Gravol is a trade name for the nonprescription antihistamine dimenhydrinate. Gravol and drugs like it are used to treat or prevent motion sickness and drug-induced nausea.

It is available in a variety of forms, the most popular of which are blister-packs of thirty 50mg tablets. A standard dose is 1 - 2 tablets every 4 hours as needed to a maximum of 8 tablets in a 24 hour period.

Gravol's (and Dramamine's, Hydrate's, Marmine's, Nico-Vert's, Triptone's) effects are offset by a variety of side effects, the most prominent of which are drowsiness, dizziness and blurred vision. These side effects can escalate into full-blown hallucinations and unconsciousness with high doses.

Gravol's potential for abuse is what first brought it to my attention. I've never suffered from motion sickness, but I have a knack for making friends with people who do. One in particular once related a story from his youth about a road trip in British Columbia.

This being a long trip and him being a chronically motion-sick person, his parents gave him some Gravol. They weren't really sure what was the appropriate dose -- "Just take 6 or 7," someone said.

His road trip was interesting, to say the least. At one point, a woman with a blue dress emerged from a lake, carrying an umbrella and staring into his eyes. As she spoke to him, she turned into a Honda and drove past.

The rest of us were, naturally, enthralled by this story, and amazed by the idea that safe, friendly, legal drugs were capable of producing such hellishly intense experiences. We wasted no time in looking up some information and trying it ourselves, in the comfort of our homes. Well, one of our homes -- strength in numbers, right?

One particularly reliable-seeming site implied that 650mg of Gravol was sufficient for its hallucinatory effects to set in. 13 tablets seems, in retrospect, a bit much, but at the time it made perfect sense. We downed a pack between the three of us and sat down for a game of Risk.

I've always loved descriptions of wacky experiences on DMT and LSD... people saying that they got to meet George Clinton, that they were literally transported to some fantastic alternate universe, or that their way of seeing things was irrevocably changed by that mind-blowing, almost spiritual experience...

It wasn't like that. I was the first one to feel the effects. After half an hour or so I started to feel a bit lightheaded. Nothing spectacular or even particularly interesting happened; I started feeling drowsy to the point of being unable to move, the world lost its edge, and generally I started losing badly in Risk.

I went home and passed out on the couch. I felt like I had been tranquilized; worse than that, I felt robbed.

Another effect of dimenhydrinate drowsiness is that, although you fall asleep much more easily, the drug does not allow you to enter the REM phase of sleep.

The next day I didn't feel much better. Not quite so drowsy, but everything had lost its definition. We met at a café; we laughed, we drank, we agreed it had been horrible. I noticed they all had the same half-fearful stare I had been giving off all day, and then one of us raised the question: had we taken too much? What if we were permanently damaged?

The day after that everything was back to normal. The friend who told us the story was so disgusted by the experience that he immediately swore off all drugs and declared himself a straightedge.

I admire that friend's openness with his parents; it was only a day or two before he shared the story with his mom and her partner, Shauna. Shauna was unsurprised, having noticed that all her Gravol had gone missing from the medicine cabinet.

His mom, while somewhat amused, shook her head with dismay. "13 tablets? Holy shit. That's worse than junkies who chug cough syrup while waiting for a fix."

We had sunk to the lowest rung on the junkie ladder.

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