"Ordinary sex: one-and-a-half minutes to half an hour; experienced as brief; centred in genitals; orgasm may be disappointing ('the sneeze in the loins'); if orgasm is missing, immediate sense of frustration."
"Sex with cannabis drugs: Forty-five minutes to two hours; experienced as longer than clock time; moving towards decentralised all-over-at-once sensations; orgasm experienced as total ecstasy; sometimes with momentary loss of ego; reality/hallucinations not clearly separable."
"Sex with LSD or other psychedelics: Two to three hours; experienced as longer than clock time; all-over-at-once (Freud's "poly-morphous perverse"); orgasm as oceanic non-ego experience; sex without orgasm sometimes perfectly satisfactory."
Thus Robert Anton Wilson, in Sex & Drugs: A Journey Beyond Limits. Wilson was writing in the Seventies, when he was an editor at Playboy. That he downplays the power of "ordinary sex" is unsurprising. He was deep within the counterculture, flying the flag (or as he'd put it, the lasagne) for the importance of expanding consciousness.
As well as detailing the good stuff generated by sex and drugs, Wilson highlights the risk of sexual dysfunction and catalogues various hazards: the "Frisco speedball" being one to avoid, a mixture of cocaine, heroin, and LSD that has "a limitless variety of harmful effects, with the possible exception of cancer".
For recreational users today, who are happy to take the law into their own hands and who have a regular/tested mate, what's the score?
Many people swear by cocaine. It makes you horny and god-like, and orgasm can be unutterably strong. Assuming you can get it up. Supermodels tend to prefer to take it anally; the lightest of dustings on the clitoris can produce a pleasant tingle - but since blow causes numbness, neither method is worth more than a token appraisal.
Mephedrone, AKA meow meow or plant food, seemed good for a while - a pure, loved-up, energetic rush. But as a diuretic that can mess with your climax and has miserable come downs, it turned out not to be much of a grail.
The glorious sensation of arousal and heightened sense of touch that go with ecstasy make it a natural rec-sex drug. Like coke, it's often combined with Viagra (E and V crushed together are known as "Sextasy") as it's also a vaso-constrictor, dulling blood supply to your cock. Soar on this combo too long and you risk your penis being damaged for life. If you're hard for more than four hours, seek medical help.
Despite the blinding headaches they can cause, poppers retain a place in the gay community for the way that they relax the sphincter muscles and boost orgasm. However, they can cause instant softness, and should not be used with Viagra as the mix can cause a fatal drop in blood pressure.
For the instant party hit, there's nitrous oxide. Walk through a festival late at night, and the calm is punctured with the hiss of inflating balloons. It will increase orgasm intensity, but only if you can be bothered to concentrate. "I've tried to mix nitrous and lovemaking several times," a Burning Man girlfriend tells me, "but always wish he'd stop fiddling and let me enjoy the high."
Wilson rightly praises the effects of acid on sex: a good trip can give epic sensations - physical as well as visual - and tip you into flowing seas of endless and kaleidoscopic bliss. Obviously a bad trip won't do much for anyone, so take it only with someone you trust to talk you safely through the paranoia. Or stick to weed: similar effects, but less likely to shoot you to the dark side of the moon.
At the scarier end of the spectrum is liquid ecstasy, or GBH. It's easy to overdose, and should never be mixed with alcohol, ketamine or antihistamines. Another questionable is the giddiness caused by asphyxiation, AKA hypoxia, caused when too much CO2 floods the brain. The more you do it the longer it takes to get the hit (you are effectively training yourself to survive without oxygen), making it more and more dangerous.
Happily, there are other legal highs deeply worth exploring. The feel-good kick in coke and E is the eurotransmitter dopamine, AKA the pleasure chemical. It stimulates the brain's reward centre and is what makes drugs addictive. It occurs naturally in situations of risk and aggression, also during sex. When we crave dangerous, fast f***ing, we are hungering for the crazy up of adrenaline (which produces lust) and dopamine.
The much quoted "wobbly-bridge experiment" found that when men walked over a high rope bridge, (ie had felt they were in danger), they found women more attractive and were more likely to seek them out for sex. To get this rush, combine lovemaking with some edge of danger. Screw in public. Take her to Amangani in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (amanresorts.com), ski Corbet's Couloir then make out in your giant tub. Or go to the Four Seasons in Amman, Jordan (fourseasons.com), and spend the day galloping through the desert on horseback and the night in one long tryst.
Skilled and slow exertion of pleasurable pain will flood the body with endorphins, which are chemically close to opium and make you delirious. But even the suggestion of it will work. Tie her down, then run the edge of a blunt paper knife across the soles of her feet, or rest the flat of the cold metal on her skin. Her mind will fill in the rest, and her heart will be racing - the best kind of sensual high.
GQ does not condone the use of illegal substances in the pursuit of sexual fulfilment.
Original article published in GQ Magazine, in April, 2011