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Alone and Tripping Balls at the End of the World

Bored, totally freaked out and without a friend in sight, many people are throwing pandemic parties for one (molly and shrooms included)

I have, in my possession, two pristine, untouched capsules of dubiously sourced, Grade B molly. I’ve been keeping them stashed in my closet for a special occasion like a camping trip or a wedding, but ever since the news that the uncontainable coronavirus could be turning my city into a hellscape overrun with Dasani but horrifically devoid of toilet paper, I think I’ll put on some weird German techno and do them now. End of the world seems like a good time for a personal rave, doesn’t it?

Most people seem to think so. While the Chinese went to digital “cloud raves” on TikTok during the height of their corona-crisis, stateside citizens appear to be having their own personal pandemic parties with actual drugs, sampling the many pleasures molly, mushrooms and whatever’s in their medicine cabinet as they weather the claustrophobic solitude of self-quarantine, alone and indoors. And really, who could blame them? Endowed with a staggering amount of free time due to mass layoffs and riddled with anxiety, our mothers, cousins, boyfriends, teachers, doctors, plumbers, friendly neighborhood strippers and curiously ripped IT guys all seem to be getting into something just to get by. 

Even the hot Twitter girl who tried to douse the Australian wildfires with funds raised from customized nudes is stocking up on pandemic party drugs: 

Not a mile away from me, my best friend Natalie (not her real name) has just ingested a handful of “pretty hefty” magic mushrooms — stems, caps and all. She munches on them as we FaceTime, the lava lamp and the trance-y music she’s set up coloring in the background with a psychedelic presence. “Goodbyeee,” she coos into the phone, her face softening into blissful dissociation. 

Earlier, Natalie had told me she was so bored, so depressed, and so horrifically out of work — she was a server before the virus times — that she didn’t know what else to do other than try to enjoy herself “while she still could.” Usually, her and I would do something like that together, but seeing as being within a 10-foot radius of each other could kill us, she’s decided to go it alone. “I am the party,” she says before she hangs up.

Matthew Johnson, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs, says he hasn’t seen any evidence that people are upping their party drug usage in response to coronavirus, but he advises those interested in going down that road to keep their stash — whatever it contains — to themselves. “Share nothing,” he says. “We all know needle sharing is bad, but right now you need to put the following in the same category: tasting someone’s drink, passing joints, sharing a pipe for any drug.” Vaping, smoking weed in any capacity, and yes, passing a bag of mushrooms back and forth definitely applies, too. Solo usage, he says, is definitely safer. 

Though, because most recreational drugs have immunosuppressive effects — alcohol, especially — Johnson really doesn’t think now is a good time to do them at all. 

Some will heed that warning, of course, but people like Natalie? Not so much. So, then, in her case — and the case of Hot Australian Girl — is there a safe way to corona-party in quarantine?

I knew exactly who to ask: my drug dealer.

“Not really,” he tells me, adding that it really depends on the drug and how you use it. People should avoid anything addictive — particularly painkillers — at a time like this, even if they ordered a Rave for One. “You don’t want to form an addiction if you’re trapped inside for a month and just discovering how great they feel,” he says. But if you have a prescription for something like Xanax or Adderall and you can use them responsibly and in small doses? That’s kosher in his book. “Xanax for anxiety,” he says. “Adderall for people who have a hard time working at home like I do.” (Though neither are advisable and both have been shown to have some addictive capacity.)

Dosing is also an issue right now. “If you’re going to party pandemic-style, you should probably microdose,” he continues. “This is probably not the best time to be tripping hard.” But, he explains, small, subclinical amounts of things like molly, mushrooms or acid (if you’re careful) can lift people’s spirits if they’re feeling shut in, isolated or depressed and give them an “uplifting, happy day at home.” 

Unless you’re Jerry, a 32-year-old Colorado man with a stockpile of frozen meat and multiple, shrink-wrapped copies of Fubar 2 sitting above his mantle, just waiting to be quarantine-watched. As I write this, he’s just taken a “bit” of molly, but instead of the “uplifting, happy time” my drug dealer speaks of, he’s having more of a “paranoid crossbow day” alone at his house.

When asked whether the molly is helping him through this difficult time — it’s just him and his kitties out there — he responds that it is, but that it’s also increasing his crossbow acuity. “You need to be on your game right now,” he says. “You can’t get too fucked up.” 

Skyler, a 30-year-old copywriter in L.A., is faring somewhat better with the pandemic party drugs. Last night, she met up with a “non-threatening, 6-foot-5 man” on Hinge and the two snorted what they hoped was pure MDMA together for five hours on his couch. They didn’t hook up — that was never the plan — they just watched nature docs, listened to house music and then went their separate ways. 

This, she tells me, is pandemic-specific behavior. “I don’t think I’d normally meet up with internet strangers with the intent to do drugs at their house,” she says. “I definitely think the end of the world vibe is having an effect on me.” Strangely, what’s not affecting her is the crushing comedown (which molly, ecstasy and other MDMA-based substances tend to exact). Instead, she says, it was a surprisingly positive experience. “I made a trauma friend,” she says. “He had a good vibe. Feeling isolated in self-quarantine and then realizing I could still connect with people 1-on-1 in a positive, non-sexual way really helped with all this.” 

Those who are interested in a night with molly, however, might want to consider the fact that certain studies have found MDMA and its derivatives to be immunosuppressive, specifically with regard to infectious disease. Also, a comedown in the age of corona could be light years more devastating than the one you get after a night of molly and doing what my colleague Ian Lecklitner calls the “light-up glove hand-dancing thing.” A much safer quarantine party drug might be mushrooms, which, in small doses, have been proven to decrease anxiety and depression (though Johnson says they can decrease immune function, too). 

Nevertheless, Skyler says she’ll be on the hunt for some next. 

Back in Colorado, Lilli, 25, and her boyfriend Patrick, 28, are already well-stocked. They’re planning on eating mushrooms this weekend, in quantities she can only describe as “hella.” The caged love birds plan to stay inside during their trip, making music, playing Japanese video games and being creative while the psilocybin takes them far, far away from the “absolute fucking chaos that is the present.” And though they’ve both done shrooms before, Lilli, like Skyler, says their pandemic party plans are “100 percent a quarantine reaction.” Neither of them would voluntarily do that amount of shrooms and stay inside were they not imprisoned in their house without work or a social life, and they’re both depressed and afraid, hoping the drugs will reset their mood to some semblance of normal. 

LSD is also on the menu for the many people who plan to pass the time in another dimension. On Reddit, people are wondering whether it’s safe to drop acid alone in quarantine, and in Northern California, 25-year-old Adrian is plotting out a solo trip of his own, to be endeavored in the next few days, just as soon as he’s done stockpiling beans and bouillon. “It just seems like a good time to reflect,” he says, referring to the indefinite purgatory of solitude much of the world has been ordered to take. “Laid off work, stocked with groceries — when being social is cancelled, a window of opportunity opens to spend time with ourselves.”

That seems overly copasetic for the moment, so I ask him if he thinks this “me time” will be “fun” given the circumstances or just a lateral move into another sideways hellscape. He doesn’t know until he tries, he says, but you know what? At least people are making coronavirus rave music to go with it:

And what of stimulants? Your beloved, beloved stimulants? Though plenty of people are fiending for them and some unfathomable social media rumor recently claimed that snorting cocaine can cure coronavirus, exactly zero people I spoke with recommend this class of drug at a time like this. “I wouldn’t recommend doing coke when you’re trapped inside,” my drug dealer says. “Maybe that’s just me.” It’s not, though — uppers like cocaine and meth tend to make people antsy, nervous and anxious, none of which are good feelings when antsiness, nervousness and anxiety are the emotions du jour. Plus, the more addictive something is, the more motivated you are to go out into the world to get it — not a good idea when the name of the game is isolation and staying far, far away from cash, which the internet tells me is crawling with virus

But that doesn’t mean people aren’t trying to get a little pep in their step, even if it means they’re only stepping from their couch to their fridge. Felicia, a phone sex operator and fetish model in L.A. says she’s been “trying to find some Coke™,” but her regular hookups have either completely dried up or are “social distancing” like everyone else. That’s a huge bummer for her — as a sex worker, business has all but disappeared as people fret over stock market losses and struggle to maintain clitoral and penile erections in the face of full-scale economic and social collapse. She’s got more than enough time on her hands now — time she’d rather spend “getting messy” with some friends, a bottle of tequila and a white powder intended for her nasal cavity. Bizarrely, she says she doesn’t enjoy coke, but “the whole world is fucked, so why not?”

That desire to escape is one of the main reasons people use drugs in the first place, but according to Malibu-based drug addiction counselor Athena Lennon, coronavirus is making people use them in a slightly different way than they normally would. Right now, she says, people aren’t just looking for escape, numbness or thrill; they’re dallying with a last hurrah, a sort of “fuck it, we’re all going to die anyway” descent into DayQuil, death or a total 180 of life as we know it. Yeah — not exactly your best friend’s birthday party at Señor Frog’s. 

“It’s the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen that’s freaking people out,” she says. “People are feeling a new, more crushing form of hopelessness than they’ve ever experienced, and that absolutely affects the way they choose to do drugs.” 

What if you’re fresh out of drugs, though? If you’ve still got a functioning lung or two, you’re in luck — according to Kimi Recor, a breathwork instructor in L.A., you can get real fucked up on breathing if you know how to do it right. “When you flood your body with oxygen, it feels like every cell in your body is throwing its own rave,” she says, describing the specialized deep-breathing patterns she teaches in her breathwork classes. “You feel tingly and buzzy and alive, but instead of coming down hard, your comedown consists of calmness and incredible insight into your life.” Some people even compare the effects of certain kinds of breathwork to DMT, a finding that both research and personal anecdotes seem to back up. 

I should know — I’ve tried it. I’ve lived, laughed and loved it. It’s like smoking the best weed and eating just a little, teeny weeny bit of mushrooms — you’re calm, but alert and giggly, and everything glows so much that you feel like you should immediately buy a Subaru and start weaving hanging baskets out of hemp because you just tasted colors from breathing. But even more than that, breathwork is severely relaxing. And isn’t that the kind of inexpensive, solo-friendly rave right now?

Speaking of relaxation, I check back in with Natalie to see where she’s at. 

A sideways FaceTime camera reveals that she’s on the floor with her face pressed into the rug, laughing hysterically because she swears she can hear it talking to her and it sounds like this: “Naaataliiiie. NaaaAAAAtaliEE. What’s up with those shoes?”

I don’t know where she’s gone, but it sounds a lot better than here.