So I have this tripping buddy, Macos. His name/pseudoname was coined in a way together with that of a certain pharmaceutical company due to his apparent affiliation with their products. Macos was narrating a certain ordeal he went through concerning one of those products and whether or not we would consider it a psychedelic, so he began;
“I happened to ingest a powerful hallucinogen known as benzhexol. An eventual acquaintance had offered me a few tablets, describing the drug as a mild form of mescaline that makes you laugh a lot. Since I liked to laugh as much as the next guy and was foolish enough to take this know-nothing as an authority. I readily agreed to sample the goods.
Some time later I learned that far from being a gentle variant on mescaline, benzhexol – a trade name for the chemical compound trihexiphenidyl hydrochloride – was classified as antiparkinsonian medication used to alleviate involuntary muscular tremors. Rumour had it that benzhexol was also administered to patients suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders, which may well have explained its availability in most neighbourhoods well because this is Kenya…machizi kila mahali! Regularly available to thrill seekers on Nairobi’s drug circuit.
On a rainy weeknight I met up with 3 of my friends to try out the ‘benzies’. Each of us swallowed two small white tablets – estimated dosage level 10mg I think – and went for a walk in the neighbourhood awaiting the promised merriment. After trudging around in steady rain for several hours without feeling any noticeable effect, we disappointedly concluded that the benzhexol was either weak or bogus. Hoping to salvage what was left of the evening, I invited my companions back to my house to escape the rain, reassuring them that my mother had gone out with friends, in the event that the benzies might still kick in. We killed time playing FIFA but still registered no effect from the drug, so my friends headed home around 11pm. Tired and feeling a bit let down, I sat down to eat a late-night bowl of cereal before going to bed.
While digging into my flakes, I began to hear my friends talking in the room behind me. I listened intently to their conversation for a few moments, then remembered with a start that they had already gone home. After a brief pause the voices returned. Unlike the voices one typically ‘hears’ in the mind’s ear, these disembodied utterances had an uncanny immediacy. The speakers soon started badgering me with questions; I felt an almost involuntary compulsion to join in on the dialogue. Suddenly I felt as though a bubble had burst, and the scene returned to normal. ‘Wow! I guess the benzies work after all,’ I thought, but by this late hour on a weeknight I had lost enthusiasm for tripping into the wee hours, so I finished my cereal and went off to bed, leaving a few lights on for my mother. Eerily, the voices persisted right up to the moment I dropped off to sleep.
Some time later – I have no idea how long – I awoke under the full influence of the drug…yaani, ndiyo kulipuka zililipuka sasa. The voices were back, even more distinct than before. I noticed that the house lights had all been turned off, indicating that my mother had come home and was sleeping in the adjacent bedroom. I lay restlessly in a bed in a corner of the room, facing the wall. The voices insistently piled me with questions, but by now I no longer had the will to resist answering them aloud. And now things were really getting interesting. After several minutes of speaking to my fellow benzy-droplets over my shoulder, I rolled over to find them visibly present – a party had somehow materialised in my bedroom.
While I never lost sight of the fact that I had taken benzhexol, I still believed that most of the outlandish events taking place around me that night were real. It’s important to mention that when one is under the influence of benzhexol, the mind invariably comes up with convincing explanations for whatever unlikely phenomena might occur. In retrospect, it seems ludicrous that I had really believed my friends were present, but as is always with benzhexol, a plausible rationale presented itself; my friends had also experienced the belated effects of the drug and had returned to my house for an impromptu party, mistakenly thinking that my mother was out of the town rather than out for the evening.
But how to explain the fact that others who had not taken the benzies were also present? By this time quite a crowd had gathered in my bedroom – apparently word had spread quickly about the party at home. Again, I didn’t find it that energetic youth would be prowling around the city at 2 a.m. on a weeknight rapping on each others’ windows and sneaking out in the dark.
Another striking characteristic of the benzy experience is that one enters a state of cyclical forgetfulness. No sooner would I feel that I’d gotten grip on the situation than I would instantly forget what I had been thinking about in the first place, and it would start all over again.
New guests arrived by the minute. Under normal circumstances, I would have welcomed a nocturnal party but not with my unsuspecting mother asleep in her room. Mortified at the prospect of her bursting in on our bacchanal, I repeatedly admonished my guests to be quiet without success. The ‘benzy-people’ were full of questions – provocative ones at that – but I had begun to notice that whenever I asked a question of my own it was invariably met with silence. Duped into a state of trusting receptivity by the benzies. I chartered away endlessly in response to my guests’ queries, but all attempts to initiate conversations on my own terms failed. The voices had a curiously persuasive gravitation pull that reminded me of the seductive ‘Saruman Voice’ in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
I grew increasingly paranoid that so many people were freely roaming around the house, oblivious to my snoozing mother. At one point I could clearly hear people playing FIFA in the living room with a couple of chants occasionally. In alarm, I dispatched a friend to the living room to tell the FIFA sharks to cut their game short. In a rare display of cooperation, he dutifully left the room and the noise from there ceased.
The first arrivals had been the same friends I had dropped the benzies with earlier. When I told them how strongly the drug was affecting me, they smiled and nodded sympathetically. I’ll never forget the weird sensation of engaging these phantoms in conversation. Before long more people arrived to swell the party – first friends, then acquaintances and later a few total strangers. Some of the guests sat on the edge of my bed, another sat quietly in a corner of the room, and still more streamed in steadily through the door. At one point I picked up an album and passed it through to the outstretched hand of my friend Mark who was sitting in my bed. We both laughed in amazement, but while I suspected that the album stunt was probably a trick of the drug, I never doubted for a moment that Mark was actually there. Though fully aware that I was undergoing an intense drug experience, I still failed to connect the presence of my visitors with the benzhexol.
I can’t stress enough that the visitors looked nothing like flickering, transparent hallucinations or ghosts but instead seemed as real and corporeal as physical humans. However I had no sensation of actually touching them.
Ever the good host, I eventually woke up and shuffled fresh music to entertain my ghosts. By this time I must have sighted at least 20 different people in my room, most of them housemates. Among the partygoers were some saucy ladies who were only casual acquaintances. One couple made out passionately in a corner of the room. All of these somehow seemed believable in my heightened state, but when one of my neighbour’s mother Mrs. Wachira, passed through one wall, strode peacefully across the room, and then disappeared into the opposite wall, followed by a pitchfork-holding farm couple from American Gothic. I realised for the first time that at least some of my visitors were phantasms. Still, I remained convinced that the familiar apparitions were truly present and even discussed my outlandish hallucinations with them.
After a while I had a pressing need to take a piss but was loath to get out of bed clad only in my undershirt with unfamiliar girls in the room. My pants lay on the floor on the opposite side of the room close to the seated figure of my benzy buddy Jason, his face shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat. I repeatedly whispered to Wilson to throw my pants but he made no response, so I sheepishly got out of bed, hurriedly pulled on my pants and went to the bathroom. I was beginning to suspect that my friends, seeing how helplessly discombobulated I was, were playing games with me, deliberately trying to amplify my disorientation.
Once back in bed, I continued to interact with my visitors until it started to grow light outside. By sunrise the guests had mostly fallen silent; but I was becoming even more anxious that my mother would soon rise and discover them. At length I firmly announced that everyone had to leave. Typically, not a soul responded. A few minutes later I rose, pointedly opened the window and made another trip to the bathroom.
When I returned they had all vanished. A breeze was blowing in through the window, so it seemed to make sense that my guests had left the room by that route. This only reinforced my suspicion that my friends were conspiring to trip me out.
With the arrival of dawn came the feeling that I had ‘come down’ and put the worst of the experience behind me. I gave up on getting any sleep and went to sit in the living room, where I sank into dozy, druggy reveries. At times I fancied that I was communicating with friends telepathically. Presently I was startled to full attention by a sharp knock on the back door. I turned and saw my friend Dru – one of the last visitors to have left my room grinning and waving outside on the patio. I stood up and walked to the kitchen, – now that I was feeling a bit more grounded, I appreciated having someone around to discuss the night’s carnival with – but in the few seconds it took me to the door, no people!
I opened the door but nobody was to be seen. A moment later I heard giggling and spied 3 pairs of shoes through a gap at the bottom of a partition bordering the patio. So they were still playing games with me, were they? I called to them but got no reply. Miffed, I went back and sat down.
I slipped back into drowsiness until I was again interrupted by an even louder knock on the back door. I rose quickly, opened the door, and saw that my friends were still hiding behind the partition, playing their games with me. I snapped, ‘C’mon you guys!’ More silence ensued.
I returned to my chair a third time. No sooner did the benzy forgetfulness envelop me than I was jarred alert by violent pounding on the back door. I leapt up, flung the door open and ran out into the back. But by this time my friends, no doubt having anticipated were halfway out of the environment. I could hear their laughter and the sound of twigs snapping in the underbrush. Incensed, I picked up a brick and heaved it into their direction to show I meant business.
A short time later I somehow managed to get through breakfast with my mother – I’ve often wondered what she made of my behaviour or whether I was babbling to nobody in particular over my eggs – then left for my numerous lectures. I showed up in college to find the usual crowd of long hairs and ne’er-do-wells hanging out on the wide front steps. Among them were several faces I recognised from the previous night’s gathering in my bedroom. I walked up to some of them and laughed sheepishly expecting to be ribbed about the night’s adventures, but they acted as if nothing unusual had happened and appeared puzzled by my curios demeanour.
I then approached two of the girls I had seen in my room and said, ‘I know I was pretty fucked up last night but what were you guys doing at my house anyway?’ Visibly flabbergasted, they protested that they had no idea what I was talking about. I insisted that I had seen them in my room, convinced that they were parties to the growing conspiracy to play mind games with me. They nervously moved away from me.
Fortunately nothing untoward seems to have occurred during my morning classes. At lunchtime I went outside and spied David among a group box students hanging out across the street. I confronted him peevishly about the episode with the back door. He heatedly denied having been at my house. People around us appeared to grin knowingly. I was growing tired of this cruel joke and told him to give it a rest. ‘I was not at your house last night!’ he roared. Our tempers flared and we nearly came to blows. Meanwhile, a gaggle of bemused onlookers had collected on the sidewalk to observe the bizarre exchange, including one well-known psychopath who was so impressed by my eccentric behaviour that he later sought me out and became my tripping buddy. Eventually I stormed off in a huff, cursing under my breath.
At about 5pm that evening I had the sensation of a veil lifting from me and realised that only then – about 22hours after I had ingested the tablets – had I emerged from my benzy trance. It suddenly hit me that nobody even the friends who had likewise taken benzhexol had visited my house the night before. The entire experience had been an incredibly detailed, all-enveloping hallucination. I was mortified at the way I had behaved at college that morning and wondered what on earth my mother had made of my nocturnal movements and mutterings, but I was still more fascinated with the peculiar nature of benzhexol.
The story of my hallucinatory adventure spread quickly, and before long, experimentation with benzhexol came into vogue among various groups of peers. Hipsters would gather in the woods on the fringes of town at night and take sizeable doses of the drug; many of them underwent experiences very similar to my own. Conversations with the ‘benzy people’ became commonplace. One particularly reckless young fellow, nicknamed the Fireman, made a reputation of himself as a benzy daredevil gobbling handfuls of the pills and bringing back wild tales of nights spent with his ‘benzy friends’. There were even instances of collective hallucinations, where a number of people would see the same apparitions. We would discuss the benzy people we saw emerging from the shadows of the forest between waves of drug-induced memory lapses. I recall one group hallucination in which we all watched a fire hydrant transform itself into a dancing biped. Amazingly the hallucinations could occur even in broad daylight. Still, nobody else ever seemed to have gotten gobsmacked as I did during my first benzy ordeal.
No matter how familiar one became with the benzy experience, one could always be fooled again by the apparitions. On one excursion, I kept repeating to myself that, ‘I know I’m on benzies, but this time, I’m going to observe rather than participate in the experience,’ but abruptly realised I was already telling this to a benzy person.
After a year after my initial benzy trip, I made a startling discovery; lying in bed one night under the influence of benzhexol. I became aware of a figure holding a painting in front of me. I noticed with annoyance that the picture was incomplete, so I reached over and picked up a pastel from my desk then coloured in the blank spot on the paper. A moment later the image vanished. It was at that point that I realised that I had never moved my hands from under the blanket. It dawned on me that during my epic trip of the previous year, I may have never gotten out of bed, or even opened my mouth. Naturally, this raised all kinds of questions as to what we were really doing or not doing on Our benzy voyages.
In the year’s since my first major trip, I’ve never encountered so much as a mention of the drug again. My web searches have produced very few results and interestingly only one passing reference to hallucinations as a side effect – no allusion whatsoever to the extraordinary universe of benzhexol phantoms that many of us witnessed.”
Given how crazy benzhexol tends to get anyone; cautious recreational usages could work for you.
I wouldn’t classify it as a psychedelic by any stretch, for it distorts rather than sharpens perception.
I can maintain that the visions prompted by true psychedelics are not hallucinations in the accepted sense but rather are magnifications of the underlying structure of reality.
Benzhexol is more apt to exacerbate angst than being insights or pleasure – unless consorting with phantoms is your idea of a good time. Hehe
That’s all for now…