Nick suffered from a drug induced psychosis at a festival.

Student Nick suffered from a drug induced psychosis at a festival and found himself caught up in a spiral of frightening events.

‘This guy had climbed a tree. We all saw it, but no one gave it a second thought. Those kinds of things just happen at Wildeburg. A woman was digging a hole as if her life depended on it. We asked her why. ‘Because I need to dig a hole’, she said, and kept going as she foamed at the mouth.’

‘Lots of people and lots of drugs, that’s just part of Wildeburg. It’s a bit of a hippy festival, and there’s music 24-7. There’s also a lot of drugs. There were four of us, my two roommates, a friend and me. The weather was great. The festival was scheduled to start at 10 on Friday morning; we’d already arrived on Thursday to set up our tents. There wasn’t much to do that evening except drink. I had a lot to drink. Too much, I suppose, looking back now.’

I remember I didn’t feel well and wanted to walk over to our tent

‘At some point, one of my housemates suggested we take ketamine. I agreed. Ketamine is actually a horse tranquilliser. If you snort it, you enter this amazing dream world, except all your dreams are actually happening. You need to be careful about dosing it though. If you take too much, it’ll do what it was designed to do: anaesthetise you. That must have happened to me. I remember I didn’t feel well and wanted to walk over to our tent. Walking wasn’t that easy though. I felt paralysed. I definitely remember falling over, but that’s my only memory of the rest of the night.’

‘I woke up the next day in someone else’s tent. Apparently, my housemates had dragged me there and left me to sleep it off. It was Friday, I was awake and it was warm outside.’

‘It started raining at the end of the day. We bought some of those plastic ponchos. We had some Benzofury, 6-ATB. It’s a designer drug, you can look it up. Benzofury gives you lots of energy and feelings of euphoria at first, and you usually start hallucinating about three hours later. It all seemed to be going to plan, but I started feeling sick at around eleven. I went to sleep.’

‘I was lying in my tent, and I saw all these shadows passing by on the tent wall. People were putting their hands on the tarpaulin. Why were they doing that? They were keeping me up, all those shuffling shadows. They wouldn’t stop. I had a restless night. Was I sleeping? Was I awake?’

The other festival-goers saw me walking, they were all looking at me

‘I lost all sense of time. I got up at about noon, I was feeling exhausted. I dragged myself to this leather sofa that we’d set up between our tents when we arrived. I just lay there in the sun, feeling sick as a dog.’

‘It was a 500-metre walk from the couch to the showers, but I dragged myself over. The other festival-goers saw me walking, they were all looking at me. I started wondering whether I looked strange or something. I looked in the mirror in the shower area. True, I looked pretty tired. You could tell that guy in the mirror hadn’t slept much. Still, there were plenty of tired looking people shuffling around the festival grounds.’

‘By the time I had showered and made my way back to the couch, they were still looking at me, just like they’d been staring all the way back from the shower. I could hear them laughing and whispering. They tried to hide it, but I could tell. I was onto them: they were talking about me. Everyone was talking about me.’

‘I thought to myself: the festival organisers have built an app so they can track my location. I believed the festival-goers were trying to hunt me down. It was all part of this sort of Pokémon Go game, and I was the prey. Where is he? Where is he?’

Every time I closed the tent door, the shadows would spring back into life

‘They won’t be able to find me in my tent, I thought. Or will they?’ The shadows were circling the tent again and the hands started pushing against the tarpaulin. But when I finally stuck my head outside, everyone had disappeared. Not a soul in sight. Still, I knew they were out there somewhere. Every time I closed the tent door, the shadows would spring back into life. They kept poking and pushing the tent.’

‘I should explain something so you understand the story a bit better: at the time, I had a girlfriend who was really against drugs. We’d debate the subject every now and then, but we never agreed. I saw the benefits, she only saw the drawbacks. It’s not that we argued or anything. We just had different positions on the issue, and nothing was going to change that.’

Any minute now, my girlfriend would pop up with a camera crew and her entire family in tow.

‘I was obviously the subject of some kind of social experiment. You know, the kind of experiments they do at every festival. They’re trying to prove just how badly the drugs have affected me. Drug use doesn’t always end well, you know. On the contrary! Your girlfriend was right. Just look at the state you’re in… you look miserable, man. Disgusting, really… You’re a mess, just look at yourself. They wanted me to admit I’d been wrong, and I’d have to account for what I’d done. Any minute now, my girlfriend would pop up with a camera crew and her entire family in tow. They were filming everything, the experiment was part of a tv programme.’

‘My housemates started getting a bit more pushy. Maybe you should go over to the first aid station, they told me. Aha, I thought, that proves it. They know me better than anyone here; they know how to play tricks on me. They must be in on it! In fact, maybe it was all their idea in the first place. What a bunch of …. No, I didn’t trust them for a second.’

‘What kind of drugs did you take, the lady at the first aid station asked. I wasn’t going to tell her. I knew my girlfriend would suddenly appear the minute I confessed, along with a bunch of other people and a whole camera crew. I’d have to face the music. I’ll never tell you, I shouted. The first-aid lady stayed calm, but that just made me angrier. I went berserk. She told me she was going to give me a shot to calm me down. I was onto her, though: they were about to inject me with drugs that would make the whole experiment even worse for me. You’re not going to inject me!’

‘Yes we are’, I wanted to attack the first-aid lady, but the big fellow who had been standing by all along held me back. Before I knew it, he was sitting on top of me. I was lying on my stomach, and I couldn’t escape the injection needle. They pushed it in, and I told myself I was going to… Well, I couldn’t really do anything, could I?’

‘Turns out, I did calm down. I stood there hanging like a rag doll between the big fellow and the first-aid lady, with my arms around their necks. I just hung there, pretty much lifeless. My hair was all messed up, I was wearing red shorts and a shirt. I had scratches all over my face and mud on my legs. I felt ashamed. They took me somewhere quiet behind the tents. I saw a police car and ambulance waiting. Every remaining shred of doubt disappeared right then and there: I was definitely the subject of a social experiment.

I wanted to attack the first-aid lady, but the big fellow who had been standing by all along held me back

‘I was so thirsty. I asked them if I could have some water. The paramedic, who had obviously been hired to make my life more difficult, told me I couldn’t have any. We ended up arguing. The ordeal just didn’t stop. We arrived at the first hospital, and they told us they didn’t have any beds. Which hospital? I still don’t know to this day. I also have no idea where I eventually did end up.’

‘I found myself in a hospital room. I was lying in bed. They’d put an IV drip in my arm. I had to pee in a cup so they could take a urine sample. I got out of bed and tried to aim into the cup, but half the pee ended up on the floor. I felt an overpowering sense of shame. Thankfully, the nurses told me they didn’t mind.’

‘I spent that night alone in two-person room. It had large windows with frosted glass. I could see the shadows pacing back and forth through the glass. There was a hydraulic lift mechanism under the bed next to mine to move it up and down. It didn’t move once during the entire night, but the shadows around it kept dancing around. I’ve never felt so lonely before or since. I couldn’t stop crying. It was a waking nightmare. Every now and then angels – the nurses – hovered around my bed: they were very sweet and kind. They told me everything was ok, and that I’d be fine.’

I’d gone into a psychosis, and started hallucinating to the point where I thought everyone was out to get me

‘My girlfriend and her mum came to pick me up. The psychologist I’d spoken to before I was discharged told me I’d taken an amphetamine overdose. I’d gone into a psychosis, and started hallucinating to the point where I thought everyone was out to get me. I had a hard time taking it all on board. My experiences and beliefs about what had happened were unbelievably intense. It took a good week before I could admit to myself that it really had been a psychosis and that I was to blame for the whole situation.’

‘The addiction counsellor I spoke to a few times felt that cutting out drugs altogether was the best approach for me. Apparently, people who started smoking cannabis at an early age are at a much higher risk of psychosis. I never want to have that experience again. I still use drugs sometimes, but always in a controlled setting. I never take too much, and I always make sure there are friends around to keep an eye on me. I’m 26 now, so I’m a lot less wild than I was four years ago. That makes a big difference.’

‘Wildeburg wasn’t just a negative experience for me though. I was forced to face some really deep fears, and that taught me a lot about myself. The best thing to come out of it all is that I’m a lot more understanding of people with mental illnesses now. I had a few really rough days, but they have to live in their hallucinations every day. They’re not just making them up, they’re real to them. Just as real as anything around you.’

Besides this heavy story of a drug induced psychosis at a festival, we have way more stories about drug use, including the drug survey, including figures, experience stories of Groningen students and drugs, interviews with researchers and a dealer, and illustrations and cartoons by Groningen’s best cartoonists and illustrators. Want to read it? Order the booklet DRUGS: Students & drugs in Groningen for free (at least if you are a Hanze student) via this link and we will send you a copy!

Photo: Niels Punter (c) – The people on the photo bare no relation with the content of the article and therefore have nothing to do with drug induced psychosis at a festival.