Pollan, a garden geek, got interested in growing poppies, and what the legal deal was with doing so. He puts a lot of this down to garden geekiness, rather than drug curiosity, which I actually believe, because a similar tinkering tendency is found in gun nuts and every so often one of us screws the pooch in a spectacular life-ruining manner. (Not the "oh, crap, I had a negligent discharge and shot my buddy!" manner, the "hey, I can make this old crap gun into a full-auto toy if I do THIS!" manner. You don't have to be willfully stupid to run afoul of the law, either; some aspects are complex enough that the ATF changes its own guidelines all the time because they don't know what the hell is going on. If anything, drug laws are more confusing and whackier than gun laws.) Anyway, after a hell of a lot of investigation, Pollan figured out that, as best he could tell, it was perfectly legal to grow opium poppies in your yard so long as you didn't know that they were actually, um, opium.
In the article, he writes about drug advocate Jim Hogshire, who started experimenting with opium teas and suchlike things. Emphasis on the "suchlike." Among other things, Hogshire put out a zine called "Pills-a-Go-Go," in which he railed against government policy and chronicled his own experiments. Pollan was particularly struck by one such experiment, in which Hogshire exceeded the recommended dosage of dexomethorphan hydrobromide, an active ingredient in Robitussin DM. You're supposed to take a couple of spoonfuls; Hogshire drank eight ounces of the stuff. He took a nap, then headed for Kinko's to run off some copies of his zine. Pollan quotes Hogshire:
That may seem normal, but the fact was that I had a reptilian brain. My
whole way of thinking and perceiving had changed. . . .
I got in the shower and shaved. While I was shaving I "thought" that for all I knew I was hacking my face to pieces. Since I didn't see any blood or feel any pain I didn't worry about it. Had I looked down and seen that I had grown another limb, I wouldn't have been surprised at all; I would have just used it. . . .
The world became a binary place of dark and light, on and off, safety and danger. . . . I sat at my desk and tried to write down how this felt so I could look at it later. I wrote down the word "Cro-Magnon." I was very aware that I was stupid. . . . Luckily there were only a couple of people in Kinko's and one of them was a friend. She confirmed that my pupils were of different sizes. One was out of round. . . .
I knew there was no way I could know if I was correctly adhering to social customs. I didn't even know how to modulate my voice. Was I talking too loud? Did I look like a regular person? I understood that I was involved in a big contraption called civilization and that certain things were expected of me, but I could not comprehend what the hell those things might be...
I found being a reptile kind of pleasant. I was content to sit there and monitor my surroundings. I was alert but not anxious. Every now and then I would do a "reality check" to make sure I wasn't masturbating or strangling someone, because of my vague awareness that more was expected of me than just being a reptile—.
I reread this today, and thought this was interesting. So I went to Amazon and entered Hogshire's name. I was curious to see what else he'd written, and if there was maybe a book collecting stuff from his zine. (There is!) Also, OPIUM FOR THE MASSES is getting a reprint next month. But the best bit was the list of his book titles, and the order they're in.
First book title: OPIUM FOR THE MASSES.
Second book title: YOU ARE GOING TO PRISON.
...well, THAT says everything, doesn't it?
I read an article about a related book a while back, and it should be a cautionary tale for anybody who reads this and thinks, "Ooh, that sounds neat!" There was a fellow named Eric Detzer, who went in for opium tea -- I think he used Hogshire's book as a reference -- and it *seriously* screwed him up. He wrote a memoir of the downward spiral called POPPIES: AN ODYSSEY. As I recall, Detzer didn't grow his own poppies, as Hogshire suggested. He just went to plant stores and bought dried ornamentals, and ruined his life with 'em.
Why do I bring all this up? Because Rich Johnston's comic news/gossip website BLEEDING COOL reported yesterday that Yamila Abraham, publisher of Yaoi Press, which apparently publishes, um, lots of yaoi manga, has been arrested on mail fraud and drug charges for allegedly distributing Hogshire's beloved dexomethorphan hydrobromide and billing it as an "herbal supplement." Which led me to reread Pollan's article, etc.
It's the ciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiircle of druuuuuuuuugs....