Ravers about why they increasingly opt for psychedelics in the club

“Why don’t you try a little acid?” my good friend Olha asked. We were going toa rave in a warehouse in London, and I’d just told her I wasn’t feeling welland didn’t want to take anything that would make me sick. She offered me abouta quarter of a paper seal of LSD (a seal of LSD contains around 100 mcg onaverage).

Pretty soon I became cheerful, cheerful and chatty. Once at the rave, Iexperienced the lights and sound more intensely, but there was certainly nohallucination. I felt a smile on my face that I couldn’t resist. But was Ireally happy? I became aware that I was trying to laugh at the uncontrollablefeelings that the LSD brought up. Two years of corona, two years of working onmyself and a broken relationship were hard for me. In a room full of ravers Isuddenly felt lonely. That wasn’t what I wanted to feel on the dance floor,but I decided to let it be. After a few hours something clicked and I realizedthat I was not lonely at all, because I always had myself. The following weekI didn’t have a hangover, on the contrary: I had processed something andhadn’t felt so good in ages. This way of going out felt like a revelation.

In the past six months I have regularly encountered people in clubs within theelectronic music scene who replace other drugs with psychedelics – aphenomenon known as ‘California sober’. What drives people to do this?

According to Ton Nabben, criminologist and drug researcher at the HVA, thereis indeed a growing interest in psychedelics within the Dutch club circuit.“That’s mainly because there’s been more intellectual interest in psychedelicsin general for a few years now. Substances have become more widely known amongthe public and there is much discussion about their therapeutic uses in booksand lectures. Secondly, the threshold for taking it in a club has becomelower. People used to be careful about that because of the trip effect. Butnow they are experimenting with psychedelics in micro and medium (meso) doses,which has taught them how to use them in other settings. In these doses, itcan also be combined with other drugs.”

According to Nabben, the increased use of psychedelics is partly due to adesire for something new. “Users are now familiar with the peaks and waves ofXTC. But the experience you gain with psychedelics can be much richer. It doeseverything with your senses and creates new contact moments in a socialsetting like a club.” But according to the drug researcher, it also sayssomething about the uncertain times in which we find ourselves. “A lot ofthings are coming at us. Psychedelics can also be a way to get answers toquestions you have, to better understand things in your own environment, or tosee connections between all kinds of things that are going on at a moreabstract level of thought.”

Isabel (29) is from Amsterdam, works for the Nachtburgemeester Amsterdamfoundation and is a UX designer. Gaining new insights and experiences is animportant reason for her to take LSD more often. “When I go out I regularlyuse a quarter to a half stamp. It makes me happy, I live more in the moment, Iexperience music and light more intensely, and I have valuable conversationson it. That is very different for me than when I use ecstasy. I am oftenwithdrawn from that. The following week I usually don’t have a physical ormental hangover and sometimes I even feel really good. That’s nice, because Ilike to go out a lot.”

Nick (28) from Amsterdam is a DJ and works in the music industry. For a yearnow, he often uses magic mushrooms or magic mushrooms drops in the club whengoing out. “My parents divorced when I was twelve, there was a lot of tensionat home and I already found my way out at that age by playing at Thunderdome.There was a lot of alcohol and drugs used there and I started copying thatbehavior at a certain point. Since I was still young, this was alcohol atfirst. Later on, substances such as coke were added, which had quite a mentalrepercussion. This went on until I was twenty-four. Then I went to therapy.”In addition to his regular therapy, Nick participated in ayahuasca ceremoniesas a way to “go to the root” of the problem. He also started microdosingpsychedelics and at some point decided to use these substances during clubnights. “Going out should no longer be a form of escapism for me. My wholelife is in the nightlife: it is my job, my outlet and the place where I meetmy friends. Psychedelics mainly help me to get in touch and stay in touch withmyself. It helps me balance my life and not lose myself in the nightlife.”

Ruby* (25) lives in Amsterdam, is a maker in the creative industry and iscurrently graduating from the art academy. For over six years she has beenusing various psychedelics such as 2CB, LSD, DMT, truffles & rapé when goingout. She notices that this allows her to relax better when going out than whenusing other drugs. “For the past three years I have mainly used truffles. Ithelps me get out of my head and feel more. I feel calm, content. I have morecompassion for myself and other people. In the club I sometimes tend to getemotional when I have to wait a long time for the toilets, for example, orwhen I end up in a conversation with someone who is draining energy. Withtruffles you can easily put this aside.”

For Ruby, the use of these various resources also has a deeper meaning. “I usepsychedelics for pleasure, but also for healing. Before going clubbing, I takea short moment for myself to check how I’m feeling and what I want to get outof the evening. Why do I want to go? Am I worried about something? How furrydo I want to make it? What do I want to ‘look up’ or avoid? I am open toreceiving answers or confirmations. So it’s about feeling, recognizing myneeds and desires and being critical.” Ruby says going out on psychedelicsgives her insights into her own coping mechanisms, and that she’s less likelyto smoke, for example. “I feel that the dance floor and the synergy with themusic in itself enhances the potential to ‘capture’ such insights. You have tolearn to deal with yourself, with yourself in relation to acquaintances butalso to strangers. Because of the awareness it gives me, I can choose to dothings differently than usual at that moment.”

So for people like Ruby, the dance floor is not only a place to escape, butalso to meet yourself and become a better person. In recent years there hasbeen a lot of talk in the media about “agenda hedonists” (or in the words ofthe police: the yoga sniffers), who take controlled turns in the club atcarefully planned moments in their lives. Journalist Tom Grosfeld recentlywrote a book about this phenomenon, in which he describes how not only ourworking lives but also our private lives are organized as efficiently,effectively and productively as possible. Aren’t the ‘California frugal’ userswithin the productivity-oriented society we live in then the next move towardsan experience that you have to get something out of: the nightlife assomething to experience as efficiently as possible?

“Of course I also like to get out of my tights every now and then,” says Ruby,“but there are different ways to do that. Sometimes I still combine LSD, thenafter six hours I sometimes add a little bit of ecstasy or MDMA and then I gocrazy. At the same time, I also have to go out more consciously. I have a busylife and truffles are often a good option, because it doesn’t give me a dip orhangover and it brings me a lot.”

That is also a reason for Isabel. “If you go out two or three times a monthand work five days a week it is mentally and physically untenable to use othersubstances, then you have to look at other options. The alternation withpsychedelics ensures that going out remains fun and varied and in combinationwith work it remains sustainable.”

“At least it’s not like I think I want to go to hell, but let’s do it in aconscious way so I can feel good about it,” Nick says. “Mushrooms make me feelbetter than other drugs and they don’t hangover me. It’s a very differentexperience, but that experience is also a lot of fun. I firmly believe thatpsychedelics are more drugs than drugs, it just depends on how you use them.They have been used by indigenous peoples in ceremonies for millennia. Therethey danced around campfires, we dance at raves and in clubs. Actually, thoseare also a kind of rituals, only we use them for more hedonic and escapisticpurposes, while they can also be used for deep insights and therefore personalgrowth.”

Professor Nabben emphasizes the danger of psychedelics in addition to thepossible positive experiences that you can experience as a result. “It remainsa psychedelic that can turn the world upside down. For example, you sometimessee in the news that someone gets psychosis and serious accidents happen. Sothat can happen. You may be overdosing and panicking. But on the harmfulnessscale, they are less harmful compared to substances such as coke and alcohol.”Ruby, who has also had negative experiences with LSD, calls these moments anordeal. “Afterwards you realize that it is a trip from which you also learnsomething. Everything you see or feel is in you. So some things can beexperienced as scary, while it reflects something deeper. What I learned fromthis is that psychedelics hold up a mirror to you.” Nick names another adverseeffect of psychedelics in the club. “When I’m at a party and it starts to wearoff, I really want to go home,” Nick says. “You get tired faster compared toother drugs.”

Good to know: psychedelics can be dangerous in higher doses and for peoplewho are prone to psychosis. The experiences described above are onlyexperiences of a handful of people. Never use alone. Not every body is thesame and drugs work differently for everyone. Therefore, always have yourdrugs tested to determine your dosage and do not take the experiences anddosages above as an example.

*Ruby is an alias, she only wanted to be interviewed anonymously for herprivacy. Her real name is known to the editors.