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Double Dropped

There is a boy nailed to the wall. He looks at me with dilated pupils, accusingly. He
has a bong in his hands, lit up by the only crack of light in this darkened room. Or is it
a pan flute?

The smoke makes everything blurry. Close up of the barman, sucking down his half
hourly cigarette. Pan to a promoter, organising a few hits of coke on her black leather
handbag. People lean in to take a hit. Snorting sounds all around. The silver plates
sticking out of the walls are blocked with people wanting to have their meetings with
Charlie.

Jump cut to another face, blurred. I finish my beer and drop it somewhere
insignificant. The face becomes clearer. It‟s Annette. She yells at me over the generic
techno blaring in the background, but her message is clear. The two white pupils stare
at me from her open hand.

I grin.

***

Rewind three years. The sticky warmth of the nightclub disappears, and I am left
shivering in the cold of a Melbourne winter. I am surrounded by shipping cartons and
containers, a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

This was the first time I had taken any form of illegal drugs. I was with a friend of
mine, Ash. I am sitting on a milk carton, watching myself from across the area. Ash
tells me that ecstasy is „fun‟, and that I should try some. Hesitation breeds in me. She
tells me I am with friends, and that is the best place to try this out for the first time.

I take a drag from my cigarette. Ten minutes later, I see myself being hit by the tiny
pupil. My eyes widen, and I slip away. I remember the feeling now. Like being in a
Maserati, cruising for the first ten minutes, then hitting the accelerator and speeding
into the distance.
I smile.

***

Fast-forward three years and three months. I jolt as I come to rest in a small
apartment. There is a man sitting at a computer, leaning over, staring with tired eyes. I
stare over his shoulder and watch as he types something into Facebook chat with Ash.

Her typing is horrible, but I can just make out what she is saying. Translating internet
chatter while squinting at a computer screen does not make for easy reading.

“I had his best interests at heart,” she says. “I love and adore Josh, and was happy for
him to experiment with drugs, because he was with someone who would look after
him.”

“I feel the situation at the outdoor bar was controlled and considered. It was safe and
fun for both of us.”

“Unfortunately, this first good experience set him up with too much confidence. This
was ultimately his downfall.”

I am blank.

***

I am pulled from this scene into another, a montage of moments passed. Several
scenes of my past drug-taking fly past in quick succession. One scene stands out.

It is my 18th birthday. Bright graffiti everywhere. I am walking through a black-


walled nightclub, watching all the beautiful people do beautiful things. Ash is taking
me through the club to a quiet place.
I am drinking some concoction out of a goon bag. According to Ash, it is „rave juice‟.
Everyone is drinking it. I want it as well.

Everyone looks like they‟re having more fun than me. I want in. I want what they are
on. Now. It doesn‟t matter whether it is speed or coke. Nothing matters. There is no
thought process. The little white pupils tempt me for the second time.

I don‟t remember much else.

***

The scene shifts back to the man in the apartment. He is now on the phone. I listen in
closely and can make out the voice. It is my friend Matt.

“My drug use goes back to Year Eight, at boarding school,” Matt says.

“I used pot when I was 14, except the result was shit. Usually I am quite sensitive to
any type of illegal substance, but this did nothing for me.”

The man asks what other drugs he has done.

“Well, I did use pot more and more, and found my sweet spot. I remember go-karting
once, while high on pot. That was a bizarre experience.”

“I have also done LSD, which did absolutely nothing for me. Maybe I didn‟t use
enough. But ecstasy has the best effect on me, by far.”

“It is the best feeling. It is a rush, a euphoric feeling. It makes me feel all lovey-
dovey. But there is the come down, which is normally horrible.”

“There is always a pay-off”.

I nod.
***

The apartment rewinds two weeks. The man is back at this computer, talking with
Ash again. She is listing off the drugs she has done.

“Ketamine. Ecstasy. MDMA. Mushrooms. Acid. Amphetamine (speed). Khat/cat.


GHB (drink spiking). Weed. Cocaine. 2CB. Nicotine. Alcohol. Prescriptions.”

The man‟s jaw drops, as does mine. He asks which ones were pleasurable.

“I do like new experiences, so I enjoyed most of them. Except for GHB.”

“GHB is one of the most dangerous drugs. It is liquid ecstasy. One millilitre won‟t
have any effect, three will make you party on, and five will probably kill you.”

Surprisingly, she then goes on to give the positive side of GHB.

“It makes you feel awake, arrogant, sexy, warm and fuzzy. Hard energy clubs and
techno joints are full of GHB. It allows you to party on until the early hours.”

I am shocked.

***

My vision shifts to a small office. It is situated in a construction site. Construction


types walk in and out of the office, around the man from the apartment and a thin
woman. Her name is Professor Judith Bessant, Head of Youth Studies and Sociology
at RMIT. I read this on her door.

“We are a drug culture,” Judith says. “Humanity itself is a drug culture. It always has
been.”

Judith starts to animate more as the idea of a „youth drug culture‟ comes up.
“We must remember that drugs are everywhere. The idea of a „youth in crisis‟ is
ridiculous. We are just focusing on it more than before.”

The man starts questioning her line of thinking. Her fists clench on her knees.

“I am not saying drugs are good. In some cases, like marijuana, there may be a case
for legalisation. But drugs are an issue for youths because they can be problematic.”

“The youth do not have the experience and knowledge to take these drugs in safe
amounts. And yes, parents are scared. They have every right to be.”

“We must remember that this is not the first time humanity has dealt with this issue.”

I mull over this for a while.

***

I return to the first scene. I watch myself take the two white pupils at once, without a
thought. I know what the reaction will be. Hindsight is always perfect.

Jump cut to me sucking on another warm beer. This is ten minutes after I watched
myself take the pupils. The pupils hit. My eyes dilate.

If taking one pill with friends is like driving a Maserati, then double dropping is like
being hit with that same Maserati. In the face. At full speed. You can see it coming,
and you know it will be painful. And when it hits, you don‟t remember a thing.

From this point on, my vision is cracked. I can‟t remember much. There are people
staring. I am an absolute mess. Embarrassment. I am not in control. My brain is not
connected.

I am on autopilot.

***
Jumpstart my brain. I am back in the apartment, sober. The man is now talking to Ash
on Facebook and talking to Matt on the phone at the same time. He is asking for their
views on what happened to me that night.

“It was a typical reaction to ecstasy,” Matt says. “He was wide-eyed, grinding his
teeth. A little spastic, to be honest.”

“I could barely talk to him. He was off on another planet, in a different time zone,
happy to dance by himself.”

“I wasn‟t personally embarrassed, but I was for him. Because I came with him that
night, I felt obliged to look after him. I was trying to keep his tongue in his mouth, but
it kept sliding out.”

Ash is a little more ruthless with her comments.

“I was so angry,” Ash types. “He was so uneducated. I knew it was going to be
horrible because his tolerance was low. I felt a little disheartened that he didn‟t take
my advice.”

“It caused a mild problem in our relationship, but it was a lesson learnt.”

Ash types one word to describe her feelings towards Annette.

“Furious.”

“She had no intention of looking after him and for that reason I think she is a dumb
bitch.”

I chortle.

***
„Warning: this scene may contain painful memories.‟

This is the title card to my come down. I watch myself with a mixture of pity, anger
and sadness.

I am in flimsy pyjamas, eyes barely able to open. The inside of my mouth is red raw. I
have chewed off layers of skin from the inside of my cheeks during the night. It is
horrendously painful.

For five days I cannot eat or drink anything with flavour. Cut to me washing my
mouth out with salt water. The pain is like needles in my cheeks. When I spit, the
water is blood red.

All I can eat is pasta with pesto. For five days, that is all I eat. No breakfast, pasta for
lunch, pasta for dinner. The curtains do not open, for fear of blinding light.

Oh, and my Blackberry is gone.

I sit in the darkness.

***

Fast-forward and flip to the apartment. The man is on the phone again. His computer
is on, and a web page is up for Odyssey House Victoria. He appears to have
highlighted the number of Rene DeSantanna, a senior counsellor.

“By the time people get to me, their issues are becoming problematic,” Rene says.

“I have never really dealt with people who use once or twice and have bad
experiences. When youths come to me, they know they are in trouble and need help.”

The man tells Rene my story, and Rene makes a fascinating point about my trip.
“It sounds like Josh took ecstasy,” Rene says. “But the symptoms of ecstasy can vary
wildly.”

“Imagine a scale, with pure amphetamine at one end and pure hallucinogen at the
other. Ecstasy can fall anywhere between these two extremes.”

“You can get a big rush if it is mainly speed, but you can totally trip out if it is mainly
acid.”

“Funnily enough, it is not just what is in the pill which causes the effect. A person‟s
mood, bodily chemistry and reliance on the drug can produce a massive number of
different trips.”

“In essence, you can „know‟ what you‟re taking, but the effect will always be
different. How can you prepare for any side effects if you don‟t know what will
happen in the first place?”

I understand.

***

Suddenly I am back to the place where I double dropped. The club is clearer now,
since the fog of last time has been lifted.

Déjà vu suddenly hits me. I am watching myself again, as the little white pupils
beckon from Annette‟s open hand. I want to stop this before it happens, but all I can
do is keep drinking my beer as I watch myself do it all over again.

This time is different. One enters my mouth, and is washed down with cheap
champagne. I almost applaud myself for showing some sort of self-control.

Flip forward one hour. I am taking another. I do not realise I am taking another. Why
do this? Less impact I suppose.
I am correct. The Maserati hits again, but only at a moderate speed. I feel the impact,
but instead of being completely unconscious, I can move about and act sober.

I am not sober.

***

Fast-forward a few months. I am inside a restaurant, sitting on an uncomfortable


wooden chair. The stench of stale beer and vomit disappears and is replaced by the
gentle scent of coffee and pasta.

The man is sitting with the manager of the establishment. His name is Chris, and he is
telling the man a story of a non-user.

“My sister‟s boyfriend Rob has a lazy eye,” Chris says. “When he drinks, it goes a bit
droopy and bloodshot.”

“Last night, he went out to a bar with some of my family. They were on the door, and
guaranteed entry. Inside, the barman refused to serve Rob because he was „peaking
off his head‟”.

“Of course he wasn‟t, it was just the eye. Rob started arguing, bouncers dragged him
and the whole family out, and then they were promptly arrested and locked up
overnight.”

“All this happened because the bar staff thought Rob was on pills. I can see the effect
of all this drug use in Melbourne, especially when it affects those who have nothing to
do with it.”

Chris also tells the man about his fiancée, Sam, who works in the police department.

“She has to put up with horrible shit every night,” Chris says.
“It‟s bad out there. And the scary thing is that there is no answer. It is made even
worse by the fact that there is little difference between drugs and alcohol these days,
and the effects they have.”

“They are bad enough separately, but when people start mixing them, that‟s when the
mess starts.”

I feel sheepish.

***

I arrive back at Judith‟s office. The man and she are still in deep conversation, this
time about a single word.

“Addiction is an unhelpful word,” Judith says. “Addiction can be used from


everything from drugs to porn to gambling.”

“It is an identity someone assumes when they want to have an excuse to use.”

“There are many people who use regularly but are not addicted. I know personally of
QCs who import their own cocaine.”

“They have families and high ranking jobs, but they are not addicts.”

***

I don‟t have time to think about this before I am whooshed back to the apartment. I
rejoin the conversation with Rene from Odyssey House.

“I don‟t like that word,” Rene says.

The man looks unsurprised. This is what everyone has said so far.
“We work by a three-level system to identify how far a person is with their drug and
alcohol use. The first level is intoxication. The second level is substance abuse. This
is when a person abuses a substances, illegal or not, once or twice and feels like they
don‟t need to use it again.”

“The final level is dependency. This is when a person feels the need to continue
abusing substances, whether they like it or not. This is what most people confuse with
addiction.”

“This can also be psychological or physical. If someone feels they can‟t party without
using drugs, we call it psychological dependency. It sounds like Josh is a substance
abuser, but not quite dependent. Yet.”

***

Now I am confused. I see myself talking to the man in a café. He sips on a latte, while
I devour a flat white.

The man asks me whether I will do it again, and whether I have any moral issues
about using. The answer is instant.

“I have no moral qualms about using. It is a highly social thing to do, and I am not
addicted. Why would I have moral issues?”

“To this day, I still don‟t know what I took at the club. You see, it is like a
supermarket temptation. If the item is there, I will take it for sure. If it isn‟t, I don‟t
really care.”

“I am not addicted.”

I am not addicted.