In the series 'Azarius experiences', we let someone share their experience with one of our products or other (hallucinogenic) substances. The story today was sent by someone who prefers to remain anonymous.
It's often said that it’s very important to research a substance that influences your consciousness, before you use it. This makes perfect sense of course, but what if the substance in question is new? What if the long-term effects are unknown? It's impossible to really know everything about a given substance if research is lacking. A sad example of this is my experience with GHB. This is the tale of a substance that was once thought to be harmless.
When I was sixteen years old, my brother gave me the Dutch drugs bible 'Uit je bol' written by Gerben Hellinga and Hans Plomp. Although I had only smoked a few joints in my young life, I tore through this book in one go. It fascinated me immensely that one’s consciousness could be so easily and deliberately manipulated. Hans and Gerben described the pros and cons of all kinds of substances with a light-hearted tone. Armed with all this information, I started experimenting with mushrooms, salvia, ecstasy and DMT. I especially enjoyed psychedelics.
When I was twenty, back in 2002, my group of friends and I came into contact with GHB. We opened our 'Uit je bol' guide and quickly looked up what our gurus said about this stuff. We read: "GHB gives a relaxed yet energized feeling, removes sexual inhibitions, is not addictive, is not bad for the body, has little side effects and is harmless by itself. But do not mix it with alcohol, this leads to acute lose of consciousness."
Reassured by these words of wisdom, we took this drug, which at the time was relatively new. It seemed Hans and Gerben were spot on with their description, because GHB actually let us party like a maniac while allowing us to appear at work the next day without any hangover. Not surprisingly, we quickly fell in love with it. We threw our alcohol supply out the door and from that moment on we took a ‘gappie’ each weekend; that’s what a dose of GHB was called in Dutch at the time. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that it wasn't such a magical party drug after all. GHB is in fact very difficult to dose. Whenever you take too much, you lose consciousness.
Not all that glitters is gold
Some of my friends had total blackouts or worse, they slipped into a state of delirium. I also experienced some of the severe side effects. Sometimes I’d lie on the floor and there was just nothing expect a black hole in my mind. I would wake up somewhere, not knowing how I’d gotten there. I'd done things that I could not remember, but because the effects when dosed properly where so great, many took these side effects for granted.
My aversion to GHB was growing more each day. In my humble opinion it’s not normal when people at parties are lying unconscious on the ground for three hours. After each incident with me, my friends or the people around me, my doubts about this supposedly safe drug intensified. One day I awoke up from GHB coma and my friends told a horrible story, about me and what I had done that night, but I couldn't remember anything. From that moment I decided that enough was enough. I was forever done with GHB.
This turned out to be easier said than done, because I still felt GHB calling me. Each weekend without, I felt incomplete. It’s like it was begging me to use it, if only a little. At the same time, a voice inside me said I should persevere and quit. It wasn’t easy, as I was the only one in my group of friends to stop using GHB, but it was a decision I was more than happy with. And still am. You see, GHB isn’t just hard to dose, it’s also very addictive. In my close circle of friends, five people became heavily addicted to it.
I still talk to them now and again. Every three hours they take a dose of GHB. Heavy GHB addicts only 'sleep' in cycles of three hours, because that’s how long the effects of GHB last. Then they wake up and redose. If they fail to do so, they’ll experience withdrawal symptoms like sudden anxiety, depression, learning and concentration problems, stress, insomnia, profuse sweating, trembling, cramps, muscle pain, cardiac arrhythmias, delirium, hallucinations, psychosis or an epileptic seizure. So heavy GHB addicts drink themselves in a light coma every night. This regular 'light's out' leads to brain damage due to lack of oxygen.
A GHB addiction is one of the hardest addictions to get rid of. The withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction can be countered with methadone, but no such thing exists to help you in the case of GHB. The only effective way is slowly reducing the dose. This is obviously not easy. What once seemed like a fairytale drug for us has changed into a nightmare for many. The new edition of the 'Uit je Bol' guide tells a completely different story of GHB. It’s definitely not mostly harmless any more.
A cautionary tale
I want to clarify that I don’t hold a grudge against writers Hans and Gerben. Twelve years ago nobody knew the dangers of GHB. And they didn’t force me to take it, it was my decision. I’m just sharing my story with you as a cautionary tale. When a substance is new and thought to be safe, be aware that research might be lacking. Not everything that glitters is gold.
Be smart and take good care of yourself and your friends. Take it from me; there are many wondrous things to experience out there, but tread lightly and thoroughly research what you take. Or simply don’t give in to the unknowns!
Read the Azarius encyclopaedia page for more information on safely taking psychedelics.