My first time taking MCAT I thought I'd pop a pill at 10 PM and go to bed early. But then I did another one around 2 AM, and another at 4 AM, and another at 10 AM. You know where this story is going.
Wise words. via Flickr
On the morning I turned 25, I woke up to find my brain had disappeared, replaced by a barren mental landscape populated by the odd tumbleweed and a few lonely crickets. I couldn’t make sense of anything. I was floating, but not in a good way.
This was because for the past two months I thought I had innocently been popping molly, when in reality, it was a member of the bath salts family I’d been unwittingly indulging in.
Remember bath salts? The quasi-legal drugs that made headlines last year because people were taking them and going on psychotic rampages? The substances that wrecked entire communities? Yup, that's what I had been taking by mistake.
Some backstory is necessary: In the middle 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. That was a complete lie—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.
In hindsight, I realize that the 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 organized, like the contents of a doctor’s bag. Inside were several grams of MCAT, tucked in carefully 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 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 point of this drug lie is to transform you from a regular ole numb, jaded, modern human to an extremely empathetic alien from Planet Love.
You want to crawl right into other people’s souls and combine with them 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 connections. When I was on MCAT, I'd grab my boyfriend's 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'll try anything once, so this wasn’t much of a warning sign to me, unfortunately.
We went back to his place; he pulled the small metal kit from under the bed and extracted a small baggie of white powder. He began stuffing capsules, a process I’d seen several times before. We each popped one at 10 PM with the intent to go to sleep early. It was a Monday night.
We popped another one around 2 AM, probably. And another at 4 AM. And another at 10 AM.
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. I could still see the light through my three-quarters-closed lids; it was like I was dying and approaching the end of the tunnel while still being faintly aware of the mortal world. 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. “Wanna do another bump?” I had to make it to the bank before it closed, so I declined and headed to my place, feeling adventurous and hyped up.
MCAT’s full name is mephedrone. It's a cathinone extracted from the khat plant and the active ingredient in many of the drugs lumped under the bath salts label. 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 vetting 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 seemed carnivalesque. I was convinced I was in a film. (Mephedrone can cause hallucinations, as I found out later.) My roommate, who had seen me in far too many different states of 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 whole way, trying 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 never seen someone be so secretive about where they bought 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 section one, schedule III of 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.”
I didn't realize this until long after my relationship with Monsieur MCAT ended. I was lazily perusing Facebook while crabbily waiting on a flight one morning and I stumbled upon the VICE article on the drug. Fucking bath salts. MDMA may not be the healthiest pursuit in this world, but I would have never knowingly snorted bath salts for two months. No wonder I felt so scraped out.
Each time I did this drug with him, he gave me capsules of 5-HTP, which can be found in the supplements aisle of just about any drug store and 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.
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. 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, get me addicted 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, actually, it's simpler than that: If you don't know what it is, don't put it in your mouth.
Don't do drugs, kids: