In one of my stories the main character overdoses on heroin intentionally (it’s a noble sacrifice in this case). Obviously, I’m not going to do that particular piece of research, I mean, I don’t have any desire to overdose, but it raises the question, how far do you go for research?
On the one hand, I’m kind of lucky… I’m not an expert, but I have many of the skills needed by my characters, albeit to a much, much lesser extent. I know how to use a sword, a bow, do parkour, I have experience in martial arts, good enough with computers that I recognize real hacking vs. the stuff you see on TV, etc. but most of those things are just skills I accumulated over my lifespan. Now I’m writing fiction that is outside my genre more often, and it’s different. The skills I have cover less of the skills I write about, and the experiences are further afield for me, less like my own life. It means a different kind of research, a harder kind of research. I have to work outside of my comfort zone, to do pure research without actually doing these things. For example, in my first conundrum, I plan to read the accounts of addicts who have come close to death, see what they report about the experience. It’s a saner way to get some kinds of veracity. However, I will still do as much as I can for real, because while second hand can give you a lot, it can’t truly cement it in your mind the same way.