early onset psychedelicization
July 16, 2009 8:11 AM   Subscribe

What's it like to trip on LSD (or other psychedelics) while still just a child (say no older than 13 or 14)?

No, don't worry, I'm not considering dosing my annoying nephew. The question is relevant to a screenplay I'm doing some work on wherein three 12 year old boys get dosed by mistake ... and well, what would happen?
posted by philip-random to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about drugs, but why would the effects be any different on a young teenager than on anyone else?

Here's a place for you to do some research: Dragnet - The LSD Story (first episode of the 1967 revival). The plot involves a "juvenile" chewing bark off a tree while strung out on LSD. It's very very 1967.
posted by jdroth at 8:23 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

A slightly older kid talking about LSD. He seems a bit older than what you are looking for, but still.
posted by aliasless at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2009

Probably a lot like this.

It wouldn't permanently damage them (at normal doses), if that's what you're thinking.
posted by mkultra at 8:26 AM on July 16, 2009

I suspect the most important factor in what might happen would be their prior experience.

If they are already comfortable with altered states, even slightly altered (i.e., alcohol, pot) then emotionally they'd been in a much better place.

A secondary - but still very important - factor would be the dose itself, a third the environment when they took the dose, a fourth their company (i.e., friends, family, etc).

First time, strong dose, chaotic, frenzied environment with total strangers would almost certainly result in a bad trip. But if they were at all experienced then this situation might go well.

First time, strong dose, calm, comfortable environment with loving friends / family probably would go well. Experienced in this situation would more than likely go well.

You can work out the other combinations.

Yes, in the late 70's I attended a wildly socially progressive large state run University to study Math & Computer Science and with hair growing down to my ass I partook of my times. Its been a long strange trip to becoming a banker in London ...
posted by Mutant at 8:29 AM on July 16, 2009

I suppose it could go any way you wanted, really. Just like with adults, they could possibly freak-out or simply go with the pretty colors.
Totally depends on dosage, environment, quality of the drug, whether they had any prior knowledge of what LSD might be, prior history of drug usage (like weed) etc. etc.

Innocence destroyed?
An augmentation of the wonder of childhood?

Flip a coin, I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:30 AM on July 16, 2009

Children have different brain chemistries than adults. I remember getting pretty high on sugar alone. I wouldnt be surprised if it turns out lsd does nothing other than a stimulative effect or that what passes for lsd nowadays (a kitchen sink of garbage drugs with maybe some lsd in it) will just make them sick.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2009

I wasn't dosed by mistake, which would certainly have resulted in a terrible outcome- but I took LSD when I was 13, expecting an adventure, and spent the night lying on the grass next to a barn with my best friend. I had explosive epiphanies- one on top of the next on top of the next. I felt entirely plugged into everything and every single object in my surroundings became a character in this universe-sized grand performance. I nearly died of laughter. My sense of humor was permanently changed (I'm struggling right now to find the words to describe how and why) and my sense that there is more to everything than our five senses can perceive was confirmed with a resounding YES. I recall there was a lot of this YES affirmation pouring down from the night sky and beaming from the surrounding trees which morphed into dancing gods and goddesses... so, there's a start for you....
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 8:43 AM on July 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

Like being wide awake in a strange dream. Exactly like an adult's acid trip, but lacking the context to know or to expect what is happening (and I think this sensation may be less terrifying than it sounds for the reason that A) many children have more flexible imaginations than do many adults, and B) children are less used to feeling "in control” than are adults.
posted by applemeat at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2009

Speaking as another writer, if I were you in this situation I would keep in mind that very close to 100% of your audience will also not know the answer to this question, so you can basically make up whatever you want. Throw in surprising or shocking details and it'll seem more believable.
posted by skwt at 9:24 AM on July 16, 2009

The age of the children may not be the most relevant point. More important will be their set and setting and the fact that they are dosed "accidentally."

In terms of set, are these basically well-adjusted kids from a middle-class background? Do they histories that have exposed them to significant crimes and violence? Do they have strong religious beliefs, such as a belief in the rapture? The backgrounds that these kids bring to their trip will form the raw material of their experiences.

In terms of setting, are they alone or do they have one or more supportive adults around during the experience? Do the adults know what is happening? Are they in an urban or rural environment, inside or outside, is it night or day, etc?

In terms of the "accident," do any of these kids even know what LSD is? Once they are accidentally dosed, are they told, so they know during the trip that they are having an LSD experience? Or do they not have a clue that they been exposed to any external influence? All of that will make a big difference in how they experience their change of consciousness.

All of these factors are more significant than age. It would make more of a difference if you were talking about a six year old. A twelve year old, not so much.
posted by alms at 10:02 AM on July 16, 2009

keep in mind that very close to 100% of your audience will also not know the answer to this question, so you can basically make up whatever you want.

FWIW, I don't think that approach makes for very good literature. Maybe if you're writing a screenplay for a slasher movie, or something, it would be okay. But you do yourself and your audience a disservice if you just make something up about a subject which (a) has been widely and prejudiciously misrepresented in the past, and (b) is well understood by a surprising number of people.
posted by alms at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2009

One thing that will make a big difference is whether they realize they've been dosed. Another is how much they know about LSD, or about drugs in general.

If they figure out that they're on a drug, recognize that they'll be back to normal in eight hours or so, and decide to enjoy the ride, it's entirely possible they'll have a good time. If they think they're just going crazy — or they realize they're on a drug, but they're afraid of drugs — or they realize they're on a drug, and they're okay with it in theory, but they don't know what to expect and two hours in they're panicking because it's still going — then they're in for a pretty rough trip.

Speaking as another writer, if I were you in this situation I would keep in mind that very close to 100% of your audience will also not know the answer to this question, so you can basically make up whatever you want. Throw in surprising or shocking details and it'll seem more believable.

Please don't do this. It makes for dumb, sensationalistic writing and spreads potentially dangerous misinformation about drugs. (Also, those of us who have tripped as adults won't know for certain, but we'll have a pretty strong suspicion that something's fishy. Shit like that kills your suspension of disbelief.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:11 AM on July 16, 2009

Oh, and Erowid. Start with the "myths and urban legends" section of the LSD info page. (Scroll down.) Then sample some of the trip reports, especially the ones on people's first experiences. Most are from adults or at least from older kids than your protagonists, but they'll start to give you a feel for how people think and act when they're tripping — which gets you a step towards imagining how your characters would react.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:18 AM on July 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

This won't be useful to you, but it's the closest I've come to being able to share this anecdote online. This is one of my favorite third hand stories to tell to other people. I want to emphasize that all of this has been related to me by other parties. I'm neither familiar with, nor do I condone the use or distribution of any controlled substances.

Growing up in Northern Florida, one gets access to a lot of mushrooms. Tons of mushrooms. It's practically a cottage industry to go out into fields pick few garbage bags full of shrooms, preserve them, then drive up to NYC and sell them at a ridiculous profit. Going on your first mushroom hunt is a right of passage. With crazy farmers, aggressive cows, and steep competition, your average 3 am mushroom run can be a harrowing experience. (Don't discount the viciousness and guile of a pack of territorial cows. They will surround you and attack you without mercy. Any veteran shroom hunter can confirm the existence of raptor cows.)

The abundance of mushrooms leads to some interesting gastronomical/psychedelic crossovers. People have mushroom jam, butter, honey, chocolate, smoothies, you name it. One popular delivery system is mushroom tea.

I'm going to cut to the chase here. One of my friends, while about 14-15 made a huge batch of mushroom iced tea and put it in her fridge. Her parents were out of town, but she was in charge of watching a younger relation. I don't recall if it was a sibling or a cousin, but the kid was about 8 years old.

My friend and her boyfriend at the time drank a lot of the tea and were tripping pretty hard when the younger kid came up to her. The younger kid was complaining about stomach pains, though thoroughly blizted by this point, my friend had enough sense to check the kitchen. Sure enough, the younger kid had poured herself a glass of the mushroom tea and drank a good portion of it.

So my friend had pull herself together while tripping in order to "baby sit" this 8 year old who was tripping balls at this point. She said that it turned out to be a great experience. The kid had a blast. She wasn't hampered by the self consciousness or social anxiety that most adults deal with while tripping. The world is a pretty crazy place for 8 year olds, they still believe in monsters and magic, they're afraid of the dark, object permanence is hazy, fantasy is still intertwined with reality. For the younger kid it was like taking the wardobe to Narnia. She had a wonderful time and it rubbed off on my friend who called it one of the most positive experiences of her life. The entire experience turned into a fantastical adventure that was dictated by the perception of this 8 year old kid. They ended up catching fairies and talking to forest elves.

The younger kid turned out fine. She went through college, holds a successful job and didn't suffer any weird social ticks as a result. Not that I would ever endorse it, but in some ways tripping might be more unambiguously positive for young kids than adults. That being said, I honestly think that any administration of such drugs to minors definitely constitutes child abuse. In this case it was harmless though.
posted by Telf at 11:24 AM on July 16, 2009 [10 favorites]

check out Anthony Kiedis' "Scar Tissue" - he talks about taking acid when he was young (6th or 7th grade?) - he wrote that it was a positive experience and gives some descriptions -- he was used to taking drugs by then... as I remember.
posted by mrmarley at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2009

Vague memories + Google = ah-ha!

Gary Fisher studies. This might also be worth looking at.

The problem you'll have is clinical studies of LSD, when they were done so long ago, were usually done on people who had problems. This was especially true for children. So while the Fisher study is good, it describes what happened to already atypical children so it may not help you.
posted by chairface at 12:04 PM on July 16, 2009

I did acid twice around 12/13... previously other drug/alcohol experience. It was readily available in my middle school and I thought it sounded very interesting. The first time I took it at a school band concert and the effects started really coming into notice when we were about to start playing. I was a drummer, and I felt more in tune with the music then ever before. I'm pretty sure I played everything perfectly. I then spent the remainder of my time at the school running around staring at the ground feeling like I was moving a big ball. I remember having a hard time focusing on more than one thought at a time and found it impossible to hold a conversation over the phone.

The second time was at Cedar Point. It was pretty overwhelming but I distinctly remember the laser light show at the end of the night, and not being able to distinguish reality from the lasers.

I'd be happy to go into more detail if you're interested...
posted by razzamatazm at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2009

I remember reading somewhere that Jack Black took acid as a teen. One of my friends also took acid when he was 14. My friend is just like Jack Black.
posted by hnnrs at 3:40 AM on July 17, 2009

I'd be happy to go into more detail if you're interested...

If you wish. Your thoughts are definitely interesting thus far.

I guess what intrigues me most are what I would call "impact statements". I was 19 the first time I did psychedelics, 20 the first time I got seriously high ... and let's just say, the overall impact was like an existential curve ball (much needed I might add) that made me seriously question many of the basic "programmed" notions as to the nature of life-the-universe-everything that I, a normal, educated, 20th century suburbanite, had come to take for granted.

I can only imagine (or maybe I can't which is why I asked the question) what this curve ball might have "suggested" to me had I been seven or eight years younger and still, essentially, an unformed child.

Thanks to all by the way. Some excellent stuff here.
posted by philip-random at 8:48 AM on July 17, 2009

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