Drugs Part 7: Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens were the last bastion of drug exploration for me. I’d done everything else in the “allowed” group of drugs [i.e. everything that wasn’t heroin, PCP, and crack (even though the latter I did do by accident – read about it in part 6)], except anything that made me hallucinate. I was intrigued by the prospect. There wasn’t as strong a desire to do hallucinogens as there was ecstasy, though. I was thrilled by the idea of taking ecstasy, whereas hallucinating simply seemed like it’d be “cool.” People in my initial group of Vegas friends (specifically P and B) told fascinating stories of what it was like to take LSD and mushrooms and the things they saw. Somehow, despite the litany of drugs we consumed during our brief but intense friendship, I didn’t get to consume any hallucinogens until I’d parted ways with that group.
I’d found a new group of friends who did meth after ending my friendship with my first group of friends who did meth (detailed in part 4). This second group leaned more towards other drugs than they did methamphetamine. They had learned I’d never done any hallucinogens and they procured some “magic mushrooms” for us all to consume in April of 2002. We decided to take them at my apartment (since it had the ideal neon-coloured raver decor, complete with several blacklights and toys everywhere to interact with).
I was warned the psilocybin mushrooms would taste bad but I had no trouble eating several of the dried treats. They tasted earthy with a slightly nutty taste. We had some music playing, all the blacklights on, and we all were talking and dancing and whatever else while we awaiting the incoming trip. I didn’t really feel much and was sitting on my futon next to a friend, R. I don’t remember what we were talking about exactly but I distinctly remember after a while R’s face started melting. It looks like the skin was slowly dripping off his head.
I started laughing and looked away, telling him “I can’t look at you while your face is melting.” It was eerie and weird and magical. I’d never seen anything like that before. Depictions of drug hallucinations in films were nothing like the actual experience. It genuinely appeared like R’s flesh melted like a slow-moving liquid down his face. A scene that was more funny than terrifying. The walls of my apartment appeared to “breathe” by slowly expanding and contracting. Colours were slowly shifting and rotating through the spectrum. New, fascinating sounds were appearing in the music we were listening to. I was transported to a whimsical, cartoonish world where anything was possible.
The experience was fun and brief. After a few short hours, I eased back into reality. Over the next few years, I did mushrooms a dozen or so times. Each experience was essentially the same as the first, except for two specific ones:
Your average “dose” of mushrooms can vary, but 1/8th of an ounce usually guaranteed you’d have a decent trip. Caps had more of what’s known as the “visual hallucination” (i.e. faces melting, colours changing) and the stems were the “body hallucination”). Well, there was one occasion in spring of 2003 were I consumed 7/8ths of an ounce of mushrooms throughout a single night. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the experience except that it legitimately felt like there was a thin layer of bubble wrap under my skin (between my skin and my muscles). Every time I touched my own arm or someone else did, I felt a tiny “pop” (hence, “body hallucination”). Otherwise, I recall floating in and out of my bubble-wrap-infested body while I lied on the couch watching cartoons. It was a fun, if hardly remembered, experience.
The other experience worth noting was when Guido, his girlfriend J, and myself went over to our friend Denise’s apartment early in 2004. Guido had acquired some magic mushrooms that had gold flakes on them and some very strong cannabis. He had made some tea out of the mushrooms but I don’t fully recall if I drank the tea or just ate some shrooms. We put on the film Naqoyqatsi and after 30 minutes we smoked some cannabis to help “kick in” the trip. We then eat were given a “Vitamin C” gumball, which was thought to further enhance the experience.
I was staring at what looked like clouds or waves of the ocean on the screen. My mushroom trip started kicking in, quickly and in overdrive due to all the “enhancements” we took. The scenes on the screen changed to show children suffering from starvation in war-torn countries (which is an actual part of the film). So, I’m staring at these horrific scenes on the screen and I started panicking. I thought I was chewing my own tongue instead of gum. I was seeing intense, fast-moving spirals on walls and faces. I was having such intense closed-eye visuals that I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed. I couldn’t tell if I was breathing or not. I was suddenly extremely paranoid and my fight-or-flight response kicked into overdrive. I couldn’t get comfortable and I didn’t feel safe. And worst of all, I couldn’t think clearly and was questioning my own thoughts. I was having a very bad trip, trapped in a waking nightmare that had only just begun.
The only thing that calmed me down was getting away from everyone and everything. I retreated to a bedroom with the lights off, away from everyone else and away from the music and away from the dark visuals. After a while, Denise’s partner at the time, J, tried to comfort me. He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and kept saying “It’s okay, you’re fine,” but his presence only worsened my condition. He left me in solitude and in my solitude, I had a profound experience that’s hard to describe. If I were a religious person, it was the equivalent to seeing God. I came to understand how we’re all connected on a quasi-spiritual level (I learned over the years that hallucinogens and quasi-spirituality go hand-in-hand).
Eventually, Denise (who I am still very good friends with to this day) visited me in the bedroom. She didn’t say a word. She lay on the bed near me, but far enough away to not freak me out. We sat in the darkness, wordlessly enjoying each other’s company for a good amount of time. And then, suddenly, and without any real reason, we both started laughing at the same time. Suddenly, I was fine and rejoined the party. The visuals had been changed to something a little less alarming and apologies were dolled out for putting on such dire imagery.
Any time I did mushrooms after that 2004 experience, I ended up having a bad trip. Not quite to that severity, but enough to make it so I stopped doing mushrooms completely.
A dear friend of mine in mid-2003 used to grow his own mescaline in the form of San Pedro cactus (it naturally produces mescaline, you see). He would routinely give out cacti to his close friends. I luckily fell into that category. He never bothered teaching how to properly extract the mescaline from the cactus. Oh no. He was the sort to cut pieces off and eat it as is. I would also do the same thing with my own.
Let me assure you, there is no taste on this planet worse than the taste of San Pedro cactus. It is a challenge of the highest order to chew and successfully swallow that foul, disgusting, bitter, gross atrocity. But once you do and you eat enough, you get to trip. The mescaline trip is more intense and longer-lasting than the magic mushroom trip. On mushrooms, if you looked at a piece of cactus in the palm of someone’s hand, it would “breath” and shift hues. On mescaline, that same piece of cactus in someone’s palm comes to life as a worm crawling around.
Mushrooms shifted and changed the world around you and confuses your thoughts. Mescaline makes things in the world around you come to life. There’s still the changing of colours and the “breathing” of surfaces, but with mescaline more than mushroom will you see inanimate objects come to life. Things will dance and crawl and move around on their own in ways they never did on mushrooms. I never had a single negative experience on mescaline the handful of times I consumed it and somehow never vomited from the taste.
There was only one occasion where I had peyote (which also produces mescaline). I ate a dried button about the size of a nickel or quarter sometime early 2005. The flavour was comparable to mushrooms with an underlining bitterness similar to San Pedro cactus. 30-40 minutes after eating it, I started feeling lighter than usual and started seeing colours become brighter and “vibrate” with movement. Then, I woke up the next day in my bedroom. I have absolutely no memory of the trip and my friends/roommates at the time said I was pretty calm, quiet, and very friendly during the entire trip.
The first time I took LSD was at an illegal rave in early 2003. A friend of mine, R found someone selling it on blotter paper, but was suspicious of the dealer (the dealer wasn’t anyone we’d seen before at parties). So R bought 2 hits at $5 apiece and fed them to me (I was more than willing to be the test subject. If I were to start tripping, R was going to buy most, if not all, of this dealer’s supply. If I didn’t trip, then he was only out $10. Over the course of the night, R’s eyes were heavily on me, asking repeatedly if I was feeling anything. I never really did. At this point, I’d only done mushrooms before, so I knew what a trip was like. I wasn’t experiencing anything remotely like that. I did feel good, I reported, but it was hard to distinguish whether I felt good because I was dancing or because of the acid. R ended up not buying any more.
I’d done blotter a couple of times after that, but never to any noticeable effect. Then I was at an underground rave in California with my friend J2 in mid-2004. We’d taken 1 or 2 hits of ecstasy each and he was snorting bumps of ketamine all night (I wasn’t a fan, but I did a bump or two). J2 had disappeared for a decent amount of time and found me dancing on the dancefloor. He was all smiles, saying he found someone selling acid – in liquid form. J2 took me to the dealer, who was using a tiny eyedrop bottle to put several drops on some guy’s purlicue (skin between thumb and index finger). I jubilantly declaimed I too would like to purchase some LSD, to which the dealer replied that he wasn’t sure he’d have any left.
When it was my turn, I gave the dealer $10 (for 2 hits). He held out my purlicue and attempted to squeeze out a drop. Nothing came out. He tried again and again nothing. Then he squeezed a third time and several drops spurted out, much more than the 2 I paid for. He was under the impression the bottle was empty and gave it to me free of charge. I stuffed that in my pocket and went about my rave.
DJ Isaac was spinning hardcore/gabber. I was at the front, watching his set. As I was watching, I saw other people walk up the DJ booth. Some were talking to him, some with each other. One lied down in front of the DJ booth. Some of the people started kissing and fondling each other. Some were dancing and laughing. The more I watched, the more people were joining the small stage area. Kissing and fondling became full-fledged fucking. Dancing became much bigger and bombastic. Laughing became doubling-over in hilarious pain. After a while, I blinked several times and shook my head and all those people vanished, leaving on DJ Isaac on stage. I’d hallucinated the entire group, each and every last one of them.
We ended up leaving the party and driving to a friend’s house to spend the night. I don’t know how we did it, because J2 was tripping the same as me and he drove when clearly he shouldn’t have. The road was a soothing river we sailed down for what seemed like an eternity, made possible by closely following the car/boat/face of my friend who’s home we were going to. Somehow we arrived at his place in one piece. He had luscious blue grass blowing like waves of the ocean in the front. Trees bending and twisting into intricate shapes on the side.
Inside, his home was a carnival of moving, dancing colourful objects. I busted out the bottle of LSD, which definitely had several more hits inside. My California friend cut up the bottle and did his best to evenly dole out the remaining LSD. A few of us ended up chewing pieces of the bottle to savour up what few remnants we could suck out. The remainder of that night is foggy, but I remember us all doing several hits of nitrous oxide, me taking a bath after everyone went to sleep, and watching Finding Nemo twice in a row.
Acid/LSD took the best parts of mescaline and mushrooms with none of the negative. Every time I’ve taken acid since then, I’ve felt like a happy child wandering through a dream. Eager, curious, thrilled, never scared. Oftentimes, people have bad trips on acid due to the intensity and the length of the “trip,” but not me. There is a clarity of thought when I’m on acid that isn’t present when I’m on mushrooms and I think that “confusion of thought” that mushrooms engender is what would bring about bad trips.
I have so many acid stories, each one could fill up its own blog post. LSD is one of the few drugs that I can clearly remember everything that happened while I was on it (just as long as LSD was the sole drug consumed i.e. not combined with anything else). I’ve seen statues sing and danced, I’ve tasted the colour yellow, I’ve seen people’s shadows come to life independent of the person, heard sweet music in silence, heard inanimate objects tell stories, and so much more. Being on acid is truly like being in a wondrous dream. And not for a couple of hours, like on mushroom. On LSD, you’re in that dream state for anywhere from 6-12 hours.
I did consume a goodly amount of LSD in a short timespan and never once did a single trip on acid come close to the negative things purported by anti-drug peoples. I never thought I was a glass of water that could be tipped over (and then die). I never thought I could jump off a building and fly away. Like all the other drugs I’d tried before it, LSD (and hallucinogens in general) didn’t have the life-ending, ill effects promised. Sure, I had bad trips on mushrooms, but I didn’t irrevocably lose my mind or develop some kind of psychosis. This is the sort of nonsense they said acid/hallucinogens would cause:
The only hallucinogen I’m outright opposed to doing is mushrooms, simply because of a history of bad trips on the things. I would have no issue consuming mescaline or LSD today, but the desire simply isn’t around anymore. Taking LSD is a days-long commitment that I’m no longer interested in. Plus, I’ve seen so many magical and wondrous things, caused by the wires in my brain being switched around due to hallucinogens, that I’m not sure what more there else to see. I’m not sure there’s anything else I want to see. Hallucinogens, for me, had a very specific time and place in my life.
The last time I took LSD was March of 2009 (for my birthday). Guido and I, along with 2 others, took a couple of hits, moseyed to the theatre, timing it so that we’d start feeling the effects shortly before the movie started, got our 3D glasses, and watched Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland with a head full of LSD. It was a hoot.