Psychedelic experience

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A psychedelic experience (or 'trip') is a temporary altered state of consciousness induced by the consumption of psychedelic drugs (such as mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, and DMT). For example, the term acid trip refers to psychedelic experiences brought on by the use of LSD.

An altered state of consciousness (ASC), also called altered state of mind or mind alteration, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking state. By 1892, the expression was in use in relation to hypnosis although an ongoing debate about hypnosis as an ASC based on modern definition exists. The next retrievable instance, by Dr Max Mailhouse from his 1904 presentation to conference, however, is unequivocally identified as such, as it was in relation to epilepsy, and is still used today. In academia, the expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart. It describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary. A synonymous phrase is "altered state of awareness".

Psychedelic drug

Psychedelics are a class of drug whose primary action is to trigger psychedelic experiences via serotonin receptor agonism, causing thought and visual/auditory changes, and altered state of consciousness. Major psychedelic drugs include mescaline, LSD, psilocybin, marijuana (Tetrahydracannabinol), DMT. Studies show that psychedelics are physiologically safe and do not lead to addiction. Studies conducted using psilocybin, marijuana in a psychotheraputic setting reveal that psychedelic drugs may assist with treating alcohol and nicotine addiction.

Mescaline chemical compound

Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine) is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid of the phenethylamine class, known for its hallucinogenic effects comparable to those of LSD and psilocybin.

Contents

The term "psychedelic" derives from Greek words essentially meaning "mind revealing". Psychedelic experiences are interpreted in exploratory, learning, recreational, religious/mystical and therapeutic contexts.

Recreational drug use Use of a drug with the primary intention to alter the state of consciousness

Recreational drug use is the use of a psychoactive drug to induce an altered state of consciousness for pleasure, by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user. When a psychoactive drug enters the user's body, it induces an intoxicating effect. Generally, recreational drugs are in three categories: depressants ; stimulants ; and hallucinogens. Many people also use prescribed and illegal opioids along with opiates and benzodiazepines. In popular practice, recreational drug use generally is a tolerated social behaviour, rather than perceived as the serious medical condition of self-medication. However, heavy use of some drugs is socially stigmatized.

Entheogen chemical substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context that often induces psychological or physiological changes

An entheogen is a class of psychoactive substances that induce any type of spiritual experience aimed at development. The term entheogen is often chosen to contrast recreational use of the same drugs.

Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving psychedelic drugs, oftentimes utilizing serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, mescaline, and 2C-B. Psychedelic therapy, in contrast to conventional psychiatric medication taken by the patient regularly or as-needed, patients generally remain in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute psychedelic activity with additional sessions both before and after in order to help integrate experiences with the drug.

Definition

A psychedelic experience is a temporary altered state of consciousness induced by the consumption of psychedelic drugs (the best known of which are LSD and psilocybin 'magic' mushrooms). The psychedelic altered state of consciousness is commonly characterised as a higher (elevated or transcendent) state relative to ordinary (sober) experience; for example, the psychologist Benny Shanon observed from ayahuasca trip reports: "the assessment, very common with ayahuasca, that what is seen and thought during the course of intoxication defines the real, whereas the world that is ordinarily perceived is actually an illusion." [1]

In religion, transcendence is the aspect of a deity's nature and power that is wholly independent of the material universe, beyond all known physical laws. This is contrasted with immanence, where a god is said to be fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways. In religious experience transcendence is a state of being that has overcome the limitations of physical existence and by some definitions has also become independent of it. This is typically manifested in prayer, séance, meditation, psychedelics and paranormal "visions".

Benny Shanon is an emeriti professor of psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and holds the Mandel Chair in cognitive psychology and education. Born in Tel Aviv, Shanon studied philosophy and linguistics at Tel Aviv University and received his doctorate in experimental psychology from Stanford University. He is best known for the Biblical entheogen hypothesis, the idea that the use of hallucinogenic drugs influenced religion.

Ayahuasca A psychoactive brew made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine.

Ayahuasca or ayaguasca from Quechua Ayawaska, or yagé, is an entheogenic brew made out of Banisteriopsis caapi vine and other ingredients. The brew is used as a traditional spiritual medicine in ceremonies among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin and is known by a number of different names.

Similarly, psychologist Stanislav Grof described the LSD experience as: "complex revelatory insights into the nature of existence… typically accompanied by a sense of certainty that this knowledge is ultimately more relevant and "real" than the perceptions and beliefs we share in everyday life." [2] The philosopher Alan Watts likened psychedelic experiencing to the transformations of consciousness that are undertaken in Taoism and Zen, which he says is, "more like the correction of faulty perception or the curing of a disease… not an acquisitive process of learning more and more facts or greater and greater skills, but rather an unlearning of wrong habits and opinions." [3]

Stanislav Grof Czech pychiatrist

Stanislav "Stan" Grof is a Czech psychiatrist, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche. Grof received the VISION 97 award granted by the Foundation of Dagmar and Václav Havel in Prague on October 5, 2007.

Alan Watts British philosopher, writer and speaker

Alan Wilson Watts was a British-American philosopher who interpreted and popularised Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Born in Chislehurst, England, he moved to the United States in 1938 and began Zen training in New York. Pursuing a career, he attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, where he received a master's degree in theology. Watts became an Episcopal priest in 1945, then left the ministry in 1950 and moved to California, where he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies.

The LSD experience was described by Alan Watts as, "revelations of the secret workings of the brain, of the associative and patterning processes, the ordering systems which carry out all our sensing and thinking." [4]

Etymology

The term 'psychedelic' was coined in 1953 by the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond, during written correspondence with Aldous Huxley. 'Psychedelic' derives from two Ancient Greek words, 'psyche' meaning mind or soul and 'delos' meaning reveal or manifest. The psychedelic experience is said to reveal aspects of the mind that are normally hidden.

The term "trip" was first coined by US Army scientists during the 50s when they were experimenting with LSD. [5]

Basic phenomenology

Psychedelic tripping consists of a small number of distinctive phenomenological characteristics. The major identifying characteristics include alterations of visual perception, psychotherapeutic breakthrough experiences leading to personal growth, experiences of religious epiphany/mystical transcendence, and 'bad trips' - negative/unpleasant panic-attack control-loss experiences (note: these four characteristics of psychedelic tripping are not mutually exclusive, there is a wide overlap between them). These four central characteristics of psychedelic experiencing are described in detail in the following sections:

Visual alteration

Probably the most common, widely recognised psychedelic experiential phenomenon is the alteration in visual perception; this includes surfaces in the environment appearing to ripple and undulate; Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD, described how during his bicycle ride home after his first deliberate LSD self-administration: "Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror". Psychedelic visual alteration also includes spontaneous formation of complex flowing geometric visual patterning in the visual field. When the eyes are open, the visual alteration is overlaid onto the objects and spaces in the physical environment; when the eyes are closed the visual alteration is seen in the 'inner world' behind the eyelids. These visual effects increase in intensity with higher dosages, and also when the eyes are closed.

Psychotherapy/personal development

There is a distinctly gnosis-like quality to psychedelic experiencing; it is a learning experience that elevates consciousness and makes a profound contribution to personal development. For this reason, the plant sources of some psychedelic drugs such as ayahuasca and mescaline-containing cacti are sometimes referred to as "plant teachers". [6]

Similarly, in a follow-up to the psilocybin and mysticism study at Johns Hopkins, researchers observed that psilocybin: "occasions personally and spiritually significant mystical experiences that predict long-term changes in behaviors, attitudes and values". [7]

Mystical/religious experience

Psychedelic experience includes the full range of mystical or religious experiential phenomena. Two scientific studies have concluded that psilocybin (a typical psychedelic compound that occurs naturally in psilocybin mushrooms) reliably triggers mystical-type experiences. [7] The more recent study at Johns Hopkins University identified mystical experiences by means of several questionnaires designed to categorise altered state 'non-ordinary' experiences, including one questionnaire called 'the mysticism scale'. [7]

Furthermore, psychedelic drugs have a long history of religious use across the world. They are often called entheogens because of their propensity to induce these kinds of experiences. [8]

Several modern religions exist today that base their religious activities and beliefs around psychedelic experiencing, such as Santo Daime and the Native American Church. In this context, the psychedelic experience is interpreted as a way of communicating with the realm of spirits or ancestors.

Bad trip

A "bad trip" ("drug-induced temporary psychosis" or "psychedelic crisis") is a disturbing, unpleasant, potentially dangerous, and possibly traumatizing psychedelic experience. Bad trips are more common at high doses, where the psychedelic effect is more intense.

The manifestations can range from feelings of mild anxiety and alienation to profoundly disturbing states of unrelieved terror, ultimate entrapment, sheer insanity or cosmic annihilation. This is why a person who plans on taking a psychedelic should be accompanied by a trip sitter.

Bad trips can be exacerbated by the inexperience or irresponsibility of the user or the lack of proper preparation and environment for the trip. At the extreme, the occurrence of bad trips without proper preparation can result in a tripper committing self-harm or harming others, suicide attempts and contact with law enforcement.

Psychedelic specialists in the psychotherapeutic community do not necessarily consider unpleasant experiences as unhealthy or undesirable, focusing instead on their potential for psychological healing, to lead to breakthrough and resolution of unresolved psychic issues. [9]

Aldous Huxley's concept of the cognitive reducing valve

In his book The Doors of Perception , author and psychonaut Aldous Huxley presents the idea of the mental reducing valve in order to explain the significance of the psychedelic experience. According to Huxley, the central nervous system's main function is to shut out the majority of what we perceive; [10] the brain filters those perceptions which are useful for survival. Society aids in this filtering by creating a symbolic system which structures our reality and which reduces our awareness. [10]

Psychedelic experiencing has the effect of reducing the strength of the mind's reducing valve, which allows for a broader spectrum of one's overall experience to enter into conscious experience. A person undergoing a psychedelic trip temporarily possesses a higher level of conscious awareness.

Psychedelic psychotherapy

Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving the use of psychedelic drugs to facilitate beneficial emotional processing and exploration of the psyche. In contrast to conventional psychiatric medication which is taken by the patient regularly or as-needed, in psychedelic therapy, patients remain in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute activity of the drug and spend the night at the facility. In the sessions with the drug, therapists are nondirective and support the patient in exploring their inner experience. Patients participate in psychotherapy before the drug psychotherapy sessions to prepare them and after the drug psychotherapy to help them integrate their experiences with the drug. [11] [12]

An early practitioner of psychedelic drug based psychiatry was Humphrey Osmond, a British psychiatrist who was responsible for coining the word 'psychedelic' in the first place. Osmond claimed that his own personal use of LSD had helped him to understand the inner mental states of his schizophrenic patients. [13]

Another important practitioner in this field is Stanislav Grof, who pioneered the use of LSD in psychotherapy. [14] Grof characterised psychedelic experiencing as "non-specific amplification of unconscious mental processes", and he analysed the phenomenology of the LSD experience (particularly the experience of psychospiritual death and rebirth) in terms of Otto Rank's theory of the unresolved memory of the primal birth trauma. [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>The Doors of Perception</i> book by Aldous Huxley

The Doors of Perception is a book by Aldous Huxley. Published in 1954, it elaborates on his psychedelic experience under the influence of mescaline in May 1953. The book takes its title from a phrase in William Blake's 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Huxley recalls the insights he experienced, ranging from the "purely aesthetic" to "sacramental vision", and reflects on their philosophical and intellectual implications.

Psychedelia Subculture of people who use psychedelic drugs

Psychedelia is the subculture, originating in the 1960s, of people who use psychedelic drugs such as LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. The term is also used to describe a style of psychedelic artwork and psychedelic music. Psychedelic art and music typically try to recreate or reflect the experience of altered consciousness. Psychedelic art uses highly distorted and surreal visuals, bright colors and full spectrums and animation to evoke and convey to a viewer or listener the artist's experience while using such drugs, or to enhance the experience of a user of these drugs. Psychedelic music uses distorted electric guitar, Indian music elements such as the sitar, electronic effects, sound effects and reverberation, and elaborate studio effects, such as playing tapes backwards or panning the music from one side to another.

A bad trip is a frightening and unpleasant experience triggered by psychoactive drugs, especially psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms.

Humphry Fortescue Osmond was an English psychiatrist who expatriated to Canada, then moved to work in the United States. He is known for inventing the word psychedelic and for his research into interesting and useful applications for psychedelic drugs. Osmond also explored aspects of the psychology of social environments, in particular how they influenced welfare or recovery in mental institutions.

History of lysergic acid diethylamide

The psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. It was not until five years later on April 19, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were found.

This is a list of psychedelic literature, works related to psychedelic drugs and the psychedelic experience. Psychedelic literature has also been defined as textual works that arose from the proliferation of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic research with hallucinogens during the 1950s and early 1960s in North America and Europe.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a membership-based 501(c)(3) organization working to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substances. MAPS was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, and is now based in Santa Cruz, California.

Ego death is a "complete loss of subjective self-identity". The term is used in various intertwined contexts, with related meanings. In Jungian psychology, the synonymous term psychic death is used, which refers to a fundamental transformation of the psyche. In death and rebirth mythology, ego death is a phase of self-surrender and transition, as described by Joseph Campbell in his research on the mythology of the Hero's Journey. It is a recurrent theme in world mythology and is also used as a metaphor in some strands of contemporary western thinking.

Walter Norman Pahnke was a minister, physician, and psychiatrist most famous for the "Good Friday Experiment", also referred to as the Marsh Chapel Experiment or the "Miracle of Marsh Chapel".

Mind at Large is a concept from The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley. This philosophy was influenced by the ideas of C. D. Broad. Psychedelic drugs are thought to disable filters which inhibit or quell signals related to mundane functions from reaching the conscious mind. In the aforementioned books, Huxley explores the idea that the human mind filters reality, partly because handling the details of all of the impressions and images coming in would be unbearable, partly because it has been taught to do so. He believes that psychoactive drugs can partly remove this filter, which leaves the drug user exposed to Mind at Large.

<i>The Psychedelic Experience</i> book by Timothy Leary

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a book about using psychedelic drugs that was coauthored by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, all of whom had previously taken part in research investigating the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline in addition to the ability of these substances to sometimes induce religious and mystical states of consciousness. Started as early as 1962 as part of the Zihuatanejo Project in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the book was finally published in August 1964.

A hallucinogen is a psychoactive agent which can cause hallucinations, perceptual anomalies, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness. The common types of hallucinogens are psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants. Although hallucinations are a common symptom of amphetamine psychosis, amphetamines are not considered hallucinogens, as they are not a primary effect of the drugs themselves. While hallucinations can occur when abusing stimulants, the nature of stimulant psychosis is not unlike delirium.

LSD art is any art or visual displays inspired by psychedelic experiences and hallucinations known to follow the ingestion of LSD. Artists and scientists have been interested in the effect of LSD on drawing and painting since it first became available for legal use and general consumption.

Daniel Waterman British philosopher

Daniel Waterman is a British philosopher, artist, writer, freelance researcher, locksmith and Ayahuasca provider, living in the Netherlands. He is the author of "Entheogens, Society & Law: Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility", edited by Casey William Hardison, and published in 2013.

Researchers have noted the relationship between psychedelics and ecology, particularly in relation to the altered states of consciousness (ASC) produced by psychedelic drugs and the perception of interconnectedness expressed through ecological ideas and themes produced by the psychedelic experience. This is felt through the direct experience of the unity of nature and the environment of which the individual is no longer perceived as separate but intimately connected and embedded inside.

The Spring Grove Experiment is a series of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) studies performed from 1963 to 1976 on patients with psychotic illnesses at the Spring Grove Clinic in Catonsville, Maryland. These patients were sponsored by a federal agency called the National Institute of Mental Health to be part of the first study conducted on the effects of psychedelic drugs on schizophrenics. Then, the Spring Grove Experiments were adapted to study the effect of LSD and psychotherapy on patients including alcoholics, heroin addicts, neurotics, and terminally-ill cancer patients. The research done was largely conducted by the members of the Research Unit of Spring Grove State Hospital. Significant contributors to the experiments included Walter Pahnke, Albert Kurland, Sanford Unger, Richard Yensen, Stanislav Grof, William Richards, Francesco Di Leo and Oliver Lee McCabe. Later, Spring Grove was rebuilt into the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, where studies continued to be performed for the advancement of psychiatric research. This study on LSD is the largest study on psychedelic drugs to date.

Philosophy of psychedelics

Philosophy of psychedelics is the philosophical investigation of the psychedelic experience. While psychedelic, entheogenic or hallucinogenic substances have been used by many traditional cultures throughout history mostly for religious purposes, recorded philosophical speculation and analysis of these substances, their phenomenological effects and the relevance of these altered states of consciousness to philosophical questions is a relatively late phenomenon in the history of philosophy. Traditional cultures who use psychedelic substances such as the Amazonian and Indigenous Mexican peoples hold that ingesting medicinal plants such as Ayahuasca and Peyote allows one to commune with the beings of the spirit world.

References

  1. Shanon, Benny (2002). The antipodes of the mind : charting the phenomenology of the Ayahuasca experience (Reprinted ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 205. ISBN   978-0-19-925292-3.
  2. Bennett, Stanislav Grof with Hal Zina (2006). The holotropic mind : the three levels of human consciousness and how they shape our lives (1st paperback ed., [Nachdr.] ed.). San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco. p. 38. ISBN   9780062506597.
  3. Watts, Alan W. (2013). The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (Second ed.). p. 15. ISBN   9781608682041.
  4. Watts, Alan W. (2013). The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (Second ed.). p. 44. ISBN   9781608682041.
  5. Lee, Martin A. (1985). Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. Grove Press. p. 39. ISBN   0-802-13062-3.
  6. Luna, Luis. "The Concept of Plants as Teachers among four Mestizo Shamans of Iquitos, Northeastern Perú". Spirit Quest. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  7. 1 2 3 MacLean, Katherine A.; Johnson, Matthew W.; Griffiths, Roland R. (2011). "Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness" (PDF). Journal of Psychopharmacology. 25 (11): 1453–1461. doi:10.1177/0269881111420188. PMC   3537171 . Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2013.
  8. Rätsch, Richard Evans Schultes, Albert Hofmann, Christian (2001). Plants of the gods : their sacred, healing, and hallucinogenic powers (Rev. and expanded ed.). Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press. ISBN   0892819790.
  9. Stanislav Grof, LSD Psychotherapy; passim
  10. 1 2 Huxley, Aldous (1954) The Doors of Perception. Reissue published by HarperCollins: 2004. p. 22-25 ISBN   0-06-059518-3
  11. "A Manual for MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (PDF). Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. 4 January 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 September 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  12. Sessa, Ben (2015). Psychedelic Drug Treatments. USA: Mercury Learning & Information. p. 60. ISBN   1936420449.
  13. Erowid. "Erowid Humphry Osmond Vault". www.erowid.org. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  14. Grof, Stanislav (2008). LSD psychotherapy (4th ed.). [Ben Lomond, Calif.?]: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. ISBN   0979862205.
  15. Grof, Stanislav (1976). Realms of the human unconscious : observations from LSD research. New York: Dutton. p. 98. ISBN   0-525-47438-2.

Further reading