How has corona affected the drug scene? How did young people who use drugs experience this past year under the conditions of covid? In this Poppi series, drug researcher Hayley Murray investigates and shares the users’ perspective on how they cope with their drug use during corona. This time: a check-in.
Just like corona fatigue, one central question has taken up residency in my head is: over a year later, what can we say about the virus’s impact on the drug using lives of young Dutch people? (and of course, are you ok? Do you have someone you hug? Here! >—-(^u^)—-<
My requests for a follow-up interview with people who have, over 12 months, shared their stories with me, and you, were graciously accepted. Themes from our check-ins are explored here, specifically (spoilers!): how to cope (personal connections are hella important), typical situations to use in (it’s not straightforward as it seems) and more new drugs experiences (there is always something new to learn about). And since there is a lot of material to share, this will be the first wave of stories, and the second wave…well, you get it.
Connect by disconnecting
You can guess what some of the negative experiences were of this rotation around the sun. And as much as corona has negatively infected so many aspects of our lives, you have discovered ways to protect yourselves during a pandemic: reading the news less, finding new outlets for creativity, trying new things with your partner, discovering the sublime in evening walk in your neighborhood, not letting a good opportunity pass you by. Which brings us to: getting high. What were typical situations of your adventures during the pandemic? Let’s explore.
Many people took inspiration from the concept of club ‘weekenders’ and planned such extended parties at home with a small group of friends. Matthijs (31) and his group of friends would rotate between their houses every few months. “This sacred time together includes drug use,” Matthijs discloses. “But it also serves as a way to truly spend time with each other. Having sleepovers simply means more quality time together, which during the lockdown, we really valued. It also softened the comedown of whatever they might have used the night before: ecstasy, acid, or GHB.” Matthijs notes how this peer support is essential to his tender state: “Knowing you are all in this together makes the recovery day after so much more manageable. Chilling on the couch in sweatpants, and some healthy delivery, with nowhere to be, what could be better?”
‘Cocaine and chill’
Lieke (31) expressed a general discontent with her regular cocaine use on Friday evenings last year. “At the start of lockdown, I was more excited and perhaps more imaginative about using drugs at home. I embraced the opportunity to observe anew the familiar space of my home with a drug infused lens. Cocaine was a welcome a treat, signifying that we had made it through another lackluster week working from home.” However, as the year dragged on, getting high looked pretty similar each time: shutting down laptops, opening a bottle of nice wine and ordering cocaine, or using up what was left from the weekend before. This once special occasion became repetitive and unexciting. Particularly for Lieke who had never used drugs at home before corona: “I’m so fed up with the predictability and sameness of this week after week – I just want to get high anywhere but on this grey couch!”
The mundaneness surrounding her drug use was particularly felt around the summer months when she and her boyfriend were reminded of festivals where their flirtation first took place and possibilities felt endless.
Mini house festival
So, they organized something decidedly different from their regular Friday nights: a mini house festival. Their group of friends planned that this would be the party to all take ecstasy together. To them that looked like not having anything big planned the weeks leading up to it, minimizing social contact, and a week recovery time. Lieke experienced an unbearable mental and physical comedown with ecstasy and after realizing that the lows outweighed the high(s), she swore it off from her drug repertoire over two years ago. Somewhat perplexingly, she stuck with sniffing cocaine. But this particular order seemed to be much better quality than what she had normally been using. Together with the unusual festive energy and being amongst five close friends in ecstatic states, to her, this coke high, “almost felt like a new drug, completely different than what I was experiencing at home on the couch.” A good reminder of how influential (mind)set and setting can be on one’s drug use experience.
Tony (36) seldomly uses in the evenings or the weekends. “I only use drugs when I have enough time to recover from the hangovers. It’s got to be a full three days without any obligations. Better yet, while on a break from work. And since I’ve only ever gotten high at home, this year’s gently enforced staycations meant more frequent adult mental trips to an amusement park.”
While this principle results in less spontaneous drug use, it does support a healthier mental and physical state, and during such a turbulent year, he can think of nothing better. Plus, this planning builds playful anticipation something that him and his partner enjoy.
New drug experiences
While I have written about new drug use experiences before here, your drug experiments continued, inside the home, as the year progressed. Below, we discover new combinations, a popular white powder, and a new legal high.
Looking for something to zhuzh up their routine yet responsibly four month spaced ecstasy trips, Matthijs and his partner Nikita (31) turned to the internet to see what would blend well with it and came across something on Reddit that seemed interesting: combining MDMA with 2-cb, known as a nexus flip. They read from trip reports that once you have peaked on MDMA, you take 2-cb to extend the high but with the addition of visuals. Sold! For Nikita, she envisioned “that ecstasy feeling but sprinkled with a bit of hallucinating and giggles.”
In fact, she had wanted to try this combination for some time but the past two times they had prepared for it, the feeling of the ecstasy had been “just so nice that [they] didn’t want it to change” by adding another chemical. So, they waited.
MDMA crystals + 2-cb = nexus flip. The more you know🌈 🌠
Third time’s a charm
The third attempt was planned, but now this time, the rest of their friend group wanted to join in. Normally, when this group of friends tries something new, they assign a trip-sitter who soberly observes the trip of the others. However, since all five of them had used MDMA and 2-cb before, they didn’t necessarily feel the same need to have a clear-headed mind in the group. Matthijs and his friends began the experiment with ¾ of an ecstasy pill, and once they had peaked, they all took a 12mg pill of 2-cb. Almost an hour later, he and his girlfriend still had not felt anything from the 2-cb, so they took a second pill. This did the trick for him: “my mind was galaxies away from my body!” He admits making the classic mistake of being impatient and re-dosing too quickly, which caused him to feel a bit out of control at points. Especially compared to the others who waited. Asked to reflect on why the 2-cb part of the nexus flip felt more intense for him than his friends, he immediately ruled out a less than ideal setting. “No, that were perfect,” he says proudly. Most of their drug use experiences have been at home anyways, regardless of the pandemic, so they know how to safely set up their home for a mental trip into outer space. He could also rule out any adulterated substances, both pills had been tested by his local drug checking services before the first lockdown. Perhaps it was because he hadn’t used MDMA in around 4 months and had built up his sensitivity? Or maybe he went into the trip a bit apprehensive about possibly spiraling into a negative headspace?
Nikita, his girlfriend, found another explanation. The start of her nexus flip experience felt familiar: the fervent peak enhanced with a hash joint. But she too did not feel the 2-cb effects and really wanted to hallucinate so, she also re-dosed the same amount. “I was feeling so good at that moment, I really felt: what could go wrong?” Speaking about the “too-fucking-high for too-fucking-long” experience, she shares her disbelief: “How could I let that happen, falling into that trap of crazy, rushed re-dosing?”
Whether you side with Matthijs’s rational explanation or can relate to Nikita’s urgency to “want to just fucking trip”, their story is a good reminder that patience is a virtue and that sometimes, even with some care, things can go sideways.
Tony (36) had tried both DMT and cocaine this past year while at home. He had wanted to try both for some time, and their first DMT experience was described here. He tried cocaine over a long weekend, so there would be plenty of time for rest, mainly curious how it would impact his sex drive. He was a bit apprehensive about snorting it, since normally this produced the unpleasant effect of having too much snot post-inhaling. He prefers to ingest white powders via food supplement capsules, a popular harm reduction choice that protects the sensitive nasal passages. But this time, he went along with his friends that were snorting it and it was fine. He had a good time…but not a great one: “I did notice some cravings to keep going, but all in all I found it a softer, shorter lasting version of a speed trip. Especially when considering the cost, speed wins out for me…”
He’s not the first one to draw comparisons between the two stimulating white powders. Nor is he first to be disenchanted with such a hyped-up drug as cocaine. Will there be a second time? I ask. With his laissez-faire attitude, unlikely. “If I ever find myself in the position to try it again, I probably will to see if maybe my first experience was a bit underwhelming and I was expecting more, but I’m not going out of my way to find or buy it. I’m not that curious.”
Mikey (32) has long shown interest in and a preference for psychedelics and the internal exploration such drugs incite. Every now and then, him and his friends would toy with the idea of trying DMT. But this is a relatively elusive drug, one that is only very recently been added to the menu from a What’sApp dealer. Another small obstacle is that, compared to the long list of party drugs dealers do offer, it has a relatively low-profile, so Mikey was a bit hesitant: where does it come from, really? Can it be tested? (yes, for purity, not strength.) What is the preferred method of taking it? Sounds like someone’s ready to do my favorite pastime: internet research.
Via trip reports, they came across DPT (dipropyltryptamine), a research chemical that, while structurally quite different from DMT, it is described as having similar effects: an alerted psychological state and hallucinations. Also, fundamentally different from DMT is that they purchased it legally, online.
DPT vs. DMT
What’s the difference of a few extra carbon lines, really?
Mikey and his friend Paulie planned to try it at a day party where other friends were drinking cocktails and using 3-MMC. The plan was to smoke it, in part because they associated this method with DMT, and in part because Mikey finds snorting to be pretty rough on his sinuses. Also, they read that the high of snorting lasts longer than with inhaling, which wasn’t necessarily the effect that he was looking for, as a first time. However, the preferred smartshops wasn’t open on Sunday, so rolled up Post-it notes and some on-the-spot research with what size of lines to make would have to do.
Slow and steady
They took it intentionally slow to feel the effects, if any. Mikey was pleased about this. Even surrounded with friends he trusted, he wanted the first time to be relatively easy and worry-free. He felt hints to how this drug could produce overwhelming effects, particularly if taken in groups and with more outside stimulation. But the inquisitiveness within him was awoken: what would that feel like? He thinks there will be a second time but perhaps in a different setting, one where he’s more likely to increase the dosage and really see where it takes him.
In total re-dosed four more times at timed 20-minute intervals. Why not a 5th? Mainly because curfew was fast approaching and Paulie and didn’t want to be feel high while navigating the evening rush hour on the train alone. Yuk, no thanks. Even thinking about the short bike between him and home exhausted Mikey, so he decided to save his energy for this short journey rather than getting up off the couch to make another line.
What to expect in the second wave: good drug use experiences and harm reduction tips!
If you have something to offer this discussion around recreational substance use and quarantine, which trust me, you do, please get in touch with me via Telegram @sharewithpoppi or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your anonymity will be guaranteed.
For those of you who already have shared with me: you are great, thank you.
Check back in with Poppi’s blog regularly as, with your help, I’ll continue to explore what this new reality means for recreational substance use(rs) in the Netherlands.