I was a fan of psychedelics long before I got ahold of any. Such exotic drugs as LSD were not readily accessible in the rural mountains of northern Georgia, but eventually I was in the right place at the right time. Over the course of my life I’ve had more good psychedelic tips than I can remember. Bad trips, there was only one.
At 15 I landed a night job making change at a poolhall frequented by bikers, and it wasn’t long before I was riding with a club. Marijuana was smoked like cigarettes. Beer was consumed like water. Cocaine I valued as a pain reliever, but didn’t have much use for it otherwise. Meth was what helped me keep up, with drinking and long rides alike. Opium complemented that best, and was smoked like hash. Hash was just good marijuana.
These substances were the day-to-day lifestyle, but psychedelics were the vacations. Mainly LSD, which materialized suddenly a few times a year and caused all other activity to be set aside for the next few days. You didn’t save it for later. Part of the magic was in giving oneself over to the trip when and where the opportunity appeared.
This was true of psychedelics broadly. For example, there was a known supply of psilocybin mushrooms on private land in Lizella, but police had been arresting trespassers for years and so access was sporadic. It was generally accepted that one did not go to the shrooms, but waited for the shrooms to come to you.
I had less experience with shrooms than with LSD, but enough to perceive the difference between the two highs. To me, it was like LSD allowed light to be colorful, while shrooms showed you that color and light were the same. DMT revealed the light to be intelligent, but that story is for another day.
The club frowned on injecting anything. If you shot up, someone was keeping a mental tally of how often.
The club frowned on injecting anything, especially heroin. Doing so was viewed as a tipping point into addiction, past which men became unreliable. If you shot up, someone was keeping a mental tally of how often.
A friend and I began injecting meth and coke, and heroin just to see what it was like. Despite the palpable stigma, syringes were a novelty to us and we set about experimenting with what could be injected and how.
When I decided to inject a reduction of psilocybin tea, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that mushrooms are a fungus. Maybe the spores did not begin growing inside my veins because of the amount or quality of the shrooms; maybe I just got lucky. Either way, this is how I remember the experience playing out.
There was no gentle onboarding of the kind typically associated with psilocybin. Injecting the reduction of psilocybin tea was like being sucked suddenly into the vacuum of space. A flash of red, a ringing in my ears …
I woke up a day or two later in a mobile home that I did not recognize; some furniture barricaded against the door. The snoring emanating from somewhere within a cocoon of blankets by the far wall indicated that my friend was present and accounted for. His sister’s home, as it turned out. No harm done, no permanent damage; good trip.
In the past, whenever I’d felt a trip winding down I’d ease it off with a little meth. That way, a few hours later when the meth started winding down, the psychedelic substance was long gone. Some valium mixed into a jar of Kool-Aid would then bring on much-needed rest. That was not in the cards this day.
Through the rest of the day, the three of us tried ever-more-creative attempts to circumvent my newfound aversion to needles.
I drew up my shot and injected it as usual. And then, feeling as lucid as I ever had in my life, I felt that my very consciousness was plunged into the vein along with the meth, so that I could see inside my bloodstream, the yawning chasm of the needle’s bore looming massive behind me. I could hear my blood cells squealing in terror, as if invaders had arrived to forcibly displace them from where they lived. Perhaps they knew what I didn’t.
When I came to, the syringe was next to me on the floor, nearly full. It seemed that the instant the needle had pierced my skin, I’d simply passed out from some sort of shrooms PTSD flashback.
Through the rest of the day, the three of us tried ever-more-creative attempts to circumvent my newfound aversion to needles. Each time, I’d black out and see the flashback of squealing blood cells. Different needles made no difference. Nor did trying with no actual substance in the barrel, just water. Nor did the sneak approach of, I’ll just gaze off this direction and whomever has the needle, surprise me.
It was kinda fun at first, passing out then telling them what I had seen as soon as I woke up. Except that I really wanted that shot, and thus wanted the phenomenon to wear off.
As it turned out, that was the beginning of the end of my injection drug use. I was never able to use needles without blacking out with my ears ringing with the squeals of my distressed blood cells the flashback.
Eventually I lost interest in trying to inject anything. These days I’m a completely sober person who gets a buzz off coffee or allergy meds. Some 40-odd years later, needles only come into my life through the very occasional circumstances like COVID vaccines. I don’t black out anymore, but I do hear the faint ringing in my ears.
Photograph via United States District Court Middle District of Florida