These Trippy Portraits Reveal the Diversity of Drug Users

April 7th 2016

Photographer Les Baker V encountered drug users from all walks of life during his years as a bartender. After a while, he says he developed the ability to identify what type of substances people were on based on their appearance, specifically their eyes. His photo series, INEBRI-NATION, reveals the diversity of users through trippy portraits of people peaking on various legal and illegal drugs, which he imposes over their faces.

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"The individuals featured in this series showcase the diversity of those who use mind altering substances," Baker wrote on his website. "They include students, servers, doctors, soldiers, lawyers, politicians, mothers, fathers, artists, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and judges."

While the physical differences between a person high on, say, OxyContin and another on cannabis appear subtle — perhaps too subtle for a lay person to distinguish — the stories behind the photos reflect a common theme: It's impossible to determine the "type" of person most likely to use any specific drugs or why they choose to do so. You've heard stereotypes about college kids using the prescription stimulant Adderall, for example, but what about the surgeon in your local hospital?


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Another consistent observation from Baker's series is that the drug users he met and photographed were not necessarily getting high to "escape" the real world, but to enhance their experience within it. One crack user told Baker that "he was feeling more energized, more alert, and more sensitive to sight, sound, and touch" after he smoked the stigmatized stimulant.


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The reason Baker imposed photos of the drugs his subjects took onto the portraits was to "isolate the eyes and tell more of the story," the photographer told The Creator's Project. "Most of the images are either the substances themselves or something representing them."

Baker explained his process:

"The methamphetamine is the crystals. Ketamine is widely used in powder form, but that doesn't translate well as an image to lay over a face. Many people referenced seeing Lego-like patterns, so I thought using blocks to illustrate that description would be appropriate. Cocaine is also in powder form, I wanted to overlay a picture of someone using it with the obvious hundred dollar bill, showing the light and dark side of using. For the LSD and psilocybin, I disordered the whole image to illustrate mind-bending hallucinations."


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Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)

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Baker's understanding of how diverse drug users really are comes from firsthand experience, but there's also evidence to back up his claim. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 most commonly use illicit drugs, however, income, ethnicity, and geography are weak indicators of drug use, according to data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

"Substance abuse cannot be limited to a homeless man on the street, or someone in and out of a rehab center," Baker said. "It consumes all walks of life."

ATTN: reached out to Lee Baker V for a comment, but the photographer could not be reached by the time of publication.

RELATED: What Opioids and Heroin Do to Your Appearance Over Time

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