Citation: Anatoli Smorin. "The Nod-less Nods: An Experience with Floatation Tank, Alprazolam & Etizolam (exp112673)". Erowid.org. Jan 20, 2019. erowid.org/exp/112673
This report is part of a collection of seven reports. The collection consists of a summary report that is retrospective and generalized in nature as well as six more detailed chronicles of my experience with sensory deprivation, or floatation tanks. If desired, please see the summary report
, where one can find links to each of the other experience reports.
A little background: I consider myself to be well versed in the realm of substance use. Previous experiences include opiates, stimulants and psychedelics. A fair amount of my substance usage history includes novel research chemicals often in less than common combinations.
With the exception of the time spent in the isolation tank, I kept detailed written notes in combination with an audio recording device in order to write this report as accurately as possible. I am confident that all timestamps are correct to within a + / - 60 seconds.
This is my second ever experience in a sensory deprivation tank. It has been 35 days since my first float experience. I have chosen to use benzodiazepines for my second experience for several reasons. One is that I want to try a range of substance types in sensory deprivation and thus benzodiazepines were on the list. This will “check that box”. I chose to try this class of chemical in a float tank before any others with the idea that this experience might be less anxiety filled than my first. In extension, I hoped this might make future floats easier, having had one calm experience under my belt.
I chose alprazolam and etizolam in hopes of relaxing both my physical body and mind without creating too much of a zombie version of myself. I primarily feel alprazolam as a medium-heavy sedation in my physical body alongside the assumed relief from worries. Etizolam generally provides me a gentle uplifting mood booster that can elevate my positivity, rather than the majority of benzodiazepines that seem to only remove negativity. I have extensive experience with both of these substances, in combination and on their own, so I feel comfortable with how my body and mind will react to the dosages I chose for this float.
Tolerance was a non-issue for all substances besides alcohol in this experience. At the time of this experience I was regularly consuming between 3-6 drinks daily. It had been over nine days since my last benzodiazepine ingestion (.5 mg of flubromazolam).
The substances used in this experience were sourced reliably. The alprazolam was sourced from a legitimate pharmacy [a yellow rectangular pill imprinted on one side with “R039”, each character divided by a break mark and no imprints besides the break marks on the other side]. The etizolam was from a vetted chemist I have worked with and trusted for a number of years.
Floatation Tank: The Nod-less Nods
T + 00:00 [12:58 PM]
I soak up the summer sun at a local brewery with my partner Kai. I eat my first food of the day, a bison and pepperoni slice of pizza with a side salad. I was not planning on consuming any alcohol prior to my upcoming float session, but a crisp light wheat beer [4.8% ABV] is just too enticing for me to say no.
T + 00:41 [1:39 PM]
I have some mental tension / anxiousness about the float. I remember my first float and the sensation of being “trapped” physically and isolated with my chaotic anxiety filled mind. I am physically tired from a full day in the sun yesterday spent rock climbing, hiking, and a fair amount of drinking. As the clock ticks closer to my appointment, slight nausea develops due to anxiousness (I tend to store emotions in my stomach). I decide to get a refill [4.8% ABV] to kill some more time and see if a light alcoholic buzz will relax my worries a bit.
I run my proposed dosage by Kai who signs off thinking it reasonable, perhaps slightly high, but not dangerously so.
I run my proposed dosage by Kai who signs off thinking it reasonable, perhaps slightly high, but not dangerously so.
The second beer seems to be taking the edge off as I had hoped it would.
T + 01:10 [2:08 PM]
The time has come to really lower the stress levels and begin my staggered benzo dosages. I orchestrated the doses so that I would be peaking, in terms of effects intensity, for the entirety of my float. I swallow 1 mg of alprazolam (pill form) quickly to avoid the unpleasant metallic taste that tends to linger on my palate from sublingual administration.
T + 01:29 [2:27 PM]
I’ve reach a ± on the Shulgin Rating Scale: my first certain departure from baseline. My stomach tension dissipates and a general state of mild relaxation is seeping into my state of being like a gentle fog rolling in from the distance. My breaths deepen naturally as I shed the first layer of apprehension regarding the upcoming float. Some uneasiness still persists, but the inquietude has been dulled and drifts to the back of my mind.
T + 01:32 [2:30 PM]
I sublingually administer a single blotter containing 2 mg of etizolam. The familiar unostentatious taste consists of seemingly entirely the thick blotter paper itself.
Kai drives us home as we discuss the best way to overcome the obstacles of writing an experience report without my usual note taking tools available to me during the float. We decide on having a set of questions and discussion points laid out before the entering the tank, to be addressed alongside my other notes soon after the session end. This seems the best course of action to capture the beta without tampering with the experience itself.
T + 01:43 [2:41 PM]
Oh yeah – the alprazolam’s physical sedation is arriving stronger now. As I walk into the house from the car, I am moving a little slower, a little heavier, but not impaired. My brain function mirrors my walking; a little slower, but still very coherent. In fact I am enjoying the thought space I find myself in. I am not cluttering my thought stream with concerns for the past or the future. Rather I am taking in sensory inputs and processing them with a few slow paced thoughts here or there as required, accompanied by smooth decision making:
Stride, stride, stride –– no thoughts, no thoughts;
Just seeing the rooms I walk though . . .
Stride, stride, stride – – “I don’t have much time before we need to leave”;
“I just need to grab the final dosages and make sure I have my wallet”
No thoughts, no thoughts;
Retrieve the previously prepped dosages . . .
Stride, stride, stride –– get back into car.
T + 01:46 [2:44 PM]
Before Kai drives me to the float center, I swallow .25 mg of alprazolam [pill form] with a half shot [.5 ounces] of whiskey [40% ABV]. Kai and I chuckle about the sight of me using a jigger to measure the liquor while sitting in the passenger seat of the car parked in our driveway, but I insist on being precise with consumption when I plan to write formally about the experience. As we pull out of the driveway a moment later, I administer a blotter containing 2 mg of etizolam sublingually.
Even sitting still on the ride, I can feel my coordination beginning to fail. I start to feel a little dopey, smiling without effort even as we are delayed and re-routed due to construction on our way. Normally being late is a pet peeve of mine, but in my current state I’m not concerned in the least as I slump a little in the seat, feeling more and more relaxed.
T + 02:03 [3:01 PM]
I walk without error through the parking lot and into the float center. I’m slightly clumsy as I poor myself a cool glass of water before entering the warm float room. The interaction with the employee at the desk is not awkward and I go through a brief tutorial on their tanks, as this is the first time I have been to this specific business.
I elect five minutes of “intro” and “outro” music (generic soft piano) to bookend 50 minutes of silence in my one-hour session.
This is my first time in a true “tank” but I feel completely at ease about claustrophobia. I don’t have major issues with confined spaces but MRI tubes have made me very uncomfortable in the past.
T + 02:13 [03:11 PM]
I shut the door to my room and disrobe. I impress myself with my ability to not only remember to put my phone on silent but also to arrange it and my other belongings to allow for quick note taking after the session ends, without soaking my clothes.
T + 02:20 [3:18 PM]
I clumsily roll up the wax earplugs and install them firmly. The room feels to be set an ideal temperature; everything seems to be perfect. Even the slightly off-putting odor of the salt solution seems fitting for this moment. I realize the tab is still under my tongue; I swallow it.
T + 02:24 [3:22 PM]
I drop my pen twice as I write the last timestamp before stepping carefully, clearly now having lost a fair share of both my fine and gross motor skills, into the tank and close the lid.
The darkness is sudden and disorienting. I lay back, with my wits about me enough to take care to not splash the salty water towards my face. I settle onto my back and can feel my brain straining to see, as I might if someone shut off the lights in a room I was reading in late at night. I adjust myself to my favorite floating position. This is on my back, of course, with my arms overhead and slightly bent to keep them from touching the wall above me.
I visually inspect the darkness above me. I don’t find much. There is no hint of the lid, now my ceiling, no matter how hard I strain. I have a momentary sensation that the ceiling is only inches from my face. My focus corrects and then over corrects. I am now certain I can see far into the darkness perhaps several hundred feet out. There is still no ceiling to see but the empty void seems filled with more space and depth. I don’t react much to this phenomenon. I close my eyes and check in on my mental condition. Not much reaction to my findings here either. I ask myself: “Are you scared? Nervous? How is the anxiety?” The answers: “Nope. Nope. What anxiety?”
Before I start to celebrate my success of banishing fear via benzodiazepine, I remember that I am only minutes into the silence, with a long ways to go until the music returns, signaling the end of my time in isolation. I think about laying here for the rest of the session and still feel no anxiety. I do note however, that the grogginess, goofy smile, sloppy motor skills, and general sense of intoxication has left me. I feel remarkably sober.
I explore my brain functionality in the same two genres as I did in my first [sober] floatation experience. First I reflect on the recent or current sources of stress in my life. I give it an honest effort, and my internal dialogue comes up with the obvious answers. Work and the project I have undertaken to build my own house. I have zero interest in digging into these problems and looking for solutions. Critical thinking seems exhausting and pointless. Why would I worry about the future or bother thinking about the mistakes of the past? Structured critical thinking is clearly a profitless errand.
I move on to the second genre of mental exercise. Breathing and meditation, or at least my personal untrained and loosely structured version of meditation. With no concern of claustrophobia or anxiety from any source, deep breaths and a blank mind come easily. I focus on breathing only with my mouth in and out as rhythmically as I can achieve.
Zing! ALERT! My body’s emergency response systems rocket to life as I feel the salt solution on my left eyelid. I don’t remember falling asleep. I don’t even remember feeling tired. I have the wherewithal to keep my eyes shut and grope blindly at the side of the tank where I know there is a spray bottle of water and a towel to assist in exactly this situation. It feels like a miracle that I find these items and successfully spray and wipe my face down.
I lay back, body and mind already de-stimulated and being pulled back into a sedated state. I don’t think I have changed position since entering the tank so I lower my arms to my sides and open my hips by bending my knees and pushing them outwards, something like an extremely relaxed Baddha Konasana pose re-shaped for my suspended supine position.
The physical sensations are exactly what I had pictured when I first read about floating. The salt solution is silky smooth like liquid velvet on my skin. The temperature of the air and solution are both perfectly warm and soothing. The comfort is ultimate. I can feel my body, it is not anesthetized or numb like it might be on a dissociative or opioid material, but it is loose as a goose. Tension and tightness are tow words that no longer belong in my vocabulary. In my first float my neck held some tension due to my inability to fully relax and trust the support of the salt solution. Today there is absolutely none of this phantom neck pain present.
The mental intoxication is subtle and hard to detect. The usual light and lifting effects of the etizolam remain hiding. I search for anything noteworthy and find looseness in my physical brain that is not normally present. The squishy brain itself, not my mind, has a light swirling of delicate clouds made up of nanoscale dots, like grains of sand split down to a small percentage of their normal size, eddying slowly through the space between my ears.
I think about how to describe the experience in my notes after the float is over. Thinking about the future once again seems bland and unimportant. I also find my thought patterns are disjointed and ideas are jumbled up. Thoughts simply are not flowing into one another like they would even on these substances outside of the tank. I stumble from one idea to another and then forget why I was trying to think at all.
I am not concerned with whether my eyes are open or not. The darkness is black, not much presents itself to me in the void in terms of alterations of color or pattern. My eyelids are more comfortable shut, so I keep them closed without a second thought.
I enter my mind once again. What the hell! I didn’t feel myself fall asleep this time either. Seemingly as soon as I process this realization that I had fallen asleep . . .What the hell! It happened again?! This time I remain alert and try to estimate how much time remains in my session. It feels like I have just gotten settled, the periods of time asleep seem no longer than an instant. I think back and can’t truly recall how many times I fell asleep beyond the first time where salt ended up in my eye. I think I was asleep multiple times, but as I scan my short-term memory, it all blends into a singular trancelike existence, somewhere perhaps between fully asleep and a conscious waking state.
Contributing to the fluidity between awake and asleep is the weightless nature of physically floating. When I “nod out” there is no physical nod. No slump of the head creates that “snap wake-up” that happens when one is sitting up and loses the initial battle with exhaustion. Having gravity and motion removed from the equation disguise the transition between sleeping and waking states surprisingly well. Additionally, I don’t feel my eyelids grow heavier and heavier because as I mentioned, I have not bothered to fight to keep them open. Why would I? The natural serenity of the float: the weightlessness, the soothing darkness, and peaceful silence team up with the ingested chemicals to encourage minimal exertion of energy of any form.
I don’t feel sleepy or tired in a traditional sense, nor have I at any point during my session. I don’t bother analyzing my condition deeply. I revert back to breathing, now taking some deep cleansing breaths. This is quickly interrupted by surprisingly loud classical piano. This music that is my ‘five minute warning’ of the end of the float truly startles me. I cannot believe 50 minutes has passed already! I would have legitimately wagered I had not been in the tank for more than 15 minutes.
I open the lid and squint my eyes to allow for as pain free of an adjustment as possible back to the full lighting.
T + 03:25 [4:23 PM]
I step out of the tank; slick as if covered in oil, dripping everywhere. My first steps reveal motor skill impairment. I check the time on my phone before stepping into the shower. I’m clumsy but not sloppily inebriated. The mental reintegration to the world outside of the isolation tank is slow to occur. All I can ask myself is: “Where was I?” . . . “Where has my mind been for the past hour?” The mental space I have been seems out of reach to my memory. As has been the case with much of the experience, I don’t dwell too long on anything but the current moment. I enjoy the cool cascading water of the shower some, but mostly I dutifully remove the slippery salt solution as thoroughly as possible.
T + 03:30 [4:28 PM]
My mental reboot, my linking with ‘reality’, is coming along now. I dry off and realize that I’m thirsty and a little uncomfortable due to the humidity and heat in the room. These are the first reactions or thoughts since beginning the car ride here that have not been overtly positive. The process of drying off and get dressed passes quickly without much thought, as if I am in a dream. I open the door and walk towards the check out desk and lounge area where Kai is waiting. As I go through the payment and check out process, the dreamy state fades.
I feel separated from the employee and customer who is in the lobby, as if I am elevated on a different plane of existence. There is a touch of enlightenment; a feeling that I can positively affect these strangers through my calm and genuine conversation. This derives from float rather than the substances. I feel much more alert than I generally do after nodding out on benzos.
Kai and I walk to the car to head home for the evening. The fresh air is absolutely divine. It physically feels wonderful on my skin and the deep breaths I take of it are extremely cleansing. I take most of the ride to scribble notes about the past hour and do some reflection on the session. Kai mentions to me that I am speaking in a very calm manner with a slower pace and softer volume than normal. I recall this being true after my last float as well.
I feel some regret about my dosage, thinking perhaps I should have taken less. In my eagerness to induce a relaxing float session, I worry that I may have turned a productive hour into an expensive salty nap. I eventually turn this thought aside, rationalizing that at the very least I provided myself with a calming and nurturing period of rest, more like a spa day than an ‘extreme’ sensory depravation activity. Even if the hour passed in a bit of a meditative haze, without much mental challenge, it was therapeutic and in some ways an enlightening experience. Perhaps 2 mg of etizolam would have been enough to relieve the anxiety and have a more sober experience (therapeutic type dosage). The dosage I chose certainly felt recreational at first review but upon deeper inspection, I see more and more value even though this did not appear on the surface to be a good “match” for a float. I think part of this had to do with my preconceived notations of what a float should
be. This experience helps me re-define this in a healthy way and see value in different experiences.
The “float afterglow” is noticeable and definite even inside the benzo haze. Although it has similar qualities (soothing relaxation and mental separation from everyday life), the float’s effects feel cleaner and different than that of the substances. I am not as stumble and dopey as I would be on this dosage of etizolam and alprazolam. I feel alert and motivated, with a slow natural deep energy circulating my mind and body.
T + 03:53 [4:51 PM]
As we arrive home, my eyelids are losing their benzodiazepine droop, a bit quicker than I would normal expect for this dosage at this time. I suspect the initial dosages, particularly the alprazolam which I find to be more sedating, is starting to wear off. I feel a little out of place, coming down from these substances in the middle of the day. Recreational benzo use usually culminates with me falling asleep, rather than experiencing the substances leaving my system.
T + 04:22 [5:20 PM]
Time is passing quickly and my short-term memory is a little shoddy. Not annoyingly so, but noticeable. I stand up to retrieve my laptop and by the time I get to the next room I have forgotten what it was I was getting. I stand for a few moments scanning my unapologetically blank memory, until eventually it clicks and I retrieve the computer.
T + 04:31 [5:29 PM]
My body remains completely relaxed. I even note that a minor wrist injury I have been nursing the past few days feels a bit better.
In my mind I’m up on cloud nine. I’m separated from others in my own little world, and boy is it a peaceful and enjoyable mental space.
T + 04:36 [5:34 PM]
The aura and mental buzz I accredit to the float itself is still present, either maintaining a plateau or a very extended taper. I am in a sweet spot of feeling social while at the same time feeling separated and in my own plane of existence. As my mind continues to clear the murkiness of the alprazolam and etizolam I, welcome Jerry, mutual friend of Kai and I inside as he drops by for a visit.
T + 04:56 [5:54 PM]
The three of us catch up on “everyday” life over a light beer [4.2% ABV]. I find conversation flows well for me. I am truly listening to their comments and then preparing a proper response rather than focusing on my own side of the conversation as I sometimes have a tendency to do.
T + 05:36 [6:34 PM]
Conversation continues to ebb and flow smoothly. Topics range wildly and none seem more or less attractive to me than others. During this past hour the substances’ effects play tug of war with the effects of the float itself. I can also feel the natural decaying properties of time passing. One moment I only feel a benzo relaxation, a minute later I cannot perceive this any longer and I am feeling strictly the after effects of the floatation tank. As this back and forth continues, I wake up from the engaging talks and the intriguing enhancement of my social ability.
T + 05:52 [6:50 PM]
I open another light beer [4.2% ABV].
T + 06:16 [7:14 PM]
The alprazolam and etizolam have won a piece of the battle. I decide the magical, tough to describe, isolation tank “glow” has diminished to a point I can no longer definitively identify it. Time has flanked the benzodiazepines however. I feel that all intoxication is trailing away, including the alcohol.
T + 06:36 [7:34 PM]
Beer has become too filling, so I indulge in a glass of lighter, crisper rosé [12.5% ABV]. Kai, Jerry, and I chat, more focused now on a particular trip we are planning. I feel reasonably articulate although slightly inebriated and noticeably more positive than normal.
T + 07:09 [8:07 PM]
The wine is delightful but knowing that the amount of chilled wine is limited and that Kai does not enjoy this particular beer, I crack another light beer [4.2% ABV] as I am more interested in the effect than the exquisite taste.
T + 07:14 [8:12 PM]
I prepare 72 mg of sativa dominant cannabis and smoke it in two large hits via a glass water pipe. I feel myself drift slightly deeper into my relaxation and a light buzz from the cannabis but the effects is less intense than if I ingested this amount while sober.
T + 07:37 [8:35 PM]
As Jerry departs I open another light beer [4.2% ABV] and I decide to take .25 mg of alprazolam orally [in pill form]. I hope this minimal dosage along with the already consumed alcohol and cannabis will lead me to an early bedtime and deep restful sleep.
T+ 07:51 [8:49 PM]
Kai asks me to help put away laundry. Normally I’d drag my feet to do this, especially in the evening, but I rouse myself with little complaint. The task goes quickly and I find myself incapable of a bad mood.
T + 08:04 [9:02 PM]
I pour a glass of Rosé [12.5% ABV] and sip it slowly. I’m fading fast. The calming effects of the float and the substance consumption are a powerful combination. I smile wryly as my eyelids and head become too heavy for me to keep them open no matter what effort I put forth. As someone who suffers from diagnosed intermittent sleep-onset insomnia, nodding out is truly blissful. I’m unaware of the majority of my body, only my eyelids, head, and thoughts remain. I’m awake, I feign battle against sleep then happily surrender, I snap awake realizing I have been catching Z’s. Some of these nods are just a few seconds long; others are more substantial, lasting ten or so minutes.
T + 09:07 [10:05 PM]
I wake up once again and decide to join Kai in the bed. The short walk is not particularly well executed, including at least a few missteps. I do not last more than a minute once I lie down. Heavy and deep sleep encompasses me almost immediately.
T + 19:12 [8:10 AM]
I wake up without any external input (read: no alarm clock). I am woken by nature’s call as they say. I make my way to the bathroom and pee. I navigate back to the bed, noting minor coordination deficiency before happily surrendering to the grips of sleep once again.
T + 20:17 [9:15 AM]
My alarm forces me out of bed to begin a day of work. I am very happy that I am working at home today rather than the office. Leaving the bed is a bit of a task but once I’m upright the desire to sleep fades. I can feel the benzos still at work in my mind and body. I’m a bit hazy, with a general lack of concern. There are no after-effects that I can tie back to the float specifically. The lingering effects of the substances dominate any “float glow”.
As I had proposed and hoped, this benzodiazepine experience has had lasting effects on my ability to float with mild-float anxiety. I still experience pre-float anxiousness and the “how much longer do I have to be in here” thoughts during floats, but when they arise, my mind (subconscious and active conscious) seems to know: I’ve done this before and been relaxed, I’ve even slept! I find this calming mostly occurs naturally; I don’t have to fight the waves of anxiety because they simply occur less and less. This particular experience seems to have wired / taught my brain to react in a more useful, calm manner in the tank.
Beyond the therapeutic results seen in future sensory deprivation experiments, this experience was useful in other ways. Although I initially developed concerns that I didn’t do much more than nap on benzos, during this float, further retrospective analysis indicated that I not only enjoyed, but also learned from this session. Removing sensory inputs from my mind while under the influence of benzodiazepines was a unique experience in itself. I generally use benzos to relieve stress and numb my mind with the occasional recreational usage in combination with alcohol. Using these substances in the tank provided me with a take on them far different than something like watching comedies on Netflix. I was truly tranquil; a state I rarely find myself in. The combination of the weightlessness provided by the salt solution, the benzos, and the lack of sensory input data made for a blissfully blank hour. Even without any significant problem solving or critical thinking, this float did provide results from this incredibly blank meditative state.
I think it is worthy of noting that I had no visuals during this experience. I attempted, as an exercise, on two occasions to visualize objects (ex. trying to see an apple in my minds eye) but was unsuccessful. The visualizing seemed ill fit and awkward to the substances and experience so I abandoned each attempt quickly after its initiation.
I am thankful for the lasting effects this experience has had on my float tank “career”. I whole heatedly believe these substances, and this experience, markedly improved my ability to relax inside a tank and consequentially have more productive float sessions.
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