slightly defensive Q & A drug disclaimery thing

Festival season approacheth, which means pretty soon I'll be referencing capsules and powder and fungus, oh my! I figured it would be a good idea to put up a post I can link to, containing an overview of All Things Drug. At some point I'll move it to its own page, but for now, new content!

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You blog openly about drug use. Do you think this makes you cool or something? Because, uh, you are definitely not cool.

First of all, *clears throat pedantically* "drug" is an umbrella term encompassing a vast array of both prescription and recreational drugs, some of which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. AND YEAH, I KNOW I'M NOT COOL. THANKS. I don't talk about drug use because I think it makes me cool. I talk about it because I imagine it's more interesting than what I ate for breakfast, or what I did at the gym, or what's in my purse. I write first and foremost for my own enjoyment but I try to be entertaining, too.

How often do you use MDMA?

Four or five times a year, at festivals and the occasional local electronic music show.

How often do you use psilocybin (magic mushrooms)?

Ten or twelve times a year, at festivals, shows, or on the occasional weekend night. A standard dose of mushrooms has the same effect on me as a few drinks; I'm giggly, chatty, happy, relaxed. There's no comedown with shrooms, so it doesn't "cost" as much to take, physically and emotionally speaking, as MDMA.

How often do you smoke pot?

Next to never. Not really a fan. I hate the sluggish feeling and I get crazy paranoid. If I do it, it has to be around close friends that I feel totally comfortable with. Even then, I just feel useless and stupid.

Have you ever accidentally given Chaucer a contact high and spent ten minutes following him in circles around a light pole at 3am, stoned out of your mind, while he frantically searched for an invisible squirrel, then come back upstairs to somehow end up helplessly watching a YouTube video of a forest wedding where all the bridesmaids were dressed as fairies and all the groomsmen were dressed as elves?

....maybe.

Is that mildly terrifying experience partially why you hate pot?

....maybe.

Do you take any other drugs?

Nope. I tried GHB once and was sick as a dog. Never again. I've never tried cocaine or heroin or meth and I never would, not in a million years.

Come on...nothing else?

Okay well at some point I will definitely try LSD. I've been wanting to for ages but just haven't found the right time.

What do you want to say about MDMA?

Only that if you're going to use it, please educate yourself beforehand. DanceSafe is a fantastic, extremely thorough resource and a great place to start.

Are you condoning drug use?

No, I'm condoning education. Not only does preaching abstinence not work, it does a grave disservice to those it's intended to protect, by withholding information those people need to make good decisions under potentially dangerous circumstances. Just like sex. People are going to do it, and there's no use pretending otherwise. May as well empower them with what they need to know to be safe.

What do you want to say about psilocybin?

Well, for starters, this:

In 2006, the United States government funded a randomized and double-blinded study by Johns Hopkins University which studied the spiritual effects of psilocybin in particular. That is, they did not use mushrooms specifically (in fact, each individual mushroom piece can vary widely in psilocybin and psilocin content). The study involved 36 college-educated adults (average age of 46) who had never tried psilocybin nor had a history of drug use, and who had religious or spiritual interests. The participants were closely observed for eight-hour intervals in a laboratory while under the influence of psilocybin. 
One-third of the participants reported the experience was the single most spiritually significant moment of their lives, and more than two-thirds reported it was among the top five most spiritually significant experiences. Two months after the study, 79% of the participants reported increased well-being or satisfaction; friends, relatives, and associates confirmed this. They also reported anxiety and depression symptoms to be decreased or completely gone. Fourteen months after the study, 64% of participants said they still experienced an increase in well-being or life satisfaction.  
source

Also this:

Taking magic mushrooms (psilocybin) can have a lasting change on the individual's personality, making them more open about their feelings and the way they perceive things, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA, wrote in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. The authors explained that those who had mystic experiences while on psilocybin were more likely to subsequently exhibit certain personality changes, making them more forthcoming about their feelings, becoming more focused on being creative, curious, and appreciative about artistic things. 
source

It's actually difficult for me to talk about my shroom experiences because they are so precious to me. I don't like opening them up to mockery. One more quote to explain:

"...it is simply impossible to communicate the profundity (or seeming profundity) of psychedelic states to those who have never experienced them. Indeed, it is even difficult to remind oneself of the power of these states once they have passed." - Sam Harris

Have you ever had a bad MDMA experience? 

I've had some exceptionally difficult comedowns from MDMA, which I now know were exacerbated by redosing. The serotonin depletion is difficult under the best of circumstances; for those who suffer from depression, it can be excruciating. (Feelings of hopelessness, despair, etc.) I am super irritable and moody after taking MDMA and prefer to interact with others as little as possible. I've also jacked my jaw up something terrible from grinding my teeth. All of this sounds horrible I know, but that's the tradeoff on MDMA. At the risk of sounding glib, they call it ecstasy for a reason, and that reason is why I'm willing to cope with the negative after effects.

Have you ever had a bad psilocybin experience? 

At Coachella 2014 I overdid it on the last morning of the festival. I was exhausted, overheated, dehydrated, and undernourished. I took some shrooms on the shuttle ride to the fest and puked them up the second I got off the bus. Brutal. But that's less a reflection on the drug than on my state of being.

Once or twice I've gone a little "dark" on shrooms (thinking negatively), but it didn't last long and my trips have always ended on a high note.

Aren't you a little old to be doing this stuff?

Probably! I'm also probably too old to go to EDM shows, too old to wear graphic tank tops, too old to take half-naked selfies, and too old to eat rocket pop sorbet (stuff tastes EXACTLY like a bomb pop) for dinner. And yet here I am, doing all of those things, and neither Christ on high nor my conscience has all that much to say about it.

I hesitate to drop a hot-button word like childfree, but that's largely what it comes down to. I'm responsible to and for myself (and to some degree my partner), and that's it. No babysitter curfew, no kid to embarrass with my youthful antics, and no one's welfare tied to my own. So my being past the age when most people are done experimenting with drugs doesn't really matter, since the typical trappings of my age group (i.e., children) don't apply. "Too old" might sting when hurled from the right angle, but that's mostly because aging itself stings. The fact is, "too old" is often a lifestyle-dependent condemnation.

I'm actually glad I didn't discover drugs at a younger age. I didn't try ecstasy until I was 36 years old. That's just three years ago. I didn't try psilocybin until I was 37. Coming to these experiences later means not only am I more emotionally equipped to handle them, I'm also in a better position to appreciate what they've done for me. (I'm much more thoughtful and introspective than I was ten, fifteen years ago.)

Is there a handy resource I can consult for a good reflection of your opinions on drug use?

SO GLAD YOU ASKED. Sam Harris's essay Drugs and The Meaning of Life, quoted briefly above, gives an excellent overview of psychotropics, and I'm pretty much on board with everything he has to say about them.

I don't think you've drawn enough on Sam Harris for this post. Can you please quote him again?

Love to! From the first chapter of his latest book, Waking Up, on using MDMA for the first time:

It would not be too strong to say that I felt sane for the first time in my life. And yet the change in my consciousness seemed entirely straightforward. I was simply talking to my friend—about what, I don’t recall—and realized that I had ceased to be concerned about myself. I was no longer anxious, self-critical, guarded by irony, in competition, avoiding embarrassment, ruminating about the past and future, or making any other gesture of thought or attention that separated me from him. I was no longer watching myself through another person’s eyes. 
And then came the insight that irrevocably transformed my sense of how good human life could be. I was feeling boundless love for one of my best friends, and I suddenly realized that if a stranger had walked through the door at that moment, he or she would have been fully included in this love. Love was at bottom impersonal—and deeper than any personal history could justify. Indeed, a transactional form of love—I love you because…—now made no sense at all.

Exactly how many days left until Bonnaroo?