My first holiday abroad was your typical holiday. 5 young men going to Amsterdam to get high and party. It was a friend’s kind-of birthday party back in 2009, and was my first time leaving the country*.
In the Capital of the Netherlands, with the oldest stock exchange in the world, historic canals, plentiful museums, the Anne Frank house and more bicycles than I’d ever seen in my life, we made the obvious choice. We went to the red light district to find a coffee shop to get high.
Since 1st January, 2004, smoking tobacco has been illegal in public places in Amsterdam. The effect of this is that the spliffs in the coffee shop in Amsterdam are made from pure cannabis all the way through. In other words, it was strong shit.
So we order a couple of spliffs, find a table at the back of the coffee shop and lit up. Puff-puff-pass, puff-puff-pass, we went on for a few minutes. A few of the guys with us must have realised how strong it was and stopped before myself and the birthday boy. Once I started to realise how much it was hitting me I stopped as well. The birthday boy smoked a little more. It was his first time smoking weed.
So what followed was him going through all the stages of getting high within the space of a few minutes. First he started laughing inanely at the stupidest joke, then he could suddenly feel his insides more than usual, then he started to get paranoid. Of course, myself being just as high I found the whole thing hilarious. I sat there giggling away at him until I realised how serious this was.
“I don’t like this”, he complained, “oh God, this is horrible.” I tried to tell him that he needed to relax, that if he just let it roll over him then he would be fine. That’s when I realised I was paralysed. Knowing I could do nothing, I leaned back and let the drug take over, giant grin on my face.
My friend had gotten up and ran off – my other friends had gone off after him. I was chilled out and relaxed, but still worried about my friend, so I opened my eyes and looked around for him. I saw him sat down on the opposite side of the room, the shop owner next to him feeding him sugar water. Knowing that he was being looked after I was able to do what I needed to do. I leaned back, closed my eyes, and relaxed.
Later, I was woken up. It was Mark. “We have to go, he wants to get some air”. I knew the state I was in, I was just handling it better. I knew I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t walk around. So my response was obvious.
“Dude, I’m not going anywhere!”
Of course I knew this wasn’t right, but I literally couldn’t pull myself up. I was in the most beautiful place at that point and I couldn’t risk turning it into a bad high.
I’m not all bad. I was worried about my friend, and I wanted him to be okay. So as soon as I felt able to stand I pulled myself up and I told them we could go if they wanted. Which we did.
Now, you need to know what goes on in the red light district. There are loads of glass doors with half-naked women behind them. They all want to sell sex to you, and they will do this by tapping on said windows, half-opening doors as you walk past, or shouting things at you. There are drug-pushers running around who will try to sell to by running as close as possible to you and whispering “Coke coke coke” or whatever poison they might be selling.
The point to take from this is it’s not a good place to be when you are paranoid.
What followed was the worst high I’ve had in my entire life. I was freaked out by the colourful lights, the constant tapping and banging of doors and pushers practically shoulder-barging me as I wandered the streets. I wanted to go home and sleep it off, but I was unable to speak properly.
The birthday boy was okay by the way. I think the fresh air did help him clear his head.
(*) Unless you count Wales.
Oh, by the way, I don’t mean to make Amsterdam seem like a bad place to visit. It is a beautiful city. I’ll write more about the good experiences I had there in future blog posts.