Readers skim over the details of the associated intensive guided therapy sessions. They assume that they can get the same exaggerated results by dosing darknet-sourced LSD at home, alone, without the concomitant therapy sessions used in clinical research studies. The articles are so focused on the drug that the associated therapy sessions feel like a neglected footnote.
Meanwhile, journalists and internet commenters both ignore the very real risks of framing psychedelics as a DIY miracle cure for people with difficult to treat mental health issues. Before this current phase, the universally accepted advice for psychedelic experimenters was to never use psychedelics if you had underlying mental health issues and to always have a sitter present to monitor and guide your trip. The reframing of psychedelics as a miracle cure has triggered a wave of people ignoring that advice, dosing alone at home without any form of supporting therapy to frame their trips.
If you spend some time browsing Reddit, it's not hard to find bizarre stories of people triggering week, month, or even year long episodes of worsened depression, derealization, PTSD-like symptoms, or HPPD from psychedelic experimentation. If "big pharma" produced a drug with possible side effects like that, we'd be hearing a very different story. Yet LSD and other underground treatments get a free pass in the media at this point in the hype cycle.
Psychedelic research is very interesting and potentially promising, but I hope the current wave of one-sided glorification comes to an end soon. If we want to see proper psychedelic research continue and for the field to be taken seriously, it's important that we stay grounded in our reporting of the topic.
The conventional wisdom - that LSD is only for Bad People Who Want To Hurt Themselves, or some variation - is being replaced. This doesn't happen by everyone sitting quietly to lectures and then calmly attempting to set each others' expectations to cautiously optimistic, after several more rounds of trials.
No, people get interested, some more enthusiastically than others. Some will do stupid things, others will spread lots of nonsense. I'm sure some people will be hurt/end up dead through no fault of their own. And eventually we find a new normal.
This is just how humans do things. Compare with robocars. Did we wait until level-whatever full autonomy was hit and fully tested? No, we are letting a few people die while getting the bugs worked out.
I've done shrooms couple of times, it was profoundly mind-and-life-changing experience and in many ways the most intense and beautiful event in my life. But I wouldn't recommend it to maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of people I know, simply because I wouldn't be sure it wouldn't mess them up badly, like really badly. At least not under professional supervision and adequate gradual dosing.
You make everybody smoke weed few times, not much bad can happen. You make everybody trippin', and consequences are unpredictable. Show some respect for the stuff, it very well deserves it.
I know everyone acts different to everything but I've had trippier experiences with weed where my memory was so short I thought I was just appearing in places and forgot what my arms felt like. So I think the concerns of shrooms are greatly over exaggerated.
I mixed dried shrooms with fresh lemon juice, horrible taste but made trip much more intensive, and shorter (which was actually good because I got massive headache afterwards, feeling like keeping my brain in red revs for hours).
And then gradually coming back, composing my mind atom by atom, retrieving my senses, limbs and so on. Very profound experience. You need to know how to do psychedelics.
Even literal overdose on weed from very strong milk brew where all of us ended up vomiting and tripping super high was nothing compared to this.
In my own experience as a patient it was always a case of "let's see how this one works for you."
My point is simply that every drug carries some risk and that every one of us can react differently to them (including ourselves as we age).
I'm pro-psychedelics but agree that they should be treated with utmost respect.
It's false equivalency to suggest that because all drugs have some risk, we should treat all drugs as equally risky.
Yes, all drugs carry risk. But no, all drugs do not carry equivalent risk profiles. When we're discussing the risks of psychedelics, it's dishonest to try to dismiss them as equivalent to every other drug under the sun. We need to have an honest conversation about the potential risks and how they differ from other psychiatric medications.
This was my point with the opening post: Everyone is so excited about the potential applications of psychedelic medicine that we're overlooking traditional logic. If we want to see the field of psychedelic research continue moving in the right direction, it's important that we stay rigorous with our logic and reporting.
Can you imagine if a brand name drug was found to have a side effect of triggering psychotic episodes in vulnerable patients, and the drug company responded with "To be fair, all drugs have some risk". HN would be all over that faulty logic if it came from a corporation, but for some reason psychedelics get to play by a different set of rules.
However, I agree with the general sentiment of your comment, especially given that pharma drugs that trigger episodes would do over the course of months whereas a psychadelic can do it in an hour.
And that is why you must get a prescription from a trained and authorized professional in order to use those substances
As for now, the only evidence that can answer such questions is anecdotal user stories, of which we have lots, and from my reading in that realm, while there is undoubtedly very real risk involved the vast majority of feedback is positive.
If someone who could benefit from these substances is in a position where they are unable to obtain professional services (most people I'd think at this stage), it would be unfortunate if they didn't bother looking into it because of reading overly protective risk assessments.
I didn't suggest such a thing. It was more along the lines of "there are a lot of choices and they all have risks, be aware."
> Can you imagine if a brand name drug was found to have a side effect of triggering psychotic episodes in vulnerable patients, and the drug company responded with "To be fair, all drugs have some risk"
That pretty much happens, except that the companies respond with "we printed that risk on the label, you were warned"
That advice was an overly broad crock and some of the most promising applications of psychadelics are for treating things like treatment resistant depression.
In regards to always having a sitter I do think there is a ton of temptation to forgo this step yet I think the drug is simultaneously less effective and more dangerous if you forgo this step. Still I rarely hear anybody fail to stress the importance of a sitter.
The most promising applications for psychedelics are studied in conjunction with intensive therapy sessions before, during, and after the psychedelic dose.
The problem is that too many people read this articles and conclude that the drug is doing all the work, ignoring the rigorous therapy that surrounds the psychedelic dosing in all of the clinical studies.
My point was that taking LSD in your basement alone is not 1:1 equivalent to the clinical research that uses LSD as an ingredient in a structured therapy program. Even this article explains LSD use in the context of therapy. Yet people read these articles and assume that LSD operates as a standalone wonder drug.
I'm unconvinced a therapists supervision is the "secret sauce". Yet there are many many reports even before recent studies that having a "sitter" or "shaman" type was essential and the presence of a therapist just seems like a medicalization of that principle.
Similar to what happened with opioids. Opioids are addictive, don't use them ever -> opioids aren't that addictive, give them to everyone -> Opioids are addictive, don't use them ever.
I hope to live long enough to see another cycle.
There are some crucial aspects of what happened that are missing from your account.
1 - Not only did some people have bad reactions, but the media and politicians sensationalized the hell out those bad reactions, we're not seeing that now and the media attention has been extraordinarily positive.. so far. It could, of course, change on a dime if/when there's some juicy scandal that the media can whip people up in to a frenzy over.
2 - Psychedelics and cannabis were tied strongly in to the counterculture (including that new demonic music, Rock and Roll) of the time, which was a frightening bogeyman to politicians and mainstream culture.
Mainstream culture has pretty much absorbed much of that counterculture since then. Rock and Roll is pretty blase, hippies are seen as quaint anachronisms, psychedelic/surreal art is commonplace and won't raise an eyebrow any longer. People have bigger things to worry about.
3 - Psychedelics and cannabis were tied strongly to the anti-war movement and various political issues that were threatening the status quo. There's hardly any anti-war movement to speak of any longer, and psychedelic users don't seem to be threatening the status quo except for wanting to get their drugs of choice legalized, and maybe "save the planet" by taking better care of the environment. It's hard to get people wound up in opposition to that any longer.
Now, this could all change as psychedelics do have the potential to inspire art and music and maybe create a new counterculture, and to also inspire radical political action and seeking out of alternatives to the status quo, and I hope that does happen in some positive, constructive manner. And there could be a huge backlash against that once again, but there's not even a hint of it yet.
Something else that's going on now is that there's a lot more education about safe use of psychedelics, the therapeutic/medical model and the shamanic/sacred approach seem to be taking off on a scale that wasn't there in the 50's and 60's. Ayahuasca tourism is huge, and MDMA-assisted and Psilocybin-assisted therapies are ramping up (with veterans of all people!)
Talking about and getting help for mental health issues is also something that's much more widely accepted than it was in the 50's and 60's, when these things were pretty taboo. Psychedelic support and integration groups are also springing up all over the place. So people are much more likely to seek out help when they need it. That will hopefully have a positive effect to stem the flow of "acid casualties" this time around.
There's also a mental health crisis, where traditional mental health treatments are widely recognized as having failed, and people are looking for alternatives that work. This is somewhat similar to the 60's and 70's, when alternative treatments were also fashionable, but it seems such alternatives are much more acceptable today.
In addition to this, a lot of the people who were part of the youth culture and counterculture in the 60's are in positions of power now, and they're not as afraid of these substances as their parents were.
We're definitely living in interesting times, and right now the future looks bright, though of course that could change if people continue to use these substances irresponsibly and the media manages to turn reports of bad experiences in to a circus.
I have two friends (who are not known to one another) who both came back from their South American ayahuasca experience claiming that the drug opens a portal into another dimension where they spoke with godlike beings. When I suggested that it merely altered their perception and connected them deeply with their own minds as psychedelics do, they insist that the experience of opening the interdimensional portal was literally real and that ayahuasca is not like all those other hallucinogens.
Later I learned that this is a common problem. And in this case, it doesn’t look like having a sitter helps, because the ayahuasca shaman is likely to encourage them to interpret their experience in this way. I wouldn’t consider ayahuasca tourism an example of good, productive use of psychedelics.
Maybe you think their beliefs are particularly pernicious for some reason?
For me, I've had a slew of crazy 'spiritual' experiences that I can't quite reconcile now that I've stepped away from the church. In a sense it can be quite haunting.
In my late teens I had a bunch if warts on my hands. It was really gross and I was appropriately self-conscious. The church I was part of had these INSANE / aggressive faith healers or whatever come through once a year. A bunch of crazy stuff would happen each year (e.g. people quitting smoking en masse after smelling an overwhelming stench of cigarettes followed by something resembling fresh baking...)
The overall tone was 'spiritual' -- either through anticipation or expectation, I'm not certain.
We were sitting around and my buddy suggested I go up re: the warts, but I really didn't want to. He said that he had warts as a kid and his Dad prayed over him for healing. The following day the warts turned black and fell off (gross) -- and that was it. No scarring, etc.
So we prayed for healing over these warts and I didn't think much of it. I'd seen this sort of fruitless petition many times, so it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.
The following day I was getting out of the shower and noticed that all of the warts had turned white. I washed my hands in the sink and sure enough, the warts all came off.
These days I chalk this up to persuasion / placebo -- as if somehow something clicked in my mind to trigger some sort of targeted healing... but it's still extremely hard to reconcile this experience.
When you're in this environment for years on end, or even a weekend (church camp), everything is spiritual -- and even normal things like a bag of salad that seems to last longer than expected is made out to be something it isn't. I don't view it as healthy, but regarding your friends' experiences, I can totally understand the experience, emotions, etc that make something like that seem real.
I'm not trying to suggest you're lying or anything, but these kinds of stories get warped in our memories over time and sort of settle on a more significant, but less accurate version.
Personally, I think that these things seem real to people because they want to believe it's real, and so they'll latch on to anything that remotely stands out and attach a meaning to it. Over time their memories of the event settle on that idealized version of it.
I think it ultimately boils down to persuasion and the environment. When you're surrounded by 'faith', you can pin a lot of things onto that -- much like how some folks buy into horoscopes, homeopathy, statues, prayer cards, etc.
I know someone who considers themselves to be really lucky because they win a lot of contests -- but they only win a lot of contests because they enter a lot of contests.
I used to have warts on my hands and feet when I was a kid. It wasn't bad, only one on a finger and two in a benign spot on my feet. But they were very persistent for many years. I never saw a faith healer, but they still fell off on their own one day, never to return again. I had actually completely forgotten about that until I read your message, likely because it held no significance for me. The coincidence of faith healer + warts falling off appears more significant that warts falling off with no apparent instigator.
The search term for those looking for more information is “machine elves”.
I, too, find ayahuasca tourism to not be a very good or productive way of experimenting with psychedelics. The mysticism/religion is not inherently beneficial, and you can experiment a lot closer to home without all of the woo if you like, with much the same results.
Modern witchcraft is a lot like this, spells are basically like stronger versions of new years resolutions or therapy.
I'm curious, did they believe there is a high probability of godlike beings existing in another dimension before they took ayahuasca?
A lot of people don't really understand how potentially transformative a powerful psychedelic experience can be, particularly if it entails a classic mystical experience.
A common characteristic of them is that they are experienced as "more real than real", that valuable, even sacred truths and insights are revealed, and often what is revealed seems indubitably true, or at least at a deeper level of truth than something like mere belief.
After such experiences some may come to question what they experienced, and may come to doubt it or re-interpret it in a way that they couldn't while under the effect of the psychedelic, but others can't or won't.
This may be due to a number of factors.
First, few people have a very developed critical faculty. Most are not used to questioning their own perception of the world or their beliefs. When faced with such an overpoweringly true-seeming experience (perhaps the most powerful of their life) their instinct is to take it at face value and believe.
Many of them are also seekers, looking to be convinced or converted, or in some fashion already believe something like what the experience reveals, though sometimes true converts are made (like atheists becoming theists, radical switches of political orientation, etc).
This can happen with any powerful psychedelic, but there are some special factors to consider for ayahuasca (and other psychedelics, like peyote, which have a long history of indigenous/shamanic use).
As far as ayahuasca goes, the people who facilitate ayahuasca experiences and the groups of people who take part in them (as ayahuasca is usually done in groups) often share and reinforce beliefs similar to what you described, both before and after the experience. There are also lots of articles, videos, and podcasts which tell people what to expect. This primes people to have such experiences, then interpret them in the way everyone else seems to, and accept them as true.
Talk about travel to other dimensions, the spirit world, entities like "Mother Ayahuasca", super powers, time travel, precognition, communication with the dead, etc are common, and usually discussed quite uncritically, as if none of this could possibly be anything other than absolutely and unquestionably true.
There are some skeptical, experienced voices, but they are drowned out by the believers.
Now, if the believers are right, then maybe this isn't a problem. But the thing is that there are many incompatible supernatural belief systems that people buy in to through psychedelic use.. from a belief in a world controlled by demons to a belief that everything is love, to Charles Manson and other cult leaders being gods, to more humble and peaceful beliefs, and it's hard to imagine how they can all be true.
Fortunately, the belief systems that most users get in to tend to be peaceful, constructive, and caring. But I am concerned that some people will get themselves in to a reality tunnel that's not quite so benign. It has happened.
Charles Manson's abuse of LSD was probably the most infamous example of this in recent times, but if we look at the belief systems that psychedelic users adopts as new religions, we only have to take a look at the history of religion through the ages to realize that quite bloodthirsty strife amongst believers is common, and still goes on today.
I sincerely hope that such a bloody future is not in the cards for the newly flowering psychedelic faiths.
To guard against this and increase the odds of safely navigating the psychdelic realm, it's probably prudent to cultivate a well functioning BS detector, and maybe have someone you respect and trust who you'll listen to if they call you on your own BS if you're somehow unable to, and maybe make you think twice for a second about you being the Second Coming of Jesus or being able to cause earthquakes with your mind.
But you are correct, we don’t see the same alcohol good/alcohol bad cycle.
Maybe because use has been widespread for so long?
I'm skeptical of this claim, every bad story seems to go along with some terrible decision making, "this was my first time doing lsd i was peaking hard and smoked a 1g blunt" or "i locked my self in my room so my parents wouldn't find me"
Also a horrible idea is to go somewhere really hot (like a poorly ventilated dance club or concert in 100+ degree heat) and take a lot of Molly/Esctacy/MDMA (apparently most people don't even know that these are supposed to be the same thing, though what you actually get on the street is anyone's guess), dancing like crazy, then overheating as a result... and some people have died of this.
Drinking too little water, or too much water without the proper amount of electrolytes while exerting yourself dancing on MDMA can also result in either dehydration or hyponatremia. Some people have died of this too.
Finally, some of the worst ideas are to blindly try some new research chemicals without knowing what they are or what their long-term (or sometimes even short-term) effects are.
Taking the classic psychedelics (LSD, psylocybin, mescaline, peyote, and properly identified psychedelic mushrooms) in a safe, quiet place, with people you like and trust and an experienced sitter is the optimally safe way to go.
Do make sure to identify what you have, though. This is very, very important.
For example the use of drugs for near death terminally ill patients is not just "get stoned and chill" it's an orchestrated experience.
Strip the hype, retain a clinician with a qualification in mental health and clinical psychology, use metered doses. Why not?
Leary is not the story. Or should not be the story
Unfortunately, some of those are the potentially lethal NBOMes.
Yes, you could test, but tests from ecstasydata.org cost $100, and only tests that one sample you send. It also takes a couple of weeks to get results.
That kind of outlay of time and money is only going to be acceptable to a small minority of users, and the unfortunate fact is that most users will not test.
The real solution is to get LSD legalized and then safety and purity could be assured.
Another alternative is to try some other psychedelics, like:
- Salvia Divinorum, which is legal in many places
- MDMA, which is likely to be rescheduled next year and then can be used legally under the supervision of a therapist (which can already be done under limited circumstances)
- Psilocybin, which will probably be rescheduled within the next 5 years, and can then also be used legally under the supervision of a therapist
- Ketamine, which can be legally prescribed for depression right now (search around for Ketamine clinics)
- Peyote or Ayahuasca, if you're part of certain religious groups
- Psilocybin mushrooms, which you could pick (be careful!!!) or grow.
- Psychedelic cacti, which you could grow. But, unfortunately they take a really long time to grow, and over-harvesting of peyote (for example) is a very serious sustainability problem.
- Cannabis, which can have psychedelic effects at high doses.
Being part of a legitimate medical research study can also get you access to pure LSD, and a limited amount of such research is now ongoing and planned.
It's easy to misread a reagent test, and they won't tell you all the substances that are in a sample, just the particular sample(s) they test for.
GC/MS is much more definitive, in that it'll tell you every known substance that's in your sample (though, unfortunately, ecstasydata is forbidden by the DEA from telling you the amount of each substance they find -- another stupid and harmful result of the War on Drugs).
Still, reagent testing (when done carefully, knowledgeably, and properly) is definitely a whole lot better than no testing at all.
 - For example, was that color you saw black or dark brown or dark violet? Did you wait long enough for the color to change? Did you look at the reagent color under the same lighting as the light you looked at the reference under, and was that lighting adequate enough to differentiate between all the different colors properly? It matters!
 - https://www.ecstasydata.org/about_data.php#quant
If it's not real, the dose size is so small (micrograms), that you aren't likely to experience anything at all.
But yeah, you don't buy it from a street corner dealer, you get it from a friend, who tells you they tried it and it's real. If you don't have friends that do this kind of thing that you trust, I wouldn't bother.
"If it's bitter, its a spitter"
That's not the point. NBOMe compounds also fit on blotter paper with similar potency to LSD, yet have significantly more dangerous side effect profiles.
Also if it's bitter don't take it.
Don't just swallow potentially lethal substances!
Test them (don't taste them!) first if you're not sure what they are.
If you're tasting something that can kill you it's already too late.
The psychedelics aren't necessary. It just appeals to people because everyone wants a magic cure.
As an added bonus, it made achieving a meditative state much easier for me.
Society is too preoccupied with the conscious mind. It's not meant to be running and in control all the time. Through meditation I've learned to communicate with my sub/unconscious mind. I can query it and it responds not with words, but more with feelings/emotions. It really kinda scared me the first time. Now, it is how I figure out what is really going on with me, what environmental factors are causing me malaise.
I'm now extremely grateful for the challenges I faced, as I wouldn't have been forced to grow otherwise.
I call it guided meditation therapy, but it is also know as hypnotherapy. I didn't use that name because I thought it would receive an immediate negative response from many here. There are quacks out there, but it doesn't invalidate the entire concept.
A closed mind will ensure no mental health progress is made. I'm so glad mine was forced open.
Have you actually ever had a powerful psychedelic experience?