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Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart
April 12, 2010 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Hallucinogens have been making a comeback to the research table.

We're all aware of the hyperbole, occasional excess (some nsfw), and misuse of the middle of last century, but our understanding of psychoactive compounds is evolving.
posted by cmoj (76 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hallucinogens have been making a comeback to the research table.

and the table sprouted wings and flew away, maaan...
posted by jonmc at 8:02 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like there is a clear winner in the psilocybin/Prozac smackdown!
posted by kozad at 8:02 AM on April 12, 2010


I told you guys.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Two little young fish are swimming past a old, slow fish.

The old fish calls out, "How's the water, boys?"

The young fish respond, "What's water?"

or
posted by mrgrimm at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny. I was just thinking about taking some "medicine" this weekend (after a several year hiatus)
posted by rosswald at 8:20 AM on April 12, 2010


Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in “sacred mushrooms” can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries.

Was this seriously in question?
posted by empath at 8:21 AM on April 12, 2010


This American Life: Sink Or Swim

Act Two. I'm Not A Doctor But I Play One At The Holiday Inn.
A former heroin addict realizes that he wants to help other addicts kick their habits. The problem is, he wants to do this using a hallucinogenic drug – ibogaine – that is completely illegal, and which requires medical expertise he doesn't have.

posted by The Whelk at 8:22 AM on April 12, 2010


Dr. Martin’s experience is fairly typical, Dr. Griffiths said: an improved outlook on life after an experience in which the boundaries between the self and others disappear.

In interviews, Dr. Martin and other subjects described their egos and bodies vanishing as they felt part of some larger state of consciousness in which their personal worries and insecurities vanished. They found themselves reviewing past relationships with lovers and relatives with a new sense of empathy.

“It was a whole personality shift for me,” Dr. Martin said. “I wasn’t any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things. I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people. You have a feeling of attunement with other people.”


Yeah, man, I've been there, it's totally fucking amazing, but it won't last. Other people continue to suck, but you'll eventually be sober.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, man, I've been there, it's totally fucking amazing, but it won't last. Other people continue to suck, but you'll eventually be sober.

I suppose that's one possible message you can take away from the experience.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:34 AM on April 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Try reading this reddit thread at the same time you are reading this one. It's amazing.
posted by swift at 8:36 AM on April 12, 2010


I've decided to become bitter about hallucinogens and people's experiences on them.

Because I can't get any, damnit.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:41 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


empath:
“It was a whole personality shift for me,” Dr. Martin said. “I wasn’t any longer attached to my performance and trying to control things. I could see that the really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share your natural enthusiasms with people. You have a feeling of attunement with other people.”
Yeah, man, I've been there, it's totally fucking amazing, but it won't last. Other people continue to suck, but you'll eventually be sober.
I can't decide which is more awesome: that you posted that facetiously because of your username, or that you posted that in spite of and without any awareness of the ironysterical nature of your comment!
posted by hincandenza at 8:44 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


but it's great to see the issue in the news and science hopefully catching up. I had not seen the Johns Hopkins study from 2006. An interview with Roland Griffiths is linked to at the bottom:
Q 2: Do you have any sign that the same brain "machinery" affected by psilocybin is identical to what people experience in spiritual epiphanies that occur without drugs?

That work hasn’t been done yet, though there is good reason to believe that similar mechanisms are at work during profound religious experiences, however they might be occasioned (for example, by fasting, meditation, controlled breathing, sleep deprivation, near death experiences, infectious disease states, or psychoactive substances such as psilocybin). The neurology of religious experience, newly termed neurotheology, is drawing interest as a new frontier of study.
What's also cool (with what he's implying, I suppose, not the results of the study) is that people can invoke the same "profound religious experiences" through controlled breathing (not without its own wacky critics, of course.)

Yeah, man, I've been there, it's totally fucking amazing, but it won't last. Other people continue to suck, but you'll eventually be sober.

One vote against. I think one experience can change someone's life forever (or for 50 years, whatever). I'm not sure if you've experienced depression or known someone who has (bipolar is different), but I think a psychedelic experience can occasionally be a life changer.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suppose that's one possible message you can take away from the experience.

I'm being a little flippant. I think everyone should do LSD at least once... I just don't think it should be oversold. It's not The Answer.
posted by empath at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


“Under unmonitored conditions, it’s not hard to imagine those emotions escalating to panic and dangerous behavior.”
posted by flabdablet at 8:47 AM on April 12, 2010


that you posted that facetiously because of your username, or that you posted that in spite of and without any awareness of the ironysterical nature of your comment!

The long story of my username is that i used something else as a DJ name and then shortened it because no one could spell it or say it right.
posted by empath at 8:49 AM on April 12, 2010


Yeah, man, I've been there, it's totally fucking amazing, but it won't last. Other people continue to suck, but you'll eventually be sober.
posted by empath at 8:30 AM on April 12 [+] [!]


Anti-eponysterical?

As for myself, I'd easily rate my experiences with hallucinogenic compounds as some of the most life-changing and perspective-enhancing moments of my life. And while the 'trip' doesn't last, the realizations you come to during that time are easily memorable the next day, and can prove just as valid. It's amazing how you're able to re-appraise your sense of self when you start to see the mental walls you've built to reinforce and protect your identity also serve just as strongly to prevent growth and development.. doubly so when one is not even aware that they've been building these walls for their entire life in the first place. Stepping completely outside of your own labyrinth is one of the most spectacularly edifying experiences, and will definitely stick with you for the rest of your life.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:50 AM on April 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


empath:
Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in “sacred mushrooms” can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries.
Was this seriously in question?
I'm sure I'm not nearly as experienced as empath or others, and I certainly share some of his "Yeah, the drugs get the goose out of the bottle... but they don't keep it out, so it doesn't matter much does it?" cynicism about drugs, but it's astonishing how far behind medicine and the mainstream seem to be about these drugs and their potential benefits and powers. No one who's done ayahuasca or mushrooms or similar drugs would be shocked by this. The cynical part of me buys a little into the conspiracy theories that hold our government made all these drugs schedule I precisely because of their power to awaken and deprogram people from religious or social condition.


I have a friend who is working on getting her MD/PhD at the same time, and when her husband and I had a conversation a few years ago about drugs, about ayahuasca and other entheogens, she butted in that she felt they were stupid and a waste of time (she doesn't do drugs- heavens to betsy, she's too good a person for that!), and that any beneficial compounds in the drugs have been or will be synthesized into a prescription pharmaceutical anyway.

I found her outlook to be tragically misguided, and representative of the present and future of modern medicine in a very bleak fashion.
posted by hincandenza at 8:50 AM on April 12, 2010


I have a friend who is working on getting her MD/PhD at the same time, and when her husband and I had a conversation a few years ago about drugs, about ayahuasca and other entheogens, she butted in that she felt they were stupid and a waste of time (she doesn't do drugs- heavens to betsy, she's too good a person for that!)

The problem is that there is no way to put into words what doing LSD or MDMA or Shrooms is like. There's no analogy with normal human experience that can be made. People who haven't done them tend to imagine them either like being extra-drunk or maybe like being in a video game, and it is just not like that.
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


My recent back surgery allowed me to reacquaint myself with the various effects of heavy painkillers, especially morphine. Back in my youth, I would have paid real money to have these drugs, and their effects. Now that I'm far older, I find I have little love for the heavy, dumb drugginess of my morphine. I got off that crap as son as I could.

All that said, hallucinogens live in a very special, colorful cottage in my memories. And, I would still jump at the chance to spend a warm, sunny day with my beloved mushrooms.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:58 AM on April 12, 2010


and that any beneficial compounds in the drugs have been or will be synthesized into a prescription pharmaceutical anyway.

I'm not exactly in agreement with that assessment, but I can certainly understand why a trained clinician would be insistent on such a thing. There's really no way of knowing how potent a root or mushroom cap is without either sending it to a lab or just ingesting some. If you're going to be administering psychedelics in a therapeutic setting, it's far better to have some confidence that dosages are going to be standardized.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:59 AM on April 12, 2010


The problem is that there is no way to put into words what doing LSD or MDMA or Shrooms is like.

You did a pretty good job last year, my friend.
posted by gman at 9:05 AM on April 12, 2010


I've been a supporter of MAPS for a couple of years now, because psychedelics saved my life.

When these wonderful substances are used for legitimate purposes of self-exploration and not just to "have fun and see things" then they can, by far, be much more effective than any SSRI/MAOI/Anti-psychotic. A lot of you might have qualms with this but picture this:

When my brother committed suicide, I spiraled into such depths that I thought I'd never get out. Abuse was taking its toll on my body. I was losing weight faster than I could keep it. I was pale, sickly, looking for the next little helper to take my mind off things for a couple of hours. I simply lost all the sunshine in my life. I had tried psychedelics before and they profoundly shaped me from an angsty teenager to somebody full of so much empathy I didn't know what to do with myself. Life was beautiful, I understood that - but how could such a beautiful life like my brothers be taken from him, albeit by his own hand?

So there I was. Wasting the hell away in a pit of seediness. Around me were bruised armed brothers and straw-sucking sisters and it was just hell. But I was so out of my mind I didn't care. The only thing that helped me forget the pain of losing my brother who I loved dearly was taking more and more addictive pills. My doctor prescribed me benzodiazepenes like they were tic-tacs, I was receiving more pain killers than you could possibly imagine because I broke my knee just two weeks after my brothers passing. High powered painkillers, gladly refilled by a crooked "doctor" (a pusher in a lab coat, really) every week.

And then somebody gave me lysergic acid in the midst of coming off some of those painkillers. And it was an utterly blissful hell. The withdrawal was there but so was the healing power of psychedelics. For the first time in a year I began letting go of my substance craving ego and seeing what was underneath: a living being, somebody who should be a legacy to my brother and not a waste of life. Those twenty four hours saved my life. I would have continued my destructive use of addictive substances had it not been for being able to see what the hell I was doing to myself and my family.

A couple of years later I am closer to my family than I have ever been. My life is getting back in order. I have so many reasons to be depressed and whilst I am sometimes I can easily see past it because I know under the cloudiness that is ego there lies an undeniable, wonderful truth - I am alive, I am happy all the time even if my ego refuses to let me see it, and goddamnit I am going to keep on keeping on.

Yes - psychedelics saved my life. And god willing they will help other people in years to come as psychology begins to realize the profound transformational powers of these wonderful substances.
posted by deacon_blues at 9:15 AM on April 12, 2010 [33 favorites]


I have a friend who is working on getting her MD/PhD at the same time, and when her husband and I had a conversation a few years ago about drugs, about ayahuasca and other entheogens, she butted in that she felt they were stupid and a waste of time (she doesn't do drugs- heavens to betsy, she's too good a person for that!), and that any beneficial compounds in the drugs have been or will be synthesized into a prescription pharmaceutical anyway.

I found her outlook to be tragically misguided, and representative of the present and future of modern medicine in a very bleak fashion.


This is probably going to earn some 0_o snark, but I've had the same conversation with a couple of prosecutors, and find it also depressingly representative of the present and future of modern law enforcement.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:20 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


0_o
posted by hincandenza at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for sharing that, deacon_blues.

I think time is on the side of psychedelics. They're not going anywhere, but the ill-thought-out laws against them soon will be.
posted by Drexen at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms. That's got to mean something.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:34 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


they taste like dirt and sometimes give you horrible gut rot.
posted by gman at 9:39 AM on April 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


We are still recovering from the sixties. I cannot entirely blame overhyped enthusiasm of the drug groupies. Even if the hippies hadn't been so eager blow a few bucks a hit on the hope of peace and understanding, we could expect only one reaction from the establishment, both dismissive and frightened: Of course those fiends hadn't gotten ahold of anything serious, and we should say so at once, but if they have ... if they have, that would not do at all. Transcendent experiences are to be lied about in the context of church, preferably while one is still recovering from Saturday night's boozing. If someone happens upon a capital E Experience, then they are touched and are either to be exiled or sent off to be a missionary, where their gibberish is at least out of earshot.

It's no coincidence that our three legal and beloved drugs are Nicotine, Caffeine, and Alcohol. One for anxiety, one to kick your ass into work in the morning, and one to cloud your mind when you have free time. Something to blow the cobwebs from the attic or to make strangers hug for no discernable reason will not be tolerated.

Instead, the drug user must always cope with the two faces of the Fear: the legal side, that the cops might at any minute turn the screws on someone now desperate for a lighter sentence, someone with your name on his cell phone; and the illegal side, namely that you might have gotten ahold of some Bad Shit. Not ineffective stuff, which leads to cursing but no refunds, but chemicals laced with gods (the gods you are about to face, and they are in a lousy mood) only know what — no quality control, no eBay stars, just a rumored reputation based entirely around hope and urban legends.

Even if neither of those come to pass, there's no guarantee of either a good time or at least lessons learned by temporary distress. Instead, you may be stuck in front of the mirror saying, "Oh, crap, are those budding telangiectasias? Dammit." Occasionally, you hit the jackpot: rubbing your bare back against the carpet does feel pretty awesome, and that stale bread? Who knew it could be so good? Maybe I could be a little less hard on myself for a change. Plus, the added thrill of walking into a convenience store for a snack, running into your friends, and having a quick conversation without letting them know — a pedestrian task transformed into trickster adventure.

Drug analogue laws have made the furious churn of Pihkal-worshipping research chemists almost obsolute. Gatekeeping, both in the medical profession and elsewhere, will keep these hallucinogens, even if they were to be grudgingly accepted in some level, at Schedule I for the foreseeable future. Any acquaintance the citizenry might have with it will be under controlled circumstances. No rolling around in the grass or sampling random items from the fridge and tasting them for the first time all over again. It will take the eventual aging out of the Just Say No! generation to get things to the point where we can discuss the matter like adults. The Puritan legacy of anxiously waiting for signs of grace against the dull backdrop of denied direct experience continues.
posted by adipocere at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


They are not full of extream snacktacular flavor.
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2010


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms. That's got to mean something.

The first time I did them, while I was in the bedroom with my girlfriend, listening to Coldplay, watching guitar solos spray great washes of color across the ceiling ('Look at the stars, see how they shine for you" ---awwwwww) and generally getting a hug from the universe, my friend was playing with his own vomit in the bathtub.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if laying naked in a tub and playing with vomit or developing a lifelong love of Coldplay's music was worse.
posted by empath at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if laying naked in a tub and playing with vomit or developing a lifelong love of Coldplay's music was worse.

Well, "I was tripping" is only really a valid excuse for one of those things.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:52 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


the ill-thought-out laws against them soon will be.

Yeah, we thought that 40 years ago, and the blue-noses are still running things. Drug laws are culture war, and the ascetic side of our culture still makes the laws.

What I got out of hallucinogens was a realization of how much of daily life is illusion, and a greater care in evaluating and re-assessing those illusions. I can see how people whose power depends on fostering and feeding illusions wouldn't like something that makes people into automatic skeptics.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:52 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


*is listening to 'Yellow' right now and trying not to cry*
posted by empath at 9:53 AM on April 12, 2010


R. Gordon Wasson did some groundbreaking studies about which he self-published several volumes. One of my more adventurous (and intelligent) college friends owned one of Wasson's books, which contained a particularly arresting statement regarding mushrooms. According to Wasson, the indigenous people who introduced him to the effects of psilocybe cubensis explained that since they were illiterate and could not read "God gave us mushrooms so he could speak to us directly." This friend encouraged me to experiment, but cautioned me to do so very, very carefully and not in a casual manner.

Several years later I had the unique opportunity to combine a very remote location in the forest where I was camping alone with a very large supply of dried mushrooms. I was methodical and ingested them following a brief fast and much introspection. Then I went for a walk.

The experience was transformative for me on so many levels it's hard to say which was most profound, but the salient feature of the "trip" was extreme, unbridled joy. The process of "getting there" was difficult, even alarming, but at some point I seemed to pass through a kind of portal and found myself making sounds which I've never made before or since, while simultaneously experiencing feelings of utter happiness, the like of which I'd thought myself incapable. I returned to my camp and, among other things, listened to music and drank some wine. A non-drinker, I'd never cared much for the latter but on that afternoon I was overwhelmed with pleasure; the music was heard and understood intensely and with gratitude.

At one point I beheld the birth of a pod of baby spiders, and the sight was so astonishingly beautiful I laughed and wept.

For weeks afterward, friends told me, I was a new person... smiling, amused, joyful, yet at the same time thoughtful and intuitive in my dealings with others. Transformative? Most assuredly so.

That was 30 years ago, and few days pass where I don't at least once reflect on that afternoon. I gained wisdom which I believe could not have been gained in any other manner, and the memory of that pure happiness has enabled me to endure a number of situations which I believe would otherwise have thrown me into depression. (They certainly would have prior to that day.)

It was one of the five most important experiences of my life, if not THE most important. It was certainly the most profound, and it led me to the acceptance of some liberating truths. Would I recommend it? Not to everyone. But I would not trade that day or its memories for anything I can conceive of.

The vilification of such substances due to abuse and misapprehension is a tragedy, given their power to bring positive change. I applaud the return to meaningful research and pray that others may also find enlightenment thereby.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms.

Yeah, actually I had a similar experience to empath with some hydroponically grown mushrooms. A bunch of us were at a friend's place down on the Toronto Island and these fuckin' things kicked in really quickly - like in 20 minutes. They were as powerful as most acid I've taken.

After a couple hours of not handling, we decided to get a water taxi back to the the mainland. While I was watching the grass grow on the walk to the pier, everybody came out of their houses, picked up their morning paper, and in unison asked, "why you going home, Gabe?"

We arrived at the taxi pier and waited for what seemed to be hours. I grew so impatient that I was strongly suggesting to my buddies that I could just swim it. Long story short - I ended up paying the cab driver with my leather belt as I'd already lost my wallet earlier in the evening. I went downstairs put What's the Frequency, Kenneth? on repeat and laid on my bed naked staring at the ceiling for the next four hours. Good times.
posted by gman at 10:05 AM on April 12, 2010


The process of "getting there" was difficult, even alarming, but at some point I seemed to pass through a kind of portal and found myself making sounds which I've never made before or since, while simultaneously experiencing feelings of utter happiness, the like of which I'd thought myself incapable.

The 'passing through a portal' experience seems to be common to mushroom experiences. I had a distinct feeling of breaking through some kind of boundary between worlds when I did mushrooms, but never when I did LSD.
posted by empath at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2010


Hey, I've got a friend at that conference—she does data management for the MAPS folks (mostly auditing their study results to make sure the data matches what was reported).

I'm just hoping that an upsurge of research makes acid more easily obtainable—I can get MDMA, at least every now and then, and folks always seem to have mushrooms. But mushrooms tend to give me gut rot (as so aptly put), and MDMA, well, it's just not as… crystalline an experience, and I really like the clarity of LSD.

But one of the goals, as soon as my bum leg can handle it, is to finally see Disneyland with these coupla tabs I bought just before the bike crash. Happiest place on earth, right?
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms. That's got to mean something.

I have never used shrooms. I have only ever known (in life) one person who used them, his account is that he spent three hours on the floor trying desperately to roll away from a poster in his room that was evil, toward the poster that was good. This was a guy who loved getting high, but he never touched shrooms again.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do NOT go on the 'It's a Small World' ride!
posted by empath at 10:13 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I grew up within biking distance to a cow field and took advantage of that gift quite often. One beneficial thing that stands out more than the rest (and I had all the usual retinue of psychedelic/mystical experiences) is that a kind of organic, visceral perception has stayed with me and I instantly know when I'm living in a memory or a figment of the past rather than actively breathing with my surroundings.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2010


This was a guy who loved getting high, but he never touched shrooms again.

Not too uncommon from my friends experiences. If you go into the experience looking to get "high" having a fun and goofy time seeing funky things then you may get your wish but thats the complete opposite way of going about it. Psychedelic mushrooms should be treated with respect and used as if it were a sacrament. Sometimes you may get a "bad trip" but rather then succumbing to feelings of doom and dread one should try to figure out why that bad trip is occurring and work through it. Bad trips can teach you so much more than any good trip ever can.
posted by deacon_blues at 10:36 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


here's a very interesting paper proposing an experiment involving DMT and the factoring of large prime numbers to attempt to prove the existence (or non-existence) of objective alternate realities. for real.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:36 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Making a comeback? They never went awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAS*SWAASKAD:SKASMA(0£)(£)Q£_I_)
posted by Damienmce at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2010


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms.

Dude. There is no suffering like suffering when you've broken time. That being said, I tend to pick very bad circumstances for these things.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:51 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you go into the experience looking to get "high" having a fun and goofy time seeing funky things then you may get your wish but thats the complete opposite way of going about it. Psychedelic mushrooms should be treated with respect and used as if it were a sacrament.

Yes, yes, yes! Although actually, I feel this way about alcohol, too.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:55 AM on April 12, 2010


sexyrobot: here's a very interesting paper proposing an experiment involving DMT and the factoring of large prime numbers to attempt to prove the existence (or non-existence) of objective alternate realities. for real.
Wasn't this or something similar linked on the blue a while back, or am I misrememberating?

Although I think we kind of already know the answer to this, no? I recall reading the much-missed OMNI as a teenager pre-web-ubiquity, and being turned on to "out there" ideas like astral projection/lucid dreaming, and the idea of "Akashic Records". But- in the spirit of the self-proclaimed clairvoyant who needs your $20 because s/he somehow can't win the lottery- if there were any truth to it, wouldn't at least one person have come back from the Akashic Library Room, or gotten the straight dope from the diamond-tumbling machine elves, as to how to build desktop fusion for under $100 in parts available at your local Home Depot?


The power of mushrooms, and especially of DMT/ayahuasca, is that they aren't ultimately revealing some new and more phantasmagorical world. This is the light show, we're living in it every day, and the periodic "nudge" from the plant world to remind us to be centered, content, grateful and aware is gift enough without presuming it's some other, better world we're missing out on.
posted by hincandenza at 11:11 AM on April 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


An article on hallucinagenics and not one mention of this?
posted by mikelieman at 11:28 AM on April 12, 2010


Sometimes you may get a "bad trip" but rather then succumbing to feelings of doom and dread one should try to figure out why that bad trip is occurring and work through it. Bad trips can teach you so much more than any good trip ever can.

Such an experience made me realize I was deeply unhappy with my situation, and inspired me to quit my job, move across the country and start over. I'm pleased to say that it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
posted by naju at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2010


An article on hallucinagenics and not one mention of this?

Ellis' tale is a bit of an outlier, not to mention he was taking lots of drugs recreationally. It's a pretty well-told tale, and really doesn't need to be trotted out reflexively every time the benefits of psychedelics are discussed.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2010


The machine elves will factor very large numbers upon request ... for a terrible price.
posted by adipocere at 11:58 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


or gotten the straight dope from the diamond-tumbling machine elves, as to how to build desktop fusion for under $100 in parts available at your local Home Depot?

If one's consciousness were transported to another reality, that reality probably wouldn't have things like Home Depot, or even nuclear fusion. Maybe the machine elves generate power by reversing the polarity of their uficorgs. We'd have a hard enough time talking to an alien intelligence from our own universe, communicating with a creature from another dimension would be nigh impossible.

I made this same argument in a Fringe thread not too long ago, oddly enough.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:04 PM on April 12, 2010


Cary Grant on LSD and his healing because of it.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:28 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


James Fadiman lecture "Using Psychedelics for Rational Work". Interesting descriptions of early experiments giving scientists and engineers psychedelics and asking them to solve technical challenges.
posted by well_balanced at 1:01 PM on April 12, 2010


Yeah, we thought that 40 years ago, and the blue-noses are still running things. Drug laws are culture war, and the ascetic side of our culture still makes the laws.

Hah, true. Well, magic mushrooms are quite legal in various place (they were until relatively recently in the UK), and for what it's worth I think that if things continue to trend towards pot legalization, the rest will not be so very far behind. I fully ackownledge that might be naive of me. :P
posted by Drexen at 1:48 PM on April 12, 2010


Do NOT go on the 'It's a Small World' ride!

You too, huh?
posted by mikelieman at 2:33 PM on April 12, 2010


"I'm not sure that is water"
posted by The Whelk at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2010


It's about damn time.
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2010


It's still too recent to be certain, but ayahuasca under supervision has dramatically improved my mental health. I suffered from depression and anxiety for more than twenty years, and tried any number of things to deal with it. Some worked to a greater or lesser degree, but none have worked so well as ayahuasca. It has quite literally given me back my smile.

Metaphorically, one has a "cup of happiness" to drink from. There are two factors at work to determine how happy one is: the amount of happiness in the cup (personal fulfilment, love, validation through work and hobbies, self-image, etc); and how large the cup is, ie one's capacity to feel happiness from those factors.

Mine had shrunk to thimble-sized. I was (am) living a relatively fulfilling life. It's not by any means perfect, there are still some serious issues to address, but objectively, I ought to have been happy. But I had gotten out of the habit. I had become un-cheer-able. I could be amused and/or interested, I'd kept my sense of humor and curiosity, but not delighted or excited.

Nearly two months later, I still feel more "joy of life" than I have since I was ten. As a side-effect, it has improved my sleep disorder (hypersomnia) to the point where I'm down to a pill maybe once in a week, and have almost entirely stayed off caffeine.

I would talk about the head-trip itself but lack time. While I disagree that it's "indescribable" (I believe that anything can be described given a sufficiently patient listener and sufficiently clear describer), the description would take some length. In summary though I believe I retained clarity of thought and continuity of memory throughout, and was at all times fully aware that I was affected by the drug.

I did experiment as much as I felt I could do so without compromising the emotional healing experience. It didn't seem to give me any extra mathematical skills for example, nor an understanding of any languages I didn't already speak, nor any ability to indirectly affect the external world. Not only is it "magic" that only works on oneself, it only works with information that one has already learned. The "machine elves" (or spirits, angels, demons - it seems to me that these are all the same thing of the same neurochemical origin) are part of oneself. The evidence of my experience indicates to me that they are a "user interface" to one's own mind, not externally real beings. Which may to some extent be a distinction of perspective. The neurochemical effects seem to prompt thoughts of holistic pantheism.

In summary it seems to de-emotionalize memory and improve recall, and also greatly increase pattern detection and pattern comparison, to a point well past rational justification. The human tendency to see patterns in events where none exist (I hung out my clothes on the line, therefore it rained) is greatly amplified. That said, one's ability to see patterns where they do exist, where one might have been emotionally reluctant or intellectually unable to do so, is also amplified; thus the therapeutic effect. Properly guided, it's CBT sped up and deepened by orders of magnitude.

I would recommend it, but I would not recommend taking it as anything more than a neurochemical shortcut to self-improvement. It cannot teach you anything that you (subconsciously, unconsciously, and consciously) do not already know. It would be extremely effective for PTSD and related conditions. It would be fascinating to explore its effect on autistics (I suspect extended use may normalize a high-functioning autistic), narcissists, sufferers of borderline personality disorder, and/or sociopaths. I would be very hesitant to recommend it to a sufferer of schizophrenia. Extended use could lead to self-fascination at the cost of a functional and productive life but it's far less a threat to society than TV.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:26 PM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thoughtcrime: If one's consciousness were transported to another reality, that reality probably wouldn't have things like Home Depot, or even nuclear fusion. Maybe the machine elves generate power by reversing the polarity of their uficorgs. We'd have a hard enough time talking to an alien intelligence from our own universe, communicating with a creature from another dimension would be nigh impossible.

I made this same argument in a Fringe thread not too long ago, oddly enough.
Well, first the stories of the machine elves imply they communicate with us but we have a hard time understanding it (or bringing back the understanding). But the point is that someone suggested we try to prove the existence of the machine elves by offering them a problem too difficult to have been solved by our subconscious or remembered in some fashion. And that's why my response is "If this parallel world were a real thing, and not just the product of running a new Operating System kernel on our virtualizing wetware, then wouldn't someone have already brought back far more useful information?" If you could bring back a factored large number, why not just bring back something more useful, such as an understanding of cold fusion to the point of being able to make a safe desktop Mr. Fusion model to power every car, truck, plane, and boat on the planet.

The term "akashic records" is this conceit that there exists a plane of existence where all knowledge can be found, including that which we haven't discovered or learned yet. And my supposition is that if any of the lucid dreaming/astral projecting/shroom eating pioneers who believed this were correct, they'd have brought back something literally light-years ahead of our present state, technologically.

It's actually a similar concept to the blog-based novel/novella found here on this recent MeFi post, which I highly recommend if you missed it when it was posted. Trippy, entertaining, and having as a premise this notion of our universe having a sub-channel of information that is the encoding of all the 'rules' of our universe- a sort of Akashic record of how the world works, that if we could but tap into it with the right drugs and state of mind, would allow us to perform a series of Einstein-like leapfrogs all the way to an idyllic technological paradise of free limitless energy and other 30th century wonders.
posted by hincandenza at 3:34 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


aeschenkarnos: It's still too recent to be certain, but ayahuasca under supervision has dramatically improved my mental health. I suffered from depression and anxiety for more than twenty years, and tried any number of things to deal with it. Some worked to a greater or lesser degree, but none have worked so well as ayahuasca. It has quite literally given me back my smile.

I would recommend it, but I would not recommend taking it as anything more than a neurochemical shortcut to self-improvement. It cannot teach you anything that you (subconsciously, unconsciously, and consciously) do not already know. It would be extremely effective for PTSD and related conditions. It would be fascinating to explore its effect on autistics (I suspect extended use may normalize a high-functioning autistic), narcissists, sufferers of borderline personality disorder, and/or sociopaths. I would be very hesitant to recommend it to a sufferer of schizophrenia. Extended use could lead to self-fascination at the cost of a functional and productive life but it's far less a threat to society than TV.
It's been years since I did ayahuasca, and I suffer for it greatly. I had experiences similar to your own, and for the first time it seemed was happy, focused, and content to bring about the change I needed in my life and stop judging myself and hating myself for what I've done to prevent being happy.

Yet now, years later, I'm once again miserable and depressed and suicidal. I consider it evil that ayahuasca is, for no reason other than fearmongering by "bluenoses", highly illegal for me to purchase or use, making it very hard to find. I am actually going to die by my own hand because puritanical busybodies made this and anything like it blanket illegal some 40+ years ago. I can buy any of 200 types of alcohol six days a week not 5 blocks from my home, but I can't be allowed to work with a shamanic healer and ayahuasca to feel like life is worth living.

Yes, I want to believe these things will change in my lifetime, but I don't think they will.
posted by hincandenza at 3:54 PM on April 12, 2010



Yet now, years later, I'm once again miserable and depressed and suicidal. I consider it evil that ayahuasca is, for no reason other than fearmongering by "bluenoses", highly illegal for me to purchase or use, making it very hard to find. I am actually going to die by my own hand because puritanical busybodies made this and anything like it blanket illegal some 40+ years ago. I can buy any of 200 types of alcohol six days a week not 5 blocks from my home, but I can't be allowed to work with a shamanic healer and ayahuasca to feel like life is worth living.


Man, there are places to find it in the US. If you're this serious you should pursue it. I"m sure you've thought of this, I'm just saying.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:01 PM on April 12, 2010


Eh, I've tried- I've ordered the plant materials from bouncing bear botanicals and another online shop (can't recall the name right now) and both times after trying to brew it following instructions found online at places like erowid.org and ayahuasca.org, I didn't feel much of anything, but then after an hour I got sleepy and blacked out, and woke up an hour later nauseous or in the second case even puking (as I'd used a higher dosage thinking the plants were weak or poorly brewed, but did not experience an altered state of mind). I think I need the help of someone more experienced, both in the brewing and as a guide to having a healthful trip. I could try again, but those self-guided sessions were a wash- nothing significant happened, and it was more painful puking and passing out than anything healing.

Which is my point: I already know from first-hand experience that having occasional ayahuasca trips with a healer- even a good therapist would be fine- could literally change my life as aeschonkarnos describes, as it did for me some time ago. Maybe after repeated healing/therapy I'd no longer need it. But I know I need it now, and it's far less of a regular commitment- and without the negative side effects if done properly- than the expensive prescription medications psychiatrists and doctors happily dole out such as Prozac and its descendants.

It's a sick country that way, that we'll happily see people disappear from our lives- via suicide or gang-rapey prison sentences- so long as the demon plants are held at bay.
posted by hincandenza at 4:28 PM on April 12, 2010


hincandenza said "...without any awareness of the ironysterical nature of your comment!"

Wouldn't that technically be eponironic?
posted by symbioid at 7:07 PM on April 12, 2010


Any mefites who will be at the MAPS conference this week, feel free to memail me. (Or the IHRA conference week after next)
posted by gingerbeer at 8:44 PM on April 12, 2010


I tend to stay away from psychedelics lately because there's always at least one moment where I think "Dear god, what have I done? Eating these crazy drugs, what kind of twisted loser am I? NOW I'LL BE INSANE FOREVER! AAAAAA" and sometimes it lasts for the whole trip
posted by tehloki at 10:29 PM on April 12, 2010


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms.

When I was an undergraduate in England, shrooms were legal, and I took them a number of times.

I had a flatmate who had trouble waking up on time, he slept through at least one final every year that I knew him, so he kept getting louder alarm clocks. Ones that exploded into puzzle pieces and had to be re-assembled, ones that had little math puzzles built in. None of it worked, so finally he got this little furry ball alarm clock that shrieked and hollered and flashed as it rolled around the room trying to evade you.

This infernal device was deployed against me while I was as high as cumulus cloud.
To say I did not react well to this is an understatement, when I finally got my hands on it I couldn't switch it off, it just got louder and more annoying. I tried to smash it, but it was furry and flexible and just started screaming louder and louder. All the time my flatmate and his girlfriend were laughing their asses off (as one would).

That was the last time I took shrooms.
posted by atrazine at 4:32 AM on April 13, 2010


there's always at least one moment where I think "Dear god, what have I done? Eating these crazy drugs, what kind of twisted loser am I?

Read, without surprise, as "what kind of twisted lobster am I?"

With you totally on the Like This Forever aspect. I spent a thousand years thinking that one night.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:32 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


None of it worked, so finally he got this little furry ball alarm clock that shrieked and hollered and flashed as it rolled around the room trying to evade you.

Man, I wish I could find a video of this evil stuffed animal I bought that laughed when you tickled it, which would have been fine, but it kept laughing more and more maniacally and eventually a bunch of lights and stuff would start going off. I brought it to a house full of people on shrooms and you'd have thought I brought Lucifer himself the way they reacted to it.
posted by empath at 9:51 AM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man, we had a stuffed duck like that one night when a bunch of us ate mushrooms. It didn't do much for me, but Jimmy sure wasn't into it. So, naturally, I ambushed him with it whenever I could. I think he threw it in the lake.
posted by cmoj at 12:13 PM on April 13, 2010


From the "understanding" link: findings also offer a pathway to understanding the function of drugs used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders, which are now being used largely without an understanding of their fundamental mechanism.

True that - it's like hitting a cuckoo clock with a hammer and it works again, and you don't really know why.

I may try shrooms first time next month. Lots of my friends reacted well to them, one of them was never the same. But I've had 2CE and some furiously intense K trips before and reckon I'll be fine. I've doubts about the 'cid as a grand uncle is schizophrenic and I'm inhabiting a strange world of my own as it is. My favourite vehicle is K+MDMA: The former wants to put you into a trip so strange it becomes unconsciousness, while the latter keeps you awake as it happens.

Real crystal MDMA has made a comeback to where I live. I thought I'd become more cynical, but it was actually that the quality of MDMA had declined (fucking Mephedrone). The MDMA and then MDMA+K, without understatement, have a lot to answer for the fact I am alive for much longer than I'd given myself ten years ago (it continually surprises me I hit 30 recently).

I sometimes suddenly remember with a startle people I know are in fact such clandestine adventurers of the mind, in the last not well charted and owned territories; whether they be exploring or leisuring there. I'm tripping like hell and going 'Holy shit, I'm looking at the Universe!' and then I remember I've taken drugs and think 'Hey, I wonder if x was here too'...
posted by yoHighness at 5:26 PM on April 13, 2010


I've never heard an unkind word about shrooms. That's got to mean something.

More anecdata, but I prefer acid. Shrooms can sometimes make me very sad. With LSD, there's usually not much room to be sad. I also prefer a nice long ride. As others have said, strong shrooms can hit you really hard, much like an acid peak but without the longer trip to go with it.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:37 PM on April 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


DMT is in your head, but it may be too weird for the psychedelic renaissance
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on April 20, 2010


Salvia divinorum: effects and use among YouTube users.
posted by homunculus at 10:08 PM on April 20, 2010


One of my friends brought some salvia over a while ago. It was a pretty strange high. At one point I discovered I could create a resonance in an inflated balloon with my voice, and I kept making it stronger and stronger until suddenly the balloon popped.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 6:24 PM on April 21, 2010


Modern Psychedelic Scientists Find Data in Countercultural Past
posted by homunculus at 10:48 AM on April 22, 2010


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