Mixing drugs is not a good idea. Most recently, Lil Peep's fatal cocktail of Xanax and fentanyl – along with cocaine and a slew of other opioids – was a reminder of what can go wrong when we treat our bodies like Year 7 science experiments. However, in 2019, with marathon club nights not uncommon, and rollover house parties picking up where they leave off, it may now be more novel if only one drug is used over the course of a session.
Cue the increased popularity of "flipping" – taking two or more substances (one usually a hallucinogen, one usually MDMA) at timed intervals to synergise their effects. A brief etymology explainer: when you take a psychedelic like shrooms, you trip. When you take MDMA, you roll, so a trip plus a roll equals a flip. Thanks to the dark net, substances like DMT and 2C-B – drugs that are integral to some flips, but hard to find on the street – are more readily available, while the popularity of drug talk on message-boards like Reddit has allowed many to discover these flips, hype them up and ultimately tick them off their lists like saucer-eyed stamp collectors.
Again, mixing drugs is not a good idea. In fact, it's often an actively bad one. But for those who are going to do it anyway, it's important to have as much knowledge about what you're putting in your body as possible. "Testing remains important for those with a trusted supply and much experience," says Guy Jones, Technical Lead at Reagent Tests UK, which sells an "MDMA and Psychedelics multipack" testing kit. "Even if someone in the supply chain is testing, they might not be willing to flush something they just spent hundreds of pounds on [if it's dodgy]. Experience isn't enough, either – over the last two years we've seen a lot of N-Ethylpentylone [which can cause temporary psychosis] causing problems precisely because the crystalline chunks look exactly like MDMA."
I spoke to some of these "flippers" to find out whether there's more to this phenomenon than simply young men and women wanting to get as fucked as they possibly can.
KITTY FLIPPING: MDMA AND KETAMINE
I realise that, in the UK, this combination is better known as "Saturday night", but there is supposedly some artistry to the flip beyond indiscriminately pouring both powders into your face. Users avoid doing any ket until they're up on the MD, as – they say – it dampens the high. Besides that apparent downside, dangers of MD use include heatstroke, hyponatremia (drinking too much water, potentially fatal) and neurotoxicity (damage to serotonin production), while dangers of ket use include stomach cramps and bladder problems.
Stevan, 28 from Montenegro, describes his recent kitty flip as such: "As I laid down on [my friend's] mattress, my sense of self escaped my head. Colours were pastel, as if someone drew the room with crayons. When I focused on the ceiling light it seemed like the moon." Stevan says he felt himself float over his body and that, soon, the hallucinations became more stark: "Whatever random thought I'd get, I could visually present it in front of me, more real than any lucid dream I've ever had."
NEXUS FLIPPING: MDMA AND 2C-B
2C-B is a psychedelic available in powder and pill form – about £7 each – and is often described as the midpoint between MDMA and LSD. Though invented in the 1970s, it has recently surged in popularity, particularly among clubbers, due to how the visuals interact with lights. Like every psychedelic, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is a danger of high 2C-B doses, meaning its effects are felt long after it has left the body.
The aim of nexus flipping is to extend the euphoria of the Mandy, which is done by taking the 2C-B just as you begin to come down. Then, 45 minutes later, you're back up again – with the enhanced visuals of the psychedelic.
Ricky, 19 from Melbourne, remembers this feeling acutely: "The true beauty of the nexus flip is the transition between two amazing head-spaces. I felt really good emotionally [because of the MDMA], and at the same time felt the electricity of the 2C-B." Between the two drugs, Ricky says, he peaked for about six to seven hours. "Music sounded absolutely orgasmic, bodily sensations were out of this world. It was a ten out of ten experience."
CANDYFLIPPING: LSD AND MDMA
The most popular flip worldwide, along with the oldest, candyflipping has been a thing since the 1990s. Usually described as having life-changing properties (good and bad) it can often heal or fuck you up, depending on the amount you take. Users like to take the MDMA about four hours after the LSD, riding the acid's peak before cranking up the elation.
One big problem is the number of posters on message boards like Reddit whose first time doing acid is while candyflipping. This is obviously ill-advised, yet tallies with online drug culture's move towards extremes. Indeed, in an environment where Xanax "bartards" get mythologised and "psychonauts" compete over who's had the biggest ego death, a regular old acid trip does seem a little pedestrian.
Along with hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, dangers of LSD use include "bad" trips, full of fear and paranoia, and the exacerbation of existing mental-health problems.
Jack, 17, from Bristol, remembers the LSD wearing off when he took the MDMA: "However, as soon as [my friend and I] did the Mandy, my visuals went back to where they were when I was peaking." Jack dropped the acid before a rave several weeks ago, at 7PM. "We stayed up until 6AM but I was so stimulated I couldn’t sleep. I was still getting visuals at 8AM, so that was crazy. I also had some auditory hallucinations, hearing music from the rave again and again."
HIPPIE FLIPPING: PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS AND MDMA
Even more intense than candyflipping, because shrooms are more intense than acid.
Robert, 40 from Wisconsin, is older than everyone else I interview. Unlike the others, who discovered it online, Robert heard about flipping from a coworker. "I was 37 or 38 when I did my first hippie flip," he says. "I wasn't as open with my partner about my psychedelic use back then, so I waited for her to go to bed, then took the shrooms."
After following up with the Mandy, Robert says he laid down in the spare room: "I felt enveloped in the most amazing feeling. It was like connecting with everything I touched and, of course, any body aches I had were completely gone. Most of what I remember after that is just rolling around in bed feeling so wonderful, like the universe was giving me a bearhug for a couple of hours, before drifting off to sleep."
Obviously, the dangers of LSD use also apply to shrooms – and you can multiply those a couple of times over when considering the following:
JEDI FLIPPING: LSD, PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS AND MDMA
Don't Jedi flip unless you're OK with the possibility of spending the rest of your life wearing tie-dye hoodies and speaking with a hint of PTSD.
David, a 20-year-old from York, says of his experience, "My vision was blanketed in warm and intricate visuals. I noticed vastly enhanced tracers – like, my friend sat down after getting a drink and I saw [him] sit down five more times after his body had landed."
The peak of the Jedi flip came when David left his flat so that his friends could smoke: "Walking through the white corridors, everything took on a purple hue. The walls and ceiling began to expand and contract vertically and horizontally, as though being blown up and deflated like a concrete balloon." In terms of body high, David says, "what I could focus on was intensely euphoric, a mix between the relaxation of the mushrooms and the stimulation of the LSD and MDMA. It was a unique physical experience, I noticed – when the visuals weren't taking my attention away from it."
The rise of flipping seems reflective of an online drug culture that's as much about flexing as it is harm reduction. At the same time, flipping may also be the culmination of a commonly held belief among users that, if substances take you deep but don't kill you, they make you a better person. Ask a couple of the people I spoke to and they'll tell you tales of self-improvement – of heavy drug use helping them with "depression and anxiety" and to quit "dead-end" jobs. Ask most of them, though, and that's merely their longterm goal, while their short-term goals range from wanting to "create memories" and "get fucked", to "different things, since I can't exactly travel the world without any money".
Perhaps it doesn't matter whether flipping is some elaborate form of therapy or simply poly-drug hedonism with a clever name. More relevant is that, in future, as people feel more oppressed by things like poverty and mental illness – and as dark net dealing and message boards become even bigger parts of drug culture – the thirst for flipping will inevitably only increase.