Citation: Samanthe. "Passing Out in Slow Motion: An Experience with Carbogen (exp63384)". Erowid.org. May 31, 2007. erowid.org/exp/63384
The carbogen sessions described below took place in a group context, with a sitter experienced in the administration of carbogen (tank + mask apparatus). I knew the sitter socially and trusted him. Four of my friends were also participating in sessions, round-robin style. The sessions were all either videotaped or audiotaped. My report is based on the transcription and vital signs that were taken pre- and post-carbogen with a blood pressure monitor. The nature of carbogen breathing lent itself extremely well to audio/video recording. In trying to describe the effects to the friends around me, I was able to capture more than if I’d tried only to write things down, and it helped to have people’s questions to reply to.
I hadn’t read any detailed descriptions of carbogen but I was familiar with some of the themes and the arc I could expect. The brevity of effects attracted me; I imagined an endless moment where the veil between death and life might be simulated, that struggle evident in some of my stronger and longer psychedelic experiences, distilled into one quivering minute. I love nitrous oxide, a lot, I am fascinated with the perception of deep ephemeral truths, with the power that such a simple molecule can have on the psyche. It paradoxically seems so absurd and yet so profound. The prospect of a similar trip was irresistible, albeit terrifying given carbogen’s distinct unpleasant features as described in the literature.
I did go in with a sliver of apprehension, given my history of panic attacks in the distant past. I reassured myself that my panic attacks had been left behind in my early 20s and that my life experience since that time had taught me to remain calm in the face of existential weirdness. Still, as I am a bit prone to worry, it was something I considered, and I let the and circle of friends sitter know about this in a light way.
Setting: Stranger’s bedroom, adjacent to living room where a social gathering was taking, with music playing that I would not have chosen but that didn’t distract too much. The air was a little stuffy.
Intended number of breaths: 11
Breaths achieved: 11 / over 28 seconds
Vitals pre-experience: 131/88 Pulse 78
Vitals < 1 min: 106/77 Pulse 80
During breathing: Breathing got faster at breath 4 and heavier at breath 5/6. Breaths were shallower than the ones of other people breathing carbogen this evening.
Post-breathing: Began verbalizing immediately (5 seconds) after final breath.
That was just like passing out. That was a very familiar place. Oh wow there’s a lot of things I want to say about it but hm, wow, whew! Huh, interesting [stalling] I’d like to try that again. Pretty easy experience… pleasant… huh. I could do that again. There are a lot of body sensations that are pretty familiar, there’s a kind of pressure around my ears. I feel spacey. My fingers and arms and whole body are suffused with the same sensation that I associate with passing out, which I know I said before. My face is feeling really hot. I definitely didn’t feel like I reached or passed a threshold, but I can feel a definite character of gentleness, like I was going slowly toward whatever strange attractor I was sensing. And there’s a definite sense of familiarity with the bodily and mental effects, maybe from a combination of my previous nitrous inhaling, and sensations I associate with fainting and anxiety, but without the fear. The sensations have definitely not gone away in my head, though, nor in my chest. There’s tingliness, and warmth. I definitely feel like sitting up and getting fresh air. I feel little bit of a pressure in my head that’s slightly unpleasant, but I would probably try 15 or 16 breaths next time, without hesitation.
I was totally aware of the room the whole time, and of the counting. It definitely felt like a potentially extremely powerful space/place/sensation, that it’s possible to get a taste of it beforehand, but it seems like there’s a pop-through that happens, a threshold to be passed, as our kind sitter repeatedly gently pointed out. In retrospect it’s amusing that I was also aware of thinking “I only asked for 11 breaths, so I don’t have to go there”. I can imagine a pop-through effect like that of fainting, where I feel it coming on, then *pop* then I wake up and I immediately think, “where was I? how long was I out?” I could see having that sort of experience with this, except it’s more controllable than passing out — if I’d passed out I would not have continued to breathe with any kind of intention or maintained awareness as I did — and there may be insights to be gleaned from that liminal zone that’s achieved when I go further. At least that’s what I tell myself.
Five minutes after breathing, I have a headachy feeling, if not exactly a headache.
Given the relative serenity of the first session and my friends’ intriguing descriptions of their sessions, I opted to go again, 17 minutes after the first time. Carbogen seemed weird but pretty innocuous at this point. Basically, my ego stepped in and got greedy for some of that insight I imagined was lying right across this elusive threshold. I thought I might stop before 16; I was right, in a self-fulfilling smack-down of instant karma kind of way.
Intended number of breaths: 16
Breaths achieved: 5
Vitals pre-experience: 119/93 Pulse 77
Vitals 1 min post: 125/94 Pulse 115
During breathing: Breaths started out deeper than first experience, got faster at breath 3, then was done by breath 6.
I got “that scary feeling”, the early tinges of the fear that I might get as I approach the difficult part of a trip. Except that it wasn’t too intense, it was kind of like a happy fun version of it. As soon as the mask came off, the feeling went away (so attenuation of fear was clearly a physiological response to the stimulus being taken away?), everything was fine again.
I went into this with more of a gung-ho attitude than the previous session, the “I’m going for it”, heroic-dose attitude, rather than my own natural instinct, which is to go really gently. And that scared me; it was inconsistent with my own natural approach to how I navigate psychedelic space, which is a “splash in the shallow end of the pool and inch on down” approach. It was interesting to try it that way, with the heavier breathing, but it didn’t work so well for me, it’s definitely not my style to try to be like “yeah! Let’s do it!” Maybe next time I’ll try 12 breaths. I thought I had taken 3 breaths but when I asked the people around me, they told me I’d done 4 or 5; the audio tape revealed I’d reached 5.
I think if I had breathed more shallowly I wouldn’t have peaked as quickly or risen so abruptly toward whatever the strange attractor is of the experience — it would have been gentler. It’s funny because this really isn’t like nitrous – I can inhale lots of nitrous in every which way and be totally OK with it; not so with carbogen, obviously. Maybe the slope to super-weird nitrous space is much much longer and much less steep than the ramp-up to carbogen’s peri-anethetic weird zone?
For me, it’s “Proceed with caution”.
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