27. The Syringe
"FRL-V4" was an act of desperation. He had exhausted every prescription drug that he could buy from overseas. He then tried every research chemical that he could find. The Internet revealed a world of "psychonauts" conducting drug experimentation on themselves. He felt like a human guinea pig anyway, having had a cocktail of different medications prescribed to him by his doctors, all of which had terrible side effects. He was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
When he received his first delivery from Frog Eye Wares, he assumed they had accurately weighed out half a gram: 500 milligrams. He poured out the contents of a small plastic bag labelled "TOXIC: NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION" onto a dinner plate. Then he divided the pile of powder into two equal piles of 250 milligrams each. He divided one of those piles in two, which he assumed must approximately weigh 125 milligrams. Scooping up one small pile of powder, he transferred it to a second dinner plate. Then, he made five lines of powder, each of the same length and width. All of this was done by eye. By his estimation, a single line weighed 25 milligrams.
Taking a rolled up bank note, he snorted half a line up his right nostril. This was the first time he'd insufflated something since the one and only time he'd tried cocaine, at a house party 8 years earlier. The cocaine gave him a feeling of numbness in-between his eyes and down the back of his throat. He could taste a drip from his nasal cavity, but it was not unpleasant and the numbness spread around his mouth in his saliva a little. The "FRL-V4" powder made his eyes water with pain. There was an extremely bitter taste and the smell of solvents filled his nose.
His face flushed, his pulse raced, he needed a bowel movement. In the bathroom, dropping his trousers, he noticed his penis had shrunk as if it was freezing cold. Washing his hands, he looked at himself in the mirror. His pupils were gigantic and jet black; he was sweating. Panicking slightly that he had taken too much of the drug, he rinsed his nose out with some cold water and tried to spit out the residue that seemed to coat the back of his throat.
He'd spent the day feeling productive. He had cleaned the house and had then started playing a computer game until he noticed that it had got dark. Then, he started to feel a sense of panic. 9 hours had elapsed since he had taken the drug and he worried that the effects weren't wearing off. He looked at his watch; then he looked at his watch again. Time was passing incredibly slowly. He started to stare at the face of his watch; the second hand was barely moving. He could feel his heartbeat starting to race. He started to feel like he couldn't breathe; as if there wasn't enough oxygen in the air and he couldn't catch his breath.
That was when he decided to snort the other half of the line.
He'd done a lot of research on the Internet and he knew that some of the drugs he was likely to encounter were "fiendishly" addictive. Most of the negative things that he read seemed to be associated with people having long sleepless binges. It seemed logical to him that the thing to do was to avoid "re-dosing". He would limit himself to a fixed daily dose and that way he would avoid the dreadful binges and the path to addiction that he had read about. However, he hadn't been able to calm down and was feeling really awful. He half considered going to hospital, but instead, he decided to double down.
Snorting with his left nostril, the pain brought tears to his eyes again. Soon, he felt a lot better. The panic attack subsided.
He hadn't eaten all day and he thought he should try and force some food down. Making himself a sandwich, it seemed incredibly dry. He hardly had any saliva to swallow. Everything tasted really strange and unpalatable. He had absolutely no appetite. Realising he'd hardly drunk anything, he gulped down some orange juice, which was pleasant enough. His stomach hurt and he retched a little, but the nausea quickly passed.
The night passed with more computer games and he was surprised to see morning light. Trying to avoid looking at his watch for as long as possible, he knew that there was panic rising in him again. What was he going to do? He hadn't slept in 24 hours. This was quickly turning into a binge. He decided to snort another half a line, to get through the day and then sleep at his normal bedtime that night.
The passage of time was so much accelerated during the segments where he was under the influence of the drug that, whatever he was doing, he found that he was still doing it hours and hours later. He wasn't normally a big fan of computer games, but he had almost completed the one he had been playing. On the pretence of completing the game, he snorted another half a line.
Feeling a little sleepy in the small hours of the morning, he decided to doze. He slept and then suddenly awoke feeling hyper alert. He was acutely aware of the sound of his own breathing, his heart beating, every noise in and outside the house. He could hear the ticking of his watch and time had slowed almost to a crawl. His pulse raced and he was terrified that he was going to have a heart attack. He lay perfectly still on the sofa and tried to calm himself down, controlling his breathing. He fought rising panic for what felt like an agonisingly long period of time before deciding that he had to distract himself. He decided to go out for a walk.
It was a bright morning, still quiet before the commuter rush. He turned left out of his front door and walked 50 metres before deciding that there would be too many people on the main road. He headed the other way, past his house and got halfway down his road before he panicked that he was getting too far away from home if he needed to hide himself away or wait for an ambulance. He walked slowly back at first and then worried that his neighbours were probably watching his strange behaviour, so he hurried back home. Inside, he paced around downstairs, unable to settle himself.
Sitting down at the dining room table, he started to scribble a note explaining what he had done. Screwing up that piece of paper, he started to write down all the medications he had taken without a prescription: dates and dosages. Grabbing more sheets of paper, he wrote a whole set of notes, explaining every doctor's appointment, outpatient visit and inpatient admission that he could remember, along with diagnoses and medications he had been prescribed. On a final sheet of paper he explained that he had bought a research chemical called "FRL-V4" from the internet, but he didn't know what the active ingredient was. He wrote that he feared he had overdosed, damaged his heart or had some kind of allergic reaction. He wrote: "I've had an unplanned binge and I think I'm getting addicted."
Neil knew the idea that you could become addicted the first time you ever tried a drug was ridiculous. There was no such thing as something that was instantly addictive. However, he knew that he'd jettisoned his plan to only take a fixed known dosage and never to binge. He knew that he wanted to take more of the drug, but he also didn't want to take any more because it obviously caused him to have massive panic attacks.
At some point while he was writing, he had calmed down. He now felt quite good; he was flooded with a sense of relief. The feelings of dread and the near-certainty that he was going to die - or at the very least be rushed off to hospital - had dissipated and he spent the afternoon having a shower and eating a little. His appetite and tiredness returned that evening and he slept for nearly 14 uninterrupted hours. When he awoke he felt mostly normal, hungry and a little depressed. However, the drug played on his mind more than he was comfortable admitting to himself.
Having had such a scary experience with the panic attacks, he wanted to flush the remaining powder he had left. Strangely, the memories that stuck in his mind most clearly were how much relief he felt when the panic attacks were finally over, as well as the relief he felt from the panic when he snorted another half a line. Fatefully, he did not flush the powder.
He managed to delay almost a week before he took the drug again. Addiction did not become a daily habit. He seemed unable to snort half a line and then put up with the panic attacks. His binges would last two or three days, until the panic would be accompanied by enough sleep deprivation to bring sleep. As he got more and more tired, he would sleep through the worst of the comedown. In a way, he was functional, because he would eat and sleep to catch up in-between his binges. However, he knew that his life now revolved around taking drugs and addiction had taken hold.
Taking to the Internet to research the unknown chemical that had its hooks in him, he discovered a thread of discussion where people were speculating what the active ingredients in "FRL-V4" were. There seemed to be consensus that it had to contain one of the most feared and notorious 'designer' drugs. Searching online, there were no shortage of horror stories about this chemical, nicknamed "Peony". News stories reported one man had chewed off a tramp's face and a Dot Com billionaire had murdered his girlfriend, while under the influence.
Unwittingly, he was committing the names of these chemicals and where they came from - Chinese laboratories - to memory, while he struggled with addiction and also tried to find information about some less harmful substitute that would help him escape his predicament.
To obtain the pure chemical form of "Peony" would be incredibly dangerous, because it was so potent, but he could try to substitute it with similar drugs that were less addictive and caused fewer side effects. It would take a couple of weeks for deliveries from China to reach him. In the meantime, his addiction raged and he started to go on binges lasting four or five days.
When his weighing scales and the first of his Chinese orders were delivered, things did not improve. He was exhausted and sloppy with his measurements. He had become used to estimating his doses by eye. Snorting a big line of "FRL-V4" and a medium sized one did not make much difference. The difference between 5 milligrams and 10 milligrams of something that was 99% pure made a huge difference. His binges started to last for over a week, because he would be kept awake for days at a time when he snorted a single line of the potent chemicals.
Feeling his life was totally out of control and it would not be long before an overdose meant death or hospitalisation, Neil decided that he was a lost cause. The idea of running away to the caravan started to obsess him. He wanted to spare Lara and his family the distress of finding him dead from his addiction.
He had promised himself that he would never cross one line with his addiction: he would never inject drugs. It was a strange thing to have decided, but everything he'd read suggested that injecting drug users were generally in their death throes. However, he had taken a syringe with him to the caravan.
By dissolving chemicals in half a litre of water, he had an exactly one milligram of drug per millilitre of water. Sucking up the chemical solution into a syringe, he could measure a dose quite accurately without his weighing scales. He didn't even need a hypodermic needle: he could simply swallow the liquid. His stomach acid would destroy about 50% of the chemical, but half of it would reach his bloodstream.
Desperate for something to drink, Neil now reached for a glass bottle that he had dissolved drugs into. The water had reacted with the chemical and seemed to have destroyed it. He took a couple of big glugs from the bottle.
Without any means of measuring the weight of his doses accurately, Neil had been playing Russian Roulette with his life. A small dose could have no effect at all and a large dose would leave him with stimulant psychosis for days, as well as putting incredible strain on his heart. It was miraculous that he had survived so long.
In a state of drug-induced insanity, every bit of powder in the caravan had been consumed, accidentally spilled or destroyed. Neil had been clean for a few days, but he was in such a damaged state that he hadn't had the energy to limp to his van or to the country lane where he might be discovered by a passing driver.
Now, he felt a sharpness return to his mind. His injuries hurt less. His back and joints didn't seem to ache so badly. He felt his limbs start to get lighter. The water had reduced the potency of the drug, but it hadn't destroyed it altogether. Neil was able to sit up and move around. He felt like he could get to the van.