I’ll go ahead and tell you it was diphenhydramine (benadryl).
For about a year, I’d use diphenhydramine as a sleep aid almost every night. I’d pour a shot of Zzzquil into a styrofoam cup, then mix it with some club soda and a jolly rancher or a Halls. (you know what other drug experience I learned that from?)
I’d sip that while watching my favourite Youtubers, then go to bed when I’d start passing out. This was my nightly pre-bed ritual.
It wasn’t just a sleep aid. I liked the high it gave me. It’d chill me out better than weed would. I’ve never liked weed, but diphenhydramine would be just right for a relaxing Youtube binge before bed.
Occasionally, I’d have mild hallucinations while passing out. A memorable one was a half-asleep hallucination of an animated show called Cat Potato. I didn’t realize I was hallucinating Family Guy until I broke my trance.
I didn’t realize the harm I was doing to myself until I watched this video:
(This guy’s hella informative and I highly recommend his videos)
I learned one moral lesson from this experience: Don’t use neurotoxic drugs every night, as benign as they may seem.
Let’s get into the consequences: Low energy and impaired cognitive function.
I couldn’t get through my day without coffee or preworkout. If I’d wake up early enough to make it to a morning class, I’d go to that class, then come back home and pass out in my bed.
I rarely had the energy to show up to more than one class in a day. If I would, I’d feel like passing out right after.
I thought my low energy was because I wasn’t sleeping enough. That was partially true.
Diphenhydramine would deprive me of REM sleep. No matter how much sleep I’d get, I’d wake up feeling drained. I’d need to take a nap or a stimulant just to feel normal.
I balanced out my diphenhydramine addiction with coffee and preworkout addiction.
Every day before the gym, I’d drink preworkout while listening to music and typing Reddit comments, usually for hours on end. Back then, my life was a cycle of highs and responsibilities.
I’d be high-energy during the highs and low-energy during the responsibilities. This was preventable. I could have been high-energy during the responsibilities. The only lifestyle change I needed was REM sleep.
I wonder what my life would be like if I did get that REM sleep.
Impaired cognitive function
I’d always think more clearly after an all-nighter, a drunk night (I’d never acutely mix alcohol with diphenhydramine). or after sleeping over at someone else’s. I thought it was because of the novel stimulation, not because I wasn’t consuming a neurotoxic substance.
Today, this clear thinking is my normal regardless of how much sleep I get or where I get it.
I was a good, responsible student in my first year of uni. In my second year, my grades and academic ability fell. I didn’t retain information or learn new concepts as easily. I thought that was because my values changed: I cared less for achievement and more for my social life and weekend fun. I’d stopped using school as an outlet for my anger and anxiety.
Changed priorities were only part of it. Looking back, my diphenhydramine use played a huge part in my declining academic ability.
You wouldn’t have noticed that about me if you met me. I didn’t even know that about myself. I thought I was just becoming more irresponsible.
That’s all, folks
Overall, I didn’t take my diphenhydramine usage seriously. I thought it was simply a relaxing nighttime ritual. In fact, it’s a mind-altering drug and I now take it as seriously as I would any other one.
I don’t plan on going back to it. I like my REM sleep and my cognitive function.