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The lows of highs

There had been worrying reports that one of our patients been picking up bits of poo in the park and putting them in a lunchbox. When the police knocked on his door they saw the muck under his fingernails and the Tupperware containers in his freezer.

Clearly there was something not quite right with him – ordinary people don’t go around collecting dog turds and then classifying them into ‘slushy’, ‘coiled’, ‘brisk’ and ‘heavy flusher’. I told the officer that doctors use something called the Bristol stool chart.

‘Yeah, doc, but you’ve got a professional interest in poo. This guy just enjoys it.’

He lived in a mild-mannered way in a mid-terraced, mushroom-coloured house and had a small well-kept garden at the front.

He’d been the perfect patient, as well as a working man, and a father with grown-up children. The patient had no psychiatric history and had hardly ever stepped foot in the practice except for an in-growing toenail back in the 1980s. 

But the scene in the living room was not one of a happy, healthy man. The patient sat, cross-legged and naked, flanked on either side by two bemused officers in stab vests.

‘I’ve been sat here for 14 days and 14 nights,’ the patient said. ‘And I’d reached it, before this lot impeached it.’

I don’t know if it was because he’d sat with his knees bent for a long time without his pants on but as he went on to explain he’d managed to reach a state of bliss – the universal collective consciousness, where coincidences don’t exist, where everything is interconnected and where Jung’s principle of synchronicity presides over daily life.

‘We don’t need full stops, doc, just hyphens,’ he continued patiently. ‘A full stop is just a hyphen coming right at you.’

And then rather unexpectedly, he exploded into la langue d’Occitan, or OC: ‘A chantar m’er de soq, de faire a savoir de FOT. Le FOTado… Into the flames! Acceeeeedio!!’

Apparently, he was a reincarnated 13th-century troubadour. And nuttier than squirrel shit.

I wandered around the house, waiting for the duty psychiatrist to call me back. I had a little poke around the place while I waited.

There were Post-it notes reminding him to call his daughter at university, there was a small collection of hand painted thimbles, some family photos and fridge full of poo.

And then I found them.

Two empty bags, brightly coloured and empty with ‘not fit for human consumption’ written on the side. But he’d consumed them alright – the whole lot. They were legal highs, bought from the local head shop. They were in fluorescent packaging which appealed directly to experimental teenagers and bored-to-tears middle-agers.

He’d been taking two particular drugs in huge amounts, and now his heart and his mind were racing like a screwed-up clock. He’d gone from hum-drum pebble-dashed normality to a crazed psychedelia in the space of three days. 

The chemicals, bought like novelty sweets, are unregulated and perfectly legal to sell. They had kicked open a door in his mind, one which would see him spend a few days in hospital and would give him a ‘breach of the peace’ charge.  

On my way back to the surgery I took a drive past the aforementioned shop. It was a hot day and its own doors were wide open, welcoming the unwary and still very much open for business. 

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.