Guest Column: Why I used drugs, why I stopped

December 14, 2011|By Morgan Hartley

I was a good student at La Cañada High. I got good grades, read the assigned books at home, and spent time talking to my teachers after class. I’d been a varsity athlete. I studied abroad and written a column in this newspaper. I was also a drug user.

Many of my decisions during senior year of high school essentially amounted to wanton self-destruction. This was a five-month period of my life where I took hard drugs two or three times a month in fairly large doses, especially ecstasy.

I spent my free time on sleepless nights high at raves, underground parties in the warehouses south of Downtown L.A. or the deserts of San Bernardino County.


In 2007 I was an extreme case; few of my peers really understood what I did with my weekends. But what once was a small and underground group of youngsters has become a fairly mainstream cultural phenomenon, and more of today’s seniors and juniors might share my experience.

I’ve decided to share them so that all might learn from them, and to clear my conscience of crimes committed against myself.

I took drugs because I loved the adventure of it. There was of course the magical feeling of losing youthful insecurity. But the ability to step into a new world, and the riskiness of the whole affair, were really intoxicating.

Finding and buying the drugs felt like a secret mission, and one never knew what was in the tiny plastic bag that was pressed into one’s hand.

The come-up was like blasting off on a rocket. The world it took you to could be filled with pure friendship and joy — or paranoia and fear. While we certainly preferred the former, it almost didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was different, and that finding and taking the drugs gave us an exciting goal to achieve.

We never really thought about the consequences. The 18-year-old mind has an event horizon than drops off after a half hour, or however long the drug took to kick in. Consequences were never thought about until they happened.

The parties we went to only heightened these sensations. These were worlds with flashing lights and beautiful, transcending music, real fantasy lands. They were also places of acceptance, where almost everyone smiled (or hugged) and no one asked questions. They were places that harbored complete freedom of expression, as long as thoughts weren’t too conservative. They had a wretched dark side, of course, but its inevitable discovery could take a while.

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