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How Nitrous Oxide Spawned High Times

Nico Escondido

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I recently had an epiphany while floating away in a nitrous oxide bubble and it went something like this…

Legend has it — and this is verifiable — that High Times founder Thomas King Forçade conceived the idea for his epic drug magazine with a group of friends over a tank of nitrous oxide.

So what better way to recount this month’s “Flashback” than where it all started?

Of course, the idea had likely gestated in Tom’s brilliant mind for some time before the day when the idea burst out of a balloon and was decreed in a deep, frozen nitrous-laden voice that inspired those around him to join in his crusade. Nitrous, for its part, is usually a highly cerebral drug that not only inspires, but also emboldens. The problem is holding on to that dream and keeping the confidence to carry it out. Tom didn’t have this problem.

In 1974 he launched High Times. In the ensuing years, nitrous oxide was depicted and dissected in the drug journal, always portrayed in very high regard. This included a detailed history and a user’s manual for novices, a full exposé in the second-ever issue of High Times (Fall ’74).

What is it about this blissful gas that is so alluring? Well, for starters, it’s not called laughing gas for no reason. The feeling of euphoria, although short-lived, is powerful and, usually, enlightening. A drug that makes you happy and insightful? Well, that’s what many drugs do. But virtually no ill side effects when used properly, no trace left in the body after 30 minutes, and a high that never turns sour are properties that most drugs cannot boast.

Still, using the gaseous narcotic incorrectly — i.e., huffing it back and forth into a balloon — is totally the wrong (and unsafe) method of ingestion. Using the tiny whip-it chargers that kids buy at head shops and porn stores only incites the user to try and get a longer-lasting high by recycling the gas back into the balloon. How- ever, what these users fail to realize is that with each passing breath the nitrous is quickly used up and only carbon dioxide remains. This cuts off oxygen to the brain and can lead to brain damage or even death from anoxia, hypoxia or asphyxia.

Talk about a buzzkill… So why even mention it? Well, in looking back over 40 years of drug lore, facts and humor, High Times has always been an educator. And I figure, why not teach you kids something that our great founder Thomas King Forçade knew all too well — drugs are great, but only when used wisely. Tom may have used nitrous to conceive one of the most glorious publications of all time but — and this is what it all boils down to here, what if… what if… now hold your breath a second longer, here comes the moment of truth… just wait for it … shit… what was I saying? I guess that bubble bursts quickly, huh? But High Times is still in your hands… Talk about a revelation.

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