Group 7: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
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"He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man."
-Dr. Johnson

Fear and Loathing is an autobiographical novel written by Hunter S. Thompson and was later made into a movie in 1998. The book/movie is based on two trips its protagonist Hunter S. Thompson took with his attorney Oscar Zeda Acosta, who knew exclusive details of a story that Thompson wanted him to be able to talk more freely about. This was all with the intention of perhaps writing a novel of his own about the details of the story, and thus a trip to Las Vegas began. Fear and Loathing's concept is said to have originated with Thompson scribbling in his notebook in a hotel room toward the end of this journey, and over the course of 36 hours supposedly the novel took shape based on his experiences. What started as a short piece hoping to be included Rolling Stone Magazine became a very influential and important novel in American History.
Both movie and novel are intentionally vague, confusing, and full of extraneous details that seem entirely unrelated to whatever plot the story might have. There are a few characters and a clear protagonist but what their intentions are come across as obscure and unfocused. This is because of the hallucigenics and other drugs that are the focus of this novel/film, used by both the protagonist and by the majority of its other characters. All of these drugs significantlly alter a person's state of mind, with some of the less "hardcore" drugs like cannibis and alcohol simply lowering one's inhibitions whereas other drugs like cocaine and payote being capable of causing visions and hallucinations. The effects of these drugs are seen repeatedly throughout the movie and film, leading the characters to behave irrationally, to say things that they would not normally say, and experience feelings and sensations unique to the drug experiences. All of this is brought across through the unique and interesting styles of the film and movie, jumping in time and never being very clearly articulated to the viewer. This is obviously intended to emulate what it is like for a person to be on drugs and mimic their perception of the world, as iif that sort of person were telling the viewer the story themself. It also hopes to give the reader an impression of what these drugs can be like without them having to go experience the effects themselves.

The role of the drugs in both novel and movie is to extrapolate on the concept of recreational drug abuse and their potential roles in escapism. All of these drugs, from cannabis to alcohol to datura, are capable of being abused to escape and forget the self. We see this recurrently throughout the movie/novel wherein its main characters hope to forget their sorry states and instead embrace the hedonistic lifestyle associated with repeated drug use. This allows Fear and Loathing's characters to cope, obviously in a very unhealthy fashion, with their problems while never actually dealing with them.

All of the above described drugs are obviously first and foremost plants, each with their own unique use. Each plant has a different impact in the film based on the characteristics of the drug.

cannabis_flower.jpgCannabis, also known as marijuana plays a crucial role in the film Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. The man characters, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, use it frequently for its mind altering ability. The movie portrays cannabis in a comedic manner and focuses on its recreational purpose. This accurately portrays the drug's ability to impact a person's motor skills and concentration. It allows the movie's characters to forget about their problems, as they are unable to focus. This movie/film demonstrates a concept known through the United States as the "gateway theory." This theory suggests that cannabis is the starting point of many individuals (although obviously not all) who use it as a pathway to more "hardcore" drugs in the long run. This is an argument used repeatedly against the legalization of marijuana despite that its adverse effects have been clinically proven multiple times to actually be less serious than alcohol.


"Now, there are four states of being in the cannabis, or marijuana, society: Cool, Groovy, Hip, and Square. The square is seldom if ever cool. He is not "with it," that is, he doesn't know "what's happening." But if he manages to figure it out, he moves up a notch to "hip."
- Dr. Blumquist

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Barley is an important cash crop that also has drug-related applications because of its ability to be malted and broken down into a utile material for alcohol. Malted barley has the bitter-like quality associated with the typical taste of beer and other liquor, which has a recurrent role in this film/novel. This is because of the necessity of alcohol as a "party drug," used in large settings to make social occassions more enjoyable by its characters. Alcohol is also the only legal drug for public recreational consumption on this list, making it easily accessed and thus used repeatedly throughout the movie/novel. It is a depressant and a downer, impairing one's motor functioning and ability to concentrate. It is because of this it is incredibly important to keep individuals who have been consuming alcohol away from operating heavy machinery, such as cars. We see Duke and many other characters in this film/movie repeatedly drive drunk despite this, however. Alcohol is important in the context of this movie because it is the "starting place" for these characters any many people. As it is so socially acceptable individuals start by drinking an amount of alcohol that has adverse impacts on their body, and then move on to abusing other much more dangerous drugs. In that sense, alcohol is much like cannabis in that it is classified a "gateway drug" to other substances to abuse.

"I'm a whiskey man myself. We don't have much trouble from drugs where I come from..."
- DA

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Datura stramonium
Hunter S. Thompson talks about a time when he was given a datura root as a present. He says that he ate the entire thing at once and went completely blind while making noises like a raccoon. This is the basis for his and other's further research of Datura stramonium within the plot of the movie through experimentation and discussion at several medical councils featured by the film. Datura is easily the most deadly recreational drug used in the movie, and this is clearly articulated by how strong its effects are in both the movie and the book. It is a very powerful hallucinogen, used in many ancient religions to communicate with supernatural spirits. It makes it very difficulty for an individual to differentiate fantasy from reality because of its very powerful impact on a person's cognition.


"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls."
- Duke

The drug Cocaine is obtained as an alkaloid from the Coca Plant. In the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Cocaine is referenced on multiple occasions. For example, Cocaine is seen in a salt shaker in the beginning of the movie. Also, the main character Duke snorts cocaine while he is driving in a convertible in another scene. Cocaine is a very addictive drug and this is seen repeatedly throughout the film because of the way it affects the mesolimbic-reward pathway. This causes the brain to crave the drug incessantly. A form of cocaine, crack-cocaine, is seen in both the film/movie. This is a deviant of the original drug that has less actual cocaine and more useless substance meant to fill up space. This leads the substance to be less curving of the need for it and thus even more addictive than traditional forms.


"God didn't do that! You did it! You're a narcotics agent, that was our cocaine, you pig!"

Peyote is at its cure a medicinal drug capable of great use in practice such as meditation, psychonautics, and psychedelic psychotherapy. This is because of its general psycho active properties when ingested, which allows for transcendence. This makes it a good agent for dealing with pain, as it lowers the amount and the ability of a person to accurately perceive it. In the book, we see Peyote used for the same numbing quality, which allows Duke and other characters to become less aware of their surroundings and able to focus only on one topic at a time. This greatly adds to the general theme of book the book and movie that its characters are escaping the realities of their sitatuations. This is the drug that probably had the most impact on the attorney, who was trying to tell a story but could not forget about the details surrounding the circumstance. Once only focused on the story itself, it would be significantly easier to speak without the fear of various glaring consequences for disclosing.
"Here I was, alone in Las Vegas, with this goddamned incredibly expensive car, completely twisted on drugs, no cash, no story for the magazine. And on top of everything else I had a gigantic goddamn hotel bill to deal with."

"Alcohol." Drug Guide. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, n.d. Web. 1 Dec 2011.
"Infofacts: Cocaine." National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse, n.d. Web. 1 Dec 2011.
Rudgley, Richard. "Cannabis." The Cannabis Encyclopedia. N.p., 1998. Web. 1 Dec 2011. <>.
Schultes, Richard, and Albert Hoffman. "The Track of the Little Deer." A Brief History of Peyote. N.p., 1992. Web. 1 Dec 2011.
Wikipedia contributors. "Datura stramonium." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.