Wise words. via Flickr.
On the morning of my 25th birthday, I woke up to find my brain had disappeared. My mental landscape was composed of only the odd tumbleweed and a few lonely crickets. Food was still a completely laughable idea, and I couldn’t make sense of anything. I was floating—but not in a good way.
My brain decided to take this hiatus because I thought I had innocently been popping molly for two months, when in reality, it was a member of the bath salts family I’d been unwittingly indulging in.
Remember those? Bath Salts? The ones that made that one dude chew that other dude’s face off? Right, well they had nothing to do with that incident, but they are still one freaky-ass designer drug.
In the midst of winter, I started seeing a new guy. From what I could see, he was addicted to a drug called MCAT, which he described as “like MDMA” but with less serious side effects. The high didn’t last as long, he said, so popping one was less of a commitment. In reality, from what I can tell, the side effects are far more serious. MCAT fucked with my serotonin levels worse than any other drug I’ve touched.
I realize now that the very fact I had so much trust in my MCAT loving boyfriend makes me sound a bit crazy. The dude kept a toolkit stuffed with this white powder beneath his bed. While the rest of his room was pandemonium, the kit was pristine and carefully organized, like the contents of an OCD-ridden doctor’s bag. In the kit were several grams of MCAT, tucked carefully in beside baggies of soon-to-be-filled pill capsules. There was also a hollow glass tube—open at both ends—that he’d bought at a medical supply store. Because fuck snorting this stuff with $20 bills, right? That would just be amateur hour.
When you get rolling on MCAT, it feels scarily like MDMA. You feel your body tingling, then there’s a buildup of energy traveling up to your brain. Like ecstasy, MDMA, or whatever you want to call it, the desirable effects of this drug lie in the transformation one experiences where they go from a regular ol’ numb, modern human being, to an extremely empathetic alien from Planet Love.
You want to crawl right into other people’s souls and soul-copulate to form love angels. You feel no reservations about doing this. You pop, and all of a sudden your brain is buzzing. You see the person beside you as a beautiful human who is capable of boundless feats, and boundless connection. Like I would on molly, I would snatch his face in my hands, squeeze it, look so openly into his eyes and exclaim, “You’re an artist. You’re changing people’s lives. You’re changing the world.” Though you know you’re a total cliché, these feelings are “real” in the moment.
Along with the empathy, you get a huge rush of wakefulness similar to the effect of blow. Needless to say, all feels right with the world. That is, until you can’t scrape any more serotonin from your abused cavity of a cranium, and you realize what it is you’ve really been doing.
My first time doing this drug was in the park with the dude, Monsieur MCAT, and he told me he was feeling "adventurous." So we drove to the grocery store to get some smoothies. “It puts your body in starvation mode,” he said. “So these will be good.” I feel the need to try anything once, so this wasn’t much of a warning bell to me, unfortunately.
We went back to his place, and he pulled the small metal kit from under the bed. Extracted a small baggie of white powder. He began stuffing capsules, a process I’d seen several times before. We each popped one at 10PM with the intent to go to sleep early, at 2 or 3. It was a Monday night.
We popped another one around 2AM, probably. And another at 4AM. And another at 10AM.
I had to go to the bank that day to sign off on some papers for a new apartment. Still at his place, I took about a two-hour nap, one where I could still see the light through my three-quarters-closed lids, like the way people who are dying are supposed to feel before they reach the end of the tunnel. I woke up feeling GREAT, except for being a little tired. There was the dude at his computer, with a t-shirt on and no pants. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked, kind of groggily. “Masturbating,” he said, still wide awake. “Wanna do another bump?” I had to write and make it to the bank before it closed, so I declined and headed back down to my place from his west end apartment, feeling adventurous and also kind of like a boss.
MCAT’s full name is actually mephedrone, which is a cathinone extracted from the khat plant. It’s one of the bath salts clan, alongside methylone and MDPV. I know that now. At the time, though, despite the fact that I research for a living, I trusted this guy enough that I didn’t feel the need to give the drug a thorough examination before agreeing to the experiment.
By the time I made it home from that first trip, I was terrified. Children looked like grotesque little monsters. Human faces erred on the carnivalesque. I was convinced I was in a film. (Mephedrone use can cause hallucinations, as I found out later). My roommate, who had seen me in far too many different states of ultimate fuckupedness, was getting ready to start work for the day. She asked me what the hell I was doing.
“GOING TO THE BANK,” I probably shouted at her. “I’m really scared,” I remember saying. “Keep your phone close. I don’t know how I’m going to make it there and back.” The bank was about a 15-minute streetcar ride from my house. I rehearsed what I was going to say to them the entire way, making active attempts not to gnash my teeth.
“Unghhhh I can’t believe I did this,” I whined to her later, trying to force some dry cereal down. A stolid bastion of practicality, she asked me why I do these things in the first place. My brain still wasn’t in a super high-functioning state, so I just told her “empathy.” That was all I could get out in terms of an explanation, but looking back, I can see it’s true. I really longed to trust someone that deeply, and I found I couldn’t do it without the drug. So I kept going back.
The dude said it was hard to get, so he’d buy a couple thousand dollars worth at once. He said he never knew when he’d be able to get more, but he wouldn’t tell me where he got it—I’ve actually never seen someone be so secretive about where they got their stuff. Because he stocked up so much each time he re-upped, it was always available when we were together. It was the star of about half of our hangouts.
Looking back, his secrecy makes sense. Mephedrone and all of its weirdo cousins are controlled under item one of schedule three to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. It’s classified under the heading “Amphetamines, their salts, derivatives, isomers and analogues and salts of derivatives, isomers and analogues.”
In a VICE article by Rula Al-Nasrawi, Craig Motbey explained some of the more concerning aspects of MCAT use. Motbey is a researcher in psychopharmacology at the University of Sydney, and he fed mephedrone to rats to determine its potential for addiction and other risks. He found it damages long-term memory more than MDMA. Not to mention it’s also more addictive, which can result in more re-dosing. (Exhibit A: 10AM, final bump).
Long after my relationship with Monsieur MCAT ended, I was lazily perusing Facebook whilst crabbily waiting on a flight one morning at 7 or so AM, and I found out, through Al-Nasrawi’s article, what it was this guy had really been feeding me. Fucking bath salts. MDMA may not be the healthiest pursuit in this world, but never would I knowingly snort and parachute bath salts throughout a two-month period. It took that many times before I realized its true effects, the emptiness of mind when your brain can’t help itself with serotonin reuptake.
Each time I did this drug with what’s his name, he gave me capsules of 5-HTP, which can be found in the supplements aisle of just about any drug store, and which help with serotonin production. The day I turned 25, we didn’t have any 5-HTP. We didn’t have any smoothies. And we didn’t have any magnesium. I was utterly fucked, and realized that there was definitely something off about this drug I’d made such a habit of popping. Molly, that hot and cold mistress, was never especially good to me, but it never left me totally defenseless, either.
I don’t deny for a millisecond that the onus is on me when it comes to taking responsibility for the drugs I ingest. That is, I don’t deny it now. I tried to blame it on him for a while, but the truth is, those who are truly interested in just about any level of self-preservation take the time to thoroughly research any new drugs they decide to indulge in. Especially if, say, they’re formally trained researchers. In short, my addiction to no-holds-barred experiential living trumps the little concern I have for my own health, every single time. That addiction could have, and almost did, lead to another addiction: to bath salts. Again, all of this was, and is, my own responsibility.
But. On the flip side, if you care about someone, do you really take it upon yourself to feed them truckloads of bath salts? I would say it’s your responsibility to go ahead and not do that, just as much as it’s my responsibility to not be naive and snort them up my unsuspecting nasal cavities. This drug inspires unconditional trust, which can feel dangerously like unconditional love.
I still try hard not to blame him. Again, it’s my own fault…but, nonetheless, there’s something not quite right about the pattern he’s established. In the end, the dude and the drug became synonymous. I wrote him to say I couldn’t see him anymore.
The moral of this story, in case it isn’t clear, is ‘Be careful where you get your molly.’ Or “Utilize the Internet.” Or, actually, I’ll leave you with this video as my parting words. Enjoy.