Citation: Kadolf B. "Sudden Different Results: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide & Cannabis (exp115164)". Erowid.org. Feb 8, 2021. erowid.org/exp/115164
I generally don’t do background portions in my reports, but I feel it necessary in this instance. I have very high natural tolerances to a wide variety of drugs, and my nitrous oxide tolerance is one of the worst offenders. I had used it many times at a range of doses and in a range of settings, and the only effects ever felt were physical numbness, a mild but uncomfortable buzzing sensation, along with dizziness and light-headedness that was reminiscent of having stood up too fast. I usually describe it as what you might expect to feel after having been choked and shaken by a large man for a few moments.
As one might infer, I didn’t quite like it, but so many of my peers were such enthusiasts for it and reported such phenomenal experiences that I continued my attempts. For most people, cannabis is a strong potentiator for nitrous oxide, so I attempted this combination as well, to no effect. Alcohol is also a potentiator for nitrous oxide, but I don’t find alcohol particularly appealing while at baseline, and the idea of being drunk and on a hallucinogen certainly didn’t seem attractive, so I never tried it. I attempted as far as six 8 gram chargers, amounting to 48 grams of nitrous oxide, while also sufficiently baked. I laid down in darkness and closed my eyes while Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz played. I, once again, just felt like the victim of an unenthusiastic, and ultimately unsuccessful, strangling attempt. I attempted a few other times, sporadically throughout perhaps a year, never with any different results.
Very Different Results
It had been probably a year since my last attempt with nitrous oxide, and I was willing to try again out of sheer curiosity and hope that something could have changed, although I was skeptical. I was in my brother’s apartment with him and his girlfriend, who were facilitating the trip. I got sufficiently high by vaporizing cannabis oil as my two facilitators prepared my setting and the required equipment. I chose to listen to The Moldau by Bedřich Smetana, laid down, and one facilitator handed me 1 of the 2 balloons he’d filled. One balloon would have popped under the pressure of 6 chargers, so the dose was split up.
The music began and I inhaled as much as I could from the first balloon. I started to count to 10 in my head. There seemed to be some shift I hadn’t yet experienced, but it was extremely hard to identify. At 10 I exhaled, took a normal breath of air, took another full inhale from the balloon, and began counting to 10 in my head once again. Then, without fully realizing why, I raised one of my hands and began counting along with my fingers. It struck me as odd that I’d done this because I didn’t know why I’d done it. I knew there must be a reason, then it struck me: up to this point, there was nearly only one other situation in which I hold my breath and count to 10, and that was when smoking DMT. I also recalled that the times that I’d smoked DMT and had to raise my hand and count with my fingers were the times I was so deep into it that counting mentally became unreliable. I realized at this moment that this behavior, and especially the fact that I performed it without the awareness of why I was doing so, meant that not only was the drug doing something I’d never noticed before, but that I might expect this experience to be stronger than anticipated.
A moment in the music began to repeat itself, looping in a way that was uncannily similar to what happens to audio when a certain type of computer crash occurs, where whatever the last short bit of sound that played loops itself endlessly. This sense of repeating bled into the rest of my consciousness, and it began to feel like all of existence was looping. This was far more intense than what I was expecting, which was barely anything, and I began to worry I’d taken too much (whatever that means). I decided to stop here and not take the next hit, but I was afraid that the loop-based nature of this space would force me to take another hit in order to satisfy some natural law of temporal symmetry. I told myself that all I had to do was let go of the balloon and I wouldn’t be able to take the next hit. “Just put the balloon down. When you get to 10, don’t take the next hit, put the balloon down” I counted 7, 8, 9, 10, and my arm fell down onto the bed by my side, which I was surprised I could feel. All I remember from this part is that it was dark and I felt as though I were rotating like I was on a spinning bed. I heard a voice that sounded deep and distant and somewhat garbled.
“There’s another whip.”
I opened my eyes to a room which, in addition to actually being dark because the lights were off, was fuzzy and unclear, reminiscent of the image on a poorly tuned analog TV.
“Do you want it?” asked the facilitator. I looked at him and couldn’t see any color or make out any facial features.
“I don’t know,” I responded, truly not sure if I wished to go back in. Out of what I can only ascribe to instinct, habit, or that same decision-making process of which I am not aware and which showed it could influence my actions earlier when it began to count with my hand, I took the balloon from him and began to inhale. The same digital crash-like repeating happened as before, but this time was accompanied by a repeated spinning back and forth, where I would turn in synch with the one section of the loop, only to find myself rapidly counter-rotated to my original position, where the next loop would begin and the rotation would repeat.
What happened next requires a small amount of explanation of the technical side of consuming nitrous oxide. There is a phenomenon, which I call the Balloon Vortex, which is usually the result of a rubber balloon’s tendency to stick together on the inside. During this phenomenon, the neck of the balloon becomes stuck in a way that forms a twisting vortex shape. How the resulting effect comes about I do not know, but what tends to happen is that a very large amount of gas will very rapidly and forcefully be propelled into my lungs, sometimes even maxing out my lungs, throat, and mouth in an instant. This happened to me twice in a row for the 2 hits required to finish the balloon, and I forgot to take a normal breath in between.
I closed my eyes, and everything became somehow darker. The phosphenes behind my eyelids darkened to leave only a void. I couldn’t feel my body and this void seemed to be encroaching, slowly engulfing my cognition. All my thoughts and memories began to vanish. I did not know I was on a drug at this point. Eventually, the void became empty of even the feeling of time or space. All that remained was a single, simple string of thoughts. “Where am I? I’m dying. I’m scared.”
The voice of my ex-girlfriend of a few years at this point, responded “it’s OK.”
The single file sequence of slowly moving thoughts instantly transitioned into absolute surprise that not only did something speak to me, but it was the voice that it was. I don’t know if it was because of who said it, or the words themselves, or the surprise at the whole situation, but my fear was lost and I accepted that I was dying. There was a feeling of a back lying down on grass, and a head lying down facing sideways, and a sense of cathartic crying. That last remaining string of singular, simple thoughts ended, and there was only this timeless, spaceless, but yet still somehow black, void.
A sense space crept its way back. I remembered I had eyes to open, and promptly did so. It was still dark and fuzzy, but that rapidly faded.
After explaining the trip to my facilitators, I learned that, contrary to all my effort, I completely finished both balloons, and when I thought I was turning down the final hit from the first balloon, the first 2 hits had already emptied it. I was also told that I spoke the words “I’m scared” out loud, and what I heard as the voice of an ex-girlfriend was actually my brother’s girlfriend saying “it’s OK” in response.
The experience was completely unexpected, bizarre, very frightening at points, and I still have no real explanation for it. I had done the exact same thing in nearly the exact same setting in the past with no success. Perhaps the strain of cannabis I was using this time around was a much more potent nitrous oxide potentiator. Perhaps I somehow had far better technique when consuming the nitrous oxide this time, however, I doubt it considering I both remember doing it the same way in the past, and it’s not like I had much practice in between.
I don’t regret the experience, it was profound and moving, but it was unequivocally not pleasant. I may use nitrous oxide again in the future, but I’m in no hurry. Unfortunately, that means it may be a long time before I figure out what about this session was so different from the previous to produce such a different effect, if I ever do at all.
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