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July 1, 2009

Holy crap — I had forgotten how terrifying the Introduction to Kate Gompert (pp. 68-78) is. Kate, as you’ll recall, is the young woman who gets deeply suicidal when she quits smoking pot — ‘I wanted to just stop being conscious,’ she explains. ‘I didn’t believe this feeling would ever go away.’ What feeling? She goes on:

It’s all over everywhere. I don’t know what I could call it. It’s like I can’t get enough outside it to call it anything. It’s like horror more than sadness. It’s more like horror. It’s like something horrible is about to happen, the most horrible thing you can imagine–no, worse than you can imagine because there’s the feeling that there’s something you have to do right away to stop it but you don’t know what it is you have to do, and then it’s happening too, the whole horrible time, it’s about to happen and also it’s happening, all at the same time.

I experienced something like a very mild version of this back in December. The word ‘horror’ is particularly apt, although in my case it was more like fear. After a day or two off the drug it would creep up on me usually around sundown, this sense that something was terribly, terribly wrong and there would never be any way to right it.

Marijuana is not typically associated with addiction (something that Wallace explores in the book), but this section is a crystal-clear illustration of an extreme case of what people generally call marijuana’s ‘psychological addiction.’ Tramadol, because it’s a fairly mild opiate (it’s scheduled a notch below things like hydrocodone and oxycodone, hence the easy on-line availability), I would put in a similar category. The physical symptoms of immediate withdrawal are noticeable, but in my limited experience they’re mild, at least compared to what I’ve read about in say, Trainspotting. But for me, the mental component is the real kick in the sack. And I’m grateful that Wallace has given the world this dramatization of mental addiction and its potential consequences.

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