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Amber Marshall, PharmD Candidate 2018
CPNP University of Southern California School of Pharmacy Chapter
Los Angeles, CA

Susie H. Park, PharmD, BCPP
Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy
CPNP University of Southern California School of Pharmacy Chapter Co-Faculty Advisor
Los Angeles, CA

Student Perspective

Spun is a term used to describe a person’s state after days of methamphetamine use with little to no sleep. Taking its core theme from the title, the film Spun (2002) depicts the unglamorous journey of a group of methamphetamine addicts through this state. The screenplay, written by Will De Los Santos, is thought to be based on experiences De Los Santos had while immersed in the drug subculture of Eugene, Oregon.

While attempting to “score” some methamphetamine from his dealer Spider Mike (John Leguizamo), the protagonist, Ross (Jason Schwartzman), is befriended by Nikki (Brittany Murphy), who takes an interest in him because he is the only one in their group with a car. Nikki is the girlfriend of The Cook (Mickey Rourke), who is referred to as such for his ability to convert pseudoephedrine into methamphetamine. Ross finds himself serving as a chauffeur for Nikki and The Cook in return for methamphetamine. The film goes on to depict a three day meth bender, and it becomes glaringly clear that the characters are concerned with little more than drugs, paranoid delusions, and sex. Ironically, the negative consequences of this drug-fueled madness seem to fall hardest on the most functional character in the film, The Cook. In a shocking ending, The Cook takes drastic measures to escape the madness, just as the other characters find the rest that they so desperately need.

I believe the film offers a fairly accurate portrayal of methamphetamine addiction. The characters rapidly cycle between euphoria and paranoia, and they are depicted displaying repetitive motor activity, distractibility, and aggressive behavior. Cookie (Mena Suvari) and Frisbee (Patrick Fugit) exhibit the physical effects of long term methamphetamine use such as weight loss, tooth decay and skin sores.

Ross exhibits another very important symptom of addiction- denial. He is shown incessantly calling his “girlfriend,” Amy. It is later revealed that Amy has moved on from drugs (and Ross) and is only staying in touch to recover money that he owes her.  At one point Ross even states, “I’m not hooked…I can stop at any time.” Ross is obviously in denial of the relationship breakup and the severity of his addiction.

Fast cutaways, sped up sequences, and animated hallucinations are used to simulate the effects of methamphetamine, which causes an overabundance of extracellular monoamine neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft. These visual effects, along with the chaotic sequence of events that seems somewhat devoid of a plot, give the viewer a glimpse into the life of a methamphetamine addict.

Faculty Perspective

“Spoof. Dope. Crank. Creep. Bomb. Spank. Shit. Bang. Zip. Tweak. Chard. Call it what you will; it's all methamphetamine. That's what I'm here for.” Ross, a meth addict and college student, arrives at his usual drug dealer’s house to “score” some more dope. Right away, you enter the overstimulated environment where the drug dealer, his girlfriend, and two other speed freaks are “tweaking” while waiting for more methamphetamine. The movie captures the telltale signs and symptoms of acute and chronic methamphetamine use: euphoria, paranoia, agitation, restlessness, hyperactivation, hyperverbal speech, insomnia (The Cook describes that longest he’s gone without sleep is “13 days”), erratic behavior, hallucinations, and meth mouth (Cookie, the methamphetamine dealer’s girlfriend has teeth that are eroding, fractured, and discolored). Even the dog, “Taco,” that lives in The Cook’s laboratory (i.e., a small hotel room) has to be taken to the veterinary office due to the effects of chronic, second hand meth inhalation.

The term "spun" is first described by “The [methamphetamine] Cook” to Ross in describing his girlfriend, Nikki, who is leaving The Cook after a verbal altercation. He dismisses and minimizes her erratic behavior: "Nikki can't handle her shit, man! She's been, like, partying with the candy for like ten or eleven days, and then the bitch crashes, then she starts freaking out.  You know, she'll split for a day or two, then she'll be back. She's just spun."

Considered an independent genre by first-time movie director, Jonas Åkerlund, “Spun” was an Official Selection of the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and an Official Selection of the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. There are entertaining guest appearances by Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) and Eric Roberts. Music by Billy Corgan (of the Smashing Pumpkins) sets the mood for the behaviors reflecting the film’s fast-moving speed clips, cartoon landscapes, and shots of vivid imagery. Rated R; 1 hr. 41 min.

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