Goldfish have attention spans of 10 seconds. For 10 seconds, if a goldfish bumps his head on the wall of the aquarium, his whole life is a headache. If he's getting his groove on with Miss Goldfish, then his whole life is one, long orgasm. Halcion gives the user/patient the short-term memory and attention span of a goldfish on cocaine. This is my experience with halcion.

My teeth were rotting out, from the inside, due to decalcification of the enamel or some other such weirdness. It was a horrible mess, way back in the molars and there was nothing I could really do about it except have them drilled to oblivion and replaced with caps. The really bad news was that four of my front teeth were in trouble, too, and the dentist was absolutely certain that preventative medicine would have to be instituted rather than corrective. The bill was going to be more than the worth of my car, but I figured that cars come and go, teeth should only go once, and only when you're a kid. If I ended up losing my teeth as an adult, that probably wouldn't earn me any cool points in the future. I spoke with my parents and they agreed to help pay for the expense of fixing my teeth.

I made an appointment with America's #1 public enemy, the dentist. They decided to drill two of my front teeth down and take care of the molars first, to see how it pans out before going ahead with the full work-up. Fine, fine, no problem, I told them. What's that? All in one day? Criminy. Oh, all right. Will I be knocked out, though? Yes? Great. Let's do it, then.

I showed up with nothing in my stomach, per the dentist's orders, and starving. I hadn't even had coffee and a cigarette, which was my morning ritual. I warned them that without my morning cup 'o joe and a cancer stick I'd be a ruthless ogre, but they wouldn't listen to common sense. Oh, well, I figured, it's their show, let 'em run it how they want to. I had driven my car to Mom and Dad's, got a ride to the dentist's with my Mom and made plans for my sister to pick me up when the butchery was over. Apparently, this was going to be an all-day event.

I sat back in the chair of doom, awaiting the drills and water picks to invade my mouth. "Here," the dental hygenist said, two small tablets resting in the palm of her hand, "Take these and let us know when you think they're taking effect."

"What are they?" I asked innocently. I am not one to take pills from strangers, even if they are employed by doctors. It's just good horse sense to ask for an ID on whatever you're about to toss down your throat.

"Halcion," she told me. "They'll help you to forget about the pain."

I looked at her worriedly. "Pain? What pain? I thought I was gonna be unconscious for this."

She shook her head. "Oh, no, not unconscious. We need you awake for when we fit the temporary caps on your front teeth. They'll be fairly sensitive to pain and exposure to oxygen at the time, so pain will be part of the process, but we'll need you to tell us if the fit is right or not. If you take those, you'll have no memory of the pain."

I remember reading about something called a "lethe field" in one of Robert Heinlein's books, "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls." The lethe field, supposedly, made a person's brain so scrambled that they would be unaware of anything, pain included, during recovery after serious surgery. The idea was that drugs were too addictive and the only way to work around that was to fiddle around with the patient's memory and let the body heal naturally. In the story, the patient never seemed too concerned, nor did they complain. What the heck, I thought to myself, it's not every day you get to live out a scene in a sci-fi novel. I downed the pills, bottom's up, and waited for about 20 minutes.

My first clue that the pills were working was when I looked at the television (they had one set up in every room for patients to watch while they waited for... whatever) and a commercial was starting. I blinked and suddenly the regularly-scheduled programming was back on. Either some marketing genius had figured out a way to make commercials last 2 seconds or my head was having conflicting signals somewhere. I called out for the hygenist and told her what I'd just experienced.

"Good," she said. "I'll go get the doctor. Here, put this mask on and breath deeply while counting down from 100."

I huffed on what passes for laughing gas these days, got to 83 and that was all she wrote.

 

The next thing I knew that day was waking up, in my own apartment. I felt like a Mack truck had parked somewhere in my lower jaw and I was hungry like you wouldn't believe. I walked downstairs, to the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator door in the hopes that I had some food in there. I saw a small tupperware bowl with matzoh ball soup. Some documents from my dentist were sitting on top of it. I regarded this with cold calculation. My roommate wasn't, in any way, kosher and he's never mentioned a penchent for jewish cuisine. I had gone to my parent's house earlier that morning and my mom makes some mean matzoh ball soup. I had been to the dentist to have my teeth beaten up. Ergo, the soup came from my mom and I had somehow forgotten about it (as well, I'd forgotten how I got home, but that made little difference to me as I was home and it wasn't worth thinking about at the time). I called Mom to thank her for the soup.

She picked up, "Hello?"

"Mom?"

"Oh, Jay! You're awake. How do you feel?"

"Okay, I guess," I lied. I felt like crud times ten. "I called to ask you something... did you make me some matzoh ball soup?"

She said, in the perfect jewish fashion, "AGAIN with the matzoh ball soup already???"

It seems that I'd had myself quite an interesting day indeed.

 

When I woke up from the surgery, I had a hell of a headache and my face felt wobbly, like 80% of my skull had turned to jello. Holly, my sister was standing there, next to me, with a concerned look on her face. "Can you stand?" she asked me. "Do you need help walking to the car?" She reached out to help me stand, gently holding my forearm.

I brushed the gesture aside, in a gallant move. "Hands off!" I growled. "I've been walking all my life, I can make it to the car, dammit!" I sounded like some crotchety old fool with too much pride and not enough sense. I tried standing, made it (barely) and took my first step. I and the wall kissed intimately for a second or two. "All right," I grumbled, "maybe I might need a little help walking."

Holly dutifully supported my doped-up carcass to her car. When we got to the front steps of the dentist's office, she implored me to be careful.

"Two lousy steps? Ha! Not a problem." Silly me. There were actually four steps, not two. Of course, I stumbled all the way down just as I was saying "not a problem." How I managed to keep from falling flat on my face is still a mystery to me this very day. Gravity must not have been paying attention at that moment because in any other situation, I'd have ended up chewing pavement in nothing flat.

Holly managed to get me into the car, strap me in and make it all seem like another day, like so many others. She's quite a remarkable woman, my sister, when faced with a stressful situation. Any other woman would have left me sitting on the curbside like an idiot. She started the car and turned on the radio, thinking that the music would put me in a better mood. Valiant effort, if I do say so myself, but it proved pointless. I tried to drum my hands on my knees in an attempt to keep up with the music's rhythm, but to no avail. This white boy had lost all sense of timing. In frustration I slammed my head into the headrest behind me. "Be careful," Holly said, concerned that I might jar something loose in my head with the force of my slam.

"I know where we're going!" I snapped, as though it had been brought up. Totally random.

Holly just rolled with it. "You do?" she asked. "Where are we going?"

More randomness. "We're about to make a 45-degree turn to the left in eight seconds." That shut her up all right. It wasn't because of the inanity of my announcement, though. The reason she shut up is because I was absolutely, perfectly 100% correct. She actually went back and measured it the next day, just to make sure. I even got the timing down, too, which stupefied her to no end. I couldn't keep 4/4 time, but I could measure out the seconds, trajectory, speed and angle of curvature in a mere second's glance to absolute precision? How weird.

So we get to Mom and Dad's and I proceed to usurp my brother's bed for the next three hours. I was in a flawless state of oblivion until the sweet, rich scent of matzoh ball soup filled my nostrils and stirred me from my slumber. I stumbled out of my little brother's bedroom and haltingly made my way into the kitchen, having only bumped into one of the three coffee tables in the adjoining living room. Mom was in the kitchen, standing next to the stove.

"Are you making matzoh ball soup?" I asked.

"Yeah," Mom said brightly. "It's soft, so it won't hurt your teeth, and I know you like it. I figured I'd make some for you. Think you can handle it now?"

I smiled, felt searing pain behind my gums, and mumbled an affirmative. Note: Mom is actually my step-mother and she is as goldenly-good as any woman could possibly be on this Earth, but she is not my real mother, therefore I am not jewish. That said, Mom makes some kick-ass dishes, matzoh ball soup being only one of them, but definitely one of my favorites. I sat down at the table, Mom put the freshly-filled bowl in front of me and I dug in. My memory is a blank on this part, but I take it for granted that it tasted good; it always does. When I was done with the scrumptious soup, I adjourned into the TV room to watch cartoons with my little brother.

Fifteen minutes later I found my way into the kitchen. "Do I smell matzoh ball soup?" I asked innocently. Yes, you guessed it, the halcion was still working. I didn't recall having eaten the previous bowl. Mom informed me that I'd already eaten one helping, but I was welcome to a second, if I felt up to it. Of course, I did. This might prove an interesting segue for the study of hunger vs. conscious memory. If a person forgets that they've eaten recently, will they be hungry? I certainly was. I ate it up with a swiftness. When I was done I went back into the TV room again and enjoyed more cartoons.

Fifteen minutes later.....
This time Mom decided I'd had enough, and I agreed, though I felt somewhat disappointed- I really wanted that soup! She felt it best to put some in a tupperware bowl for me, so that I could have some later that night.

An hour later I felt mentally fit enough to drive home on my own. How I made the trip, behind the wheel of my car without killing a busload of nuns is beyond me, but at present I am not wanted by the authorities and there aren't any horrendous dents in my car that I can't account for. When I got home, I all but tossed the bowl, dental documentation on top of it, into the fridge and immediately cashed out for the day.

 

After Mom and Holly had regaled me with my childish antics under the influence of this interesting drug, I apologized to both of them for being such a schmuck. They took it with the kind of love and forebearance you'd expect of loving family members. I remember only bits and pieces of that entire day, most of it only in vague senses. Like, I vaguely recall driving myself home and I have the sense of eating that soup (twice). Blessedly, I don't recall any of the operation or the pain. If you've got some elective surgery coming up that requires you to be conscious, I highly recommend asking your doctor for this drug. Of course, consult with him to make sure it won't affect you adversely, but if you're concerned about pain, halcion will definitely make it a pleasantly-forgotten memory. It'll be a complete black spot in your mind. Just don't expect to be doing anything else but drooling while you're on it, because it can and will seriously fuck with your head while you're on it.

Halcion is the brand name of triazolam, a benzodiazepine. Like all benzodiazepines, it has effects of reducing anxiety, increasing drowsiness, relaxing muscles and otherwise being a classic depressant or "downer". All of these effects are due to the fact that like all benzodiazepines, it agonizes receptors of gamma-aminobutryc acid, the body's main inhibitory neurotransmitter. One of the major differences between Halcion and other benzodiazepines is that it is active on a short time scale, with the effects taking place an hour after oral ingestion, peaking an hour or two after that, and then fading away in another hour or so. This makes it ideal to treat anxiety related to minor surgery.

I first learned about Halcion from Orbital's epic trance track, "Halcyon & On & On", an eight minute long opus of soft, rolling music that has an effect that is, to me, transcendent.

So when I learned that my dental surgery (an extraction of a rear molar) of this past summer would be done under the influence of a local anesthetic and pre-surgery Halcion, I was somewhat enthused. Actually, by that point, after weeks of grinding pain mixed with everclear and dextromethorphan intoxication, as well as a diet of chocolate pudding, I was just looking forward to having the tooth out. But on the morning that I went to have my surgery, when I took that pill and drank my tea, I was expecting and hoping for a little bit of loopiness. I had also read the above write-up, so was also a bit cautious about the pill. What if I ended up trying to kiss my 80 year old neighbor who was being kind enough to drive me to the dentist.

The above writeup seems to describe the usage of the pills for the purpose of inducing anteretrograde amnesia, which is not what my Halcion was prescribed for, mine being prescribed for the simpler purpose of anxiolysis. And that, in short, is what it did, and all it did. I did not sing "Fly Me To The Moon". I did not ask the dentist if there were aliens in her cupboard. I did not even feel drowsy. All that the Halcion did was make the fact that I was in a chair with people operating power tools inside my mouth seem like an acceptable reality, if not a pleasant one. So while different dosages and different people may experience Halcion as a trip to a bouncy castle full of magical glitter, I merely experienced a mild, short term and therapeutically necessary lifting of my anxiety.

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