How does corona affect the drug scene? Are users drawn to particular substances during this uncertain time? 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: tripping during COVID.
We may all be confined to the walls of our apartments
but we can still go places in our minds!
Many of us have been forced to work at home now for over two months. One way to break up the monotony of working in the same place as you relax might be to experiment with drugs—you could be taking this chance to spend the next weeks microdosing at the kitchen table-cum-office desk with your roommates. Or maybe you pivot to other drugs and you devote this time to a detox filled with vitamins or you simultaneously
binge on Merlot and Netflix.
Using drugs as an activity during this semi lockdown isn’t surprising; what is are the choices and the rationales guiding which drugs are being used. As part of this ongoing research project, I am asking people what substances they are using and why, and writing about their choices, motivations and experiences during the pandemic. With so many different substances currently being used, this piece will explore four peoples’ experiences with psychedelics. Specifically: the motivations and the situations
in which participants are getting high on LSD.
Discovered by accident in 1953, worshiped by youth of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, prohibited shortly thereafter, and revived by its remedial attributes, LSD remains a popular drug for both its recreational, spiritual, and therapeutic purposes. Users report enhanced introspection, euphoria, visuals. Adverse reactions include temporary paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis. Set (the mindset of the user) setting (the environment in which you use the drug) play important roles for the LSD user. That may be why LSD is seen as an ideal substance to enjoy outside—the expansive physical space and the vivid abundance of nature over a sweaty, smoky basement club? Yes, please. Whilst I write this, a group of my friends are celebrating Hemelvaart by tripping on LSD in the park. And while doing so negates the whole ‘stay at home’ message, it seems that if you need to get out, sitting on a blanket 1.5 meters apart from your friends in the
fresh air seems like a reasonable choice to make.
The increase in the time spent alone at home also provides people with a safe space to experiment with LSD in a different way. In these strange times, more users have started to microdose LSD—using smaller amounts of the substance, about 10 times smaller than the typical recreational dose—for its introspective properties, focus sustaining abilities, and perceptual playfulness. They feel that by experimenting with a relatively innocuous substance, they can improve their days indoors.
Several of the users that I interviewed for this blog series shared that they have seen an increase in their psychedelic use since the beginning of lockdown. Yet, setting, dosage, motivations, and route of administration all varied based on the individual.
So, why and how exactly are they getting high?
The following four stories attempt to answer this question:
Does taking LSD and getting lost in psytrance make the working hours fly by? Since the start of lockdown, Columbo (30) has been microdosing periodically with 1P-LSD—a research chemical extremely similar to LSD, both in composition and effect. Marketed as a legal alternative to LSD, this substance can be purchased online, which gives Columbo the sense that he knows what he is taking, as he can easily bypass going through a dealer. They found their ideal dosage to be 7 micrograms, which was done by carefully dissolving one tab of 1P-LSD in water (dosing instructions on a Post-it-it found directly next to those for sourdough recipe, #quaranitelife). They find it helps them to focus on their screen for hours at a time, something they struggle to do when the fridge is just a few steps away. Take it from them, remember to double check your work agenda on days you microdose—a forgotten Zoom meeting with 13 faces staring back at you is not a hallucination (but you almost wished it was).
Does working on LSD help my creativity flow? Nico (31), a graphic designer, has been experimenting with microdosing LSD with a spray he got from a friend who ordered several online. These sprays allow the user to control the dose in quite a precise manner, addressing the difficulty of dosing with regular tabs that dealers sell. He has used acid before and hoped to bring the child-like curiosity from his past trips to his work as an illustrator. But he didn’t want to feel weird in his normal life, so he was tinkering with smaller doses, around 3 sprays (9 micrograms in total), and a schedule of using it three times a week with resting days in between. With these breaks to reflect, he was able to see that his physical stamina was increasing.
Vape? Lipstick? Vibrator? LSD spray?
Lieke (31) has a different approach: she was expressly used microdosing at home not for enhancing productivity but for activities that were fun and enjoyable. At the moment, her reality of living with three others is quite contained: working, eating, sleeping, Netflix-ing. She would rather use drugs to break free from this routine. She knew how her days would likely unfold and microdosing (typically around 35 micrograms) was a conscious decision that guaranteed an element of rebelling in that it wasn’t connected to sleeping, working, eating or screen time. Whether that meant taking a few sprays and going for a bike ride or exploring their apartment with a new perspective: “Hey, we’ve never been high and sat on the stairs or watched our laundry get tossed around!” tripping had never been so real.
Another user, Amit (37) tried microdosing LSD for pleasure as well. He expressed not wanting to try it before because of feelings of anxiety but during COVID, he felt less apprehension. This is interesting because arguably, this uncertain period can be a major source for anxiety but for him, his social calendar is less empty, his work load has decreased, and this led to a more clear mind. His first microdose was 24 micrograms—which is certainly double digits over a typical microdose. He went to his office space and ran into his colleague but when he wasn’t able to hold his friends’ new baby due to COVID, he became uneasy and paranoid and realized this dose was perhaps too high and wanted to readjust. He decided now is not the time to ‘push’ it when he feels that he already has unsteady footing in the current world. He then switched to 12 micrograms, which helps him to appreciate his indoor surroundings, boost fascination on what’s happening out his window, and make him feel like he’s living, when in some ways,
My next piece will continue to explore getting high at home- what substances are being preferred in this pandemic and why? What are users’ motivations to get high?
And how are they doing it?
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.
Hayley Murray is a drug researcher and project coordinator of the ChemicalYouth project at the University of Amsterdam. She is energized by talking to young people about their substance use and has had the privilege to do so with recreational drug users in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom.