When the time was approaching closer to Coachella, my friend was asking us if we wanted to try Ecstasy (also known as MDMA, Molly, E). I was also open to trying E at Coachella if everyone was doing it. We ended having this dependency where everyone (except my girlfriend) was down to take E if everyone else was doing it. As you can probably guess, a couple of people agreed to do it, and like a butterfly effect, everyone agreed (except my girlfriend).
We drove down to Palm Springs on Thursday, passing by Los Angeles for the goods. One of my friends did extensive research and gave us a lecture the first night on all the effects of E, all the phases of E, and the side effects of E. Afterwards, he took out the pill, which was packaged as a tampon. As you know, tampons have this push mechanism that shoots out the actual pad. Well, in this case, it shot out tiny pink Supreme bricks, which were the E pills. I wish I took a picture of it since we all thought it was ridiculous and hilarious. My friend also brought test kits to test the E. These test kits can only test for the existence of other substances in the pill, but they can't test for concentration (it's possible to overdose on MDMA which triggers serotonin poisoning). We tested our pills and ensured the pill indeed contain MDMA and was not laced with other substances. For most of us, it would be our first time taking E and there was definitely some nervousness to it.
Collectively, we decided Saturday would be the best day to take E. This way, we have Friday to scout out what the festival is like, and Sunday to recover from any side effects we could potentially experience. As a side bonus, there were a lot of performances we were hyped about playing that day.
Midway during Bazzi's performance on Saturday, we all popped our pills. It was supposed to take around 20 mins (varies between people) to kick in, so we all waited anxiously. I'm not sure if the elevated anxiety was a consequence of the pill, or if it was just us being anxious taking it the first time, or probably both. As time went on, I started feeling jaw clenching. It felt like as if I was chewing something and my jaw stopped mid-bite; it also felt like that tense feeling around your jaw just when you are about to swallow something and push it down your throat. According to our research, this is expected to happen, but for some people, it can be severe enough that their jaws are sore the next day.
The ramp up seemed really short for the main effects of E - one song I wasn't high, and the next song I was definitely high. Finally, during the last song of Bazzi's performance, 'Mine', the E hit me with full power. Not only is it a really hype song in general, but the lyrics to an extent describe the feeling of E, which made the moment perfect. The music started sounding better, and the world started to appear more vibrant. I would describe the peak effect of E as intense euphoria, the same feeling of being in love. I also felt like my head was in the clouds and my body was light as a feather, almost as if I can float into the sky. Interestingly, many people would describe feeling the same weightlessness feeling when they feel intense love.
At this point, a couple of my friends still didn't feel the effects, so they decided to go buy some food. One of them bought lemonade, and the other bought a churro. However, somewhere in between buying food, the E finally hit both of them at full effect. And, if you do your research, you'd know that E kills your appetite. When they came back, my friend with the lemonade didn't want the lemonade anymore and tried to give it away to the rest of us. Too bad we were all high, no one wanted it. My other friend offered his churro everyone, I don't know why but I decided to take a bite. You should know when you're on E, everything feels good. You could be staring at a black pole and you'd think to yourself "staring at this pole feels really good". For the same reason, I guess chewing on the churro felt really good, and I just kept chewing on it until I finally remembered that I needed to swallow. In my mind, it didn't feel like I was chewing for a long time, but I must've been chewing for an eternity as the churro felt like sand. It was so dry I couldn't even swallow it and it got kind of stuck in my throat. I was able to wash it down with water, but I never thought churros could taste that bad.
After the Bazzi concert, we headed towards Safari for Gryffin's performance. While trying to walk there, we formed a human line where everyone was hugging each other. Everyone's eyes were all super wide open, looking around and experiencing visual overload. Apparently, we were walking ridiculously slowly according to my girlfriend, but every one of us thought we were walking normal speed. Everyone was telling each other how much they appreciated having each other in their life. It's no surprise many people find "love" on ecstasy, or have their relationships accelerated on ecstasy.
At one point we all sat down on the field and discussed the experience of E up to that point. Everyone realized how intensely good the feelings of E was and at the same time realized how incredibly dangerous this drug can be. We decided to make a promise to each other to only do E twice a year maximum, only to do it with close friends, only at music festivals, and only after testing out the goods.
During Gryffin's performance, the music felt extra good and everyone danced uninhibited. To an extent, it feels like a more intense version of intoxication from alcohol, except it comes with none of the side effects of alcohol (sluggishness, headaches, hangover, disorientation). It makes a person lose almost all insecurities and self-doubt, almost liberating them to do whatever they like. Before, I saw people dancing in the open field and thought "wow, they're having a really good time". Now I understand, they were likely just high.
After the Gryffin performance, we were still under the afterglow effect of E. According to our research, this effect could last up to an entire week for infrequent users of E. If the peak high during Bazzi was a 10, most of us were around a 6 after Gryffin. For the rest of the night, we remained at approximately the same level of highness for all the performances (Billie Eilish and Tame Impala).
Even the next day, many of us were still high. Once I woke up, I had a strong urge to jam to music and start dancing, but the more heavyweight weed users of our group already stopped feeling effects. At that time, I would rate the effect at a 4. I think this afterglow effect persisted for a couple more days since the next three days, I felt like my mood was generally elevated. I also felt like I couldn't focus as well the next three days and generally being more jittery. For those days, I think the effect was closer to a 2. Finally, somewhere later down the week, the effect fully tapered down and I felt normal.
Overall, I would say it's a positive experience and I learned a lot from it. That being said, there are many negative consequences to doing E. I won't be going into detail in this post, as there is more authoritative research on this topic all over the internet. Instead, I will talk about some personal insights I gained from this experience.
First of all, I get it now. I get music festivals. Music festivals are literally the best places to get high on something like E. The environment is generally very intense and stimulating to the senses, but E just takes it to the next level and straight to the moon. There's also a lot of other people high on drugs and it becomes really easy to make friends and connect with other people.
I've always known everyone has a different chemical composition in their body, and thus experience different levels of serotonin. But I've never under to what extent the difference can be. I mean, how much happier can someone else's maximum happiness be compared to mine? I talked to my girlfriend about the experience and what I felt (physical and mental weightlessness, increased empathy, slower articulation, time passes faster, etc). Apparently, what I felt on E was similar to what she felt off normal non-drug-induced happiness. I thought this was crazy since there's a huge difference between my normal maximum happiness and MDMA induced maximum happiness. But I guess my normal serotonin levels are just far lower than my girlfriend's (and maybe even lower than the average person). That being said, after experiencing elevated happiness, I find it to be quite hopeful - it let me see the potential I had in me in terms of happiness. I think it motivates me to search for goals and ideals that bring my true happiness to higher levels.
However, that also means the corollary of this, the maximum sadness differential, must also be comparable to the maximum happiness. I can't imagine what an equivalent MDMA induced sadness could feel like, it might be similar to intense depression. After experiencing elevated happiness and realizing the difference in maximum happiness between people, I believe I can now relate and empathize better with people going through depression.
For the longest time, I never really understood drug abuse and alcohol abuse. But since this experience, I have now gained tremendous empathy for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If a person already doesn't have anything in life, the least they would like is to feel happier. It's really easy for people with less fortunate lives to mistake induced happiness by drugs as real happiness, and thus lead a life of drug abuse. Ironically, the more you take MDMA, the more likely you'll be depressed in the long run. The first few times a person takes it, there are very little side effects and the comedown phase is quite smooth and pleasurable. As MDMA becomes abused more, the comedown phase of the drugs get worse and cause depression. To counteract, one can just take more MDMA, resulting in a never-ending negative feedback loop.
Many things that make a person happy while on high on E could be mistaken as things that make them happy normally. In reality, at those levels of increased serotonin, anything they do will make them happy. Thus, it can cause people to make more illogical conclusions and decisions. This compounded with the negative feedback loop make drugs truly dangerous for people in unique circumstances.
I think this experience on Ecstasy made me reflect on my own values and life. It was a good learning experience and just a generally good experience since it's literally intense happiness. That being said, there are consequences to doing E and one needs to be strong minded and mature to be able to take it responsibly. Would I do it again? Maybe, but if I were to do it, I would only take it in a group of trusted friends, during a music festival, twice per year maximum, and after careful testing.