Drugs and Me

In the podcast liner notes to his new album (starting at 14:21), George Hrab talks to Milton Mermikidis for a space about how neither of them does any heavier drugs than caffeine. I realised that in close to five years of blogging, I’ve never talked specifically about my own drug abstinence, though I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m tee-total. So I thought I might say a few words on the subject.

The culturally accepted heavy drug in Sweden is alcohol, which is strongly mind-altering if used in a sufficient dose and lethal if overdosed. Drinking is so common here that if you don’t, then it calls for an explanation. The only other legal recreational drugs are nicotine, caffeine and theobromine. Illegal drugs are so rare in my circles that I can only recall encountering marijuana (let alone heavier drugs) three times in my life. One was in the Netherlands and one was when a prim American pop singer lit a small prim joint before a Stockholm gig.

Uppers and downers aren’t terribly interesting to me even as an observer. But I do take an interest in hallucinogens, to the extent that I love psychedelic music, film and art. I call psych music my vicarious high. But really, to me hallucinogens are just a chemical short cut to absurdism or surrealism, which I love. The Beatles famously did a lot of drugs. But they wrote all that (drug-) inspired music between trips. And the ground-breaking psychedelic studio tricks on their recordings were thought out in collaboration with a producer and sound engineers who had to be completely sober in order to achieve what they did with 1960s equipment.

So anyway, my not doing street drugs is no cause for surprise: we don’t in my circles. Still, people are surprised that I don’t drink. For instance, though I’m 38, my dad is still visibly peeved about it, which is kind of sweet. People my age aren’t expected to get drunk a lot, but most certainly shop at the liquor store one or two times a month, and knowing your wine and beer is sort of an expected cultural competence. So why don’t I, when most people do?

Finding out why a person does this and not that is complicated. You can go for the conscious reasons behind a decision, or some unconscious one, you can search for a cause in the past that has shaped a person to make her decide this and not that. Free will is a fuzzy thing. I’ll split the question in two.

Firstly, why didn’t I start drinking in my teens like everybody else? Well, I tried a few times, and I found that it tasted bad and had no effect on me in the doses I managed to down. I’ve never been inebriated. Also, I saw a lot of other kids drunk at parties, and I wasn’t impressed. Drunk people are stupid and boring. I like being smart, and drugs dull that edge, perhaps permanently.

Secondly, why don’t I start drinking now or try to get hold of street drugs? Well, the original reasons haven’t changed. Drink still tastes bad and I still prefer sober company. But I also have a feeling that people take drugs to still needs that I don’t have. Sung Marilyn Manson, “There’s a hole in our soul that we fill with dope”. There’s no hole in my soul that I’m aware of. I don’t feel any need to take a break from myself. I’m not shy, nor do I need anything to help me loosen up. On the contrary: I’m already all over the place. My friends have told me repeatedly that it’s a good thing that I don’t drink, bearing in mind how I behave when sober.

I should emphasise that though I (just barely) feel intellectually superior to drunk or stoned people, I don’t see myself as morally superior. If you can enjoy using recreational drugs in what for lack of a better term we might call a “responsible” manner, without screwing up your life or crashing your car or beating your spouse or bonking the neighbour, then why not? Most people do, after all. And if drugs do screw up your life, I tend to see it as a medical condition, not a sign of poor moral fibre (whatever that is). A drunk whose marriage collapses is not a bad person who gets what he deserves.

Now, Dear Reader, you most likely do use heavier drugs than caffeine. Please tell us why! Or you may not do so, like me and George Hrab and Milton Mermikidis. And if so, also tell us why!

Update same evening: I forgot to mention that I have no problem with people drinking in my home. We always have alcohol in the cupboard, mainly because my wife drinks very little too so we never run out. And we often offer dinner guests beer and wine. There was this one guy though that I never invited again after he brought a bottle of green Chartreuse liqueur to a party of ours, drank the whole thing (shudder) and got wasted…

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Comments

  1. #1 Janne
    August 11, 2010

    Well, I drink alcohol because I do tend to find the taste pleasant. Beer is, to me, very much a pleasure, as is a good whisky or brandy.

    And yes, I do enjoy getting mildly drunk now and again. You know the expression “can’t hear myself think”? Well, from time to time it’s quite refreshing not to have to hear myself think all the time.

  2. #2 Ced
    August 11, 2010

    “There’s no hole in my soul that I’m aware of. I don’t feel any need to take a break from myself. I’m not shy, nor do I need anything to help me loosen up.”

    Good for you, but most people are not that balanced and struggle with their life.

  3. #3 regis
    August 11, 2010

    I drink at least 2 alcoholic beverages daily. I do so because I enjoy them and if I need to justify, because many health benefits are associated with moderate use. When drinking more heavily, my measure is the hangover. If I have a hangover, I drank too much. I also smoke pot on weekends. Again because I enjoy it. I go through less than an ounce a year. In my mis-spent youth there was much drunkenness and illicit drug consumption. I’ve tried to find a moderate position between abstinence and abuse, neither of which I enjoy.

  4. #4 Dunc
    August 11, 2010

    But really, to me hallucinogens are just a chemical short cut to absurdism or surrealism, which I love.

    No, sorry, that’s not it at all. Actual hallucinogenic experiences are (a) not really anything like they’re portrayed, and (b) completely indescribable, even to experienced users. Hell, they’re not even completely memorable – you literally cannot imagine what it’s like to be on hallucinogens when you’re not actually on hallucinogens. One of the first clear indications that you’re “coming up” is when you go “Oh, hang on a minute, now I remember…”

    Not that I’m exhorting anyone to go out and do hallucinogens if they don’t want to or don’t have an experienced guide. Either of those things would be foolish.

    I smoke dope and drink because it’s the only way I’ve found to turn the input gain down on reality. Not that there’s anything wrong with reality, I just wish it weren’t so goddamn intense all the time. (I think I have some form of mild, high-functioning autistic spectrum disorder.) Plus a mellow beer buzz / stone is very nice, and I really like the taste of good booze. Admittedly it’s an acquired taste, but I could say the same of olives…

    I’ve done all sorts (except downers) in the past, initially out of curiosity, subsequently because if was GREAT FUN, but it takes its toll… So I’ve now quit just about everything except alcohol, dope and caffeine. And the caffeine can only usually be in the form of tea, because coffee (decent coffee anyway) really gets me off my head and gives me a pretty nasty come-down about 4 hours later.

    Caffeine can be a surprisingly powerful drug. My personality changed quite a bit when I quit drinking coffee. Admittedly, I was on about 10 cups a day…

  5. #5 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    Dunc, you must have become unbelievably constipated when you went off coffee, unless you stepped down the dose gradually. (-;

  6. #6 Tim Eisele
    August 11, 2010

    Well, like you, I think alcohol tastes pretty nasty. I have choked down enough of the stuff to get drunk, and didn’t really care for the sensation – it just made me clumsy and unable to speak clearly, and feel kind of generally ill and sub-par both immediately, and afterwards.

    I don’t drink stuff with caffeine in it, either, because I can taste the caffeine too well – it is intensely bitter to me. And again, the effect on me isn’t pleasant. If I am tired, and drink something caffeinated, it doesn’t wake me up, it just makes it impossible to sleep. So I end up desperately tired and unable to do anything about it. Most unpleasant.

    Theobromine is OK, but only because I like the taste of milk chocolate. If I eat dark chocolate, it causes the same sorts of issues as with caffeine – it doesn’t wake me up, it just makes it impossible to sleep. And while chocolate is nice, any of the other common sweets suit me just as well as a treat.

    So basically, I don’t enjoy my reactions to the common drugs, and they taste bad to me. So, I skip them. Other peoples’ mileage obviously varies quite a bit.

  7. #7 Dunc
    August 11, 2010

    Dunc, you must have become unbelievably constipated when you went off coffee, unless you stepped down the dose gradually. (-;

    It was a long time ago, and I was taking quite a lot of ecstasy and speed at the time, so I can’t really remember… But given that I was taking all those uppers, I was probably both constipated and not eating very much anyway.

  8. #8 woods
    August 11, 2010

    I tried lots of drugs in college.

    Some I liked – marijuana, ecstasy, mushrooms. Others i did not like – speed, cocaine, lsd, mescaline.

    These days, at age 30, I still smoke marijuana, though not nearly with the same regularity as in college. But, oddly enough, I barely touch alcohol aside from the occasional drink among friends.

    So the question is: why use drugs?

    I suppose that in college my motivation was simple curiosity. What would the experience be like? Well, I got my answers and, as cliche as it may sound, I think I learned a bit about myself in the process.

    Taking hallucinogens, for example, gave me some interesting insights into the way I think and in a new-age-y way it was kind of enlightening.

    Taking Ecstasy, much to my surprise, actually helped me to talk with friends about some rather deep-seated emotional issues that I had long buried. Honestly, it was cathartic in a sense.

    I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend that everyone follow the path I took. Some folks, after all, can’t really “handle” drugs. I could, so I found the experiences enjoyable.

    This brings me around to the one drug in which I still indulge, marijuana. I have come to view pot as something other than a “drug.” In a sense, I see it as being a lot like tobacco. It isn’t good for you but at the end of the day, using it is a personal choice and it’s about as harmful as doing a shot of tequila. Why do I do it?

    Two reasons:
    1) it feels good. Well, it does. Getting stoned is a nice way to unwind at the end of a day, in much the same way that some might think a martini is relaxing after work. I can’t think of any reason to object to that.

    2) Because I can. Honestly, I’ve come to view smoking marijuana as a form of civil disobedience. I’m not hurting anybody other than, perhaps, myself, so frankly I don’t think that you or the state or anybody else has a right to judge me or tell me what to do.

    I’ll close by saying that one added thing I have learned through all my drug experimentation is that society needs to take a more reasonable approach to addressing the issue of drug use. I don’t believe that all drugs should be legalized. In fact, quite the opposite. Certain drugs represent a real danger to society in the wrong hands But we need to recognize that drug use will never stop and filling prisons with addicts and one-time offenders isn’t going to help anyone.

    Governments around the world need to understand that criminalizing drug use is a waste of time and money that would be better spent on providing treatment for hardcore addicts. The “war on drugs” is unfair to users, unfair to taxpayers and ultimately unfair to police officers as well. Moreover, if you look at some of the sociological literature on the subject, you’ll find that anti-drug legislation has historically been racially biased.

    Anyway, I hope this answers your question. Thanks for the opportunity to sound-off for a bit.

  9. #9 Joe
    August 11, 2010

    Once, i took some magic mushrooms out in the desert with about 20 bug scientist phd’s. We set up a sheet with a UV light and saw some of the most amazing moths imaginable. The company was terrific and the whole experience is one that i cherish as being outside of the norm yet positive. I consider hallucinogenic drugs to have a large spiritual component. What i didn’t realize is that bug science is so damn interesting (and beautiful).

  10. #10 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    As far as I understand, marijuana prohibition is a very poor way to use tax money. It’s also inconsistent since Western countries do not prohibit hard liquor which is an incomparably more lethal drug. But then, liquor prohibition has been tried and immediately led to a boom in organised crime.

  11. #11 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    Joe, I don’t even know what spiritual means. There’s no way to check if people mean the same thing when they say they have spiritual experiences. But the moth thing sounds neat.

  12. #12 Eric Lund
    August 11, 2010

    I avoid beer and distilled liquor for the same reasons you do: I never learned to like the taste, and I never had any interest in getting drunk, which in my younger days seemed to be the primary objective of people consuming such beverages. But later in life, I learned to drink wine. Most wine drinkers do so at social occasions, and wine is sipped rather than consumed rapidly. I consume in relatively small amounts: typically a bottle a month (which takes me three meals to get through) plus an occasional glass with a restaurant dinner or a dinner party if I’m not driving (which is a significant restriction as I live in a semi-rural region of the US).

    I get caffeine from tea (I prefer green) or cola, but not coffee. Again, I don’t like the taste.

    Chocolate is only a once-in-a-while pleasure. It has to be small quantities of good stuff; cheap chocolate doesn’t taste all that good.

    I have never felt any urge to try nicotine or harder drugs. I lived in Miami during the days of the cocaine cowboys, so harder stuff was definitely available to someone who knew the right people, but I never attempted to figure out who those “right people” were.

  13. #13 EcoPhysioMichelle
    August 11, 2010

    When I was in college, a lot of my friends suggested that I try smoking weed to help my anxiety (I have agoraphobia with panic disorder). I tried it several times, but I don’t remember much of the experience. I think I only actually got high once or twice, but I also had horrible rebound panic attacks when I was coming off of it, so I quit it immediately.

    Now I get my anxiety relief from lorazepam, which I hear has a very high abuse potential. I can see why. The feeling is akin to a light alcohol buzz like what you might get from a small glass of wine (from what I understand, benzodiazepines and alcohol have similar actions at the GABA-A receptors in the brain), slightly giddy, slightly numb, but very calm. At higher doses, like the one they gave me at the hospital once (4x higher than my usual dose), it can give closed-eye visuals. If you close your eyes and lay down you can see wonderful dancing (more like oozing or sliding, actually) shapes.

  14. #14 WIll
    August 11, 2010

    I agree with other peoples’ takes on hallucinogens here…rather than a short cut to absurdism or surrealism, I’d say they are a short cut to realism (!) in that they can totally dismantle the conceptual overlay that our minds place upon the universe. Now when I say hallucinogens, I really only mean mushrooms; I tried LSD and found it to have an artificial tinge. Mushrooms are special and as food are not really drugs and in the clarity they can bestow are not really hallucinogenic at all. I always thought the term “magic mushrooms” was a figure of speech; now I know just how literal it is.

  15. #15 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    Realism? No. Hallucinogens introduce random noise into your system and your brain can’t help trying to make sense of it. Your brain is a radio receiver, and there’s only one channel to tune in to unless you’re willing to listen to static. We call that station reality.

  16. #16 joemac53
    August 11, 2010

    Never took “drugs” in high school or college. Drank a bit while Uncle Sam was deciding whether I should go to Vietnam. Gave up drinking almost completely when parenthood came along. My only vice now is my cup of coffee in the morning. About twice a year I will have a beer after a long day of physical labor.
    Teaching high school means never showing up with a hangover!

  17. #17 Dunc
    August 11, 2010

    Hallucinogens introduce random noise into your system and your brain can’t help trying to make sense of it.

    Not really. To return to the “input gain” analogy, they turn the input gain way up and the filtering way down, so the noise inherent in your own sensory systems becomes significant. But that’s really not the main effect that you notice… I’ve had many powerfully psychedelic experiences that didn’t involve any actual hallucinations at all. What they do is change the way you think and perceive on a really fundamental level. A level so fundamental that you don’t even realise that it’s there or that it could possibly be any different until you experience its alteration, and you can’t really remember what it felt like when you come down again.

    The actual experience of being on hallucinogens (or psychedelics, as I prefer to call them, as they frequently don’t involve hallucination at all) is nothing like it is portrayed, and certainly nothing like you imagine. I’ve taken loads of them, and I still can’t really imagine what it’s like when it’s not happening.

    The “realism” that Will is referring to is the reality that the sensorium you experience on a day-to-day basis is almost entirely internally created.

  18. #18 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    they turn the input gain way up and the filtering way down, so the noise inherent in your own sensory systems becomes significant … the sensorium you experience on a day-to-day basis is almost entirely internally created

    You know, I really don’t trust someone tripping on acid to make that sort of neurological judgement accurately. (-;

  19. #19 WIll
    August 11, 2010

    “Hallucinogens introduce random noise into your system and your brain can’t help trying to make sense of it.”

    I suggest you endeavor to speak from experience, and not from your concepts about hallucinogens. Experience is the only teacher, and its major lesson is, ideas are worthless, reality is all there is. You can gain knowledge of reality through experience, but on the other hand, ideas can (and will) pose as knowledge and stop the human being in its tracks. True knowledge is power. Reality is all there is to tune into. Ideas are, by and large, the noise.

  20. #20 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    That’s the trippiest thing anybody’s said to me in a long time.

  21. #21 WIll
    August 11, 2010

    Fair enough my man.

  22. #22 Alex Besogonov
    August 11, 2010

    I have never got drunk at all, and I avoid alcoholic drinks. For the pretty much the same reason – I don’t want my mind to become dull.

    I had a misfortune to require a week of morphine for pain therapy. Hated it with passion.

    I’ve tried LSD (mostly for experiment). Didn’t like it as well.

  23. #23 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    Oh, you remind me, I’ve actually been knocked out completely with a sedative once when I went through minor surgery. As a drug experience, though, it wasn’t much to write home about. One moment I was looking at the ceiling of the operating room. The next moment I was waking up as if from deep sleep.

    Hope the pain problem has been sorted out, Alex.

  24. #24 ERV
    August 11, 2010

    I realised that in close to five years of blogging, I’ve never talked specifically about my own drug abstinence, though I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m tee-total.
    Wait, no, you take drugs when prescribed them by a physician, right?

    You mean ‘drugs for fun’, not ‘drugs as medicine’. Cause some people do need drugs other people take ‘for fun’ as medicine.

  25. #25 cicely
    August 11, 2010

    I very seldom drink alcohol, and then in extreme moderation. The alcohol taste is nasty enough to require considerable adulteration (fruits/juices work well); bourbon, for instance, was my first intro to booze, and is horrible beyond words. Even with flavoring, though, I never have taken more than, at most, two drinks at a sitting; I don’t like it when the mental censor clocks out, leaving me to say any ol’ shit that comes to mind, and throwing up, which seems to be the usual effect of excess, just isn’t my idea of a good time. Never had a hangover, but they don’t sound attractive, either.

    Sometimes, though, I have been known to have a little wine, medicinally, when I can’t sleep because my head just…won’t…slow…down….

    While I am no Slave of the Bean, I have, in the last few months, taken to having a cup of coffee on work mornings, to put a stop to my falling asleep at my desk, drooling all over my keyboard and getting it all sticky. I never have been able to do mornings, and it’s only gotten worse with age. But since coffee also tastes horrible straight off the rack, as it were, I adulterate it heavily with stevia, creamer, and hazelnut syrup.

    I’m allergic to marijuana smoke, and hard drugs lack appeal; the whole mental censor thing, my hands are pretty remarkable as is, and my nightmares are sufficiently awful that I don’t care to risk turning on the afterburner, thank you.

    Chocolate would be another story altogether, though.

    Mmmmm…chocolate….*drooooool*

  26. #26 Ben
    August 11, 2010

    I drink alcohol because I appreciate the taste and a light buzz, because it helps my brain “slow down” at the end of a day, and because it helps smooth over any social anxiety I have at parties. But I have a high tolerance and tend to drink after meals, though, so I don’t usually get past ‘slightly tipsy’.

    I used oxycodone after I broke my hand. It gave me a nice buzz, a bit of euphoria/happiness, and a soft warm fuzzy feeling reminiscent of curling up with a big teddy bear as a kid. Honestly, it was very useful when in severe pain, and it didn’t seem to hinder my thinking much, but I liked it enough that I was wary of developing a dependence.

    I’ve just been diagnosed with ADD and prescribed Ritalin; I’m curious what effect it’ll have.

  27. #27 Martin R
    August 11, 2010

    Yes, ERV, this is about mind-altering substances used for fun, also known simply as drugs.

  28. #28 Jonathan Jarrett
    August 11, 2010

    Martin, you know I am right with you on the music-as-substitute-for-drugs thing (currently playing Sleep’s Holy Mountain) and also not with you at all on the teetotalism. And my father was an alcoholic, so I ought to be aware of the damage. However, when I started drinking it was mainly to join in with my friends, and I certainly needed the help drowning my social inhibitions. Since then, perhaps at times more self-medication than would be considered good for me by medical practitioners. Less so these days though. Most of all, I don’t have the objection to the taste of the stuff that many people here have mentioned, and a few years’ working out what I liked have left me with quite, well, maybe not refined but certainly specific tastes. The brewer’s and distiller’s arts are among the finer things humanity’s done for itself in my opinion, at their upper levels anyway. So at my best I drink because I like the drink, and don’t mind being made merry either; at my less good I drink to help quieten the demons. But I know where my limits are and I rarely push them.

    However, as regards anything else I’m fairly straight-edge, for reasons that are lengthy to explain and that I don’t necessarily want tied to my academic ID. Simplest to say that the opportunities I’ve had to try much else have almost never overcome my considerable reluctance to mess with my brain in unfamiliar ways. Drink had become familiar long before I started worrying about my brain though.

  29. #29 jrb
    August 11, 2010

    I have a beer or two just about every day. The right beer can be a perfect compliment to nearly any meal (a porter with a steak, wit with a salad, etc), or can be an excellent dessert (lambics and chocolate stouts seem made for this). I also occasionally enjoy a bit of scotch or bourbon (despite cicely’s view, bourbon can be quite tasty). In addition to the taste, the mild, relaxing buzz from a bit of alcohol can be nice.

  30. #30 stripey_cat
    August 11, 2010

    I never needed to learn to like the taste of either pure ethanol, or of many alcoholic beverages – I like bitter, odd-tasting things and have done since childhood. (Sugar may give you a dopamine hit, but gin tastes *interesting*.) Nor coffee. If someone can make non-alcoholic stuff that tastes just like the real thing, I’d go for it – I did sometimes use drunkeness to self-medicate anxiety before I could get my doctor to take me seriously, but I don’t actually enjoy being inebriated. I do drink lots of coffee, and am pretty caffeine habituated at the moment; I also drink some decaf, but find large amounts of decaf make me ill (I have no idea what it is in it, but it makes me nauseous in small amounts, and in large amounts makes my chest ache).

    As the coughy sort of asthmatic I’ve never been tempted by smoked drugs (I had a puff of a friend’s cigarette just so I knew what it was like, and my comment was “it’s like standing down-wind of a bonfire – you pay to do this?!”. I’m curious to know what other (illegal) drugs feel like, but far too risk averse (both social consequences and possible brain damage, or finding I really like it!) to actually consider trying in real life. If someone invents a holodeck, I’d love to try virtually real LSD.

    Chocolate, of course, doesn’t count as a drug. It’s a basic foodstuff.

  31. #31 inverse_agonist
    August 11, 2010

    Regarding hallucinogens, there is something to the “noise” idea. When a pyramidal cell fires an action potential, glutamate release occurs in two phases. There’s an initial, “synchronous” release that coincides with the action potential, and a delayed “asynchronous” release that’s out of sync with the action potential. Hallucinogens increase asynchronous glutamate release. Look for papers by Aghajanian.

    In primary visual cortex, 5-HT2A agonists (hallucinogens) increase the firing rates of cells that would normally be firing slowly and decrease the firing rates of cells that would normally be firing rapidly:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19056862

    There’s also something to the input gain idea. Norepinephrine-releasing cells of the locus coeruleus are involved in wakefulness, and they fire in bursts when something relevant or surprising happens. Subjectively, people who take hallucinogens say that everyday experiences become more intense. That’s consistent with the fact that hallucinogens increase burst firing in locus coeruleus cells. Even in anesthetized rats, hallucinogens cause the locus coeruleus to fire bursts in response to stimuli that wouldn’t normally elicit bursts (e.g., touching the animal’s back).

    Aldous Huxley talks about the sense that hallucinogens remove a filter on sensory input in The Doors of Perception.

    People without firsthand experience of drugs may want to spend some time reading trip reports at erowid.org. The amount of disinformation that exists about drugs is staggering, almost as if billions of dollars had been spent on spreading cartoonish ideas about drugs.

  32. #32 Bob Carlson
    August 11, 2010

    Free will is a fuzzy thing.

    Things that don’t exist are really fuzzy alright. One may be convinced that one chooses to be a teetotaler or not, when it is in reality simply the result of the interaction of one’s genes and one’s environment.

  33. #33 Podblack
    August 11, 2010

    Heh, I ended up writing at length about not drinking here – and as you mention the cultural aspects, I can certainly agree that sometimes when it appears that it’s ‘okay with everyone’, it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will.
    http://podblack.com/2009/09/my-not-drinking-alcohol-is-not-your-problem/

  34. #34 Martin R
    August 12, 2010

    I’m curious to know what other (illegal) drugs feel like, but far too risk averse (both social consequences and possible brain damage, or finding I really like it!) to actually consider trying in real life.

    That’s very well put. I largely agree, though I’m not all that curious.

  35. #35 Martin R
    August 12, 2010

    One may be convinced that one chooses to be a teetotaler or not, when it is in reality simply the result of the interaction of one’s genes and one’s environment.

    OK, if somebody asks me why I keep blogging, I’ll just reply “The Devil makes me do it”.

  36. #36 Dunc
    August 12, 2010

    You know, I really don’t trust someone tripping on acid to make that sort of neurological judgement accurately. (-;

    OK, lets just go with the archaeologist pulling stuff out of his ass then. I mean, it’s not like anybody’s studied this shit scientifically and made their results available in the peer-reviewed literature for interested parties to read, is it?

  37. #37 Martin R
    August 12, 2010

    Hehe, good point!

  38. #38 TheBrummell
    August 12, 2010

    I drink alcohol because I generally like the taste of the drinks it’s found in, because getting drunk feels good through most of the stages (such as they are, along a continuum of alcohol intake) with the obvious exception of the bits at the end of the night involving vomiting and so forth.

    I’m probably addicted to caffeine, but I tell people I like the taste, too. I really think both are true, that I’m not just using the taste thing as some semi-subconscious denialism of my addiction. Coffee (black, no sugar) is preferred, but I also quite enjoy tea (black, green, or other) and chocolate.

    I like being able to indulge the nerdy, obsess-about-the-details side of my mind, and carefully consider the various fine distinctions between wines, or beers, or chocolates.

    Martin, I don’t think you’ve told us about your thoughts on caffeine. Your question to us readers was about “drugs heavier than caffeine”, but I’m curious. I know Swedes are famous for their coffee consumption.

  39. #39 WIll
    August 12, 2010

    With most drugs, the desired effect demands an unpleasant correction: martinis give way to a hangover, caffeine to the jitters, and any number of other stimulants and narcotics to withdrawal. Borrow your pleasure, pay with pain. Psychedelic manna is the only so-called drug that follows a different pattern. With manna you pay the price of admission up front, by dying a big or little death. You may experience fear and pain before you die, but you will emerge from your death, as you do from all deaths, undiminished. You will be left stripped but unscathed. Renewed, reborn, you are naked. In a mind freed of all competing voices, there is only the humming glow of awareness. And soon the laughing spirit recalls everything it has forgotten.

  40. #40 Martin R
    August 12, 2010

    Strong black tea in a large cup, milk and sugar please. I only take caffeine every second day, though, in order not to get headaches when I abstain.

  41. #41 WIll
    August 12, 2010

    Dear Bob,

    I find your attitude toward free will rather churlish. Our circumstances may well be “the result of the interaction of one’s genes and one’s environment” but who is to say this interaction does not give rise to free will? In fact, who is to say that Will does not give rise to genes in the first place? If matter and energy are equivalent, then the Universe is comprised of only one thing, and we are it. We are what strives to be different, and we are what succeeds.

  42. #42 borealis
    August 12, 2010

    When I was a lot younger I used marijuana and various derivatives often, and I tried a variety of psychedelics (including LSD and psilocybin) a few times. I’ve never been much of a drinker, but will have a glass of something tasty in a social situation – maybe once a month.

    I have to say mushrooms are the only one of the lot (alcohol excepted) I’d be even vaguely tempted to try again, because the ‘random noise’ you mention, in the case of psilocybins, (provided you’re not a pig about quantity) results in very pretty, amusing, and perfectly manageable hallucinatory effects.

    A non-drug method of inducing hallucinatory effects is available: isolation tanks. There was a bit of a fad for them in the early eighties, and I experienced about half a dozen sessions. Probably the best mind altering ‘drug’ available: one’s own brain trying to process nothing. Seriously worth trying if you are not claustrophobic.

  43. #43 Doug K
    August 12, 2010

    I like the taste of both beer and wine. Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”. It’s likely what he really wrote was,
    “Behold the rain that descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
    Interestingly the wine changes to beer in the popular quote, probably because wine in the US has certain effete non-Real-Man connotations, so it doesn’t match the concept of Franklin as American hero.

    That quote one of the reasons I drink wine: it’s a kind of bottled sunshine, wind and rain: a sip of carefully made wine evokes cascades of memory and landscape.

    It’s thirty years since last I was drunk, but a small holiday from unadulterated reality is still welcome. For the real full obnubilation of consciousness, my drug of choice is extremely hard physical exercise. It’s an addiction of sorts. Both alcohol and exercise make the multiple voices of thoughts in my head go quiet: as Janne observes this is sometimes pleasant.

  44. #44 CherryBomb
    August 12, 2010

    My personality is susceptible to forming repetitive routines, so I have to be careful about what habits I get started on because they can be very hard to break. Beer is fine because I cannot physically drink enough to cause any harm, but I stay 100% clear of hard liquor and illegal drugs.

  45. #45 Bob Carlson
    August 12, 2010

    OK, if somebody asks me why I keep blogging, I’ll just reply “The Devil makes me do it”.

    I expect you may be too young to have picked that up from Flip Wilson’s Geraldine character, so, indeed, it would appear you’ve been in touch with a more recent devil.

  46. #46 kevin
    August 12, 2010

    I only take caffeine every second day, though, in order not to get headaches when I abstain.

    Hahaha that makes me laugh. Seriously if you are that regimented I got something you should smoke.

    I was as bad as you, Martin, when I was much younger. I thought I had everything figured out. Then reality hit and I discovered the joy of escaping from it for a while. I hope you never have to learn.

  47. #47 Dunc
    August 13, 2010

    With most drugs, the desired effect demands an unpleasant correction: martinis give way to a hangover …

    It’s all a question of dosage and tolerance… Last night I went out to celebrate a friends birthday. I had a couple of beers at home with my meal, then we had a couple more beers in the pub, finishing off with a (well watered) double whisky each. That’s probably two or three times the amount of alcohol I would normally drink in the course of an average evening (I’m a two beers a night kinda guy), but I have no appreciable hangover this morning.

  48. #48 Martin R
    August 13, 2010

    Seriously if you are that regimented I got something you should smoke.

    I like the self-regimented life. That’s how I survive as a scholar without a boss. That’s how come this blog is updated with such regularity. Also I don’t like headaches.

  49. #49 kevin
    August 13, 2010

    That’s how come this blog is updated with such regularity.

    I’ll drink to that!

  50. #50 Celegorm
    August 15, 2010

    I. Alcohol – I am a beer drinker and I enjoy a glass of wine or a sip of whisky at times too. I just love the taste of dark beers, just like I love food. Actually the reson why I don´t drink more beer than I do is because it contains alcohol… At times I enjoy getting mildly drunk, but it never is the main purpose of drinking alcoholic beverages for me. So, why do I from time to time enjoy the drunkenness? Well #1 above explains it quite good.
    As a student I sometimes enjoyed to get more than just a little bit drunk, but only in a friendly (usually Finnish) environment where everyone else too was quite far away from sobriety. This was probably because of the feeling of “friendly chaos” that spread amongst us. No one really knew what crazy ideas and topics would come up and we just had a lot of fun. Probably it would have been perfectly possible to have the same fun sober, but it was fun nevertheless :) Now, being 36 yrs, I would get a terrible hangover if I tried to drink those amounts again, and that is definetely not worth it.

    II. Hallucinogens – I have always been fascinated by the idea to alter reality. Though I basically would describe myself as an atheist I have a soft spot for shamanistic traditions and I bear a small neopagan inside who probably never really will be killed by reason. Therefore I definetely am curious about it. But … as I am working as a district attorney in a country which is totally intolerant when it comes to mindaltering in other forms than Brännvin, I will keep away from it. It really would not enhance my career…

  51. #51 dustbubble
    August 15, 2010

    Abstinence? Hmm. Moderation, you say?
    Interesting concepts. Where on earth [i]do[/i] people get them from?
    I’m a brit. And consequently have no urge for a long life and copious progeny. We’re not bloody peasants, old chap.
    And a circuit-digger-turned-construction-worker (for an easy life, in his old age).
    What’s all this? We’ll have no trouble here!
    Sobriety indeed! Pah! Overrated in my estimation.

    Homebrew, boy, homebrew. We’re promised good apples this year :)

  52. #52 Tor
    August 16, 2010

    “If you can enjoy using recreational drugs in what for lack of a better term we might call a “responsible” manner…”

    Why would you need a better term? What’s wrong with `responsible’?

  53. #53 Martin R
    August 16, 2010

    I’m not sure that addling your brain on purpose can really ever be called “responsible”. Fun and situationally innocuous, sure.

  54. #54 Tor
    August 18, 2010

    Heh. So much for liberalism.

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