No Laughing Matter
July 7, 2010 11:04 AM   Subscribe

Hippie Crack -- The Village Voice profiles the "Nitrous Oxide Mafia" that follows the jam band circuit selling balloons in parking lots.
posted by empath (158 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This story makes a lot more sense now.
posted by Think_Long at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Argh the Nitrous Mafia! There are so, so many stories about Nitrous Mafia antics on Phish lot, probably second only to creepy get-inside-my-van The Twelve Tribes stories. The NM "control the lot" at all of the Philly and Camden shows. Can't wait to read this!
posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reduce harm by taking b vitamins.
posted by poe at 11:22 AM on July 7, 2010


Also B Vitamins can lead to unusually vivid dreams in some people, so ...bonus.
posted by The Whelk at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2010


Interesting and sad.
posted by serazin at 11:34 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Balloons? We had it in tanks back in the day. Round and round the hose went, with fifteen or so of us sitting in a circle. Lordy. Lordy, lordy.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:36 AM on July 7, 2010


I gotta be honest. Watching people do hippie crack is pretty much the most depressing thing in the world. Especially people you know. You're looking at them, there's life in their face, they're engaging with the world, and the next thing you know, they're gone. Not even unconscious necessarily, just not there. Distant, dead. And then they want more. I'm sure that what's going on inside their head is wonderful, but on the outside it just looks like death to me.

I once left a friend of mine in a hotel pre-party before a rave -- one of the smartest people i know -- in a hotel room where a bunch of people were doing nitrous. I came back 6 hours later -- after the rave we had actually traveled 3 hours for was over -- and he was still there. He hadn't moved -- just doing one balloon after another. I literally had to drag him out of the room to leave.
posted by empath at 11:39 AM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Small time. You can legally sell helium filled balloons to children for twice the price. Of course, the Disney Mafia owns that action.
posted by Elmore at 11:40 AM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I could never get past that wah-wah-wah-wah-wah thing.
posted by box at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just say N2O.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:45 AM on July 7, 2010 [45 favorites]


I have never cared for the Jam-Band Concert atmosphere, even though I often like the music. Why anyone would want to buy drugs of any sort in the parking lot at a show is beyond my comprehension. Rip-offs abound, and sometimes you're lucky if the worst thing that happens is you paid $5 for a square quarter-inch of pure, unadulterated, perforated card stock. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but back in my day we were taught to only buy drugs from trustworthy sources that we knew personally.

Nitrous seems like it's probably a pretty crappy high. It doesn't shock me that there is a network of assholes selling it at shows. This was a pretty interesting article about a subculture that I was already predisposed to loathe: jam-band parking-lot drug-dealers.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:48 AM on July 7, 2010


The guys were super aggressive and everywhere outside the concert I saw in Philly (Electric Factory). To be fair, it seemed less like mafia and more in line with the loud Philadelphians pushing to the front of the show.
posted by domnit at 11:51 AM on July 7, 2010


Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but back in my day we were taught to only buy drugs from trustworthy sources that we knew personally.

Considering every drug dealer I ever knew constantly upsold the stuff he had, saying it was the stickiest ickyest ever, the concept of a trustworthy dealer seems almost contradictory.
posted by crunchland at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, man, my nitrous dealer lets me sit down, put my feet up, and lean back, and then he lets me have the full tank. It's sooo sweet and mellow. "Give the man his money's worth," he says.

Then he drills, fills and bills.

(I'm a big guy with big lungs—I need a lot of nitrous at the dentist.)
posted by infinitewindow at 11:55 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's only cool when Frank Booth did it. The rest of the huffers are just tards.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:56 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


jam-band parking-lot drug-dealer

a punk song is born
posted by stbalbach at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hufftards.
posted by Elmore at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Scene: me in parking lot of Spectrum dead show in 1984 or so. Baloons going around. Off duty cop taking his son to Hero Thrill Show at JFK stadium. Kid to dad: I want a balloon! Dad: grrrrrrrrr...
posted by fixedgear at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sangamon's Principle: "the simpler the molecule, the better the drug."
posted by kjell at 12:03 PM on July 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


That's Neal Stephenson like 20 years ago. Fuck hipsters.
posted by kjell at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another typical huff piece from the Voice.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:06 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's only cool when Frank Booth did it. The rest of the huffers are just tards.

n00b! Humphry Davy did it way before and did it better.
posted by yerfatma at 12:06 PM on July 7, 2010


There's nothing like witnessing that wide eyed frozen moment of utterly helpless distress when a dude laying on his back huffing nitrous from a balloon in the Mann Music Center parking lot has gotten so high that he forgets to pinch his balloon off and it's like PPPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTT all in his face and he doesn't know to make it stop and it's totally gone by the time he's come down enough to know what just happened and then he's all furiously fumbling in his pocket for his wallet while staggering to his feet and towards the PSSSHHHHHHHHHHH sound off in the distance.
posted by The Straightener at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


I've only tried nitrous a handful of times, and only once outside of a show. It wasn't really my thing, I always liked the description one of my friends gave me about it:
"Everything sounds real echo-y, and for forty seconds you are the stupidest person on the face of the earth".
posted by stifford at 12:10 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


The dangers of nitrous oxide, from Just Say N2O.com, which contains a lot of info on getting N2O for a site devoted to avoiding the stuff.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on July 7, 2010


I'm getting so old. I got a headache just reading the post before I even got to the article.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2010


Do not neglect the social aspect of nitrous as a drug. You're gathered around a tank, you can shotgun it into someone else's mouth, etc. Good times.
posted by adipocere at 12:28 PM on July 7, 2010


> Do not neglect the social aspect of nitrous as a drug. You're gathered around a tank, you can shotgun it into someone else's mouth, etc. Good times.

You could also do any number of constructive activities with people that don't prop up thuggish dealers nor turn you into pleasure button pressing monkeys.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:31 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


N02 - an almost completely true story.

"The REALLY WEIRD PART would've come well after midnight. Morgan, Cross, Field and Cameron were all in the camper - down for the count. Meanwhile, me and Thompson were up on the roof for some reason - probably just to escape the madness below. We were smoking copious amounts of weed, drinking fine wine, sucking back nitros, basically just hanging out under the stars listening to the cool spacious music we had coming from below.

"As for Sand, I guess we'd sort of lost touch with him. Every now and then, there'd be a hiss of the nitros tank coming from below, which I guess we figured was probably him, but we weren't really paying attention down below until Thompson kind of nudged me and pointed toward the lake, saying kind of, is it just me or - - ?

"And I mean - this really is the WEIRD PART. Maybe the WEIRDEST thing I've ever seen. High enough on acid, stoned on dope, freshly nitros-ized and there's Sand lying on his back on a picnic table beside the lake sucking back on his own bag of nitros - and he's surrounded by this gang of small dark creatures - little sort of shadow munchkins with eyes that kind of shone a dull green colour. Like Jawas, I guess, but far weirder, and more REAL. I DID see this and so did Thompson, sitting next to me. They're all gathered around Sand just kind of observing, almost like a team of doctors conferencing around a patient. And this went on for a while: ten - maybe twenty minutes. The nitros would wear off and they'd sort of fade away. We'd suck back more nitros and they'd fade back in. Fortunately we had a tube running through the skylight to the tank so we had a pretty much endless supply.

"I don't recall how it all ended. Maybe Sand had to get up and take a piss or something. Eventually the sun came up and everyone was basically sane again, and still alive - and I remember Sand just sort of smiling at me, shaking his head and saying something like, 'It's a strange ,strange world we live in, Mr. Daly.'"

FROM ONE OF SAND'S JOURNALS:

"Nitros-surge soft wonder of melt - all the hard lines of REAL life wither and die - all colours and shapes set loose in the freedom of collapsing time. Everything smears off into sweet oblivion and you're gone riding the power and softness of it - Full acceleration to the speed of light. You're riding this sheer diamond chord - a unity of SOUND, vision and FEELING all merging as one cool WHITE light - always higher - always deeper. Because you are going the distance finally. Because NOW you are this miraculous kid riding a silver surf board who's caught the curl of full-on ecstatic EVERYTHING and he's riding it - the speed of light indeed: HYPERSPACE - gunning for heaven - the whole milky way smearing past -

"No lie. It's nitros mixed with acid mixed with SOMETHING ELSE. Yes - the ALIEN - wild and impossible presence that we have maybe felt before but it's never been this vital, this strong, like a cool eternal LOVE from the center of all BEing - and right NOW right HERE - I am that light, the fastest most vital star of all ripping the fragile roof off of EVERYTHING . . . "

BACK TO DALY:

"Strange but true, and odd, I guess, that he wrote so little about it, given how much he wrote about everything else - or that he and I hardly discussed it afterward. Maybe we just knew we lacked the vocabulary to do it any justice, so didn't even bother trying. It was kind of like looking at each and just nodding: you guys SAW the aliens while I was merging with them -

"But all hope and goodness this time. I mean, here we'd been pursuing this angst and horror thing for the last few years and then suddenly ZING!!!! - out of cosmic left field, real and total ecstasy and illumination for Sand who sees and feels and hears EVERYTHING in a timeless one hundred percent non-sticky multiple spiritual orgasm. He did say that much, I remember now. He said he took point duty and rode the sheer edge of the big boom itself - the absolute zenith. And that it was total pleasure out there - beyond anything he'd ever experienced.

"And meanwhile, me and Thompson have corroboration of at least extreme and unprecedented strangeness in that we did see a bunch of apparently benevolent Jawa-munchkin-shadow aliens gathered around Sand - taking notes. We did see them. High on various drugs, yes, but WE DID HAVE THAT EXPERIENCE. And I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if anything is real, it has to be the raw stuff that we actually EXPERIENCE, no matter how WEIRD. Everything else is secondhand - just data or opinion.
posted by philip-random at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Nitrous is called "hippie crack" because of its addictive qualities.

Someone really calls it that? Nitrous is addictive? Really? I thought it was just the little appetizer dumb kids took before getting to the main drug course.
posted by Nelson at 12:32 PM on July 7, 2010


pleasure button pressing monkeys

Metafil... ah, never mind.
posted by crunchland at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no idea what any of you are talking about.
posted by loquacious at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fortunately, Burhanistan, we would lay hands on scientific grade nitrous, rather than welding nitrous, and thereby bypassed the "thuggish dealers." As to becoming "pleasure button pressing monkeys," I think it's a fair bet that, given a list of your hobbies and occasional party activities, I could single out one or more things as being either unconstructive (because that's what we ought to be doing always, being constructive) or pleasurable.
posted by adipocere at 12:39 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, there's nothing wrong with doing pleasurable things, but sitting around huffing nitrous oxide is short circuiting your brain into false pleasure. Rationalize it all you want.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:44 PM on July 7, 2010


What exactly is 'false pleasure'? Please, elaborate.
posted by empath at 12:45 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


If it's actually pleasurable, how can it be false?
posted by crunchland at 12:45 PM on July 7, 2010


Interesting article, thanks. I mainly feel sorry for the kids paying $5 or $10 U.S. for a single hit. As to this thread, lots of people here throwing the baby out with the bath water.

About 13 years ago, I was living in an apartment with some friends. Another friend dropped off a BIG tank full of nitrous at our place and invited us to partake until he needed it back. We spent the next few weeks huffing balloons in the living room, hallucinating and laughing our heads off; needless to say, the tank was empty before this guy returned for it.

The high is really fun, albeit brief. Obviously you should be lying down or at least sitting before you inhale (we'd cover the floor in pillows before we'd start). Hearing is greatly altered so music is entertaining. I've certainly wanted to do it again (other than at the dentist) over the years but it's simply unavailable in the circles I move in now.

/hates jam bands
posted by stinkycheese at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2010


It's not welding nitrous - at least some of the folks mentioned in the voice article are getting their stuff at a kitchen supply store. The same place you get your CO2 for your soda fountain.

Ether is the stuff where you want to make sure you're getting the really good stuff.

Trivia: I know several people who agree that the high from ether and the high from nitrous are very similar experiences.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:48 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Drug users are turned into "pleasure button pressing monkeys"? Would you say the same thing about people watching TV, playing video games, or eating comfort foods?

Or perhaps we should all toil endlessly in an effort to be seen as "constructive" to others and our only source of pleasure will be our smug sense of accomplishment for having made kick-ass birdhouses and ashtrays.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:48 PM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Of course people take stupefying drugs at jam band shows. Because it's fucking boring otherwise.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:49 PM on July 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


> What exactly is 'false pleasure'? Please, elaborate.

Ok, "false pleasure" is taking drugs to feel good. Stimulating endorphin and dopamine release without any actual interaction with the outside world. I realize this may be a controversial viewpoint around here.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:51 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


> Drug users are turned into "pleasure button pressing monkeys"? Would you say the same thing about people watching TV, playing video games, or eating comfort foods?

Note that I didn't even say "drug users" but was referring specifically to nitrous oxide huffers. But, go ahead and pile on because I'm suddenly Nancy Reagan.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:53 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ok, "false pleasure" is taking drugs to feel good. Stimulating endorphin and dopamine release without any actual interaction with the outside world.

Are you saying they don't feel pleasure? Or that pleasure should only be felt when people are doing activites you approve of? Is a runners high 'false pleasure'? How about a roller coaster?

I mean, from the point of view of the person feeling the pleasure it feels pretty real. Realer than real, in fact.
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't mind laying hands on ether. I'll try to stay away from open flames, promise.
posted by adipocere at 12:54 PM on July 7, 2010


ps, i agree with Burhanistan characterization of nitrous huffers as pleasure button pressing monkeys, just disagree that it's false pleasure.
posted by empath at 12:54 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does anyone remember that episode of Saved by the Bell where Slater is like throwing a rave or something and peer pressures Screech into getting him some nitrous oxide gas? My memory is kind of foggy on this but It seemed like a pretty standard 'say no to drugs' 'don't worry about peer pressure' kind of after-school story, but instead of going with tobacco or marijuana they opted to fight the plague of nitrous oxide gas in high schools. That show was cool.
posted by tuck_nroll at 12:55 PM on July 7, 2010


> I mean, from the point of view of the person feeling the pleasure it feels pretty real. Realer than real, in fact.

Well, we'll just have to have a conventional wisdom approach to "real" then rather than getting caught up in a kind of "it's all just chemicals firing in the brain" kind of discussion. Consensual reality, if you will. Whatever.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:55 PM on July 7, 2010


No I'm really curious how you can define a subjective feeling in such away that you can define it as being real sometimes and false other times.
posted by empath at 12:56 PM on July 7, 2010


Some people get pleasure like this. Other people get pleasure like that.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:57 PM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Empath: let me retract that and say that it is artificially induced pleasure. I consider it to be counterfeit.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:57 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, "false pleasure" is taking drugs to feel good. Stimulating endorphin and dopamine release without any actual interaction with the outside world. I realize this may be a controversial viewpoint around here.

I've done a whack of pleasure/false-pleasure/feelgood/euphoric/whatever-you-want-to-call-them drugs in my time. No permanent disabilities. No monkeys on my back. No long term damage of any kind that I'm aware of.

But I can still see what Burhanistan is getting at here; just something in my gut telling me that easy pleasure, artificially induced is somehow, in the long run, not altogether good for one's personal biosphere. Or as an old ecstasy head friend once commented (having quit the drug), "I got tired of feeling real depressed all day Monday and Tuesday and slowly coming to realize that no, I wasn't actually depressed, I was just feeling normal again."

I personally, demand more than this from life.
posted by philip-random at 1:02 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Saved by the Bell

*sings* "I'm so excited. I'M SO EXCITED! I'M SO scaaaaared."
posted by kmz at 1:05 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I got tired of feeling real depressed all day Monday and Tuesday and slowly coming to realize that no, I wasn't actually depressed, I was just feeling normal again."

I can imagine that skydiving every weekend would lead to the same effect.
posted by empath at 1:08 PM on July 7, 2010


Counterfeit isn't exactly a huge differentiator from "false."

I guess what you're saying, that you view nitrous as chemically wireheading it, but, to be fair, many forms of pleasure are just as artificially induced and/or unproductive. Drinking wine, even if you're judging wine, because most of that is self-deceptive on some amazing levels. The glow of societal approval earned by participating in our frequently meaningless traditions. Eating a candy bar. Every stupid little gold star I ever earned in elementary school for learning to ingest and regurgitate whatever trivial and not always correct facts provided. Most sex: if you're not makin' babies or somehow cementing the Approved Pairbond, you might as well be playing with yourself.

Nitrous, though, is honest. You're doing it to feel nice for a bit and then that's that. I'm not kidding myself about it and it's rather straightforward. You inhale and it isn't about Building a Better Tomorrow or preserving your precious seed so your tribes can grow fruitful and swarm upon the desert, or Spreading Democracy. It's pretty much "fire bad; tree pretty," and if you subscribe to the occasionally published theory that the absence of conscious ratiocination feels pleasurable, nitrous is most excellent for achieving that end.
posted by adipocere at 1:13 PM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I stimulate my endorphins the honest way: by pushing people in front of trains.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2010 [29 favorites]


\remembers seeing a friend or two one particular morning-after lying in the floor surrounded by tiny steel cylinders and broken balloons....

the fun is all well and good and i highly recommend trying it....once....i couldn't ever get past how mind-numbingly stupid it made me feel immediately thereafter.

then again, i've gotten pretty damned old since then.
posted by rhythim at 1:30 PM on July 7, 2010


I have to say, I'm surprised at all the nitrous hate. As with all drugs, it's all about context. Handing over a ten to the nitrous mafia in the parking lot of a no-name jam band show is a vastly different thing than sucking down a balloon on a warm summer night in Berkeley on the roof of the dorm watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge because one of your floor mates is a chemistry grad student and gets the shit free from his lab.

I think it's a fascinating drug, one of those ones I would have probably have a hard time with if it were more readily available. It's a dissociative, like ketamine, which means that it has psychedelic properties and mixes really well with other drugs. Certain thought processes are altered and depending on your perspective you might consider them enhanced. This is most notably true of sound: music doesn't just sound different, it (at least the right kind of it) sounds *awesome.* The ride is super instense, incapacitating for like three minutes, then you're more or less back to baseline, and this particular property of it makes it a fabulous party drug. Take too many hits in a short period of time and it will give you a headache, and I think really chronic use can lead to bone marrow suppression. I have never, ever heard of, nor do I have reason to suspect that it is chemically addictive.

As usual, the problems associated with it have a lot more to do with the black market status of it than the actual use of it. I mean obviously it impairs you and you can injure yourself and we'd see a lot more of that if it wasn't controlled, but the violence and scene-killing aspect of nitrous described in this article are all the result of it's legal status and the economics of an underground distribution system.

Like I said, if it were easier to get, it would probably create problems in my life because it's fun/danger ratio is so vastly weighted towards fun. I've been fortunate enough to not ever have to pay for it and the fact that you need to deal with the underbelly of the jam band scene means that I haven't done it in a decade, nor am I likely to seek it out. But I got nothing but fond memories of nitrous.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


The one time I tried it, I'd say it's the closest I ever felt to being a real bona fide cartoon character. I had the voice and everything and my brain felt like it had just been squeezed like a sponge and all my thought processes just gone and then it was put back on a counter to dry. I didn't feel a need to do it more than twice. The second time just to reassure myself that, what had happened the first time, had actually happened. I

t just makes you so retarded, it's hilarious, but fuck that....

*Goes to look for some Vitamen B*
posted by Skygazer at 1:43 PM on July 7, 2010


Some observations of the effects of nitrous-oxide-gas-intoxication which I was prompted to make by reading the pamphlet called The anaesthetic revelation and the gist of philosophy (Blood, 1874), have made me understand better than ever before both the strength and the weakness of Hegel's philosophy. I strongly urge others to repeat the experiment, which with pure gas is short an harmless enough. The effects will of course vary with the individual, just as they vary in the same individual from time to time; but it is probable that in the former case, as in the latter, a generic resemblance will obtain. With me, as with every other person of whom I have heard, the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intence metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence. The mind sees all the logical relations of being with an apparent subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness offers no parallel; only as sobriety returns, the feeling of insight fades, and one is left staring vacantly at a few disjointed words and phrases, as one stares at the cadaverous-looking snow peak from which the sunset glow has just fled, or at the black cinder left by an extinguished brand.
--William James


Clearly they were huffing better shit in the 19th century.
posted by logicpunk at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


the keynote of the experience is the tremendously exciting sense of an intence metaphysical illumination. Truth lies open to the view in depth beneath depth of almost blinding evidence. The mind sees all the logical relations of being with an apparent subtlety and instantaneity to which its normal consciousness offers no parallel

I really feel like these kinds of drug induced experiences -- achievable only with hallucinogens and dissassociatives are somehow important and deserve more serious study than they get.
posted by empath at 2:03 PM on July 7, 2010


I experienced the same exact sense of illumination as William James, but instead of Hegel's philosophy it made me understand better than ever before the strength and weakness of Rembrandt Pussyhorse.
posted by The Straightener at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think pushing people in front of trains is false pleasure.
posted by everichon at 2:10 PM on July 7, 2010


I had the exact same sense of illumination, also, but it was during a Powerfuff Girls marathon.
posted by empath at 2:11 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


As with all drugs, it's all about context.

Gotta agree. Taking a few hits from an empty whipped cream dispenser with a couple of friends, no problem. Between the four of you, the box of ten cartridges can either get finished in one go, and then that's that, or you could space them out. And yet, in parking lots of shows, I've seen people walking around inhaling from a balloon (never a good idea - paying $5 for a balloon means people want their money's worth, and invariably huff the gas, breathing in and out into the balloon), some of them already intoxicated, and invariably someone either trips over something or just straight-up collapses. There's busted foreheads and busted elbows.

In the end, it's a bit like the difference between splitting a bottle of wine with some friends, and chugging it in one go while trying to navigate a parking lot full of hippies.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 PM on July 7, 2010


The Straightener: Instead of Hegel's philosophy it made me understand better than ever before the strength and weakness of Rembrandt Pussyhorse.

The first time I did E in college, the soundtrack for the evening was Locust Abortion Technicians and let me tell you friend, there was no weakness, just endless amounts of unbelievable excellence.

As for N2O. Some people like William James, commune and understand the brilliance of Hegel, others realize they're actually cartoon characters somehow out in the real world.

Sounds about the same to me.
posted by Skygazer at 2:13 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what else was false pleasure?

That's right: your mama.

Fa-ha-halse.
posted by everichon at 2:13 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, those are two of the Butt's strongest albums. I'd have a hard time deciding which one.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:15 PM on July 7, 2010


BitterOldPUnk: I stimulate my endorphins the honest way: by pushing people in front of trains.

Have you ever considered taking up jogging?
posted by Skygazer at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2010


Nitrous makes you stop thinking? When I'm in the chair it makes me think too much. A snippet of music and dialogue from Bee Movie playing in the dentist's office reminds me of a level in Metroid, which reminds me of a half-forgotten alternative song, which reminds me of the Golden Rectangle, which leads me to fractals.

I often end up pondering the nature of the universe in a Cartesian manner, examining the dichotomy between the self and the other, the purpose and the random, the slave and the master. I often reach terrifying conclusions that the universe is random, that all consciousness is accidental and precious, and I'm abusing my gift by using anesthesia. How in the world can people take nitrous as a party drug?

I'm glad I don't have access to a keyboard when I'm on nitrous.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sorry Burhanistan, I interpreted your comment as a pretty broad "drugs are bad, the social aspect is irrelevant, why don't you go make something of yourself?" which I'm sure you can understand based on your comment. Didn't intend to "pile on" either.

Anyway, the "constructive" thing always sets me off because I read it as "do something I approve of instead of whatever useless hippy thing you're doing now." I've never tried nitrous, but my experience with other substances that sometimes get dismissed in similar terms is that they are not just seratonin "on" switches. But those were not what you were talking about I gather, so sorry.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2010


When I used to falsely enjoy nitrous I would invariably realize The Answer, and just as invariably forget it when I came back to the surface.
posted by everichon at 2:23 PM on July 7, 2010


InfiniteWindow: Nitrous makes you stop thinking?

Well, there was one thought and it was simply this:

Walt Disney created me
posted by Skygazer at 2:23 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really feel like these kinds of drug induced experiences -- achievable only with hallucinogens and dissassociatives are somehow important and deserve more serious study than they get.

You just spent this whole thread claiming that drug experiences were analogous to natural mind-states...so which is it?

Drug experiences offer only one lesson: that rationality is precious and rare. Most of our emotions and opinions are based one chemical combination or the other, not on logic and a priori truths. Hallucinating out of my gourd taught me one thing: almost everything is exactly as real as the illusory nonsense flooding your consciousness when you're high as shit. Moments of clarity and truth that actually touch some piece of the world outside of that dopamine miasma...those are the only real "natural" highs, not jogging or fucking or being drunk and sappy.

Platonic forms are my crack now...though the Euclidean Proof Mafia does kinda ruin the experience turf-warring with the Quantum Physicists.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:29 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have you ever considered taking up jogging?

Jogging? Nah. The sprinting I do after I push 'em is exercise enough.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:30 PM on July 7, 2010


BitterOldPUnk: I stimulate my endorphins the honest way: by pushing people in front of trains.

After the first one, you're always trying to get back to that first-time feeling.
posted by archivist at 2:31 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Slow down, slow down, I'm taking notes. So, "Re: NO highs, go to concert parking lots, look for guys with expensive balloons,..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:40 PM on July 7, 2010


I was given nitrous during the end stages of labour, and I can't say that I remember it doing a single thing for me. Of course I was a bit busy at the time.

I'm guessing that when Burhanistan describes the high as "false pleasure", the subtext is "immoral". I'm using the word carefully, because it carries such a charge, but essentially this is what we are talking about: pleasure which is earned-- the endorphin rush of a workout or intense mental activity-- vs pleasure which is just... taken. "Moral" pleasure is in a binary with "immoral" pleasure as an ethos. One takes work and is a reward, the other is nothing but sensual gratification (note: I have no problems with sensual gratification in itself, but I was raised by the daughter of parents who were straight-up English bourgeois Victorians, so I totally get the opposition).
posted by jokeefe at 2:42 PM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Drug users are turned into "pleasure button pressing monkeys"? Would you say the same thing about people watching TV, playing video games, or eating comfort foods?
Except you don't get fat. Look, the important thing to understand is that non-virtuous people are enjoying themselves, and that has got to stop

---

Okay realistically: This seems like about the least harmful drug you could think of, unless people are huffing all day, every day, I guess. Is there any serious long term harm from doing that? I mean, back in the day they printed instructions on how to make it in Popular Science as a home chemistry set experiment.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't like it when people call it "hippie crack" or "huffing." It's the idiotic pot calling the self-stupefying kettle black, I think. I mean, can you be more obvious about your ignorance of what different classes of psychoactive chemicals DO?

The William James stuff is fun, and oh boy Kevin Blechdom is my gurl too — Joke as Self on the Eat Your Heart Out album is a fun N2O song.

Unfortunately, I don't have a cheap source for N2O in a brick and mortar right now (do these NitroClowns deliver?), but when I've got the capital to drop on drug use futures, I'll take go for the bulk price online... ohhh what a good bad idea 200 whip-its is.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:01 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


You just spent this whole thread claiming that drug experiences were analogous to natural mind-states...so which is it?

Whether you get there with meditation or medication, it's all natural. The fact that drugs do these amazing and interesting things to consciousness makes them worthy of serious study, for the same reason that optical illusions and other things that are outside of normal experience are.

I think in order to understand what normal thought and consciousness are, it helps to break them, make them stop working--no matter how you do it, and to see what the differences are.
posted by empath at 3:03 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which is not, btw, to say that drug experiences themselves are necessarily beneficial to the people who have them. Only that the phenomena of drug experiences are interesting. If we could figure out how drugs like LSD and Ketamine, etc actual work to make people experience what they experience, I think we'd be a long way towards understanding how people think in general.
posted by empath at 3:05 PM on July 7, 2010


You have to try it in the hot tub, underwater with the jets roaring. Don't worry, the whip-cream maker thingy floats. Do have a spotter.
posted by snofoam at 3:06 PM on July 7, 2010


I agree with the fake pleasure thing. As are most drugs. Most people can take the occasional hit of whatever and continue to exist and be happy. But when your life starts to be the dull shit that happens between highs, the idea of fake pleasure starts to make a lot of sense.
posted by gjc at 3:06 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The first time I did nitrous, it ruined "Intergalactic" by the Beastie Boys for me. Without that wah-wah-wah-wah-wah over the vocodered vocals, it just sounds so boring…
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2010


I don't like it when people call it "hippie crack" or "huffing."

"Huffing", where I come from, refers to the act of exhaling your own breath into something, that you then inhale again from, over and over, rather than just inhaling, holding, and releasing. It can mean anything from model glue to nitrous. In huffing, you're of course mixing your gas of choice with your own carbon dioxide, willfully and deeply breathing it. That's where I see people passing out. Not that that's incredibly horrible, if you happen to be sitting down, or anything.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:08 PM on July 7, 2010


> It can mean anything from model glue to nitrous.

Yeah, but I don't think it should. It's damagingly overbroad and simply ignorant to propose any meaningful taxonomy of drugs based on the method in which they are administered.

Nitrous is magnitudes less harmful than most other huffed propellants.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:12 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or, to be clearer, most other retail propellants.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2010


But when your life starts to be the dull shit that happens between highs, the idea of fake pleasure starts to make a lot of sense.

It sounds like you're talking about junkies though, not just users, and in that sense I'm not even sure "pleasure" is the right word so much as "need". LSD and mushrooms for example are only pleasurable under the right conditions, as anyone who has seen or experienced a "bad trip" can attest. Sometimes it's not about "pleasure" at all, and you wind up seriously pondering the nature of reality in ways you'd never previously conceived for 6 hours instead of giddiliy running around and laughing and drooling.

Also, a lot of life is dull and boring, drugs or no. I grew up in the suburbs and was a really militantly straight-edge Minor Threat fan. I have yet to experience a "high" anywhere near those of my teenage self's intense righteous indignation. Drugs are not the highlight of my life or anything now, but yeah--it's more fun and interesting to paint picutres high than to sit around watching TV. That's kind of the point. It's not false or fake pleasure, it's just a different and novel experience of what people might find pleasurable.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nitrous Oxide is one of a very small group of drugs, called dissociatives (along with ketamine and dextromethorphan.) When people abruptly "leave their body," they have a tendency, not just to collapse, or slump over, but to face plant in the glass coffee table. What isn't mentioned here is that it is medically administered together with oxygen. Breathing a gas that does not trigger the feeling of asphyxiation, like CO2 does, allows the users to merrily suffocate themselves, and fall over from that, too. Using a hands-free mask unsupervised is suicide. Oxygen is way more expensive than nitrous, but it would be pretty crazy to go there without it. It has been reported that some of the "insights" experienced with dissociatives, though ineffable, are lasting. It's a good thing that they charge so much, few people can afford to do real damage at those prices.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:48 PM on July 7, 2010


Statutory warning: People that get turned into "button pressing monkeys" by drugs should under no circumstances ingest those drugs.

For the rest of us, drugs add a new perspective that enriches our view of the world even in the sober state.
posted by phliar at 3:52 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the "drug users can't know real pleasure" line of argument is just So. Demonstrably. False. Sure, if you imagine some dopey-looking stoned teenage girl staggering around with a balloon, insensible, I imagine drug use looks pretty pathetic and pointless. But if you inform yourself adequately before choosing to play, I don't think you automatically forfeit your right to be respected relinquish your pass to "normality" in any way.

In fact, I think (and I don't think I'm alone here, but I can't find the relevant DARE bits I dimly recall) the use of street names and derrogatory slang are actually BAD for the state of drug use in our culture. I dunno, just a sense about it I have, but the people who don't know enough about drugs to know their proper names or expected effects aren't the ones I think should be using them, right? And the people I know who can explain the differences between MDA and MDMA or Psilocybin Cubensis and Amanita Muscaria seem to have rich, fullfilling lives with families and hobbies and jobs. The people who are generally smart but ignorant and categorically judgmental about certain things make me sad, really. But alas, there's some people, if they don't know, you can't tell them.

On preview:
Nitrous Oxide is one of a very small group of drugs, called dissociatives (along with ketamine and dextromethorphan.)

The multiple effects of it are still being researched, but I'm personally a believer in the belonging of THC in this category as well.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:02 PM on July 7, 2010


> Yeah, the "drug users can't know real pleasure" line of argument is just So. Demonstrably. False. Sure, if you imagine some dopey-looking stoned teenage girl staggering around with a balloon, insensible, I imagine drug use looks pretty pathetic and pointless.

And that scenario was precisely what I was referring to with the "button pressing monkey" thing. That, to me, is a kind of tape loop that isn't real like actually engaging with the world outside of one's own skull is. As for me, I spent my late teens and early twenties exploring mushrooms and LSD and wouldn't trade those experiences and insights for anything. I don't even know where to get drugs now, and wouldn't bother with it because for me it would be like clinging to a highway sign but not actually traversing the road. And, an evening spent inhaling nitrous oxide now seems like a massive waste of time and resources to me, so that's all I was commenting on. People then injected their own baggage into my statements. But it's interesting to see all the rationalization and would-be psycho-chemist sentiment crop up.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:18 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Creamright FTW. You'll want to go for the whole case, for the best price. Yes, there is something that feels a little, ah, wrong? Excessively frivolous? about having 600 whippets around. But don't worry, they won't last long... and what the hell, it's only $.30 a hit!
posted by hap_hazard at 4:27 PM on July 7, 2010


I've played Go against Miles Davis whilst researching the nitrous high. That is an incredible experience. In real time only a minute or two have elapsed, but in your own subjective time hours or days have passed.

The mysterious whispering voice that seems to be telling you something very important but trails off as you near consciousness is the most maddeningly addictive part of nitrous...because you'll hear the whole thing next time for sure.
posted by schyler523 at 4:30 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


the problems associated with it have a lot more to do with the black market status of it than the actual use of it. I mean obviously it impairs you and you can injure yourself and we'd see a lot more of that if it wasn't controlled, but the violence and scene-killing aspect of nitrous described in this article are all the result of it's legal status and the economics of an underground distribution system.

You mean these aren't available on the open market anymore?
posted by K.P. at 4:37 PM on July 7, 2010


Burhanistan, I don't know what the critical distinction between "psycho-chemistry" and "pharmacology" is, but I suspect it's rhetorical.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:42 PM on July 7, 2010


> I don't know what the critical distinction between "psycho-chemistry" and "pharmacology" is, but I suspect it's rhetorical.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:42 PM on July 7 [+] [!]


Yes, the first is practiced by self-described psycho-nauts who are doing "important research" by getting high, the second would be actual research of psychoactive substances within a proper controlled setting.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2010


I know. You've matured past it. You've put away childish things, while we're at a mile marker far behind you. The part you are missing, Burhanistan, is that this highway sign you've driven past, some of us are at that very same sign right now because we're on the way back.
posted by adipocere at 4:48 PM on July 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Oops, too much quoting there. Sorry for quoting the posted by bits.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:50 PM on July 7, 2010


> The part you are missing, Burhanistan, is that this highway sign you've driven past, some of us are at that very same sign right now because we're on the way back.

I really hope that is faux gravitas there, because extending the metaphor like that was kind of silly.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:51 PM on July 7, 2010


And I'll bow out. I really don't care what people do with their money and reuptake sites. Enjoy!
posted by Burhanistan at 4:53 PM on July 7, 2010


I find that, yet again, I'd better not get into this discussion. And, yet again, you are welcome.
posted by Splunge at 4:57 PM on July 7, 2010


Burhanistan, you've just finished calling people 'would-be psycho-chemists' and 'button pushing monkeys.' Your responses seem very dismissive of basically anyone else's experience or thoughts on the matter as mere rationalization. You'd think 'one who engages the actual world outside one's own head' would know what kind of response that would generate.
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:01 PM on July 7, 2010


What about the people who don't know the difference between Psilocibe cubensis and Psilocibyn Cubensis? What about them? Should they still be allowed to use drugs? Are they just too far gone? Will they turn into homicidal rapists without warning?

Anyway, the thing I really like about nitrous (and to a lesser degree salvia d.) is that in the time it takes a nicotine addict to smoke a cancer stick or a caffeine fiend to swallow a double dose, a huffer can go run a couple laps around the universe and have a laugh.
posted by dirty lies at 5:10 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ascetics are the most boring and dangerous people I know. They seem to think that everyone should be forced to share their anti-hedonic lives. It's too bad boredom can't actually kill you, we'd have a lot fewer of them to deal with.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2010 [2 favorites]




I stimulate my endorphins the honest way: by pushing people in front of trains.

I remember you.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on July 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


> And that scenario was precisely what I was referring to with the "button pressing monkey" thing.

Well, no, you were addressing adipocere's example of a few friends sitting around a tank passing the hose, which is the more "dignified" social scene I imagine N2O users socially populating. I've mostly done it in the social circumstances where reclining is unremarkable, myself: camping, canoodling, sleepovers. Walking around on N2O is definitely stupid.

I didn't see anyone expressing sentiments here to the effect that they felt they were doing science by taking drugs. So I took your coinage of "psycho-chemistry" to refer to the discussions of N2O and other drugs with any kind of scientistic attidude. Well, it is a simple molecule; science is involved. The science interests me a great deal, but like most typically risk-averse people, I don't want to be my own guinea pig. When the current research says a drug is harmless and psychoactive when administered under certain controls, I think that's basically the best rationale for chemical hedonism you can get. I don't think very many psychotropic fans consider their drug use research, though some write "case reports" or treat it as research on their own preferences and predispositions. However, many do enjoy the benefits of the work pharmacology and the drug community at large have done to describe the risks and benefits of various drugs, and have a lot of respect for the potency of the substances and experiences.

RESPECT THE CHEMISTRY! /Walter White
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:12 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do a pretty spot-on vocal imitation of what filling up a balloon from a whippet cracker or tank sounds like.

It's a lot of fun at parties to see which heads whip around in a Pavlovian response so fast it nearly falls off their neck.

PSSSSSHHHHHhhhhhshhhhhhshhshheeewwwww...
posted by loquacious at 6:36 PM on July 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


For some reason, i hear Baba Ram Dass saying "The goal is to BE high, not get high" and someone else saying "don't mistake the doorway for the destination" possibly because I'm so old...
posted by Redhush at 6:53 PM on July 7, 2010


dead heads == jugallos. discuss
posted by Trochanter at 7:03 PM on July 7, 2010


In high school I worked at a grocery store. One Sunday evening when the managers were gone, a fellow stockboy and I decided to do a whippit from the canned whipped cream cans sitting in the dairy freezer. For some reason unknown to me, nitrous oxide is used as the propellant gas in canned whipped cream.

I grab two of them, bring them in the back room, and we do a whippit, and, giggling with glee, discover to our joy that with the brand of whipped cream we used, the cap just kind of pops on and off. We could pop it back on and no seal was broken. We look back at the whipped cream cans--there are dozens of them, of that brand. So we go to town, doing whippit upon whippit, until we are whippited out. I must've gotten my fill of nitrous that night because I haven't done it since.
posted by zardoz at 7:25 PM on July 7, 2010


Whip-its, one of the few perks of working as a dishwasher at restaurant in high school.
posted by MikeMc at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2010


One time after a Phish show my buddy and I were commenting on how much it must suck to be that poor dude around whose car some of these skiddie degenerates had set up a tank. As we got closer, I realized that I was that poor dude. I pushed my way to the center of the group and explained to the fuckstick sitting on my car that I would be cool about it if he'd kick me a couple balloons (a foolish proposal, to be certain). Despite the fact that he was raking in thousands of bucks for virtually no work, this guy was too selfish to realize that the minimal cost of a little bit of gas could have saved his whole tank (in our addled state, we'd probably have left for the thirty minutes it took em' to sell their nitrous for two balloons each, which he could've sold for $20, but only cost him $.20). He told me to fuck off before I got cut, so I gave him fair warning that I was about to knock his tank the fuck over if he didn't move it in thirty seconds. Perhaps he'd sniffed too much gas, or perhaps he just didn't believe that it was actually my car, but when I opened it, honked the horn, and turned it on, the crowd scattered backward while he kept filling up balloons. The tank was touching my bumper, and I gave him one final warning to move, but he ignored me. I inched the car forward just the tiniest bit, knocking his tank over. His valve was still open, and either became somehow damaged or just opened wider. We drove off, feeling that we'd done our part in ridding the lot of the terrible people what peddle nitrous (although our selfish drive to giggle like fools would have overriden this pressing moral concern if the dude had let it).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:19 PM on July 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was a pretty good article, thanks. It didn't really address the appeal (beyond the reporter getting a free balloon which "produces a pleasant sensation from head to toe"), but I feel like I understand a little better the peculiar sociology of nitrous alleys at concerts and big festivals. I'm partial to the William James "holy shit nitrous provides some strange and interesting insights" school myself, but what's described in the piece is pretty crassly exploitative.

By the way, if anyone else got to the part on page 6 about the anti-Nitrous Mafia "Wrecking Crew" and was annoyed the Voice couldn't be bothered to link the video it describes like so:

A video currently circulating on YouTube depicts two Wrecking Crew soldiers taunting the Nitrous Mafia while dancing around a stolen tank wrapped in a sign reading "100% $cum." "Hey, Nitrous Mafia motherfuckers! We stole your goddamned tank!" yells a man, face concealed by sunglasses and a towel, middle fingers raised...,

here it is.
posted by mediareport at 8:33 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


My two stand-out memories of nitrous are a) when I was in my late teens or early 20s working for a death metal record label, watching my 22-year-old boss take hits off a nitrous tank, then attempting to recite Slayer lyrics in a funny voice, and b) hanging out in a parking lot in Camden, NJ, pregaming for a KISS concert.. The hippie nitrous van rolls up to us and one of the couples I was with buy balloons. The guy does his balloon, then proceeds to semi-collapse, hitting his head against whatever car was parked right next to where he was standing, then sort of slide down the side of the car into a sad little heap. The woman gets taken away in handcuffs by some cops that are blatantly roaming the parking lot. The rest of us, merely high on weed and/or toasted on cheap vodka, proceed into the concert. I am still not sure who had a better time that evening.
posted by medeine at 9:11 PM on July 7, 2010


My friends and I used to freeze the whipped-cream dispenser, then shotgun the smoke of a joint into the bottom of the vessel [by inserting the already-smoking joint into a straw, then putting the lit end in your mouth, and blowing] very gently, very carefully, so that the smoke would rest at the bottom in a nice thick cloud, then we'd charge the dispenser with the whippit. It was a fairly economical way to spend a joint, as a single, condensed hit [no lung-irritation, no coughing] would do the trick for a while. Ahhh, Ann Arbor, you taught me so much.
posted by heyho at 9:56 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Time for an demonstrational YT vid, heyho.
posted by telstar at 10:38 PM on July 7, 2010


"Mad adrenaline, mad money, mad pussy,"

This just cracks me up. This and the whole "mafia" thing.

The best trip I ever had on nitrous was when I suddenly found myself walking along an idyllic beach with Robin Williams. Never really figured out where that came from, but it sure seemed real. The last time I did it, I ended up getting a balloon filled with industrial grade - oof, what a headache.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:15 PM on July 7, 2010


The only time that's really worth doing N2O is on psychedelics, IMO, and then only with friends. At the end of a trip it sends you right back to hyperspace for a few minutes. It's alright when not tripping but ends up giving me a headache, and I'm old enough where it's not worth it to be sitting around a tank around sketchy people. Some people should probably stay away from it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:15 AM on July 8, 2010


Someone really calls it that? Nitrous is addictive? Really? I thought it was just the little appetizer dumb kids took before getting to the main drug course

People can become addicted to just about anything that feels good.

I have a friend who alienated most of his social circle, quit his job, and ultimately went to rehab after spending months binging on nitrous oxide. I have another friend who was mistakenly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis because excessive nitrous use consumed all the vitamin-B12 in her system, causing her nerves to degenerate. I myself once took a trip to the ER after inhaling so much nitrous that I lowered my blood pressure and thereby caused my heart to race. I eventually quit buying the stuff, after I discovered that I was unable to refrain from consuming it if I had any in the house.

I'm not saying it's bad; nitrous is pretty far toward the harmless side of things, as drugs go. Nevertheless, it is a psychoactive drug, some people have genuine and significant problems with it, and it deserves a little respect.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:49 AM on July 8, 2010


Am I the only one who has never heard of people getting high from balloons? OK, obviously I've never been to a big outdoor music festival, and I don't get out as much as some people do, but you would think all the time I've spent (or wasted) reading newspapers and surfing the Internet, there would have been some mention of this. I've never heard of it in my life until this thread.
posted by serena15221 at 3:46 AM on July 8, 2010


Ok, can't read the whole thread, so someone else may have commented on this tangent:
Or as an old ecstasy head friend once commented (having quit the drug), "I got tired of feeling real depressed all day Monday and Tuesday and slowly coming to realize that no, I wasn't actually depressed, I was just feeling normal again."

Actually ecstasy causes your brain to release all it's dopamine (I think, without looking it up. Could be serotonin. Pleasure/happiness-chemicals at any rate.) at one time. Therefore when you come down, you have no happy chemicals left and are therefore really depressed until your brain can make more. If at that point you take more E, then you're fucked again for anywhere from a few days to two weeks. This is why ecstasy is very psychologically addictive, because people feel so depressed and think they can only feel better by taking more, which usually doesn't work. Also, I know at least one psychiatrist who thinks that if you've done E more than about 10 times, you're probably in for lifelong emotional problems due to poor regulation of brain chemicals.
posted by threeturtles at 5:24 AM on July 8, 2010


Yeah, but I don't think it should. It's damagingly overbroad and simply ignorant to propose any meaningful taxonomy of drugs based on the method in which they are administered.

I think you're misunderstanding me here. I'm not throwing a blanket taxonomy over a bunch of drugs based on how they're used. At all. I'm talking about the physical action of breathing in and out into a bag or a balloon with some kind of gas inside it as being called "huffing". The verb itself, where I'm from, has no connotations in itself until you talk about what it is you're huffing. Sort of like how "smoking" has a certain set of meanings that are effected by whether you're smoking weed or smoking crack.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:24 AM on July 8, 2010


This is why ecstasy is very psychologically addictive, because people feel so depressed and think they can only feel better by taking more, which usually doesn't work. Also, I know at least one psychiatrist who thinks that if you've done E more than about 10 times, you're probably in for lifelong emotional problems due to poor regulation of brain chemicals.

I think you're wrong on multiple levels. 1 -- it may be somewhat addictive early on but you hit diminishing returns really quickly (a matter of days). It simply stops working, at all, if you do it too often. If you want the 'e feeling', eventually you'll need to wait several weeks or months even. The people who completely lack self control will eventually move on to meth, which is cheaper and a more reliable rush. 2. I did it well north of 100 times over a period of about 5 years and I'm fine. I had a bit of a rough patch when I was overdoing it the first year but after chilling out for a few months I was back to normal. And now that I haven't done it for years, I feel pretty good emotionally and have no particular desire to do it again. Almost everyone I know that I partied with back in the day is well adjusted -- has families, careers, and so on. Most of the people that burned out would have burned out on anything -- and the real problems came from people that either turned into alcoholics or tweakers, not people who just used e.
posted by empath at 5:35 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ascetics are the most boring and dangerous people I know. They seem to think that everyone should be forced to share their anti-hedonic lives. It's too bad boredom can't actually kill you, we'd have a lot fewer of them to deal with.

Luckily, drug use DOES kill people, so I'll call that a win for the ascetics.
posted by gjc at 5:45 AM on July 8, 2010


Ascetics are the most boring and dangerous people I know. They seem to think that everyone should be forced to share their anti-hedonic lives. It's too bad boredom can't actually kill you, we'd have a lot fewer of them to deal with.

The vocal ones are the only ones that register on your horizon, causing a confirmation bias. I do find it interesting to be classified as dangerous. Makes my boring dreary existence seem just a little exciting, so thanks!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:11 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I know at least one psychiatrist who thinks that if you've done E more than about 10 times, you're probably in for lifelong emotional problems due to poor regulation of brain chemicals.

Okay, there's at least one psychiatrist who doesn't know what the f*** he's talking about. And he's dangerous because this is precisely the kind of bullshit "science" that feeds all the dumb skepticism toward real science.

I'm guessing I did so-called Ecstasy at least fifty times back in the day, stretched over a ten year period. No question, it could have a short term effect on my "brain chemicals" (ie: a two-three recovery period before I felt "normal" again), but if you're seriously looking for something to pin life-long brain chemical related emotional problems on, I'd start with good old fashioned falling in love. Now there's a dangerous drug.

Seriously.
posted by philip-random at 8:00 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


and ummm, Hitler was an ascetic.



Except for all that meth. And the downers.
posted by philip-random at 8:01 AM on July 8, 2010


Actually ecstasy causes your brain to release all it's dopamine (I think, without looking it up. Could be serotonin. Pleasure/happiness-chemicals at any rate.) at one time. Therefore when you come down, you have no happy chemicals left and are therefore really depressed until your brain can make more.

Come on. Happy chemicals? The brain is not a children's cartoon. Please don't promote bad ideas about how things work.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:37 AM on July 8, 2010


> Actually ecstasy causes your brain to release all it's dopamine (I think, without looking it up. Could be serotonin. Pleasure/happiness-chemicals at any rate.)

Please do look it up next time. There's this big internet here from which to obtain information from. We'll wait.

But, even given my so-called "ascetic" stances upthread (and come on, dude, "ascectic"? Not partaking in drugs doesn't make a person ascetic by any measure. Go look up that word, as it doesn't mean what you think it means), I don't make any claims about E, nitrous oxide, LSD, etc doing any permanent release of "pleasure/happiness-chemicals". This betrays a more or less complete lack of any real knowledge about brain chemistry and drugs in general. It seems you've gotten your information fourth hand, with the requisite degradation occurring between hand-offs.

If anything, commercially produced SSRIs can cause more radical and permanent shifts in brain chemistry and neurological structure since they are taken daily for months or years on end.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:57 AM on July 8, 2010


It seems you've gotten your information fourth hand, with the requisite degradation occurring between hand-offs.

Next thing, you'll be claiming that LSD doesn't cause chromosome damage.
posted by philip-random at 9:13 AM on July 8, 2010


I was having a hard time sitting up straight with all these calcium deposits on my vertebrae.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:14 AM on July 8, 2010


Also, I know at least one psychiatrist who thinks that if you've done E more than about 10 times, you're probably in for lifelong emotional problems due to poor regulation of brain chemicals.

Nonsense. People shouldn't be pushing such alarmist propaganda. Verify claims like this before you go around repeating them.

You can find "at least one psychiatrist" who will tell you all sorts of crazy shit, some of it totally false.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:41 AM on July 8, 2010


Yeah, when I was in high school there was this rumor that taking LSD seven times would get you declared legally insane. Seems variations of this myth (number of times, what drug, etc.) take new forms every few years.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:47 AM on July 8, 2010


N2O on hallucinogens is absolutely the best. I still want to make the quilt that represents how I saw the night sky as I lay on a raft of pallets next to a river in Northern California. The geometry of tessellated diamonds representing rich dark blue sky and encroaching, exploding golden flowers of varying sizes would seem perfectly mundane as a quilt, but would be a very special memento to me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:36 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, yes I heard that myth too as a teenager. The definition of legal insanity actually has very little to do with psychiatric illness as such.

Anyway, I wasn't referring to a myth, but to the psychiatrist I worked with for several years and what he personally told me based on his experience with patients. Looking for clinical studies, one googling finds lots of evidence to support the increase of psychiatric illness in users of MDMA. For example: Clinical case reports suggest that regular MDMA use can be associated with chronic psychiatric symptoms which persist after the cessation of drug use. Neuropsychological comparisons of regular MDMA users and controls also suggest that MDMA use may lead to memory deficits, with other cognitive processes relatively unaffected. , 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy) has been implicated in the onset of a number of psychological disorders and associated with a number of psychiatric symptoms that have persisted after cessation of the drug. . .Ecstasy users that don't present themselves in healthcare settings as having clinical symptoms have significantly higher scores on certain subscales of the SCL-90 compared with Ecstasy-naive controls, with higher pathology scores in heavier Ecstasy users." And so on. From the results of my googling, I think it might be more difficult to find evidence that MDMA use doesn't have long-term psychological effects. Obviously, that doesn't mean that everybody who's ever taken MDMA has mental illness

The neurochemical I was talking about was serotonin. An explanation here. It's been a long time since neuropsych for me, hence my failure to recall whether it was dopamine or serotonin.
posted by threeturtles at 1:42 PM on July 8, 2010


I have no dog in the Ecstasy fight. Tried it once (parachuted in powdered form) and had an amazing time listening to Legendary Pink Dots with a few friends. Then tried it a second time (in pill form, after a few beers), and honestly felt like my heart was going to burst out of my ribcage a la Aliens. Apparently you're not supposed to mix it with alcohol, but that experience killed any interest I had in it ever again.

And as I think about it, this brings up the whole thing about "trusted sources". You do have to be extremely careful with anything in powder or pill form, because you have no idea what the hell it really is. Not something that happens that often with weed (although a buddy of mine did once buy a bag of hops. I thought that was both pretty funny and fascinating. Hops! I guess that's more original than parsley.)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:19 PM on July 8, 2010


I'm a researcher in the neuroscience field with a focus on psychopharmacology and addiction. Like many people in this thread, I did more than my fair share of drugs in my college years. Some of it was about Jamesian ontological deconstruction, some of it was self-exploration, and some of it was just button-pushing fun. Note that I don't think it's always straightforward or useful to distinguish between these types of experiences. In general, I would say that the interests that drove my academic study and those that drove my recreational drug use overlapped quite a bit.

Nitrous oxide is indeed a dissociative, not physically addictive, and more or less harmless if used safely and in moderation. There have been anecdotal reports of heavy chronic users experiencing permanent CNS damage, and I think those are worth taking seriously, but it's not terribly surprising either—heavy chronic consumption of virtually any bioactive substance will damage your body in one way or another. As they say, dose makes the poison.

As far as ecstasy goes, there are reasons to suspect it can cause damage to certain parts of the brain at common doses, at least on the synaptic level. I haven't looked at the literature in a few years, but as I understand it, neuronal atrophy has been fairly well demonstrated to occur in animals after MDMA exposure. It seems to be a secondary effect, rather than direct. Last I heard they were suspecting oxidative stress.

There have also been a handful of studies looking at long-term cognitive effects in MDMA users. They're a mixed bag, and I trust the validity of these types of studies considerably less, but it's worth noting that they've found minor cognitive and affective deficits in prior users. None of this is proof that MDMA causes brain damage in humans, but it's enough to justify some caution and further study. I don't say this as an alarmist—I've used MDMA myself, and overall I rank it pretty low on the harm scale. But I don't think concerns should be outright dismissed as just-say-no propaganda either.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:02 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


MDMA: There is a big difference between using and abusing. And you never know what you are getting. Probably straight methamphetamine.
posted by gjc at 3:54 PM on July 8, 2010


And you never know what you are getting. Probably straight methamphetamine.

Which, of course, is by far the greatest danger, a direct result of the drug's more or less ubiquitous illegality. Legalize it, yadda yadda yadda!
posted by philip-random at 4:21 PM on July 8, 2010


Way back in the mid 80's, I was really enjoying some whippets. Of course, this was not about balloons and thuggish dealers. I bought my whippets from respectable vendors. But goodness, I see a serious lack of SCIENCE! in descriptions of how to partake. Balloons are for kiddies.

Here's what you want to have on hand:

Whippets! You can have fun with a handful or a box full. It's difficult to do more than a box, because you have to pierce all those cartridges, so there's a nice little self-limiting feature. But don't worry, the fun will still be fun.

2 plastic garbage bags, of large size. Use big ones, it's just easier.

1 whippet tapper. I've not seen one in decades. I prefer heavy, metal ones, but imagine they would be improved by some plastic outer coating.

2 lengths of plastic hose, about 50 cm each, similar in diameter to the whippet tapper.

Packing tape.

Optional: cannabis

Tape the business end of the tapper to the end of one of the hoses, so the seal is good. Then place the opposite end of the hose in one of the bags. Tape well! Put the other hose in the other bag, taped well. This will be good for multiple sessions of exploration.

Now you need to be patient. Each whippet needs tapping, the gas goes in the first plastic bag. The tapper will get very cold, so you'll both want a towel to help in the handling, and need to take breaks to allow things to warm back up. The cannabis is excellent in helping with this, so long as you can keep coordinated.

Eventually, all the whippets are empty, and your garbage bag is full. You may wish to put on some music if you haven't already, or start something more special. My personal favorite for this is Jean-Luc Ponty's, "Mystical Adventures", but I'm weird like that.

I'll admit, safety dictates that you get all relaxed in a nice chair. I'll also admit that, for some weird reason, I enjoyed doing this standing. Of course, I was at home, alone, with nowhere to fall but down.

Inhale off the full bag, exhale into the empty one. Then breath. Keep your thumbs covering the two hoses when not in use. Do NOT forget to breath between hits of gas, and do not forget to keep your thumbs on the hoses.

Just repeat that inhale, exale, breath cycle. Take extra breaths if you like, it's good for you! When your first bag is empty, recycle with the second bag. I don't recommend this thing y'all call "huffing" nowadays. I found it was only worthwhile to recycle once. I couldn't honestly say whether that was because the fun was over or because the gas was diminished. May have been both.

It's quite intense, and quite fun. You will likely feel that something very profound was in your mind during the gas influence. You may even have words to express it. And those words may seem totally frivolous once you come off the gas. That's why it's callled "laughing gas", rather than "thinking gas". The words of cosmic importance that echoed in my mind were (and I kid not) simply:
"Which was to say."
posted by Goofyy at 11:28 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forgot to add, this method has the advantage that, if you get too far gone, you'll loose the ability to take more gas, and you'll likely loose what's in the bags. That's a feature, not a bug. If you're too far gone to control your breathing, you don't need more gas.
posted by Goofyy at 11:32 PM on July 8, 2010


Jesus, tappers? Grandad, if you're that invested, just drop $10 for a whipped-cream dispenser and elide the cream. Tappers are like when you go over to get high at someone's house and they've got a pipe jerry-rigged out of plumbing supplies. Just buy a fucking glass piece already and do it right!
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2010


"Tappers," or as I know them, "crackers," have a benefit over dispensers, and that is that they can be used to load a balloon with 4-5+ cartridges, but a canister dispenser has a pretty concrete limit (actually, mine's kind of small, so maybe larger canisters can accommodate more than a balloon can... we're all talking about big punching balloons, right? I'd doubt it, but hey, perhaps.) anyway, I view the two methods as equally acceptable. The in and out breathing of the balloon method is one thing, and the direct hits off a dispenser is another. The former is like stepping into the pool on the ladder, and the latter is bellyflopping in. Your beginning N2O user probably can't handle more than two cartridges in a go anyway, so it's irrelevant, but I've seen people nearly exhaust balloons full of 6 or more cartridges without letting any escape. It definitely fascinates me to see the balloon shrink as gas is absorbed into the lungs, or otherwise imperceptibly vanished. As for the ability not to let the balloon nozzle go flapping on your bluish lips, there's some kind of infantile fist-to-mouth muscle memory that gets triggered, I daresay.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:39 AM on July 9, 2010


The biggest problem with tappers that I remember is the icing up, so you have to constantly blow on them and turn them around with a balloon attached, as they fill up. Whipped cream dispensers, though, you could fix that balloon onto the nozzle, load in three cartridges, empty the dispenser into the balloon, load three more, and so on, without having to worry about icing up.

Admittedly, these were aluminum tappers. Maybe they also make them out of plastic or something where icing isn't an issue? I don't know, it's been decades.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:48 AM on July 9, 2010


I was part of a Burning Man camp one year where the lounge area under the dome was carpeted with empty whippet capsules with a bunch of glazed-eyed huffers sitting in a circle not talking. For the better part of a week.

When the subject of the carpet of capsules came up, a friend told a story about how a guy he knew who was serious into the gas would buy whippets cases at a time. Before he started a session, this guy would take one pack of capsules from the case and toss them out on the floor. His reasoning was that since he knew at some point down the road he'd be crawling through a carpet of spent capsules looking for a fresh one, he might as well toss a few out there at the start. I found that HELLA gambling monkey creepy.

That experience so killed what little enthusiasm for the gas I may have ever had. Found it a bit of a downer. At least I get conversation from a circle of people passing a joint.

I'm working a 4-day String Cheese Incident camp-out/concert at the end of the month up in Oregon. I wonder if the West Coast gas thugs are any different from the East.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2010


Marisa knows the secret.

But Gawd, it's been a long time since I did nitrous.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2010


threeturtles: "I know at least one psychiatrist who thinks that if you've done E more than about 10 times, you're probably in for lifelong emotional problems due to poor regulation of brain chemicals."

That is not evidence-based medicine.
posted by meehawl at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2010


You know what's more terrifying and gross than tie-dyed glazed-eyed whippet hippie zombies?












Absolutely nothing.
posted by Skygazer at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


threeturtles: "Looking for clinical studies, one googling finds lots of evidence to support the increase of psychiatric illness in users of MDMA.
Clinical case reports suggest that regular MDMA use can be associated with chronic psychiatric symptoms which persist after the cessation of drug use. Neuropsychological comparisons of regular MDMA users and controls also suggest that MDMA use may lead to memory deficits, with other cognitive processes relatively unaffected.


Ah, I see. The evidence. An amazingly short review article that cites a few weak case reports and, most prominently for the neurobiology, George Ricaurte's paper on the memory deficits in experimental lab animals when exposed to DEA-supplied "MDMA" that later turned out to be, inexplicably, actually crystal meth. And even using such discredited, retracted "research" as this, the best conclusion that McGuire can come to hedges like this:
Clinical case reports suggest that regular MDMA use can be associated with chronic psychiatric symptoms which persist after the cessation of drug use. However, it is difficult to determine whether MDMA use is directly responsible, triggers symptoms in subjects predisposed to mental illness, or is incidental. In any event, severe long term psychiatric disturbances following MDMA use seem uncommon relative to the large numbers of people who use MDMA. Neuropsychological comparisons of regular MDMA users and controls suggest that MDMA may be associated with memory deficits, with other cognitive processes unaffected, although there have been only a limited number of studies, each using different methods of assessment. It is assumed that these putative clinical and cognitive sequelae are secondary to an effect of MDMA on brain serotonergic function, but the relationship between psychological and biological changes in MDMA users has yet to be determined. Future research, involving detailed psychiatric and psychological assessments combined with functional neuroimaging, should define this relationship and clarify whether MDMA use leads to long term neurocognitive deficits in man.
So... some case reports, no RCTs, and no actual conclusion there.

How about this one?
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or Ecstasy) has been implicated in the onset of a number of psychological disorders and associated with a number of psychiatric symptoms that have persisted after cessation of the drug. . .Ecstasy users that don't present themselves in healthcare settings as having clinical symptoms have significantly higher scores on certain subscales of the SCL-90 compared with Ecstasy-naive controls, with higher pathology scores in heavier Ecstasy users."


Also got a classic Ricaurte "paper" in there, along with a bunch of 1990s-era case reports of, basically, panic attacks in naive users, many sleep-deprived, within complex environments under conditions of polydrug/alcohol use requiring SSRI or sympatholytic intervention to curtail the panic symptoms. If such people experience something akin to panic attacks after ingesting a sympathomimetic drug in these conditions then I am less than impressed at this "toxicity".

Additionally, your quote uses the SCL-90, a commercial psychometric checklist product whose use in this case to "evaluate" psychiatric symptoms within individuals under the influence of sympathomimetic drugs has been comprehensively rubbished by such articles as Methodological problems with ecstasy and the SCL-90.
Parrott et al. actually found no effects that can be attributed to Ecstasy use. The term "Ecstasy polydrug users" employed by Parrott et al. is problematic in this context. Parrott et al. acknowledge that polydrug use is the norm in this population and the number and amount of drugs used increases simultaneously. Consequently, in order to single out Ecstasy as a contributor to negative symptoms, it is necessary to establish unique effects of Ecstasy that can be differentiated from the effects of other drugs. Parrott et al. did not examine this in their statistical analysis, thus instead of performing planned comparisons or post hoc tests between their three groups of polydrug users (who varied in terms of Ecstasy use), they conducted an overall trend analysis, which included non-polydrug users, that did not examine the specific effects of Ecstasy. As shown in Table 2 of Parrott et al.'s paper, the means for the three polydrug using groups on the SCL-90 are actually broadly equivalent despite estimated variations in Ecstasy use. In fact, despite an overall effect for drug use overall, the mean total negative scores of polydrug users actually decline with increasing use of Ecstasy (they are 9.57, 9.59, and 9.55, for no, "light" and "heavy" Ecstasy use, respectively). Thus, Parrott et al. do not actually demonstrate any effect of Ecstasy at all.
It is in fact the next couple of sentences in this article that put the issue of the long-term effects of MDMA into context. Literally hundreds of millions of people have repeatedly consumed Ecstasy. For several million, literally for decades. If MDMA did indeed lead to long-term psychiatric "problems", then this would have become blatantly obvious to medical epidemiologists. It's trivial to track the long-term psychiatric disease and mood disorder sequelae from other such widely consumed psychoactive drugs as ethanol and benzodiazepines. No such serious research has identified a common group of deficits in cohorts of long-term Ecstasy users that under within- and without-group analysis sustains a monodrug dose-effect relationship. In any case:
If increasing use of Ecstasy over the past 10 years has caused drug-related psychiatric problems then there should be a huge increase in young people presenting as patients. Even with 2 million Ecstasy users in the UK there is currently no credible evidence that this is happening. In conclusion, we would argue that the study reported by Parrott et al. used psychometrically flawed measures, failed to address obvious confounds, and only partially analysed the data. However, notwithstanding these criticisms, the data as presented fail to demonstrate an association between ecstasy use and psychiatric problems. It would therefore be unwise to use these results as the evidence base for a public health initiative.
It's been a long time since neuropsych for me, hence my failure to recall whether it was dopamine or serotonin."

I'm sorry, but the difference between these chemicals is so fundamental that admitting you were unsure of their qualities before typing basically for me invalidates much of what you have say on this subject, even without examining the wobbliness of your citations.
posted by meehawl at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Good lord that was a researched-based slapdown!
posted by Burhanistan at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2010


Good lord that was a researched-based slapdown!

pwned by SCIENCE!™
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2010


Until a recent regional burn event, I didn't know people did this past high school age. Between that and this thread I have learned so much.

I think I'll try it at the dentist with the oxygen for my first time, though. You could tell whose tents were full of people doing whippits -- the ones where no one was talking and everything seemed very dull. Like being sober in a room full of drunk people, which I was, I suppose.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2010


The whip cream dispensers as sold in Switzerland are surprisingly inferior to tappers. For that matter, they're not very good at whip cream, either.
posted by Goofyy at 9:52 PM on July 10, 2010


meehawl, that was beautifully played. Thank you.

Next thing, you'll be claiming that LSD doesn't cause chromosome damage.

While that 'myth' was total bunk in many regards contemporary research suggests that LSD does affect the expression/activity of at least 80 genes in an immediate way at the cellular level. This does not, however, mean that Hoffman's problem child isn't the greatest substance we know of.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:42 PM on July 12, 2010


research suggests that LSD does affect the expression/activity of at least 80 genes in an immediate way at the cellular level.

So does everything else in the world. Figuring out which genes are being expressed in an organism through RNA analysis is the cutting edge of genetic research.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:53 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]




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