers will submit a batch of reviews at once, spanning the course of a few weeks to a couple of months found in their particular scene or locale, and I'll post them together as a "rundown review."
Over the years, I've received a wide array of feedback and inquiries. From design curators, marketing students, retired/ex-NYPD who just want to chit-chat about their experiences working narcotics in the city's seediest days of open-air past, to the flipside of the same coin from a math teacher with 25-plus years clean. And, of course, there are the active users, both recreational and addicts alike.
One of the brands allegedly found in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s apartment after he died was reviewed on the blog a few weeks ago. Have you followed the story? How have yourself and others in the community you helped to build reacted?
I think it'd be impossible to not follow the story. Obviously, it's very sad. I do think, however, a positive to come of it is there has definitely been a huge spark in conversation in the mainstream press as well as in people's personal lives about opiates and addiction in general. I was listening to Diane Rehm's show on NPR last week and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of information and general lack of sensationalism.
Addiction can happen to anyone. It's not just reckless kids and creepy homeless folks begging for change on the highway median. I, myself, have an Ivy League education and I have been in and out of treatment over the years with a multitude of brilliant, successful-on-paper people — engineers, nurses, lawyers, teachers, police officers, and obviously a decent share of "creative" types. There is no model for who it strikes.
Are you at all worried about the subsequent NYPD crackdown on dealers following Hoffman’s death? Have you ever seen any thing like this — the search for a dealer following an overdose, even a celebrity's — from law enforcement?
The NYPD is, and has been for some time, most concerned with its public image. I'm not surprised they made an arrest in this case so quickly, and I feel sorry for the guy who was probably no more a dealer than a friend/using buddy.
Heroin busts are reportedly on the rise in New York the last few years. Do you think usage is, as well? Is heroin, as they say, “back”?
I don't think heroin has ever gone away. There's always a new "epidemic" out there. The elusive "war on drugs" seems to constantly need a new focus, so if it's not something new like bath salts, or "spice," it'll be something we haven't heard of in a while.
I do think there is validity to the shift of many people from RX opiates to heroin as the DEA cracks down on the pain management industry. Expect to see more people switch this coming year when hydrocodone (Vicodin/Lortab/etc.) is reclassified from a schedule III to a schedule II drug.
How has the art of the branded baggies changed since you started keeping track? What are the latest trends ?
I am always curious to see the trends in stamps and sometimes I get submissions of the same stamp from various locations, so it's interesting to see how virulent some suppliers seem to be. For the most part, the market has remained the same, however, and I predict it will until the inevitable phase-out of glassine packaging altogether. I think it's only a matter of time and has already begun in areas outside the city. I don't know that the East Coast will ever see a market shift to BTH (Black Tar Heroin) as the rest of the country has seen, but as the economy changes it only seems natural to move to a weight-based system of sale, such as New England saw in the early aughts when the market phased out glassine stamps for simply weight (.2g "dub", .5g "half" etc) in a "twist" plastic bag.
One new trend I've noticed is the appearance of stamps being preprinted on the bags. Normally, you can see the variations in the rubber/inkpad technique, but this new format produces a perfect, crisp graphic. I'm not sure if dealers are ordering these from online vendors or if they are being produced locally by a shop with clandestine practices, but they are pretty to look at!