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Michael Pollan reluctantly embraces the 'new science' of psychedelics (npr.org)
172 points by atomical 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 208 comments

Im a stable, sane, not depressed or anything person. I once took LSD (mixed with other things aswell...) and had a trip during which I spoke to God, Satan and various other imaginary beings. It was not a fun experience - I'm a man of science, but the feeling/perception was so real, my entire world view was shattered. It stuck with me for months after. I've gone from someone who 100% believed in evolution and a material universe, to someone who deep down thinks there may be a God, and I may actually have to face some kind of hell for some kind of sins I may unknowingly commit in this life. I don't consider this a spiritual awakening or something profound - it's more like I put a crack in my sanity that I can never completely fix.

These drugs are extremely powerful. They can potentially destroy healthy minds. I support more research and even, in time, legalisation - but I am sharing the story so others may take away the point that when you start hacking with your brains firmware, you should be EXTREMELY careful you dont accidentally brick it.

EDIT: For clarity purposes, this wasn't my first time doing LSD and it wasn't a huge dose. Nobody understands exactly how these drugs work, maybe this was a 1/1000 event. But it happened - and I don't do drugs any more.

I find this very interesting because I had precisely the opposite reaction once when I tried psylocibin. Despite being pretty solidly materialist and agnostic, I'd always held a bit of a soft spot for Cartesian duelism and a bit of a "but it'd be cool if..."

What I didn't expect was that the effects wouldn't just "feel real" or "be convincing", they were real. Subjectively, it wasn't inside my head, it was the actual world that changed. The fact that a small amount of psychoactive substance could fundamentally alter my perceived reality put the final nail in the coffin for any possibility that my mind was generated by something outside my own skull.

Yep, the arbitrariness and oddity of the experiences cemented materialism for me.

Something an acquaintance in the old Atari users group I was a part of in the 80s/90s said to me (when I was a teenager, saying "acid could be neat to try") stuck with me.

"You know how if you drop some screws or something on video circuitry of the PCB of your computer and the display gets all scrambled? That's analogous to what LSD is doing to your brain."

The patterns displayed across the TV after doing that might be really cool. But it's a profound mistake to assume meaning in them. In fact it'd be very difficult to work backwards from what's on the screen to how the video circuitry works.

This is a great analogy and something I found quite comforting (I'm OP), thankyou.

LSD made me go from your run of the mill nihilist to being convinced that even consciousness is a complete illusion and all philosophy is built on this ridiculous lie.

It's like solipsism taken one step further, no I'm not the only thing that exists because -I- don't really exist in any meaningful way either.

We're all just P-zombies.

Qualia is nonsense

If you thought relating to normal people as a nihilist was hard.....

Post-solopsism? Fck me dude, I mean say want you will about nihilism, at least it doesn't attempt to invalidate the experience of qualia.

I can't help feeling we're begging the question a bit with qualia. Yes, I have experiences. Yes, there's "something it feels like" for me to see red, or stub my toe, or whatever. But there's no reason to believe that that feeling is in any way portable to anywhere outside my own head. I don't see why "I perceive a thing and I perceive myself perceiving the thing" is so universally accepted to be something special or surprising.

As best I understand it, our "consciousness" that "feels" things is basically an overblown condition monitoring system bolted onto the top of a highly effective correlation/prediction engine attached to a whole lot of sensory nerves. Sure, a signal goes from the senses into the middle bit and the result feeds into the consciousness bit which cross-checks everything including its own responses, but that's a control system, not a 'soul'. Or conversely, you could say the spectrum of "error term is saturated negative" through to "error term is saturated positive" is a range of qualia "felt" by a PID loop.

> I can't help feeling we're begging the question a bit with qualia

Exactly, it's kind of like how the debate about "free will" is being handled, either you use a definition of free will that makes it trivially true, but useless, or you use a definition of free will that requires you to literally believe in magic

It's just materialism taken to its logical conclusion. We're just a bunch of atoms bumping into each other in a way that fools ourselves into believing that we're a cohesive entity.

Ever been tired and run on autopilot? Our experience of ourselves vary in strength all the time. If I'm really really honest with myself, I don't actually have the experience of qualia all the time

What's your solution to finding medium term (5-10 years) motivation?

The more I read on cognitive science (Strange Loop was the first and then you understand what was behind GEB) the more I concur with your view. It is depressing though.

For short term daily tasks, one can depend on routines.

For longer planning the implications are horrifying if there is no qualia in the sense that we think of it.

It's just like with nihilism, it might be "true" but it is not very productive.

At best it leads to Vito Corleone type of ethics, ie tribalism, I'll take care of my family/village, but woe to the outside world.

At worst it leads to Michael Corleone actions, ie screw everyone besides yourself.

Where do you get joy in life if Dennett turns out to be right?

I can only speak for myself, but I find joy in living vicariously through others who don't contemplate existential issues. Sometimes I can spend a day just hanging out with my cat watching him do random things with sincerity. Sometimes I envy him.

As far as medium term motivation, guilt, fear and debt seems to work for most people regardless of philosophical disposition.

>>"If I'm really really honest with myself, I don't actually have the experience of qualia all the time"

That's is what you say, but how can we know that you are not a conscious being imitating a p-zombie? ;-)

We can't :)

So I'm going for the one that requires the least magic

Just curious if you have looked into Mahayana Buddhist formulations of emptiness? They sound very similar to what you're describing.


Having a hard time understanding the concept of solipsism, can you give an example of it? Thanks.

Someone who is a solipsist believes that the external reality doesn’t exist, e.g. other people are just a figment of your own imagination. Think ”The Matrix”, except you aren’t connected to other real human beings. You never wake up either.

As you've profoundly experienced all things change... ;)

Yup, when I consumed some `golden teacher` and started perceiving the people around me in `The Simpsons Cartoon Style` rendered in realtime with perfect realism replacing my reality, I was sold on that being a very real possibility as well.

And music... It takes a whole other dimension. Calling it `high def` doesn't do it any justice. Experiencing music aside, it feels as though you live the music you are hearing. It is hard to explain. It also becomes your reality.

"The fact that a small amount of psychoactive substance could fundamentally alter my perceived reality put the final nail in the coffin for any possibility that my mind was generated by something outside my own skull."

Wow awesome insight! Thanks for sharing your experience, this blows my mind. I might be able to try it now without fear of other worldly entity bad trip encounters.

While experiencing a trip, are you able to recall that you took a substance and that this is your altered reality? Can you close your eyes and see darkness? Can you take a benzo to abort trip like shrooms?

It went the other way for me. My experience was that anything I believed could become true, including the idea that its all generated by the mind. It sounds like you still leave a part of your reality outside the scope of that. I'd suggest looking into the idea of reality tunnels as expressed by Robert Anton Wilson.

Like Pollan says, the magic mushroom and its psylocibin is a happy medium of the psychadelic effect. I had a trip years ago, and the insights and shift out of everyday thinking was so valuable that I still treasure the experience, and would recommend it to anyone.

Steve Jobs on psychedelics:

> "Throughout that period of time [1972-1974] I used the LSD approximately ten to fifteen times," Jobs said. "I would ingest the LSD on a sugar cube or in a hard form of gelatin. I would usually take the LSD when I was by myself. I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life-changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience." On another occasion, he found some more words to describe the impact:

> "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could."

I experienced ego death and it brought me out of my very depressed state. I felt so centered and driven afterwards and that feeling lasted for months. It might've been a gamble but I'm absolutely glad that I took it.

I've only experienced that ego-death through meditation (twice while I was in high school.) Just wanted to mention that it can be achieved without psychedelics. The easier to describe experience consisted of 'me' as a tiny speck of dust floating in a featureless, dimensionless void. As I tried to grasp a frame of reference I snapped back to my normal reality. I did not meditate much after that, mostly because I felt I had accomplished something.

Ego death and then you felt good that you accomplished something? That is the ego being satisfied.

There is no ego death. It's part of us.

poster said, "experienced that ego-death" – Pollan in the interview describes part of his experience, "[…] what I brought back from that experience was that I'm not identical to my ego […]"

Given everything I've read and heard it would appear that, yes, one can experience ego death and bring that experience back with you and reintegrate it into your life. It is then that you might feel good about the accomplishment because it provides you an immediate insight that is ordinarily far out of reach. Why then could the ego not feel that satisfaction?

I have a friend who whenever we are talking about these sorts of issues (the self, consciousness, that kind of thing) nearly always corrects my phrasing as if to say, "you have less authority and insight than I do". It's so frustrating. It's not some kind of enlightenment pissing contest.

> There is no ego death. It's part of us.

Do enlighten us, oh master.

> There is no ego death. It's part of us.

I'm not entirely sure you're reading the definition correctly. It's a "complete loss of subjective self-identity", not so much your "ego" no longer being there.

(Apologies if I missed what you're getting at, though)

Not according to many experienced mediators.

How do you know?

oho, this resembles my few experiences with mushrooms (mixed them with lemon juice for shorter but much stronger experience) - I laid down on the bed, relaxing music in the background, and gradually lost all the senses. I mean all of them - even sensing your own body.

I didn't have hands, eyes, or anything physical - I became (i think white) mist of atoms, whirling in an endless dance (think mist in the hamam and when you blow air through it).

It didn't happen suddenly, but very gradually. When it began to (very slowly) fade, I slowly recombined from those atoms back into my personality, started to rediscover physical parts of existence - breath, eyes, hands etc. I could still perfectly recall what was happening with me 1 hour ago (unlike say alcohol which just dumbs you down to potato), but mind was less and less able to comprehend the whole picture with all the subleties - it literally shrank back. After main trip was gone, I still had 1-2 hours of literally walking down the hill with intense emotions of absolutely pure happiness and inner peace. Very spiritual, especially for an atheist/agnostic person like me.

Massive mental exhaustion afterwards with very strong headache, but that was the price I was willing to pay.

By far the strongest experiences in my whole life (and i've been through some stuff), absolutely positive without a single negative atom. The beauty of psychedelics is they work with who we are inside, and thus it's a very unique experience for each of us, not much transferable/understandable beyond vague descriptions.

But that breakdown and reassembly - I literally had the feeling that if I had some mental issues, they would definitely manifest right there. If you come from bad background, have some issues, do evil stuff without reason etc don't do them, the risks are then too big and those forces are titanic

After reading your term 'ego death', I'm reminded of a particular time that I used LSD, and am starting to wonder if that's what brought me out of my depressive state. About three months later I graduated undergrad and started a new job, which transformed my life for the better.

I think it’s certainly possible that it brought you out of your depressive state.

LSD-25 will show you certain truths within yourself and your subconscious; these truths can be negative or positive in nature. It took me months to fully integrate the experience, though. I’d argue the integration period after the trip is as important as the trip itself.

Can't you see it as a indication of the opposite of what we typically call God? That instead of there being an external entity outside our universe interacting with you, you talked to something God-like inside yourself. This might be what you share with every person in history that ever have received divine inspiration. That same experience motivated them. Just like we can share experience with other people when we are happy, tired of drunk. But this one requires a more complicated key to access, which could be elaborate practices or a drug.

I might be wrong, but I find these psilocybin experiments extremely enlightening as to why we as humans struggle so much with religious experience.

Did my suggestion make sense? I tried to word it as plainly as possible, but these are things we aren't used to discuss...

I understood you. It’s a neat concept.

This person was unwilling or unable to assimilate their experience and now they are blaming LSD.

Funny enough, if he kept taking LSD and exploring his spirituality he could deal with the feelings of believing in science but being shaken by the possibility of the supernatural. That's actually pretty straightforward.

But he is choosing to close the book on it, and now is blaming the drug when really its himself. An act of ego if I've ever seen one.

Can you please not take HN threads further into flamewar and personal attack? That's the wrong way down a one-way street.


It’s bewildering how many drug defendants are here on HN. For you the solution is not to avoid assuming dangerous drugs that can mess badly your mind, as happened to the gp, but on the contrary is continuing to assume it once your mind is messed up. Maybe if one day the same things happen to you you may change your point of view, although it would be too late at that point I fear.

Psychedelics are by far the strongest and most life-and-mind altering thing you can experience in your life, it changed my life for better. It comes with very fat disclaimers and blinking warning signs, and for very good reason.

You can't get similar experience anywhere else apart from years and years of mediation training, I'll believe when I hear somebody who experienced both and compared favorably. So far 0 persons. Look at what people are willing to do to get to Everest for example, and even reaching the top during multi-month expedition won't get you such a powerful experience (didn't do exactly that, but smaller similar stuff - very nice, but 'meh' compared to this).

Sure, I'll keep defending it, against prevalent ignorance and stupidity in the population. It was one of the best things that happened to me in my life (didn't have any for last 10 years maybe, the experience is still part of me and always will be).

LSD didn't mess up his mind. It made him feel conflicted about ideas that are in his head. He literally started the post saying he was sane and doesnt suffer from depression or any other mental illness. psychedelics are safe for those people.

That is ENTIRELY different from being predisposed to psychosis, which psychedelics can bring out.

And your logic can be reversed. Lives have been saved from giving extremely depressed people microdoses of LSD. But people like you would rather throw those people to the wayside and tell them they can't take the drug that works for them because you have some kind of personal agenda.

While I agree, please realise that your approach is really not helpful! We don't tell someone who just fell off the bike and afraid of sitting back that "if you've just sat back you'd now be riding, hair in the wind". This only alienates people.

Yeah well he alienated a bunch of people by misleading people saying it was LSD that caused his hallucinations when really it was Nitrous.

my first thought was about the same; "shouldn't have stopped there".

and really, their experience fundamentally sounds like a good thing. a new way of looking at, or experiencing the world was opened to them. yeah, it can be frightening, and that's why you need to put more work in, to accommodate it in your life.

I was thinking something similar.

And that inner God likely lives in the right side of your brain:


If by likely you mean according to a discredited theory proposed by one person and based on some really bad historical understanding.

I find it more interesting to view it as a Chaos Monkey for the symbolic system that is the mind.

The ways in which we organize and make sense of the world calcify with the repetition of certain memes.

The idea at least is that psychedelics add entropy to this habituation. Perhaps this itself causes a lot of trouble for people (like myself) who think they have this world figured out in a significant way, only to start seeing God/Satan/Hades and throw that all up in the air.

Going on that journey without an experienced guide would be the dangerous part methinks (Pollan discusses this in another podcast he was a guest on recently)

Sounds silly in retrospect, but I once made the very bad the decision of watching a horror film while on LSD. I only got a few minutes in before it occurred to me that my brain wasn't very much capable of recognizing the difference between film and reality.

I could almost feel the adrenaline pumping inside my brain. I felt the immediate urge to sit in the safe corner of my apartment, with a clear view of my surroundings. My brain was clearly anticipating an attacker. It felt primal. It took me a while to calm down.

What's really interesting is what proceeded to happen over the next few months. Basically, at a subconscious level, my apartment was marked. Especially the front door area which I remember being most afraid of - every time I'd walk by, I'd become scared, as if I anticipated somebody to jump at me. At other times, I'd catch myself looking around to make sure I'm alone. I had absolutely no way to control this - it's as if every fiber of my being KNEW I was in danger, even though I was consciously aware it was nonsense. I became acutely aware of how separate our conscious and unconscious decision-making is. At the beginning, I would sleep with the lights on. For a while I considered moving to a different apartment. Instead, with some effort, I've mostly trained those reactions away over a period of 2-3 months. I still feel a bit jumpier than usual when alone in the dark, but mostly back to normality.

This is one of the most valuable experiences of my life, but also one that I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

I had a series of psychotic episodes in my late teens where I experienced things like my food tasting like it was contaminated with bleach or gasoline, maggots writhing under my skin, spiders swarming out of the walls and biting me, and news anchors threatening sexual violence against my family members. It absolutely demolished my belief in a spiritual or supernatural world, because I became aware of just how powerful and convincing the mind can be in creating false experiences.

> I've gone from someone who 100% believed in evolution and a material universe, to someone who deep down thinks there may be a God, and I may actually have to face some kind of hell for some kind of sins I may unknowingly commit in this life.

Well, it sounds like you went from being an atheist to an agnostic. That certainly is a more rational and less dogmatic position to take, based on what we know. As for the Hell thing, well, it's a possibility. Even Buddhism has hell realms.

Had something similar happen to me. I was a staunch atheist before psychedelics, now the notion of a purely material universe seems naive. Anyway, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from a blog post I'm working on. Might be a bit rough still.

> There's no easy path to enlightenment, but we do have some astounding tools and methods at our disposal. There is the humble magic mushroom, which, along with LSD and other psychedelics, breaks down the substrate of reality for a brief period of time. After witnessing the day-to-day patterns of conditioned behavior, and reality itself, melt away, it's a bit easier to disattach from falsehood. But it's also tempting to take the psychedelic experience for truth, when it itself is a distorted presentation of reality. I personally think that psychedelics increase communication between the rational mind and the rest of the brain, and that psychedelic visions are the rational mind's interpretations of subconscious activity. Mostly these are just wrong interpretations; the two sides of the mind don't communicate often and can't understand each other very well. We have to resist taking the experience at face value and dig deeper to find the kernels of truth.

>Well, it sounds like you went from being an atheist to an agnostic. That certainly is a more rational and less dogmatic position to take, based on what we know.

I'm not sure why this argument shows so often (and it's not even limited to religion), but it's an incredibly bad one. The positions here are not a ternary matter. The options are not limited to 100% one way, 100% the other, or right in the middle.

The 'most rational' position lies somewhere in that continuum. When converting to the usual trinary labels, one extreme or the other may end up being the most rational position. The center is not automatically best.

> I was a staunch atheist before psychedelics, now the notion of a purely material universe seems naive.

Continuing to try to avoid the religion topic directly, I'd caution you against reading too much into your trips, which your excerpt oddly points out as well. Our brains are rather questionable devices for perceiving the world as it really is even when they are functioning properly. There is no reason to believe intentionally screwing with it's functioning would somehow increase it's ability to perceive the world truthfully.

I can see potential value in using trips to improve lateral thinking, and perhaps even for insight into yourself, but in terms of exposing hidden secrets of the universe... There's no rational basis for that, and the most likely explanation seems to be the combination of the intentional misfiring and the usual imperfect operation of our brains.

I don't think anyone here is saying that using psychedelics is going to 'expose hidden secrets'. It's more that they can help you become aware of the holes in your usual way of thinking.

One pattern I've noticed while reading reports of bad trips is people being so miserable during the experience that it forces them to acknowledge that existing in this universe can be really really shitty at times, which shattered their notion that everything's going to be okay due to their limited experience as a relatively well-off white person in 21st century USA. The reports are often written as if whatever drug they took is to blame for their new existential crisis, but I see it more as the fault of the bubble they were in. If they come out of the experience having more compassion for others who are less privileged then I'd say it's an improvement.

> There is no reason to believe intentionally screwing with it's functioning would somehow increase it's ability to perceive the world truthfully.

Right, my point is that psychedelics are great for exposing falsehood in your thinking, but not necessarily uncovering truth.

> The 'most rational' position lies somewhere in that continuum. When converting to the usual trinary labels, one extreme or the other may end up being the most rational position. The center is not automatically best.

What are you talking about? I think you're misrepresenting my position. I'm nowhere on the continuum, I'm agnostic.

“Either the moon is made of cheese or it isn’t” is not a personal belief that should impress anyone.

"I don't have enough knowledge to make a judgement of whether the moon is made of cheese" is a perfectly valid statement. And if you base your personal beliefs on whether they'll impress other people, then I suspect you're making your own life harder for yourself than it needs to be.

Agreed. What's your point?

just wanted to say that i don't understand why you are getting downvoted for this. i found your original comment, and especially the blog excerpt quite reasonable.

> it sounds like you went from being an atheist to an agnostic. That certainly is a more rational and less dogmatic position to take, based on what we know.

Likely because poster is assigning some linear value on metaphysical positions that can not be constrained in such a system.

Agnosticism is more rational than Atheism "based on what we know"? Come on now.

>Well, it sounds like you went from being an atheist to an agnostic. That certainly is a more rational and less dogmatic position to take, based on what we know.

What we know is that there is absolutely no proof that God exists. With that being the case, I don't see why being an atheist is not the most rational position to take.

Can I win a $100 million lottery someday? Sure. Should I be living my life believing that I'd win a lottery? No, that would be stupid.

> With that being the case, I don't see why being an atheist is not the most rational position to take.

Because the absence of proof is not the proof of absence.

Atheism says "god does not exist and I'm sure about this". This is exactly like saying "it's impossible for me to win the lottery" - that is the stupid position to take, because you know in this case it is untrue. Anything theological is impossible to prove one way or the other (or at least I've never heard of anything remotely approaching proof) and therefore a position of certainty one way or the other must be lunacy.

Depends on your definition. Hand out sheets of paper and ask people to write down all the gods they believe exist. What's your term for people who hand in empty sheets? For many of us, that's non-theist, aka atheist.

Also note that it's not only theological propositions that are impossible to prove: The omphalos hypothesis could be true and the whole universe could have started existing a microsecond ago. I could be a brain dreaming in a vat, or a simulation, and no one can prove that isn't the case. Should I be 'agnostic' about that, too?

Agnostics don't believe in any gods but they aren't atheists.

According to one definition among several possible definitions. Which definition is more useful will depend on the question you're asking.

For example, agnostics are not theists, therefore they are a-theists - according to one possible definition of the term. Similarly, ignostics do not take a position on the existence of gods, therefore they are agnostics - according to one possible defintion of the term. In both case, you could argue that agnostics are not atheists, or that ignostics are different from agnostics. That does not mean that the binary classification theists/atheists or the tripartite classification theists/agnostic/atheist is wrong - it just means that you're asking a more nuanced question that requires a more nuanced terminology.

Yes, you should be. You should claim uncertainty about anything you cannot prove in any way, shape or form. It's fine to say you believe something is the case, but at that point you're talking about faith and you don't get to say what a "wrong" position is - it's faith after all.

In any case, we're drifting way off-topic here. It's fine if you don't agree with what I think atheism is, although I would be interested to see what kind of definition you base it on. Aside from the definition (this means an outside source, not just something you write down here) I'd also be curious what you see as the difference between agnosticism and atheism.

You should claim uncertainty about anything you cannot prove in any way, shape or form.

All ontological claims are unprovable, resting on axioms that have to be accepted on faith. I can't prove I just wrote you this message, I just believe I did. Philosophically speaking, there is no certainty.

I would be interested to see what kind of definition you base it on

Binary classifications are useful. There are people who affirm the existence of gods. Let's call them 'theists'. There are people who are not members of that group. Let's call them 'a-theists'. Done.

Now, you might be interested why people do not affirm the existence of gods. For example, they might think it unlikely due to empirical evidence that contradicts most traditional religious claims. Or they might think there's not enough evidence to come to a conclusion either way. Let's call the latter agnostics and make our binary classification into a tripartite one. But wait, what about ignostics, believing that the question itself is ill-posed? Should we include them as well as their own category? What about all the other ways not to be a theist? You have to draw the line somewhere if you want to avoid an explosion in complexity.

None of the possible ways to draw the lines is inherently more correct as long as you take care to define your terminology, it's just that you might upset different groups of people because they feel underrepresented or resent being grouped together with 'those guys'.

No, I never said god cannot exist. I just said that I refuse to live my life assuming that the most unlikely event, the one for which we have no proof whatsoever, is true.

God can exist, I could be Superman.

Why is it the most unlikely event? We have no proof for any possible explanation of the universe... otherwise we'd have a proven explanation.

> God can exist, I could be Superman.

That doesn't sound like a rational argument to me.

Yeah, I've people compare belief in God to wagers or lotteries or invisible unicorns. I find arguments like this to be intellectually lazy.

The universe had to be formed somehow, right? It's a mystery how. God is a possibility.

We don't know what it is, must be God. Sure, that's meticulous.

That's a strawman. It's not what I said.

I'm saying that there being a creator is a serious possibility. It's certainly not the only one, but it doesn't deserve the flippant attitude or ridicule. And sure, God doesn't really "explain anything" (who created God? what is He like?). Doesn't mean it's not a possibility.

Part of the atheistic position is an inability to admit that there are things we don't know. What's beyond the universe? We have no idea. I think many atheists are just reactionaries frustrated by the irrationality of religion and throw out all spiritual or religious concepts without thinking it through.

I highly suggest reading 'Why god won't go away' by Andrew Newberg, Eugene D'Aquili, and Vince Rause.

IIRC, the posterior superior parietal lobe essentially orients your body within your consciousness. When people have religious experiences this part of the brain has extra activity. If that activity was blocking that part of the brain from properly orienting your body, wouldn't a feeling of 'oneness' make a lot of sense? I imagine that if you combine that with strange, new temporal lobe activity and you have a divine consciousness communicating with yours.

The people who I've seen talk about about that took very high doses, usually of dmt or ayuhuasca.

Your comment took me quite a while to parse, but it's actually incredible. I had never considered that somewhere deep down I have a sensation of "being" inside my body, which I guess some part of the brain is responsible for. Our senses can be fooled as we all know - if this sense became confused, it seems plausible that one could experience the sensation of "being" - in the sense of, their phyisical geometric location in space - somewhere else, other than between their ears.

If this could happen then the experience could possibly manifest itself in a few ways. In the larger discussion thread, many are talking about having an experience where somebody feels they are at one with the universe, so their sense of being is that they feel like they are everywhere.

Another possibility that occured to me is, consider that we percieve the world from the position of inside our head - which also happens to be the default calibration for our sense of geometrical "being". We also experience vision from this perspective, so it seems completely normal to assume that our brains process raw eye-signals. However, consider the possibility that our experience which we call vision is actually not the raw data feed, but actually is calculated/derived from both the raw data feed and our internal sense of geometrical viewpoint. If this were the case, then someone who had their sense of geometrical viewpoint displaced (but was still taking in raw data from their eyes, which do have a fixed real-world location) would experience a sense of vision, from the viewpoint inside the world wherever their sense of geometrical viewpoint has been displaced to.

This seems a plausible explanation for how people (who are often experiencing medical trauma) could have a legitimate out of body experience - their sense of geometrical location was displaced, but their brain continued to process vision, so it projected a viewpoint from location X using the data it was receiving from positiom Y and what it already knew of the world.

    consider the possibility that our experience which we call vision is actually not the raw data feed, but actually is calculated/derived from both the raw data feed and our internal sense of geometrical viewpoint. If this were the case, then someone who had their sense of geometrical viewpoint displaced (but was still taking in raw data from their eyes, which do have a fixed real-world location) would experience a sense of vision, from the viewpoint inside the world wherever their sense of geometrical viewpoint has been displaced to.
It seems that is the case. In that same book I recommended, the ways the senses are processed are described and the phenomenon of 'blind sight' is touched upon. > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blindsight

The info your senses take in is processed in multiple stages. The stages can be accessible to your consciousness, despite damage or interference.

So, signals from your eyes go to a primary receptive area, which likely processes shapes and colors. Then a secondary receptive area tries to figure out what exactly is being gazed upon and gives you a more concrete image. Finally, the visual association part of the brain adds in context; memory, emotion, other sensory input, etc..

I kind of view the consciousness as a super-organism of consciousnesses, with all but a few of the last stages of processing considered our subconscious.

Lots of things can potentially destroy healthy minds (relationships for example).

According to David Nutts study psylocibin is regarded as one of the least harmful drugs. I have also seen a study showing that use of psychedelics was associated with lower rates of mental health issues later in life.


Sounds to me like it put a crack in your ego rather than a crack in your sanity.

Sounds to me like it put a crack in your ego rather than a crack in your sanity.

This is what many so called psychonauts do not understand.

A bad trip can be traumatic and can revive other traumatic experiences.



Psychedelics can lead to decreased wellbeing, decreased psychological and emotional stability and decreased strength and robustness to deal with further stress and unpleasant challenges.

Medical experts use psychedelics because of their strong destabilizing effects.

Nothing is gained and much is lost if this uncomfortable weak unstable state remains.

I have never, ever met a psychonaut that doesn't advocate "set and setting".

The main point was that bad reactions and bad trips should not be underestimated and down played as silly ego problems or rare personal weakness.

Set and setting is important. Do not try psychedelics to solve problems.

But set and setting is not everyting. A bad trip might happen anyway.

Who knows about its genetic, biological and psychological constitution and reaction before the trip ?

That is why a medical expert as trip sitter is so important.

I understand where you are coming from and agree with 75+% of what you state. Most people who say they have a "bad trip" actually say it was better defined as "difficult" and had long-term benefits. Here is a key statistic from this study:

"Despite these difficulties, it is notable that 84% of respondents reported having benefited from the experience, with 76% reporting increased well-being or life satisfaction attributed to the experience."

Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551678/

> I'm a man of science, but the feeling/perception was so real, my entire world view was shattered.

Something maybe similar happened to me after being with my grandfather while he died peacefully at home. It doesn’t take drugs to change a personal narrative that might be stuck in certainty, life can do that too, nor is it necessarily a bad thing in my mind.

Is it related to feeling your grandfather's presence, when he was about to die. I have heard 2 of my friends saying they experienced this.

Yes, that would be a way of describing it. I don’t know what I felt, and I can’t say there weren’t physical signs and just a rush of emotion being mistaken as something spiritual, but it seemed to happen out of the blue and my brother who was there later asked me tentatively if something weird had happened to me too. In my dogmatic past I’ve mentally dismissed other people’s stories like this as improbable or exaggerated or superstitious. But it was unmistakably strong and I’ve lost my surety.

I've probably not had that exact same experience but I've certainly had other experiences.

As someone who likes science and have an analytic approach I guess I would probably have ended up as an atheist if it wasn't for a number of events that would be really hard to fit into an atheist worldview.

Furthermore I've also come to realize that this position has been really good and useful for me, -and the rest of the world. It has helped me go from an angry boy from a poor family to a reasonable man who's not only able to feed my family but also actually able to help others.

So, for what I know free will and God might be an illusion (I don't think that), but in that case I'd say it's a really useful illusion.

These are the stories we tell ourselves. Be they scientific or otherwise. The science is nice, it helps us get around in the world. But when stories become overwhelming, maybe it’s time for a change (of mind).

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.” ― William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Odd, I just read that a few hours ago in Alan Watts' Wisdom of Insecurity.

Alan's buried next to a large boulder on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco. There is a nice tree there that you can sit in the crook of and spend some time with him.

You can get there by walking through the Marin headlands. Give the Green Gulch folks a smile as you pass through. Have a good one :)

Pollan makes the point that he isn't advocating that people score some mushrooms or tabs of acid then charge ahead. He says what he did, and what was done back in the 50s and 60s before it became illegal, was to have an experienced therapist check his mental health, describe what was likely to happen, and give him guidance on how to deal with what he experienced. He then took the substance(s) and was guided by this professional while he had his experience. Then there was a debriefing where they went over what he experienced.

No doubt a lot of recreational users get away with just dropping acid without forethought, but some don't fare well.

> He says what he did, and what was done back in the 50s and 60s before it became illegal, was to have an experienced therapist check his mental health, describe what was likely to happen, and give him guidance on how to deal with what he experienced. He then took the substance(s) and was guided by this professional while he had his experience. Then there was a debriefing where they went over what he experienced.

I cannot in any way see how prohibition creates more safety compared to this.

The substances are available to anyone with persistence and a few dollars. The guidance, knowledge, and systematic approach to navigating the space they provide is gone.

I don’t see how this is helpful.

It's not helpful, if you want I guess we can start talking about Nixon and the drug wars and Iran contra and if we really wanna get into it light a joint cause before you know it I'll be ranting about the CIA selling coke in the streets and the American government's war on black people.

Fucking bullshit war on drugs man. Why doesn't our government have room for rationality?

Because the rational amongst us don’t vote as much? Because campaigns for both parties get funded by the same handful of people? Because we’re a religious country with a weakness for extremist views, and religion has been appropriated and weaponized by political forces?

That's the point. The fact that taking these substances under supervision is illegal is the crazy part.

> I once took LSD (mixed with other things aswell...)

You should disclose all the substances you took for your comment to have any validity as anecdata. Your story is very different whether the “other substances” were “marijuana and theine” or “datura and cocaine”.

They were other recreational drugs - N2O and Marijuana

Ok your comment is EXTREMELY misleading. Taking nitrous while on LSD is a COMPLETELY different ballgame than LSD on its own.

And your comment is just railing against LSD. Ridiculous.

You have no place to be telling people about psychedelics.

Ok, sure. Let my advice of "be careful" be stricken from the record.


There's nothing wrong with telling people to be careful, however it is important that you give them a full picture of what went wrong with you so they can avoid it. Otherwise you're just appropriating a past experience to further an agenda.

Wow, you and I should get together and go bowling sometime!

>These drugs are extremely powerful. They can potentially destroy healthy minds.

As someone who has also done LSD, I'd agree with this. However, I'd also suggest that shattering a sense of "certainty" and introducing doubt into the mind of someone who previously had certainty isn't necessarily "destroying a healthy mind". What you characterize as a, "crack in my sanity that I can never completely fix", could also be characterized as expanding your awareness. It can be frightening and permanently altering to tear away the facades our psyches have created, since birth, to process and "understand" reality as we perceive it (even temporarily). That's what LSD does. While I also don't consider this a spiritual experience, I do consider it extremely profound. Certainly anyone considering doing LSD should be understand that they are in for an extremely intense and potentially life-changing experience.

You got it all backwards. What you think is a crack in sanity is actually a crack in the illusion that the physical world is all there is.

But to each their own.

I love your comment =)

I love how people start panicking when their worldview is questioned, by themselves.

What's so wrong with an open mind? I was a firm 100% atheist and became a non-dualist because of my experiences. I'm still INCREDIBLY logical and scientific in 99.99999% of things (I'm a Data Scientist/Analyst for a living). But I will never, ever shake those experiences... once you get a glimpse of 'infinite', it tends to stay with you.

But drugs are a physical-world object exerting physical changes on a meat brain, causing perception shift.

How could something of the simulation let you "peek behind the curtain?"

Imagine you're in a dream. In that dream, eating a certain substance causes the dream to warp in funny ways. You could say this is a proof that the substance causes perception shift, but both the substance and the apparent world are being generated by something deeper. It is possible to know this directly (as in lucid dreaming). It may sound preposterous to suggest the same is happening here, but it's the best analogy I can think of.

At a minimum, it has to completely shatter any notion that reality and your perception of reality are the same thing.

in a community of technologists, you've never heard of 'sudo privileges'? :-)

Indeed. Dogmatic materialism is the real mind-virus.

It's not even scientific. Quantum mechanics seems to be how our world works and the only realist versions of it are very exotic, like predicting an infinite multiverse.

Yes. Sticking only to the realm of hard science, the frontiers keep expanding (e.g. dark matter and energy). When it comes to our subjective perceptions and how the the brain assembles them into consciousness, we've barely a clue.

Scientific apparatuses have allowed us to "see" the complete elecromagnetic spectrum, the cell, the quasar... psychedelics may be an apparatus allowing us to see dimensions of reality heretofore unquantified.

There are frequencies we can't hear -- impossible with the physical equipment nature has provided in our ears. But science and engineering have a means for both proving to us they really exist, and mangling them (with a kind of fidelity) into some sort of analogous experience. Similarly there are frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum we cannot see. And microscopes, and telescopes and MRI's, and all the other wonders of our day take, which take a world that is impossible for use to sense directly and transform it into an analog we can sense.

So why do we cavalierly assume that our brains are physically capable of understanding all true things? What does a machine which transforms ideas which are literally inconceivable to our physical brains look like? What do the crude analogs of these inconceivable thoughts look like?

(I realize I've drifted far afield from the OP -- I don't mean to say that psychedelics are a window into true mysteries. But these discussions always seem to lead me down this path...)

Perhaps you should introspect and explore your subconscious further. Sometimes things like this follow a J curve - at first you regress and suffer before seeing benefit, like exercise. The experience on hallucinogens are a reflection of yourself, so this could be an opportunity to work through previously subconscious issues.

When you became more aware of how what you do affects other people you can take note, step up your game and improve. I'd hope you aren't judged as harshly for things you may have done when you were in the dark so to speak.

This experience was just induced by drugs though. A chemical that changes how receptors work in your brain.

Its up to you to make it significant or just accept it was a few hours of your head not working how it normally does.

These things can change how you think permanently, for better or for worse.

> I spoke to God, Satan and various other imaginary beings

Do you still vividly remember these "meetings"?

Would you be able to describe how these God/Satan/etc. look like?

Open up any nursing drug handbook, there are tons of prescription drugs in there where the method of action is unknown

Maybe it's worth trying a different hallucinogenic before you throw in the towel?

This is apparently not an uncommon reaction. It's usually called an ego death.

What the parent describes is not ego death - that is meant much more literally - loss of a sense of self and dissolution of the barrier between one's identity and the rest of existence.

Have you just called all the (millions) of religions people insane?

well, technically the only thing stopping the medical world from calling a very religious person delusional, is the fact that religious people are specifically exempt from receiving that diagnosis, for no medical reason whatsoever.

I think medically, most mental disorders are characterised by a kind of normal functioning and quality of life metric.

So you're only delusional if it impairs your ability to function normally within the context of your society. Or if it negatively affect your quality of life, like, say it prevents you from sleeping, makes you overly anxious, etc.

In that sense, I think most common believer of a religion aren't affected in their normal functioning within society, and don't feel negatively affected by their beliefs. But some are, and those could be called out as having mental disorders.

I very highly doubt that is the only thing.

Belief in religion is a normal part of the human experience, even though the beliefs differ and some folks don't have them. These beliefs are generally harmless at best and for some, they help folks have community, a purpose, and all of these other positive things. Sure, some negatives, but that's life.

Normalcy plus lack of the belief causing life problems. Doesn't sound like general sickness to me.

Naturally there are grey areas and exceptions and cults and all this sort of thing, but it doesn't take religion to produce them.

I should at this point mention that I'm atheist.

yeah, i'm having trouble sourcing my statement, although i definitely read about it in some publication that i can't seem to find now. i was also sure it was part of the official DCM or ICD criteria. hmpf.

This has everything to do with you personally and nothing to do with LSD.

As a scary anecdote, that's not very scary.

The West is over obsessed with over loading their senses.

These kind of descriptions of "experience" you can also see in New York hipster yelp reviews of the 'most amazing' sushi joint or the latest game of thrones episode or whatever bullshit.

Aldous Huxley, dying of terminal cancer, took LSD on his deathbed, and died while on his final trip (it was planned that way), although a relatively low dose of 100ug.

It seems to me like it would be a good way to go, a good way to conquer the fear of the unknown after you die.

In a related experience, once when I was on a bender, I took 3 tabs of lsd, along with a whole plethora of other substances. I actually thought I was dead for a while, and strangely enough, I felt OK about it. I saw some pretty weird shit on that trip, it was the most mindblowing experience of my life, and not one I'm about to repeat in a hurry, it honestly wasn't that fun. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not an instruction manual.

But then I sobered up. I really think that Hunter S Thompson was right: it's all bullshit. You're not connecting to another plane of existence or getting in touch with your ancestors. You're just fucked on drugs. Nothing wrong with that, but it's not spiritual.

He really nailed it in Fear and Loathing:

> All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create...a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody-or at least some force-is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.

If you approach the psychedelic experience as Thompson did, with the macho attitude of getting as fucked up as possible on as much as you can stand, then of course you are going to come out of it with nothing.

Alan Watts put it best: "When you get the message, hang up the phone." Respect the experience, the power of the drug, and know when to stop.

In short, you're not experiencing the universe. You're experiencing your own mind.

Absolutely. I do think that everyone should try psychedelics at least once, in a comfortable, controlled environment with friends.

You may not unlock the secrets to the universe, but I do think it teaches you an important lesson that your reality and experiences are subjective. I don't mean that reality itself is subjective, but our perceptions of it are. LSD will mess with your perceptions in really weird ways that can't really be described with words. Things like your perception of depth and age get thrown off completely.

I was offered some shrooms a couple of years ago at a metal festival. I was actually a little bit tempted, but I figured the combination of drunkenness and the presence of thousands of strangers meant it would not be a good time nor place to give it a go for the first time.

Yes but, during normal everyday experience, you can't experience the universe without going through your own mind either.

Technically he took 200ug. First 100ug intravenous, then his wife injected another dose of 100ug.

> I really think that Hunter S Thompson was right: it's all bullshit. You're not connecting to another plane of existence or getting in touch with your ancestors. You're just fucked on drugs.

I think it depends how you go into it.

20 years ago I did magic mushrooms for fun. I did some more recently to give up smoking.

With a more mature outlook you can gain some real insights into yourself and the nature of your consciousness during a trip. Or you can listen to some music and have some fun. I ended up starting to meditate as a side effect.

(You mention that you took a "plethora of other substances", that probably doesn't help you gain insights into yourself.)

Sam Harris has some very interesting stuff to say about non religious spirituality (and the overlaps between meditation and psychedelics).

So certain you are.

When he talks about the default mode network that sort of matches with my intuitive understanding of what the experience of taking psychedelics is like.

People do things in loops— they go to work every day, come back home every day, hang out with the same people, engage in the same hobbies, think the same thoughts.

It’s just our natural mode of being to repeat ourselves, and psychedelics seem to just shut all of that down. You’re no longer a person who does these things or has those habits. You’re barely a person at all— just purely living in the moment, without any feeling of separation from the rest of the world.

And as you come back from that, you engage in the reconstruction of your personality— and if you’re careful about how you do it, you can change it — in both positive and negative ways.

I have used drugs extensively-- good ones and bad. I'd be happy to answer any questions, but you're on the right track here except for the ineffable.

Drugs distort the pattern matching systems in your brain. You see patterns that are there, patterns that aren't, patterns of patterns, patterns of patterns of patterns. You make connections that you should and shouldn't. If I could describe my phsycelidc experinces--of which I've had dozens--It would be--"psychadelics break your brain intro a thousand pieces, hand you thebroken shard and say, "have fun putting this back together."

Genericaly, amphetmainish things tie you to the real world. Disscocitiaves the spiritual world. Psychadelics-- the self reflective at moderate doses and at high doses the "other side" (if that makes any sense at all).

I would not trade my expereinces for ANYTHING, but I wouldn't recommend it either. The spiritual experiences I've had on drugs have been profound enough to change me from an stone cold atheist to, well a guy who believes in what he's seen himself. I've floated through space and time, I've received vissions, advice, knowledge of the future. I've been shown some of the secrets of the universe... but the most improtant message of all was simply "learn as much as you can and be as kind as you can to others."

There are some things that are indescribable-- ineffiable. Any description of the religious experneices ive had would be, inadequate. You've either had one, or they're complete fucking nonsense.

What im saying is--the world of faith is beyond that of experience. It may, or may not be real, but it sure as hell feels like it is.

"Any description of the religious experneices ive had would be, inadequate. You've either had one, or they're complete fucking nonsense."

I've never used drugs, but based on my experience I totally understand the statement that the purely analytic mode of thought does not encompass the whole of human experience.

I had a deeply profound sense of being one with the universe as a teenager after a regular session of meditation.

I would not say it did anything for my atheism. I believe humans are complex and deep creatures with enormous hidden potential, and these mystical experiences just bring it to the surface.

Drugs are not the only way to access mystical experiences, but I certainly don't begrudge their use.

>I've never used drugs, but based on my experience I totally understand the statement that the purely analytic mode of thought does not encompass the whole of human experience.

That's for sure.

It's impossible to explain to someone something as mundane how you know how to ride a bike using analytical thought.[1]

[1] Witness the endless counter-steering threads on HN.

I want to understand counter steering so badly... I think I do on an intuitive level, as I have ridden a motorcycle for years but I just can't wrap my head around the concept.

For sure. I think there's a lot of evidence that certain meditative states overlap with some psychedelic states.

But, have you ever had a fully immersive meditative state? Is that possible?

I have no idea. I've never had anything 'mystical' happen to me after that.

Most HNer are actually dumb enough (or "scientific" as they like to call it) to believe that material universe exists in some vacuum with all its unbreakable laws, that it came into existence from nothingness, and believe that their lack of ability to explain what consciousness is is just a mere case of not-enough-science-yet.

I'm not saying be religious but being staunch atheist and materialist is really no better than being bigoted God-worshipper. Don't block yourself from playing with your own hypothesis-space just because it's full of "unscientific" things.

There's nothing wrong with "playing with your own hypothesis-space" as you put it, but it's stupid to believe in something without any proof that it might be true.

It's fine to think "what if god created the universe" or "what if we're living inside a giant space beaver" or "what if there is another fundamental force responsible for consciousness that we can't measure" but unless you actually have some evidence or reasoning that points in that direction, they are all stupid theories compared to materialism which actually fits into the current scientific world view pretty well.

> that it came into existence from nothingness

You assume the default is "nothingness" but what if the default is "everythingness?"

> People do things in loops— they go to work every day, come back home every day, hang out with the same people, engage in the same hobbies, think the same thoughts.

And bad trips are people stuck in a loop, unable to break out. Which is why the best thing you can do with someone is change their set and setting - move them elsewhere, not take it too seriously, remind them it's just drugs and will be over soon, get them to do something else etc.

This is the playlist from Johns Hopkins for a blindfold + headphones session.


An experienced sitter is required.

Compiled by _phillysblunt_? Seems legit.

Podcast: Pollan's interview on the Tim Ferriss show for additional thoughts. Ferriss is committing a million USD over the next few years to support the scientific study of psychedelic compounds.

Audio link just a slight scroll in. https://tim.blog/2018/05/06/michael-pollan-how-to-change-you...

I found the conversation very interesting- made me want to read the book.

As an aside, I liked how when they weee discussing mental health, pollan put forward that the classifications that we use today (say differentiating between depression and anxiety) are more rooted in legacy and institutions and less in what the current science sees of what’s happening in the brain. Thought this was an interesting way to frame things.

Psychedelics should be treated with respect. I often speak to people who have no clue what dosage they take or took. Due to the potency, it’s not as easy as other substances to know whether you’ve had too much, and that’s why they require extra care.

You could die if you drink too much water, or if it is contaminated; that doesn’t mean water isn’t good for you.

"When I said we may be our programs, nothing more, nothing less, I meant the substrate, the basic substratum under all else, of our metaprograms is our programs. All we are as humans is what is builtin and what has been acquired, and what we make of both of these. So we are one more result of the program substrate-the selfmetaprogrammer.

As out of several hundreds of thousands of the substrate programs comes an adaptable changing set of thousands of metaprograms, so out of the metaprograms as substrate comes something else-the controller, the steersman, the programmer in the biocomputer, the selfmetaprogrammer. In a well organized biocomputer, there is at least one such critical control metaprogram labeled I for acting on other metaprograms and labeled me when acted upon by other metaprograms. I say at least one advisedly. Most of us have several controllers, selves, selfmetaprograms which divide control among them, either in time parallel or in time series in sequences of control. As I will give in detail later, one path for selfdevelopment is to centralize control of one's biocomputer in one selfmetaprogrammer, making the others into conscious executives subordinate to the single administrator, the single superconscient selfmetaprogrammer. With appropriate methods, this centralizing of control, the elementary unification operation, is a realizable state for many, if not all biocomputers."

--John C Lilly https://pictures.abebooks.com/isbn/9780015308735-es.jpg

Great podcast this week on Recode/Decode.


DMT trip reports point to a use of psychedelics beyond therapy. Since so many users describe the same thing -- points of contact with other beings-- we can hypothesize that DMT gives us access to other dimensions or aspects of space and time. But how we move from subjective reporting to a scientific theory on this, I have no idea. (I have never tried DMT, it sounds terrifying)

He is making the rounds. He appeared with Kara Swisher on Recode, which may be accessible to this audience.


The world would be a better place if everyone ate magic mushrooms in the wilderness on a camping trip as part of outdoor ed. in school.

If you've never experienced it, you probably won't understand.

I feel like this comment right here is what everyone who has taken psychedelics (and had a positive experience) want to say. But nobody does because they don't wanna seem "crazy" or strange. As someone who never even touched alcohol until 18 or so, I never ever thought I'd be the one saying the entire world needs to try LSD

I wish people would stop the unhealthy and irresponsible and dangerous life-destroying hype and promotion of psychedelics including cannabis.

All medical experts warn against the use of drugs and psychedelics except as medical tools of medical experts.

Drugs and psychedelics can trigger all kinds of long term mental disorders that even the best experts might not be able to heal.

Medical science and psychology are still very limited and primitive with regard to addictions and mental disorders and understanding and (healthy) manipulation of the (unhealthy) brain.

If "you" do not believe me, check the internet for reports of people suffering from addiction or mental disorders and their sad quest for help.

Even bad diets and lack of sports and lack of dental care are unsolved health problems in societies in 2018.

This comment is naive, but not totally off-base. Psychedelics can cause real long-term problems for people even if used correctly. I liken it to skydiving, a potentially dangerous activity for which one must be completely prepared, with no absolute guarantee of safety.

That said, I would say that psychedelics definitely expanded my consciousness and changed my life. And that I stopped doing them in the nick of time. They do cause a turn inward, and what I learned is that turning inward can be an endless journey into the void. What I really wanted was to take my expanded consciousness and use it in the consensus world, and for that, I felt, you needed a clear head.

It's pretty clear from your comment that you don't know anything about magic mushrooms.

I could understand your response if the parent were speaking about LSD or bath salts or something else that have been known to give people bad, destructive trips. But shrooms?

Psilocybin is known as the gentlest and most enjoyable psychedelic there is. Adverse reactions are rare, and as far as I know nobody has ever come out of a shroom trip with their brains scrambled. Personally, I find that the experience isn't so much a "trip", but rather a gentle, beautiful and interesting set of visual effects. I don't hallucinate people or supernatural beings, but I do see colours around the edges of things, and repeating fractal patterns everywhere, and enjoy a strangely improved acuity of vision.

Shrooms are also a type of drug where you can derive a psychological benefit from very small doses (or microdoses) that essentially provides no "trip" at all. There's promising research showing benefits for depression and PTSD. Not to mention that psilocybin is not addictive.

>as I know nobody has ever come out of a shroom trip with their brains scrambled.

you would be wrong. if you are predisposed to psychosis shrooms can trigger that.

I get it that you prefer mushrooms. But most people actually handle LSD better than mushrooms. So the fact you trashed LSD is a little silly.

"Brains scrambled" implies permanent negative effects. I have never encountered any evidence that psilocybin has contributed to psychological damage, unlike LSD and its famed/apparent tendency to provoke flashbacks years later.

On the other hand, there are increasing numbers of recent studies that refute the idea that psilocybin is as dangerous as some people have claimed in the past [1] [2]:

> We failed to find any associations between lifetime use of psychedelics and past year serious psychological distress, receiving or needing mental health treatment, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts or behavior in the past year. Rather, lifetime use of psychedelics was associated with decreased inpatient psychiatric treatment.

I'm unable to find any studies showing a link between psilocybin and the triggering of latent mental illness. There's some debate about whether age is possibly not coincidental, in the sense that the heaviest users of "hard" psychedelics like LSD tend to start at an age which coincides with the emergence of latent disorders such as schizophrenia, implying that there isn't necessarily a cause and effect.

Nobody is obviously promoting irresponsible use of psychedelics. That said, everything in life has risk. The risks involved with psilocybin seem infinitesimally small compared to those of, say, alcohol or smoking.

[1] http://www.emmasofia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Psychede...

[2] https://cogumelosmagicos.org/comunidade/attachments/j-psycho...

You talk about evidence when it concerns your beloved shrooms, and then in the exact same sentence repeat an asinine wives tale like the lsd flashbacks bullshit,which has no evidence behind it at all. Your bias is clear.

And I've seen people have psychosis manifest on mushrooms that was life altering, lasted for months, and they were never the same.

Psilocybin is known as the gentlest and most enjoyable psychedelic there is.

This is not true. Different people respond differently to different drugs. The experience also depends on the dose and the set and setting. Not all people are fine with hallucinations and psychedelic trips. Not all people are happy with a perfect set and setting. To promote psychedelics as possible solution for mental disorders (anxiety, depression,...) is absolutely irresponsible and even warned against by psychonauts. https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/Set_and_setting

Besides, psilocybin is not addictive for most because it is not fun enough for most. But the risk of bad trips and long term disorders is real.

https://www.livescience.com/16287-mushrooms-alter-personalit... :

- But this is a strictly do-not-try-this-at-home experiment, MacLean cautioned. The participants in the study were under close supervision during their session with the drug. Psychological support and preparation helped keep bad trips to a minimum, but many participants still reported fear, anxiety and distress after taking psilocybin.

- MacLean said, ... that the risk of unsupervised usage outweighs any potential reward.

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/how-doctors-tr... :

- "This is serious medicine with a capital M," he says, "and if you don't watch yourself and you don't pay attention to the essential basics, you could be in for a very difficult time."

- "If we move forward and understand that these substances should only be used under optimal conditions," says Grob, "it will have a positive impact on an individual, family, collective and societal level."

Your livescience.com link basically argues the opposite, but you cherrypicked one person's cautionary, own-ass-covering advice to make a contrary argument. The article itself points out that people overwhelmingly come out of he experience with positive personality changes!

Also, nobody is arguing that irresponsible use of psilocybin here. The person you quoted is saying that unsupervised psilocybin use is potentially dangerous. You should be careful if you have a history of anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or similar disorders. And it's always a good idea to do shrooms together with other, stable, experienced people.

This is a better source of information: https://tripsafe.org/shrooms-side-effects/

The fact that you brought up cannabis, of all things, the world's most popular recreational drug (after alcohol and tobacco), tells me that you are not quite informed.

Your livescience.com link basically argues the opposite

I argue against the private use of drugs and psychedelics. Especially against the private use of psychedelics to solve existing problems.

I argue for the use of drugs only as medicine by medical experts.

That people believe they had great insights does not mean that it is actually true. Religious people think their god is real and important. Some people argue that the Earth is flat. Some people deny climate change.

The fact that you brought up cannabis, of all things, the world's most popular recreational drug (after alcohol and tobacco), tells me that you are not quite informed.

You sound like the typical drug apologist with only personal experience that, by pure luck, was good in your opinion until today. To counter comments like yours is why I am writing this, trying to prevent needless misery created by bad use of psychedelics.

Many people use the psychiatric service for the first time because of mental disorders (e.g. panic attacks, psychosis, schizophrenia,...) triggered by psychedelics including mushrooms and cannabis.

I've witnessed a close friend have a horrifying trip that left him with an anxiety disorder. No known predisposition or family history, either.

And I say this as a strong proponent (and former frequent user) of the medicine.

Psychedelics should be a last resort, as you can trigger underlying conditions, I agree.

But microdosing LSD has saved lives pulling people out of suicidal depression. There's a reason its highly regarded, because for those of us that benefit, its literally a miracle.


Too many articles and drug users promote psychedelics as harmless safe easy miracle drugs (for mental problems).

Readers might ignore that positive studies were conducted by medical experts. AFAIK all experts warn against the private use of drugs and psychedelics.


Positive thinking or a therapy or the right medicine can improve much and might heal or remove a psychological or bio-chemical disorder.

Still, psychedelics should not be used privately for fun or to solve problems.

You are terrible uninformed, like an abstinent catholic priest trying to preach about the joys and difficulties of family.

Throwing all drugs in one pile (marijuana and mushrooms?) because they are categorized that way by the law is like saying medicine to conottate anything from an aspirin to chemo.


- The government should sell all desired drugs for little or no money.

- Drugs have no good use except as medicine by medical experts.

Maybe you should apply as test subject for studies of the effects of drugs on humans.


Maybe 10 or 20 years of experience with legalized cannabis and other psychedelics will lead to punishment of online promotion or belittlement of these drugs.


How many cases are unknown because the victim did not consult the medical service ?


How many cases of brain damage (e.g. stupidity, bad control of emotions) are not even recognized by the victims ?

Besides, not only the drug but also the dose and intention matters.

Maybe not everyone - I think there are some people who already have fuzzy boundaries and for whom boundary-dissolving compounds are not the best medicine.

But yes, most people. :-)

Ha. I had this open in another tab all day but I didn't realize it was Michael Pollan. Time to read.

Okay, but where can I get it?

darknet markets

> The way [psilocybin is] being used is in a very controlled or guided setting. ... They don't just give you a pill and send you home; you're in a room. You're with two guides, one male, one female. You're lying down on a comfortable couch. You're wearing headphones listening to a really carefully curated playlist of music — instrumental compositions for the most part — and you're wearing eyeshades, all of which is to encourage a very inward journey.

Erg, having people trip this way who are already are struggling with depression strikes me as downright dangerous. Bad trips are a real thing, and leaving someone alone with their thoughts, without a lot of sensory input, is a good way to do it. I hope they know what they're doing...

It's really much, much better and safer to be outside, in nature.

Laying around on a couch sounds like a waste of a good shroom buzz. Shrooms are much more fun if you're with a medium-to-large sized group of people who all know and are comfortable around each other, all of whom are on around the same dose. They're so much more of a body buzz and less of a mindfuck than LSD/DMT. Then there's PCP... which is less of a mindfuck and more of a fuckyou.

There aren’t many drug experiences more entertaining than a half dozen people on mushrooms trying to have a conversation.

Reminds me of a reddit thread I saved a couple days after they decriminalized weed in Washington: https://i.imgur.com/9HQ2Si7_d.jpg?maxwidth=640&shape=thumb&f...

Note that "Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like" is a copy-pasted text meme.

I wonder how wise it is to be with other people when you're on psychedelics. It's possible that on psychedelics you're much more susceptible and vulnerable to all sorts of visible and invisible outside influence that you may not be aware of.

This really depends on dosage, reaction, and timing.

I'd always advise folks to be with someone more experience their first time. Just in case. And be knowledgeable about the range of experiences before taking. Once one has a bit of experience, being in public isn't so bad if it is timed right.

I went to see Weird Al coming down from LSD. It was nice.

I had a wonderful talk with a homeless Romanian dude in Amsterdam coming down from truffles sold there. Between the lights of the building at night, being on a vacation without my spouse, and everything combined it was pretty neat. But I'm pretty relaxed and didn't have much to really worry about as most of this was planned (minus the discussion). It isn't really much different than keeping yourself safe while cooking on psychedelics (yes, I've done this stuff).

Note, this mentions coming down - things get increasingly safer after you've peaked and are coming down. Dosage also plays a part in this: You don't have to completely lose touch with reality completely to loosen up your mind or have fun with the drug.

i personally think arylcyclohexamines and really just NMDA antagonists in general have a large amount of untapped therapeutic benefit, especially for individuals suffering from depression otherwise resistant to other forms of treatment. perhaps it's slightly anecdotal but in my experience, a daily to semidaily 150mg dose of memantine combined with cannabis prn as an anxiolytic is pretty much the most effective dosing strategy I have found to control my depression, anxiety, and lapses in attention. however i certainly don't recommend it for others, at least with that high of a memantine dosage because with its insane metabolic half life (60+ hours) it really conpojnds heavily. not to mention a therapeutic dose of memantine for what it's prescribed for (controlling dementia symptoms) is generally like 5-10mg. but I will say if you have the fortitude for it, it's a wonderful experience. you just have to be willing to essentially exist in a 24/7 state of moderate to heavy dissociation and not be too predisposed to panic because ive certainly seen heavy dissociative experiences to be quite anxiogenic for those who don't really get down with that. but I'd certainly suggest regular memantine usage over my old practice of constant high doses of dxm :V

I could have written this paragraph about 15 months ago, at the tail end of attempting to manage my depression with various cocktails of research dissociatives and nootropics.

I've been sober for over a year, and it's now amazing to me how completely terrible my self-perception was. I was laser-focused on measuring my mood and focus and completely blind to my intensely addictive substance use. I made a lot of dangerous choices. The same substances that can heal in small doses are recreational in large ones, and it takes a lot of self control to stay on the right side of the line.

I have had a lot of experience with psychedelics, stimulants, cannabis, and dissociatives. I respect the substances and value my experiences greatly. I believe there is no bad drug, just bad uses of drugs.

Here is a message I wrote to The Listserve in the middle of my using: https://thelistservearchive.com/2016/03/27/methoxetamine-dip...

And here's one I wrote after about 8 months of sobriety: https://thelistservearchive.com/2017/10/16/oblivion/

Have you tried ketamine? Not just for recreation, but as a possible treatment. It definitely is not going to last 60+ hours, more like .75-1.25hr, but it may be useful for acute symptoms. But if you approach an anesthetic dose it is quite enjoyable and calming, especially if you're already accustomed to psychedelic/narcotic experiences and the like.

i have tried it intranasally and it was certainly not the worst experience I ever had but I believe what I had to be of not the best quality as I went through 500mg in about 3-4 hours and didn't feel much other than a minor alteration. i think if it were still possible to find the original formulation of it, methoxetamine would be highly preferable, that was a very powerful experience when I got to try that out.

Translation: I snorted a very large amount over a very short space of time but didn't get much of a buzz out of it.

https://erowid.org/chemicals/ketamine/ketamine_dose.shtml says that 100-250mg produces "the K hole" (depends on body weight) so 500mg over a fairly short period sounds like quite the dosage. That you felt only a mild alteration suggests that either you have quite the tolerance for substances or that what you tried was not in fact ketamine. Also, it appears to me that you're deploying clinical language to mask recreational drug use which could be for our benefit or yours, I can't tell which.

i wouldn't be inclined to say that my choice of verbiage is to have any intent of masking the action or the nature of it. that's just how I generally talk about things. i feel like it leaves less up to interpretation and sort of solidifies the message I'm trying to communicate. which it did as your summary of what I had to say confirms.

also: i can't confirm if it was or wasn't actually ketamine. but i know that I experienced something, just nothing significant. I believe many dissociatives present a cross tolerance with each other and I was heavily tolerant to dxm at the time from heavy usage, so that may possibly have contributed to my tolerance, along with a certain level of inherent tolerance that my mind and physiology express when it comes to mind altering substances. which, and forgive me for sort of changing the topic, but that just sucks

They aren't left alone. As your quote says "You're with two guides, one male, one female."

They could go outside with you, instead of confining you to a room with headphones on.

I suspect the reason that it’s done indoors is that, most places with a high enough density of humans for this practice to be available, the outside is a dangerous place for a tripping patient. Someone driving by blasting a rap album out their window could send a trip in some bad directions.

Also, it’s a clinical study. They need to control the conditions or it’s not science.

When I was at University of Waterloo in the 80s, I went for a couple of talk therapy sessions with a very nice, empathetic woman employed in the Psych department. After a session, she said, "would you like to see something?"

Just adjacent to her office was a "trip room", probably constructed when the building was build in the 70s (?). It was round, completely lined with acid orange fabric, upholstered like a pasha's tent and filled with cushions in every colour imaginable. No doubt it had a superlative quadraphonic sound system installed. It also had a large, smoked glass window, for "observers." Not ideal for mushrooms perhaps but for other things...

It wouldn't be science but at the same time those conditions are horrible in order to study the effects of psychedelics.

The conditions are almost a sure fire way to make someone have a troubling experience if they were given the doses knowen to be taken in those times and did not have prior experience dealing with the reality altering effects of those substances.

Apparently not that horrible, with 25mg of psilocybin: Treatment with psilocybin produced rapid and sustained antidepressant effects. Decreased depressive symptoms were observed in all 19 patients at 1-week post-treatment and 47% met criteria for response at 5 weeks. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-13282-7

Well, the study took on about 20 people with treatment resistant depression and immediately helped about 80% of them, harming no one, so yes, they know what they are doing. The issue with nature is that you can't control the environment, which is critical in a pilot study when you are trying to legitimize a long forbidden research subject.

The podcast goes more in depth. There is preparation before the trip specifically to address any 'bad trips' and the guides are there to calm you down in case that happens.

As side note, this reminds me of the episode of Mad Men where Roger takes LSD [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Away_Places_(Mad_Men)

Bad trips? Or confronting trips. Meeting your edge, and in time, moving past it.

Sure, it’s not great in the moment. But I’ve always felt it rewarding in the long run.

Having experienced many trips in both settings, I would suggest that neither is really better. Being alone with your own mind can be terrifying, of course, but it can also be much more effective at reaching and healing deep traumas. Perhaps similar to how meditation and socializing have distinct purposes in sober life.

Yeah, and it sounds like they were taking very large doses, to the point of having visual hallucinations, which isn't really necessary

Be n

Someone identify what Soma was.

ibogaine: the only psychedelic people need to know about. and they need to know.

i highly agree that more people should know about ibogaine but at the same time it is important to note that unless you really know what you're doing or you have an experienced professional administering it, you really shouldn't mess around with it. stuff is serious business and not unknown to be fatal.

also, i really wouldn't classify it as a psychedelic, as to my understanding it's more of a dissociative, which while quite similar in concept, any experienced psychonaut can confirm that dissos and psys are extremely different in practice and in mechanism of action.

personaly I'd say that ayahuasca would be better for the lay person since a traditional brew isn't as dangerous as ibogaine, but certainly as powerful in terms of self growth and discovery. however, they both address different aspects of the self; I would say that in general, psys are very internally directed whereas dissociatives tend to invert that and pierce the outward veil, as it were

Your post is great and I agree with everything in it, except for suggesting ayahuasca to regular people. Over perhaps the last ten or twelve years I have made ayahuasca for people and sat with them during their trip. I strongly recommend people have experience with another psychedelic before trying DMT (or a brew in which DMT is a component, like ayahuasca). I actually generally won't let someone drink ayahuasca unless they've experienced other psychedelics beforehand. I will usually take them on a mushroom trip first. Only one time did I let someone drink ayahuasca without any experience with psychedelics first, and it was the wife of an experienced tripper friend and who also had experience with other substances. That went totally fine, but it is just such an intense hallucinogen (and/or dissociative depending) and it lasts for so long, I just couldn't do that to someone that didn't have a taste of what to expect beforehand.

On every ceremony that I went, at least 1/3 of participants never tried psychedelic before, and there are at least 1-2 persons which never tried anything before, not even marijuana. For some reason, people get drawn to ayahuasca and don't look at it like they look at other substances. Maybe because of the stigma that governments produced against other substances and maybe because ayahuasca ceremony involves shamans.

Anyhow, I have never witnessed problems after the ceremony ended. Yes, it can be really hard and heavy during the ceremony, but after the ceremony ends, everybody feels like they are new and like they never felt that good before. And in after effects of the next several weeks, everybody reports positive and lasting effects.

just to clarify, I was more trying to say that I would be inclined to suggest ayahuasca and dmt for individuals in contrast specifically to ibogaine. i wouldn't recommend either really but if I absolutely had to, for the lay person I'd go with ayahuasca

Ibogaine is absolutely not for everyone. Saying something like that is actively dangerous.

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