Citation: Berias. "A Failed Test of Willpower: An Experience with Diphenhydramine (exp47796)". Erowid.org. Nov 8, 2006. erowid.org/exp/47796
I've had a lot of prior experience with diphenhydramine. In fact, it's entirely possible that I might have developed somewhat of a tolerance for it. It's not uncommon that I use it as a sleep aid several times a week, and it's not uncommon still that I use dosages as high as 150mg to go to sleep. This, however, was the first time I'd used it in a more recreational manner.
At the beginning, I decided to take 350mg. I had done a 'test run' with 150mg two weeks ago, because I had occasionally had trouble breathing on dosages higher than 100mg. (Those concerns turned out be unfounded, because I had been using a product that also contained acetaminophen before, which apparently was causing that.) I thought it would take about an hour to start taking effect, especially considering that I hadn't eaten very much that day and nothing at all for a few hours.
After 45 minutes, I felt nothing save extreme nervousness, which was probably just a placebo effect. I had spent the interim time playing We Love Katamari, since I figured if I started hallucinating anything while playing that, I probably wouldn't notice anyway. At this point, my sitter decided to retreat to her room and get on the phone, probably for the rest of the night. I was kind of irritated by this particular move, but those are the breaks.
I was surprised by the fact that I felt basically normal save for the aforementioned nerves. I decided to take another 50mg just for the hell of it. I messed around on my computer for a while and then, at a loss for anything to do, ended up watching some BS show on the Discovery channel about a haunted house. (It was very poorly faked.)
I began to feel different: namely, extremely tired. Diphenhydramine is usually a sleep aid, after all, so this didn't surprise me in the least. I was surprised that I hadn't had hallucinations of any kind, though. With 150mg and even sometimes 100mg, I occasionally have faint audio hallucinations and very rudimentary closed-eye visuals (e.g. flashes and points of light) after as little as 80-90 minutes.
I decided to go to the bathroom, and that was when it all hit me. As I stood by the toilet, my mind started to leave me, for lack of a better term. It was a very dreamlike state. If my sitter had bothered to stay, she probably would have described me as moving very slowly and pausing often for long periods of time with my eyes closed. My memory starts to degrade at this point.
Movement felt as if I was neck-deep in a thick bog, trying to slog through it slowly. My perception of time was skewed as well. I would perceive events at the same speed, but it took progressively longer for my mind to process the fact that they had happened. My depth perception was extremely poor as well. At one point, I was reaching for a bottle of water (expect to feel absolutely parched), and it took at least ten tried to actually grasp it. It was extremely frustrating--I knew it was absurd, but I felt like the bottle kept moving away as I would lunge to grab it. I was familiar with these sensations (they're fairly common at 150mg), but they were much stronger.
I know that I was extremely tired and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep. I remember having waking dreams about rather mundane things, such as dreaming that I saw our cat eating out of her food dish in the kitchen (she was nowhere near) and thinking that my absent sitter was sitting outside on the deck (she was still in her room). By 'waking dreams', I mean that I would simply stand in place and see those things in my mind. Very dreamlike. I knew that I wasn't really seeing it, mostly because I could still feel that my eyes were physically closed and there's no way I could actually be seeing it.
The most vivid sensation from that time, though, was not audible or visual, but simply a sudden forgetfulness about my present situation. For several minutes, I was sure that it was the year 2013 and I was in eighth grade, and I had no idea where I was. I did know that I was semi-tripping, though, so I reasoned the feeling away with that--not that that made me remember when it was, but it made me not worry about it. It was replaced with a dread that I was forgetting everything important to me. I tried to remember important things, but the fact that I wouldn't even remember that I'd forgotten something scared me.
I paced back and forth between my room and the bathroom several times. I tried speaking once (for science!) and it sounded very distant to me, like I wasn't capable of actually breathing for the purpose of vocalization. It was like I could only speak when I exhaled normally by gently shaping the air as it left my throat, producing a very faint, airy sound. I don't know what I actually sounded like.
I briefly felt extremely nauseous and considered vomiting, but the feeling passed or I forgot about it.
Eventually, my willpower caved in and I decided to go to sleep. (This was the real reason I wanted a sitter--to prevent me from doing that as long as I could.) Knowing that I shouldn't because the best was yet to come, I climbed into bed regardless.
That was when the non-dreamlike hallucinations started. Despite having overdosed on sleep aid pills, I was finding it difficult to get to sleep. The first hallucination I had was that of a rat's tail, waving straight up in the air, coming out of the blanket right in front of my face. I had had my eyes closed, and when I opened them and saw that, it scared the bejesus out of me. I jerked back and hit it with my palm, and it dissipated back into the sheets. That was when I knew that things were really starting to heat up.
There were only a few other hallucinations that I remember. I remember seeing daylight out the window casting a very distinctive figure-8 light on my ceiling, but then it shut off like a spotlight. I remember seeing a large, motionless tarantula on the ceiling on the other side of the room. The straw that broke the camel's back, though, was the globe light on my ceiling. I saw tiny shadows inside it scurrying around, as if there were mice stuck inside it. Unlike the other hallucinations, though, this one didn't go away, not even if I looked away and back at it. That really scared me, and I decided that my bed was not a good place to be to hallucinate. I started hoping that I wouldn't hallucinate a person climbing up the foot of the bed at me, and by thinking that I thought I might cause it to happen. I decided to get out of bed then.
I instead made a bed on the couch. I'm not sure, but I would estimate it was T+2:45 then. I wished my sitter would get off the damn phone and come observe me so I would know what I was doing.
This time, I fell asleep uneventfully. At roughly T+3:15, my sitter got off the phone and came out to see me, waking me up. I remember desperately trying to talk to her and failing miserably. I tried to tell her about the hallucinations I had had earlier, but I would forget what I was talking about midsentence. It was quite frustrating--my brain was able to think the words, but I couldn't say them before I forgot them. The next morning, she said that I was basically babbling incoherently and not making any sense at all. I only clearly remember one exchange I had with her:
Me: 'Rittens in a cup.' ('rittens' are what we call baby rats)
Her: 'A cup? What cup?'
Me: 'A cup. A cup like you drink milk out of.' (I had a clear picture of this cup in my mind; it's just a cheap plastic disposable cup. I don't know why I described it like that.)
I don't know why I was talking about rittens in a cup. My best guess is that I was trying to describe the mice in the globe light. I failed miserably.
After she left, I went back to sleep and slept for about 13 hours. I had a horrible hangover the next day.
Overall, the experience was neutral. The sensations and hallucinations were interesting, but I would've been able to get a lot more out of them if I'd had someone with me like we'd planned. I probably would've been able to stay awake longer too. However, the hangover the next day was absolutely hellish. I could barely function beyond sitting around and doing only gross motor tasks that required little to no conscious thought. I didn't have any lingering hallucinations, but I was certainly in no condition to drive anywhere.
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