It’s been a while since the last post here at The Psychedelic Scientist! I’ve been busy working for The Third Wave, a site that offers advice and resources about psychedelics and microdosing.
It’s an exciting time in the psychedelic movement, as more people are coming out and describing how experiences with psychedelics have shaped their lives.
In my most recent article, I hear from some of the many people who microdose with psychedelics in order to treat a mental health condition – in this case, adult ADHD.
I hope you enjoy it – and consider checking out the other resources at The Third Wave.
It’s been over fifty years since Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert wrote “The Psychedelic Experience.” It was intended to be a psychedelic manual for the first generation of Western mind-explorers; people who desperately lacked a cultural background for their psychedelic journeys.
Unsurprisingly, this half-century old book has lost some of its applicability in modern psychedelic culture.
Stepping into the void is occultist and academic Julian Vayne, who has just released “Getting Higher” – a manual of psychedelic ceremony for the modern psychonaut. Here’s my review of this hallucinogenic handbook.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the enormous stigma that surrounds heroin.
Even people within the drug-using community who detest prohibition will often be heard saying something like “Yeah, legalise everything… but not heroin. Never heroin.“
Why is this the case? Is there evidence to support the view of heroin as the most harmful, addictive drug around?
This article was originally written for The Third Wave.
The tragic death of Jake Cawte near Adelaide in Australia had only barely hit the press before the finger was pointed at ayahuasca.
Jake was shot by his twin brother Luke at their family home, using one of their father’s weapons. Despite Luke’s previous issues with mental health, it was their brief encounter with ayahuasca that has, without any basis in fact, been blamed for this act of violence.
Next week is Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week at the University of Manchester. As a student there, I’ve written this piece for the Mancunion newspaper, highlighting the need for harm reduction initiatives that protect our students.
Please read and share to promote safer drug use and potentially save lives!
I wrote this article for The Third Wave, where it originally appeared, as a response to an opinion piece in the New York Times from skeptical clinical psychiatrist Richard Friedman. I think it can help address the typical arguments that come from people of anti-psychedelic bias. Enjoy!
A recent article in the New York Times, penned by clinical psychiatrist Richard Friedman, attempts to scare his audience into thinking that LSD might not be a good treatment for depression, despite a barrage of recent studies suggesting otherwise. Friedman appears to be of the opinion that it would be wrong to offer these drugs to sufferers of disease; even though there is no evidence of harm from LSD or psilocybin when given in a clinical setting, and despite the growing body of evidence of the efficacy of these drugs in treating mental health conditions.
Friedman himself mentions the debilitating nature of depression; between a third and one-half of all patients will never find relief from conventional treatments. Hundreds of millions suffer worldwide, and hundreds of thousands commit suicide every year. Most of those sufferers don’t have access to the expensive treatments most commonly handed out by psychiatrists in the developed world.
I’ve spoken a lot on The Psychedelic Scientist about the neurobiological basis of consciousness. I’ve written about how scientific research into psychedelics is helping us piece together how consciousness works. By understanding exactly how psychedelics alter our brain function, we come closer to understanding how consciousness is constructed in our brains, but, as I’ve tried to make clear in my posts, all this fascinating research doesn’t solve the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness – that is, why does consciousness exist at all?
Figuring out what parts of our brain correlate to our experiences, or precisely what organisation of information is required to elicit consciousness, will not solve the hard problem: “Why are we even experiencing any of this in the first place?”
I’ve faced a fair amount of criticism that my posts focus too much on the neurobiological basis of consciousness (let’s call it the ‘soft problem’) – so I think now’s a good time to address the philosophers and psychonauts who want to know what the subjective psychedelic experience can tell us about solving the hard problem.
So let’s leave the research behind for a minute and talk about non-reductionism, idealism, and a psychedelic universe.
This month has been another great one for the psychedelic community; with a highlight being the release of two fascinating papers which take us a step closer to understanding exactly how LSD works in the brain.
I summarise these two articles in more depth here, but for now I wanted to focus on an overlooked part of one of the studies: and it’s to do with music.
Most of us are aware that LSD is supposed to enhance your appreciation for music – it’s probably the main thing that attracted me to the substance, and I’m sure at least some people out there are the same. I wanted to be able to appreciate music in a new way, I wanted to experience my favourite sounds in new dimensions and with expanded sensations.
Although I would soon learn that there is a lot more to LSD than letting you see pretty patterns or hear new sounds, there was still a lot of truth in the saying that LSD changes the way you hear music. Songs I’d listened to hundreds of times before had a new depth, a new character… imagine all your favourite songs being re-invented, or refreshed back to their original, first-listen glory.
Salvia divinorum is a beautiful psychedelic; it’s had thousands of years of traditional use in healing rituals, and contains the world’s most potent naturally occurring psychedelic compound. It’s also pharmacologically unique; activating a little-known receptor that prevents us from becoming addicted to substances.
The one thing that really holds Salvia above all other psychedelics is its remarkable effect on our brain networks. Salvia seems to completely shut down a very specific area of the brain called the claustrum – and this area has gathered a lot of interest from cognitive neuroscientists in the past few decades. Many scientists believe that the claustrum could be playing an important role in normal consciousness, by holding together our perception into one, cohesive self, or ‘ego’.
The claustrum is kind of like a conductor in an orchestra… keeping all the sections working together to produce one unified sound. When the conductor wanders off, things stop making as much sense… and this is exactly what we feel when we ingest Salvia!
Call LSD ‘neurotoxic’ in a psychedelic community and see how far that gets you. You’ll probably evoke some laughter, maybe some scorn, but not much else.
For the millions of people who take LSD and similar psychedelics every year, and the tens of millions who have taken LSD since its explosion into mainstream culture in the 1960s, LSD is not a toxic drug. There have been absolutely no documented deaths from LSD overdose; the closest we’ve come was a group of partiers who snorted pure LSD crystal by accident, ingesting thousands of times a normal dose. They suffered some nasty physical effects including diarrhea and seizures, but they all survived. They didn’t even suffer any major psychological difficulties in the years following the event.
The psychological dangers of LSD are another story. Although we’ve moved past the proved-to-be-false scare stories of kids being blinded by the sun or jumping out of windows, psychedelics really do dramatically alter your perception of reality, and can certainly do some harm to your mind if used irresponsibly.
It’s these psychological harms that have been investigated in a recent study looking back at the hundreds of people who were given LSD in hospitals in the 60s and 70s in Denmark.