This post originally appeared on VICE UK
Last summer I took too many drugs. Occasionally I'd stay awake all day, and though I stubbornly told myself I "didn't do regrets" about the lost afternoons whittled away, hoofing coke and ranking and re-ranking Little Mix singles on friend's sofas, I'm a grown man and know all this is shitty for my health.
But as the new year comes round, so, once again, does the prospect of new beginnings. So in the spirit of getting an actual grip on my life I guided Tim Williams, Clinical Director at Bristol Specialist Drugs and Alcohol Service, through the timeline of a 24-hour sesh, and found out what each stage does to your body and mind, with the hope I would remember all this next time someone suggests putting the call in.
8 PM: YOU ARRIVE AT THE PUB. ONE BEER, ONE CIGARETTE.
"A small dose of alcohol—one or two units—initially has a stimulating effect, and you will feel more chatty, more exuberant," says Tim. "If you're only smoking once or twice a week you will get a strong stimulant effect from the cigarette."
8 PM—11 PM: BEER AND CIGARETTES AT A RATE OF, LET'S SAY, ONE AN HOUR.
"After the first couple of alcohol units, the stimulating effect ceases and the booze actually switches off other parts of your brain. Once you've had the first cigarette, or two, it will get lost in everything else and you're basically fending off withdrawal."
11 PM: YOUR FIRST BUMP
"It's a myth that cocaine sobers you up. Your brain is still switching off from the effects of the alcohol, but your physiology is being pumped because cocaine is a sympathomimetic. It stimulates that fight or flight response. In evolutionary terms, if a lion comes towards you, your body pumps itself up and gets ready to fight or run away. That's what the cocaine is doing."
12 AM: YOU HEAD TO THE CLUB AND DROP HALF A PILL BEFORE YOU JOIN THE LINE.
"Obviously it's another stimulant, but MDMA is also an anti-diuretic, while alcohol is a diuretic. So you're in a difficult position where your body wants to expel water, but the MDMA is making you hold it in."
(Ever stood at the urinal for half an hour, thumping the wall and cursing your thimble of a penis as it refuses to do one of the two jobs it exists to do? This is that.)
12:30—5 AM: IN THE CLUB, HALF A PILL, A FEW BUMPS OF COKE, TWO BEERS, FOUR CIGARETTES, TWO WATERS. TOO MUCH, REALLY, ISN'T IT? LOOKS AWFUL WHEN YOU WRITE IT DOWN.
"The link between your cognitive functions and your physiology is quite intuitive, so your body has responsiveness to your physiology. If you're feeling pumped up, your brain is somehow tricked into thinking, 'I need to do something,' like dancing. Alcohol is a CNS [Central Nervous System] depressant, so will counteract that, which is why you might have periods of feeling drowsy and sleepy. Underneath it all, your body's physiology is all over the place. If you asked your body how it was, it would say: 'I'm so confused; I don't know what's going on.'"
5 AM—7 AM: AFTER PARTY, LICKING YOUR FINGER AND RUNNING IT AROUND THE BAG TO PICK UP THE DREGS.
"Even with stimulants onboard your body will be desperately wanting to sleep now and giving you all sort of cues: you might feel cold, or—if the stimulants wear off—get hungry."
7 AM: YOU'RE LITERALLY TWO SECONDS FROM ORDERING AN UBER AND SOME IDIOT PULLS OUT ANOTHER GRAM.
"Your brain will not be functioning properly. Your cognitive processes—your ability to process information—will be much worse. Simple tasks like map reading may become difficult."
10 AM: EVERYONE'S GOT A SECOND WIND AND ARE TALKING ABSOLUTE SHIT. YOU'VE BEEN RIFFING ON THE FACT THAT "KO-REA" SOUNDS A BIT LIKE "GORILLA," SOMEONE SAYS "KOREAS IN THE MIST" AND EVERYONE LOSES IT. PEOPLE ACTUALLY HIGH FIVE EACH OTHER. YOU ARE SWIMMING IN THE BELLY OF THE SESH.
"I have no evidence for this, but you could argue this kind of nonsensical conversation happens because the brain's capacity for new thinking is so limited; that it's part of the brain shutting down and only able to function on something that's this familiar."
12 PM—4 PM: YOU GO TO THE PUB. YOU ARE SURPRISED ABOUT HOW OK YOU FEEL SO DECLARE THIS LOUDLY THREE TIMES AN HOUR. THE FAMILY ON THE TABLE NEXT TO YOU QUIETLY MOVE TO A TABLE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM.
5 PM: BACK ON THE COUCH; WHOEVER'S HOLDING IT TOGETHER BEST ROLLS A JOINT.
"Cannabis can help get you off to sleep, but it disrupts your sleep architecture so you won't sleep as well. It will disrupt your REM sleep."
6:30 PM: ORDER A PAPA JOHN'S. YOU'RE TRYING TO STAY AWAKE UNTIL 8 PM BECAUSE THAT WILL DEFINITELY "MAKE YOU FEEL MORE NORMAL TOMORROW."
"Once the stimulants have worn off your body will remember it needs food. It will crave calories and want to absorb them. You get a serotonergic reaction release with a heavy meal, and a sense of fullness promotes sleep. I imagine you'd be flat out after two slices."
8 PM: BED. FINALLY, AFTER 36 HOURS AWAKE, YOU SLEEP.
3 AM: WAKE UP TO GO TO THE TOILET, THEN CAN'T GET BACK TO SLEEP
"When you've had a period of sleep deprivation, your body will be more at risk of stress hormones, so anxiety can get stuck in the brain and stop you sleeping. If you do wake up and think, 'I've got to sleep, I need to catch up on sleep,' just the thought of that will promote anxiety and might stop you getting back to sleep."
THE NEXT DAY
"An acute dose of sleep deprivation will lead to deficits in your cognitive processing. A good example is driving. Sleep deprivation, in the absence of any drugs, has a similar effect on your driving ability as alcohol would. Even if you've had a really good sleep and waited until a period where you thought the drugs and alcohol were out of your system, say 5 PM, you would be almost as much of a risk as someone who's over the legal drinking limit."
DAY AFTER: WORK
"MDMA, in particular, has a deficit on working memory. Your brain will not be functioning at full speed. It's very possible you will have mental health deficits, mood deficits. The sooner you can get to normal balance and into a normal circadian rhythm the better; get to sleep at normal times, eat at a normal time. People think, 'Oh, I've been bad, now I need to be good,' and go on huge detoxes. Don't. That fluctuation is more damaging than finding a middle ground for your body and restoring some stability."
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