Citation: Scotto. "Mistakes One Through Five: An Experience with GHB & MBDB, GHB & MDMA (exp8635)". Erowid.org. Aug 6, 2001. erowid.org/exp/8635
Substances: MDMA, GHB
Doses: My standard doses of each - I do not intend to describe my standard dose of GHB, for fear of leading anyone to the conclusion that my habits in these matters are sane and should be replicated.
Recently I had a pair of disturbing experiences combining empathogens with GHB, disturbing enough to warrant a loud and clear warning from the other side.
I'd had perhaps dozens of experiences with GHB by itself prior to these events, enough to feel very comfortable with its general trajectory in me. I find the GHB intoxication very enjoyable typically - disinhibiting, sensual, giddy and good-natured. In my many experiences taking GHB by itself, I often drifted off to a peaceful sleep on purpose at the end of the experience, and occasionally drifted off to sleep unintentionally, but never particularly uncomfortably. I had also along the way experimented with using GHB before MDMA, as a pleasant way to 'warm up' before MDMA, with no ill effects; occasionally if too much GHB was used, the MDMA would seem a bit muted, but that was the worst of it.
So recently I found myself experimenting with MBDB, an obscure phenethylamine empathogen with considerably milder effects than MDMA. At the tail end of the experience, after my partner had gone to sleep, I decided to take the edge off by taking some GHB and relaxing myself to sleep. I had fasted all day before leading up to the whole experience, and at the time I started taking the GHB, still hadn't eaten. I sat down at my computer to check email and play with my imaginary friends on the internet.
The first couple hours of the GHB intoxication were as expected: Fun, giddy, light. I got very hungry and made myself a bowl of cereal and waited to get sleepy enough to go to bed. That moment never came; instead, without particularly realizing it, I slipped into a strange fugue state that deepened over the course of the next two hours. Its initial symtoms were a kind of extreme restlessness and inability to focus my attention, which led into a strange pattern of punching myself, scratching myself, clawing myself, anything to generate an extreme physical sensation. I kept slipping in and out of my chair, making strange noises, twitching uncontrollably. I was not particularly mindful or aware of the fact that I was behaving in an unusual fashion, and so I never felt distress or alarm as these effects slowly subsumed me.
Eventually I wound up lying on the floor, spasming, twitching, shaking, and making enough noise that my partner awoke and came to get me off the floor. Contact with her at that point snapped me to the realization that I was indeed behaving in a weird fashion, and I was very comforted to start to snap out of it. Nevertheless, it took probably another hour for the effects to die down. My partner reported that she could only communicate with me in occasional short bursts, and that otherwise I was essentially unconscious; my experience of it was continuous, however, meaning I never even noticed that I was flitting in and out of consciousness. It was a long experience that ended with me passing out in front of the television. When I awoke later that day, I felt embarrassed and sorry for waking my partner with such silliness, but there were no long lasting psychological effects; in fact, the next day went by swimmingly with no particular hangover or crash whatsoever.
Three weeks later, I had the opportunity to do MDMA. It was a mild trip but very enjoyable, and I danced myself thoroughly to the point where I definitely felt very, very down. An after party evolved in my apartment, and I found myself drinking GHB again, because I know from experience that it's very difficult for me to get to sleep after MDMA. As I began taking the GHB, I formed a plan in case I wound up in the same fugue state as my last experience: As soon as I realized I was in the fugue state, I would simply administer a mega dose of GHB and just propel myself rapidly into sleep, rather than try to do so gradually.
The first couple hours of the GHB intoxication were as expected: Fun, giddy, light. The party cleared out and I tried laying in bed, and almost immediately felt a nervous twitch. I got up, made myself some dinner, got on the internet, continued sipping GHB, hoping to get myself to sleep. I would up in essentially the same fugue state as before, with nearly exactly the same symptoms at first. However, this time, I knew where I was headed, and I began to feel distress. I remembered my plan, and immediately prepared a whopping dose, then chugged it. At that point, I needed water to wash it down. We'd been to a beach party earlier that night, and there were water bottles all over, so I grabbed the nearest one and took a big deep sip. Unfortunately, this was the one water bottle that happened to have vodka in it, and my body recoiled at the taste and sensation. A kind of panicked wobbling set in as I tried to find actual water, and tried to fight off the nausea that came simply from the taste of the vodka.
Soon I was deep into the fugue state, no longer aware of what was happening to me, but this time the whole thing was diffused with distress and despair and panic and fear. I woke my partner up again, only this time I was flailing so uncontrollably that I actually smacked her several times unintentionally, once by banging my head into her chin after trying to embrace her. I knew she was there, I recall; I was pleading with her, 'make it stop! It hurts!' She attempted to make contact with me several times, but I was almost completely unresponsive. She could make only split second connections with a lucid version of me, before I was off again on some rant or else completely unconscious. In my memory of this sequence, I have four or five distinct impressions of being in various places around the room, trying to stand, collapsing, nearly weeping, crying out, rolling around, etc. And then, I woke up on the floor, and my partner was back in bed, asleep. My internal sense was that I had only spent a few minutes with my partner from the time she woke up until eventually passing out, but the actual time was an entire hour, wherein I slipped in and out of consciousness, and where my so-called conscious moments were in no way lucid. It was a long, deep delerium, and it was completely gone by the time I awoke.
So those are the physiological events, hopefully useful to anyone considering combining GHB with MDMA or potentially anything. It seems that for me at least, the typical sleep-inducing properties of GHB are negated if something else is in my system, allowing the GHB intoxication to reach extremely uncomfortable levels. I will never pursue a GHB experience at the end of any other drug, for those two experiences were harrowing to say the least.
However, there is other useful information to be gleaned here, in a reexamination of these events through the filter of overconfidence. In my years of experience with using drugs as psychological and recreational agents, I have experienced and seen a range of overconfidence. The more obvious kind is when I have approached any experience with an overt sense of feeling as though I have nothing to fear from an experience, despite the lip service paid to such tenets as Shulgin's 'there are no insignificant psychedelic experiences.' This was a regular mistake of mine as a younger tripper, and a long ugly series of bad trips - cosmic jokes at my expense - eventually hammered most of those tendencies out of me.
In the meantime, there is a more subtle and pernicious kind of overconfidence that lurks beneath the surface sometimes, a 'sin of omission' perhaps. Virtually every mistake I made in the above two events I would classify this way - a lazy kind of overconfidence that is so subtle it takes events like these to even bring it to my attention.
Mistake number one: Because I had had pleasant experiences before combining GHB with MDMA, I entered the first of the two experiences above feeling confident that empathogens and GHB go great together. I completely and stupidly ignored the obvious fact that using GHB before MDMA is not the same as using GHB *after* MDMA, an experience i'd never had, nor even bothered researching before trying it that first night.
Mistake number two: Because I was instinctively embarrassed about having this bad trip, I subconsciously chose to simply ignore doing any follow-up research to see if my experience was an anomaly, or something others had experienced.
Mistake number three: I was feeling very good in the afterglow of the MDMA experience that second night, and this afterglow influenced my comfort with taking GHB again, despite my previous rotten encounter with it.
Mistake number four: My 'plan' to get out of the fugue state failed to even consider the possibility that the plan itself might fail.
Mistake number five: I failed to spend any significant amount of time discussing with my partner my decision to take GHB the second time. Indeed, the worst mistake of all was putting her through a second night of my awful behavior, of putting her through the frustration of not being able to communicate with me and the fear that I might need actual medical attention.
Any number of these mistakes could have been avoided if I kept a more rigourous approach to any kind of altered state experience. It's something I struggle with all the time, and this was definitely an object lesson for me in how much work there is to be done. One thing that pops up over and over again in stories of overdoses and misadventures on drugs is that quite often the participants are described as being 'experienced' with their substances of choice - yet it is in some ways experienced people who seem most at risk of taking things for granted, of making assumptions about set and setting that might not be proper assumptions at all. By the same token, this is not to in any way diminish my own particular stupidity here, nor to suggest that even a slight minority of experienced trippers share my own peculiar idiocies and insanities.
I was very depressed and sad that morning after realizing what i'd done that second time. My partner expressed some concern, but I told her not to worry, as I had a lot of experience bouncing back from bad trips. Sure enough, we spent the day talking and I cheered up as we figured out what had happened, identified all my mistakes, and both vehemently agreed that I would never try GHB at the end of any other drug ever again - it's just not worth the risk for us. Had I even bothered to check Erowid before that second time, I could've found the warning I needed, as several others have already indicated that this is a potentially unfortunate combination. But hopefully this warning will help erase a bit of the karma from that mistake!
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