Heroin, Ibogaine, & Patrick Kroupa
Copyright © 2002, Marc Powell / marc[at]rotten.com
(Original Publication: Cool Beans #13, 2002)
Patrick Kroupa: career addict, co-founder of the hacker culture stronghold "MindVox," writer of Apple ][e viruses, member of the legendary bad-ass hacker group "Legion of Doom," and presently an outspoken ibogaine activist.
CB: How long have you been doing drugs, what attracted you to them?
PK: Well drugs is a very wide classification. I've been doing drugs my entire adult life, and quite a ways before that. What initially attracted me to any given substance was just the desire to try the effects it had on me.
CB: What drugs have you found to be the most taxing on your body?
PK: Well, the most taxing are definitely stimulants. With depressants the craziest thing that ever really happens is you nod out with lit cigarettes and burn holes in your furniture. I'm not really into uppers on their own, I'm manic-depressive and things like crack or ice, just give me the same head I already have in a manic phase. Only instead of feeling like superman, I'm just miserable, paranoid and crazed.
All that being said -- there have been many periods when I've had far more dollars than sense, and when you've done so much heroin that you just can't feel it anymore, banging up some coke or methamphetamine, will let you keep shooting dope.
The most physically taxing experiences I've had, are throwing a lotta cocaine into the heroin mix. I don't really like speedballs, but I used to like get a hit with a syringe full of dope, line up another with cocaine, boot that, give it like 20 seconds and hit the heroin. This gives you the locomotive off the cocaine, you get the fire and ice effect, shooting through your veins, the pleasure centers light up, and just as the whistling sound hits your head and you're on total overload, the dope kicks in, and it's like this warm, slow wave just spiraling down into numbness. That fucking rocks.
However, repeating that over and over and over again, leads to extremely high blood levels of coke, no matter how much heroin you're doing, and after a while I start to get tweaked out and have like the Secret Service planting microphones under my floorboards, the FBI with cameras mounted in my light fixtures, and auditory hallucinations which are not much fun.
By the time you're on day 6 or 7 with no sleep, other than everything going down in your head, you notice things like the soles of your feet, your fingertips, the inside of your eyelids, are all getting worn out, and ya realize there are some pretty good reasons to catch some sleep occasionally.
CB: What are some of the more interesting dealers you've known or situations you've been in?
PK: Well the whole lifestyle you end up living can be highly surreal. When I put together the notes I have from that time and reconstruct the fragments; it's like this endless series of really bad B-Movies, all spliced together at random, with no appreciable beginning nor end, with one running theme: heroin.
And there is so much that's just, absurd, surreal, funny... One of the main observations straight friends used to have when they'd hang out through maybe a day of this with me was, "wow, this is so exciting, it's just like a movie isn't it?" Except, it's the same fucking movie, over and over and over again, it doesn't end, the credits never roll. And it's not this grand adventure anymore, dodging the cops, avoiding prison and death, it's just the same tired routine that I MUST go through every day, being sick a lotta the time, because I need to cop, in order to avoid withdrawal. It's got nothing to do with getting high anymore.
Off the top of my head, two of the most interesting dealers I hung with; one was this guy on the lower east side, he used to own 227, Lucky 7, then he got locked up for a few years -- which was entertaining in itself, since he had a federal case being built against him, but he wound up tweaking out on way too much coke, got busted for some ludicrous shit, to the best of my recollection it was armed robbery and attempted kidnapping; the state blew out his federal case, which went down the toilet, and the end result is he served 2 years in prison and was free to go.
When he got back out, he was one of the owners of Express, which was all over Houston St. for like forever, then it became Fire, then I lost track of it, but anyway; he was a born again Christian heroin dealer. He had a real business, which was pest extermination (bugs, not people), and he was in school getting a Ph.D. in comparative religions. He also had one killer habit, and a nice little drug empire. And I used to sit there with him, having shot up, half nodded out and have these surreal conversations, "You know, nowhere in the Bible does it say anything bad about heroin!" Well dude, ya know, outta all the religious books I'm familiar with, I admit the Bible doesn't top my list, but I'm pretty sure there's that "Thou Shall not Kill" thing somewhere in there. "I didn't say I was perfect, I'm just doing the best I can, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that if I'm a Christian I can't do heroin! Show me where is says that and I'll stop today."
I mean it's hysterical, but really it was totally whacked. He'd sell his clients heroin and then spend a lotta time attempting to save 'em and convert them to Christianity. Go figure.
This other dude was like a 70 year old Jewish guy who used to own a real estate business, retired, happened to have some kind of surgery, got a script for Dilaudid, and began his second career in the drug industry when he discovered there was one hell of a market that wanted those materials.
So anyway, he's a heroin and hydro-morphone dealer, who attends al-anon and narc-anon 12-step meetings, because, "It's this sickness. Everyone I know seems to be a drug addict." He never seemed to draw the connection that it MIGHT BE POSSIBLE this was due to the fact that you're a drug dealer, and thus, a highly self-selecting group hangs with you. "You think so? Well that might be part of the problem, but it's not the whole problem, this is symptomatic of society as a whole. But I feel good about myself today, thanks to the 12-steps, just because I sell medication that people with a sickness need, doesn't make me a bad person. I'm president of my condo owner's association, and you know what? I'm a damn good president! Hey, I made fish, do you want some fish? This is really good fish, you look like you haven't eaten, here have some fish, you can shoot up in my guest bathroom if you like."
Uhm, one of the weirdest scenes that exists -- at least in America -- is this stamp called Hot City. Hot City has been out for nearly 20 years now, from the best of my knowledge it's on its third series of owners at this point. Now this is 2 years out of date, which is where my first-hand knowledge ends, but having gone down for the last two decades, I don't see any reason why it would have changed.
Hot City is extremely popular -- what's actually in the bags is a combination of heroin and hydro-morphone (Dilaudid) which gives you this major pins and needles rush off the D, and excellent downhead from the dope. Occasionally it also has fentanyls thrown in, but it's usually nearly free of cut.
And, it only comes out at roughly 3 to 3:15am. So what'll happen is, at 2am on 110th and Lexington, the streets are mostly dead and empty, then building up to 3am, you suddenly end up with several hundred people in Spanish Harlem all hanging around this one intersection. And it's a total fucking circus. You have dudes from the suburbs circling in their Beamers, Mercedes and Pathfinders; you have what seems like every street person in Harlem, sitting on that one corner, wandering around, and you just have this incredible collection of freaks all waiting for that special moment. There are these Hasidic Jews, who show up every single night, there is the weirdest collection of undercovers all hanging around there, and I mean, it's totally entertaining.
Everybody knows it's there, the TNT building is 4 blocks away, and it's like there are a couple of lookouts, then a manager will wander through, and as soon as the pitchers come out, everybody goes fucking nuts, and there ain't anybody being cool, hangin' back, or bothering to pretend like a drug deal isn't going down. I have seen it from roofs of apartment buildings, and just fucking laughed my ass off. You have literally something like a hundred people per crowd, all of whom are fucking RUNNING, after whatever pitcher is about to serve 'em, so you wind up with 3 or 4 separate mobs, all chasing the pitcher they decided to follow.
And it's total fucking chaos.
Needless to say, the life expectancy of pitchers is extremely short. A few days, to a few weeks at most. But there's always some kid who wants to replace the last kid on the bicycle.
It's a trip, and it's funny as hell to watch. Of course if you actually wanna cop dope, you hook up with one of the managers, and arrange deliveries, because this isn't really a very low-key way to score.
CB: Have you ever OD'd on heroin?
PK: Well yeah, a few times. I mean everybody does at some point, if you have any kinda extended relationship with dope. Usually this happens with other people around, and the solution is somebody bangs you up with some coke, which is the old-fashioned cure they usta give you when you OD's a few decades ago, and landed in an ER.
One scene which was really annoying at the time, but funny in retrospect, is having copped really good dope, banged up a few times, and then I don't remember much of anything until there are like bright lights in my face, and I get up, and it's like, what the fuck...
I have a bunch of guys in my apartment shining lights in my face, and I freaked. It's like "get out of my house you assholes, and get the fuck away from me with that narcan. Are you fucking crazy, you're gonna blow my downhead, that shit is evil." And I have my girlfriend at the time screaming her head off, at them, at me, and it's like, what happened, why are they in here?
"I've been trying to wake you up for like an hour, you will not wake up, your skin is like ice, you're totally covered in sweat and you're not breathing much fuckhead. I dialed 911."
Oh... Wow, that shit was excellent.
CB: Which combination stimulates creativity the most for you? What is your favorite combination overall?
PK: Psychedelics... of all kinds. I mean entheogens definitely had a dramatic impact on changing my life at various points in time. I never believed in... well, much of anything, except myself, before actually experiencing it and realizing what's really there.
All drugs have something to teach you. It's just that, with things like heroin and crack, the lessons are always gonna end up being extremely difficult ones, which will leave you bleeding and wishing you were dead.
Most people do not live to survive the lessons. They get it, but they can't break the cycle, and that's it. This will be their life forever.
On the other hand, it doesn't really matter. Whatever road you're on, they all lead to the same place -- 6 feet under. It's just a question of what kinda journey you wanna have, and what mythology you choose to write for yourself and believe in.
So to return to the question, I wouldn't really recommend that anybody goes out and does heroin or smokes crack, but that's sorta irrelevant. What I have to say doesn't make a difference, if you're already moving in that direction, that's just your trip.
With psychedelics, I think everybody on the planet, especially people who have grown up in a essentially dysfunctional, un-integrated, repressed, society such as the one we have in America for instance; would be doing themselves a major favor if they had any sorta of experience with entheogens.
I don't mean everybody should go drop acid, but taking a reasonable amount of something, with the right set, setting and intent; usually provides a lot of insight that you don't have at the time, and allows the integration of many issues and things, you probably have no conscious awareness of.
CB: Why did you decide to quit heroin, was it an accident?
PK: [Laughs...] Nah, I don't think there is any human being who has ever quit heroin by accident.
When I picked up heroin, and caught my first habit, it was with a specific intent. It wasn't this accident that just happened, I needed to numb out. A decade down the line, through a process of attrition all your problems will have gone away, leaving you with just one, great big problem, called your habit.
In some ways this is acceptable, but for me personally it was just realizing that too many years have passed here, the situations that caused me to pick up heroin in the first place are long gone, and if I get real about it, what Burroughs had to say about dope is completely correct. It's not a high, it's a life. And this will be it.
I will never accomplish any of the things I was interested in doing, I will never move -- in any direction really, because my entire life revolves around heroin. And really, that's okay... but it's not what I want, therefore I have one problem left: kicking dope.
And... it took a while, from the point of making that choice, it was about another year before I got it together enough to stay clean.
CB: you detoxed with ibogaine... could you describe what ibogaine is?
PK: Ibogaine comes from this rain-forest shrub, called Tabernanthe iboga, which people in the Gabon have been using for a few hundred years in tribal initiation ceremonies of the Bwiti religion. It's sort of a coming-of-age, and entering manhood, rite of passage, type deal.
A while back, when ibogaine was not schedule I, and circulating in the United States, and Timothy Leary hadn't quite started up with, "Tune in, turn on, drop out," which pretty much killed establishment acceptance of psychedelic substances, and tanked most of the research that was being done with 'em -- people who were addicted to heroin tried ibogaine. Not with any intent to detox, but just to see what it would do, because they were drug addicts, it was there, they were there, what're the odds -- full speed ahead.
And what happened was, they left the planet for 'bout a day, came back to earth, and hey... ya know. SOMETHING is very different here. I'm strung-out on heroin, I haven't had a fix in over a day, and I'm not sick. Not only am I not sick, but it just doesn't seem very appealing to me... Wow. What the hell is this shit?
CB: how many times have you done ibogaine?
PK: Well, a few times, just to detox. I did two back to back, when I finally got my head together and really started to focus on getting un-sprung. After being clean, I've done it again, uhm, various times, for purposes other than kicking drugs.
But just as an aside, I mean, that's me. I know a lotta people who did the shit once, and it turned their lives around. Ya have to understand, I was, uhm, somewhat fucked up, or as my last shrink put it, "you need an exorcism, not a detox." Ya well, ya know...
The ibogaine will work, after just one hit. You are clean. But it won't hand you a brand new life, rearrange everything in your head, and act as a magical force-field that keeps the drugs away from you. That's the part you gotta do all by yourself.
CB: what is it like to detox with it?
PK: The funny thing is, any other method... I could give you all kinds of war stories, and the top 10 reasons why detoxing with UROD or whatever sucks. Ibogaine is highly non-dramatic and anti-climatic.
You dose with it, within 30 to 45 minutes, there is this ball of heat in your solar plexus, you have a feeling of warmth moving up your spine, and wham. That's it. Praise the God of biomechanics, you are healed, your habit is non-existed, and all those neuroadaptions that occur with chronic, long-term drug use, seem to be reset to a pre-addiction modality.
I mean, I'm being glib about it, but it's totally fucking amazing. It's like looping through time, from where we are right now: what's the treatment for opiate addiction? "Oh, well, we apply leeches, until the evil spirits leave, and then flog you and make you read the bible." Oh... to discover, that there's this molecule that simply makes all of it vanish like a bad dream, it's mind-blowing.
And I mean, it does. Ibogaine is the shit. The last time I got un-sprung I was doing 200mg. of methadone, 2 grams of heroin on top of that, and 12mg of Xanax. If you're not on drugs, that combination is pretty much sufficient to kill 'bout 25 people who don't have tolerance. And to have all of that just disappear and go poof... I'm trying to describe what it's like to be in that, instead of just hearing about it...
It'd be like entering Star Trek or something, you have terminal cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and 25 other un-curable illnesses, and hey, okay, no problem, we will just PASS this SHINY THING that MAKES A SOOTHING HUMMING SOUND across your body, and presto, you are healed. No problem.
Even medical people who have basic understanding of addiction, by which I mean they've seen people who are detoxing -- they hear about this, and they simply refuse to accept it. It usually takes direct exposure to somebody who's undergoing this, to make people go, "holy fuck... this is actually happening, I do not believe this, but I'm watching people go from being completely drug-dependent, to clean, in 24 hours, and they're not sick... They're going snorkeling and hanging out and having a good time. This does NOT happen, ever..."
But it does, and it's amazing.
CB: what was your trip like?
PK: Well I mean, using it to kick drugs, my trips mostly sucked. I went to hell and got killed, over and over, in a variety of interesting ways. It wasn't too spectacular or much fun. But the actual hallucinating part -- or "waking visions" as people prefer to call it, isn't very strong. Some people come back with shit like, "it's like acid times a million!" Yeah, well, honey, what acid are you doing? 'Cuz this shit ain't no more than maybe 300 mikes tops, it's not a big deal.
But it's different than any other psychedelic I have ever done, and I've pretty much done all of them. Well, most of 'em, there are a few hundred obscure analogs found in Shulgin's work, which I have never tried, but most of 'em are very slight modifications to molecules.
Anyway, ibogaine is weird, because on almost everything else, you have tactile response off your body, what you're interacting with, things like that. On ibogaine, your body is gone man, it's like dead weight, your pulse is very low, your heart rate is way down. It's definitely not something I'd recommend without medical supervision, because while it could, kinda, sorta, be construed as a hallucinogen, its structure is very different. There is a relatively narrow window between what constitutes an effective, therapeutic dose, and a lethal one.
In other words, if you don't know what you're doing; dosing too high with ibogaine isn't gonna give you a bad trip, it's gonna kill you, like dead. Catcha in the next life dude.
CB: do you feel you're still an addict, or have you kicked it or what? Will you ever do heroin again?
PK: Addiction is like... energy. The energy won't go away because you pretend it's not there; you can't reason with it or make deals with it, but -- especially after ibogaine -- you can apply intellect, reinforce that with will, and focus and direct the energy somewhere else. If you can manage to at least occasionally open your heart and throw love into that mix, then you're doin' pretty good. If you can't, the only person who will really suffer because of that in the end, is you.
Being realistic... if you can do, whatever it is that you need to do, to break down your ego boundaries -- at least once inna while -- to experience love, insteada just payin' lip service to it; and let it flow through you -- with or without special effects -- that's God (or for me anyway, the final step on the road to the Purple Shit). This seems to fix most things, that I personally tend to throw out of alignment on an almost hourly basis, through many years of practice, bein' at war, with, basically, everything, but most of all myself.
And love, is interesting. It's not lust, it's not a power-trip, it's not codependance, it's like a vibrational range... that's always there, but through your programming, you have made yourself incapable of being in tune with it most of the time. The illusion of your separation causes a lotta pain.
CB: look into your crystal ball, what's next?
PK: Well right now I like what I'm doing, where I'm at. What's important to me personally is to finally finish a fucking book, and get my name on the spine of one fucking thing, which means something to me. MindVox was a cool thing, and we are really putting it back together again; but both of these are things that just mean something to me, and provide some sorta emotional closure. They aren't my ultimate goals.
To gaze into my crystal ball: I will be a partner in a chain of ibogaine detox clinics, and aftercare facilities; when I'm in my 40's I will run for President on the Libertarian Party ticket. I will lose, but that's okay, 'cuz I'll learn a lot, the next time I'll win. And then we can get to the REALLY important work; the first step is to get a lotta deep-sea diving equipment and recover the GOOD crystals, which sunk with Atlantis and allow the channeling of energy. These need to be MOUNTED into the pyramids, which hafta be LAUNCHED into outer-space, so that the final curtain call for this cycle of time may begin.
That's to start anyway. When I grow up I wanna be one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
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