Testing THC in the Psych Ward (Part 1)

“Do you smoke marijuana?”
I looked around nervously before whispering, “Yes.”
“Good — we’re looking for volunteers for a THC experiment.”

1977 — the whole year had been bad, starting with Mike Eddy’s death and Granny’s stroke. I spent the summer trying to sell short stories, collecting rejection letters, and running out of money. By the fall, I was grasping at straws, so I gladly fled Houston at the offer of a ride to Berkeley.

After the prior year’s visit, I wanted to see if I could move to the Bay Area. Work would be the stumbling block, of course. Not only would I need a job to attempt moving there, but I had already started running low on personal funds within weeks of arriving there this time. My welcome was not quite wearing thin just yet, but I knew not to push it. I needed some kind of work soon.

Finding no job listings in the papers day after day, I hit the Berkeley day job center and signed up to see what grunt work was available. Twenty minutes later, I was a working stiff again, working for a guy running a small moving business. Basically, the business was him, his truck, and whoever he hired that day. He & I hit it off the first day, so I spent 3 days working for him. By then, he offered to partner up with me if I would go back to Texas and bring my van back to the Bay Area. But he had also let slip that he wanted a partner because after only 2 months as a mover, his back was beginning to bother him. This did not sound highly promising as a career move.

That’s when I spotted the ad in the San Francisco Bay Guardian about test subjects needed — and that’s how it all began, with that phone call. Though I was calling from a BART station, I still felt paranoid even hearing the word “marijuana,” much less confirming I smoked it. I was glad when they gave me an address and asked me to come by to fill out an application.

The “application” basically consisted of two pages of questions about me, my general health, and my drug history, especially marijuana and psychedelics. I swallowed hard, pushed past my paranoia, and started answering the questions. Another fellow turned in his completed form and stood waiting as the woman at the desk quickly glanced at it. “I’m sorry,” she said, “But I’m afraid your drug history isn’t extensive enough to qualify for the program.”

I may have decided then to exaggerate ever so slightly about the number of trips I’d taken on psychedelics. Or maybe I didn’t. Let’s face it — I really have no idea how many hits of acid, psilocybin, mescaline, mushrooms, and peyote I took that freshman year in college. So, I rounded a few things up and claimed something between one to two hundred trips.

I stepped up to the desk and handed over my application. The woman behind the desk started reading and nodding, flipped to the second page for the full drug history, saying, “Yes, yes,” looked up and smiled at me. “You’ll do nicely.”

The first job I ever got based on my prior experience!

Then, she briefly summarized the experiment, “You will be receiving intravenous THC to test its effects on the cardiovascular system.” She also told me one major condition for the program: two week’ confinement in the psychiatric ward during the course of the tests. “We want to make sure we control what goes into your body.”

Visions of Ken Kesey and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” danced in my head.

As a wannabe writer, the temptation to chronicle the experience quickly overwhelmed any trepidation about living in a “loony bin” briefly. Furthermore, with Hallowe’en only a week away, I figured I’d get a ringside seat to what could be one crazy night.

“Sign me up,” I said, smiling.

About bullersbackporch

I am a native Austinite, a high-tech Luddite, lover of music, movies and stories and a born trainer-explainer.
This entry was posted in Buller, mental health and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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