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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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December 17, 2015

Psychedelics: A New Medical Frontier?

By Mark Sisson
69 Comments

Psychedelic mushroomLong before humans interacted with the numinous through intermediaries and holy books, we experienced it in other ways. All night drumming and dancing sessions, extended fasts, exposure to extreme temperatures, steam lodges, and week-long wilderness forays, and other rituals have all been used to produce visions and transcend normal waking consciousness. There’s even a theory that early Christian baptisms were actually simulated drownings that produced near-death experiences and the direct sensation of being in the presence of a higher power.

But perhaps the oldest, most reliable way to directly experience the divine is through the use of psychedelics.

From rotting fruit to honey made by bees feeding on psychotropic plants to desert toad secretions to the tantalizing mushrooms sprouting up from ruminant dung to the IPA in your fridge, humans have always pursued and consumed substances that alter consciousness and provide different takes on reality. And yes, this can be fun. It’s certainly recreational. But in most traditions, psychedelics also offered a way to make sense of the natural world, investigate its mysteries in person, visit the spirit realm and contact lost ancestors for advice, reassurance, or resolution of disputes. These weren’t the sole province of jungle or desert tribes; archaeological evidence suggests that even prehistoric Europeans used opium, cannabis, and mushrooms in religious rituals.

In a world of cold empiricism, with doctors and pills and psychiatrists and online resources storing every bit of knowledge and wisdom available, does a legitimate role for psychedelics remain?

It turns out there is: after a half century of prohibition destroying the careers of any researcher seriously considering the medical application of psychedelics, research is making a big comeback. Emerging research shows these substances can have incredible therapeutic effects across a range of seemingly intractable and drug-resistant conditions like depression, PTSD, anxiety (especially end-of-life anxiety), addiction, and marriage counseling. The science is quite impressive—and it’s growing every month.

I know, I know. Sisson, you shouldn’t be encouraging people to take mind-altering drugs. First of all, I’m not encouraging anyone to do anything. Second, so many people have emailed me about this topic over the years, I felt obliged to finally give it a thorough look. Last, take a look at the recent clinical research into the medical applications and safety profiles of these compounds, seek out and consult with experts if you’re interested in digging deeper, and judge for yourself. 

LSD (AKA: Acid)

Lysergic acid diethylamide strikes fear into the hearts and minds of many otherwise reasonable folks. Some think it’ll fry your brain, make you think you can fly out a ten story window, or turn you into a hippy. But even if those things were widespread (they’re not), the fearmongers must admit that LSD is also responsible for the latter half of the Beatles’ catalogue and, thus, a net positive force in the world.

LSD is a tryptamine, a class of psychedelic alkaloids bearing close structural similarity to the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. LSD acts as an agonist to the 5-HT2A serotonin receptors, and this interaction appears to be responsible for the effects which in addition to the well-known open and close-eye hallucinations include increased subjective well-being, closeness to others, happiness, openness, and trust.

Throughout the 1950s, when it was still legal, psychiatrists recognized these effects and used large doses of LSD to induce boundary-dissolving states of catharsis, enabling their patients to work through seemingly intractable problems and reduce anxiety and depression. Several subsequent studies found that these effects could also reduce end-of-life anxiety in terminal cancer patients. After LSD was made illegal in 1966, research stopped in the United States until very recently.

A 2014 study in adults with life-threatening illnesses came to similar conclusions as the older papers, finding that LSD paired with psychotherapy sessions actively reduced anxiety and improved quality of life. These improvements persisted in the experimental LSD group for at least a year, while the placebo group’s anxiety only worsened. If “lower anxiety” doesn’t sound like a big deal, consider how many terminal patients live their final days: in an anxious, scattered state of mind that inhibits them from making peace with their life and spending meaningful time with loved ones. Wouldn’t you want to avoid that?

Psilocybin-containing Mushrooms (AKA: Shrooms, Magic Mushrooms)

Ever hear of the Stoned Ape? It’s a theory put forth by Terence McKenna, and goes like so:

When African hominids descended from the trees and began hunting, they’d follow the vast herds of wild ruminants. Inevitably, they’d happen across large amounts of ruminant dung, which is the perfect medium for growing psychedelic mushrooms. The more curious of the opportunistic bipeds would sample the mushrooms and experience a few unique, fitness-enhancing effects—an increase in libido (good for creating similarly curious hominids), a boost to visual acuity (great for hunting), a dissolution of the ego (which promoted the formation of close communities and consensual egalitarianism). In addition, the increased connectivity between previously disparate regions of the brain catalyzed linguistic capabilities and self-expression, eventually expanding our creative and cognitive abilities and our capacity to articulate them.

I don’t really buy it, to be honest, but it’s fun to consider. And at any rate, psychedelic mushrooms appear on every inhabited continent and are likely the most widely-used hallucinogen throughout human history. We have a long tradition of finding, eating, and maybe revering these things. Psilocybin is also a tryptamine. Like LSD, psilocybin is a 5-HT2A serotonin receptor agonist.

Channeling William Blake, Aldous Huxley suggested that psychedelics deactivate the “reducing valve” and throw open the “doors of perception” so that the world becomes infinite. He might have been right. fMRI research indicates that when a person takes psilocybin, activity in the part of the brain responsible for processing incoming sensory data, discerning information important for survival, and making sense of the world—the “filter”—dampens.

Psilocybin also reduces amygdala reactivity in healthy subjects; those with the greatest reduction in amygdala activity had the biggest mood enhancements. If these results persist in patients with depression or anxiety (in whom the amygdala is often overexcited), psilocybin mushrooms could be an effective treatment.

Like LSD, psilocybin also shows promise for combatting end-of-life anxiety in terminal patients.

MDMA (AKA: Ecstasy, Molly)

MDMA is an empathogen/entactogen; it floods the brain with serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, shattering the barriers we erect between ourselves and others, boosting empathy to supranormal levels, and fostering honest and uninhibited communication. Before it became a club drug, MDMA was a valuable, if off-the-books, tool psychotherapists and marriage counselors used to enhance the efficacy of their clinical practice. A clever therapist could cram an incredible amount of progress into the three or four hours the drug was active in the subjects.

Today, researchers are exploring MDMA as a treatment for treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Animal studies confirm that MDMA can facilitate “fear extinction.” Preliminary human trials with vets have been promising. It appears to be safe. Reports from actual vets who’ve participated in MDMA trials are glowing. In war veterans who’ve tried other treatments and failed, MDMA combined with psychotherapy may help by quieting the amygdala (the “lizard brain” responsible for processing fear) and activate the frontal cortex (where contextualization occurs).

Ketamine (AKA: Special K)

Ketamine is a veterinary tranquilizer. In doses that won’t quite fell a horse, ketamine is a dissociative—it promotes a feeling of detachment from one’s body and the physical world. Of all the drugs discussed today, ketamine may be the hardest to conceptualize without actually doing it. I’ve never tried it and am certainly having trouble imagining it. In recent years, researchers have stumbled upon a remarkable side effect: short-term, complete elimination of depression.

Single doses of ketamine provide rapid amelioration of depression symptoms lasting for weeks. Even low doses of ketamine are able to improve symptoms of treatment resistant major depressive disorder for one to two weeks.

Ketamine increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus. This seems to mediate the anti-depressant effect and suggests that long-term low-dose ketamine treatment may actually heal the depressed brain by regrowing damaged neurons, rather than just temporarily mask the symptoms. Still, only short-term efficacy has been demonstrated. It remains to be seen if medium- to long-term benefits persist.

Ketamine for depression is an off-label use. It’s possible to obtain from your doctor, but your doctor may need convincing. A better bet is to contact one of the ketamine clinics currently operating in the United States.

Ayahuasca/DMT

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic brew combining two Amazonian rain forest plants: the leaves of the Psychotria viridis, which contain the powerful psychedelic DMT; and bark from the Banisteriopsis caapi tree containing MAO-inhibitors which make the DMT orally active. Without also ingesting the bark, the leaves have no effect. It’s fascinating that a seemingly primitive people with no knowledge of plant biochemistry figured it out.

DMT is an endogenous neurotransmitter. We make it ourselves. And scientists aren’t sure what role naturally-occurring DMT plays in the human body. DMT has antioxidant effects in isolated neurons subjected to low-oxygen environments, and one group of researchers has crowdfunded a study to determine whether DMT has a protective role in hypoxia. If so, the near death experience, which some hypotheses attribute to DMT release, could simply be a defense mechanism for the brain.

Today, ayahuasca tourism is a huge industry. People drop thousands of dollars to go on Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Brazilian jungle retreats with shamans, special diets, and frequent ayahuasca ceremonies. But why? Does it provide measurable benefits?

Single doses can also ameliorate depression in people with recurrent depression without causing mania or hypomania. Ritual users of ayahuasca generally seem to be better-adjusted than non-users.

Acute dosing of ayahuasca increases “mindfulness capacities.” People who took it were less judgmental when processing experiences, less reactive, and better at decentering (the process of viewing thoughts and emotions as objective events in the brain rather than identifying with them). These are all goals central to mindfulness meditation practice, and ayahuasca users achieved them with a single dose.

Preliminary reports indicate that ayahuasca may help in addiction when combined with psychotherapy. A group of indigenous Canadians who participated in an ayahuasca ceremony subsequently reduced their alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine use.

Ibogaine

Ibogaine is the primary alkaloid present in iboga, an African rainforest shrub traditionally used by followers of the Bwiti religion of Central Africa in rites of passage and to resolve disputes and strengthen community bonds. By most accounts, it’s an intense experience characterized by vivid closed-eye visuals. Users will report reliving crucial moments from their lives as if they were actually happening all over again, or watching a movie of their lives projected on the backs of their eyelids. As most people taking ibogaine do so to overcome addictions or resolve lifelong problems, these visions are often difficult and unpleasant—but necessary.

Ibogaine elicits positive behavior changes through various mechanisms. The subjective experience of the trip and its visions is one; by revisiting the mistakes you’ve made, you resolve not to make them again. Another lies in the interaction between ibogaine alkaloids and opioid receptors. Upon consumption, ibogaine is metabolized into the slower-metabolizing noribogaine, which remains in circulation for days and may be responsible for many of the benefits associated with ibogaine therapy. For instance, noribogaine reduces nicotine self-administration in rats.

If you’ve got an addiction to kick and think you qualify for ibogaine therapy, check out the list of worldwide providers. For those in the Americas, a number of clinics in both Canada and Mexico offer ibogaine therapy to qualifying patients.

Okay, but are they safe?

In the majority of cases, the active dose (what you take to get the desired therapeutic effect) is far lower than the toxic dose (what might kill you).

That’s why in 2010, comprehensive safety analyses found that alcohol was by far the most harmful drug, followed by the likes of heroin, crack, meth, and cocaine (PDF). The safest were the psychedelics—LSD, MDMA, mushrooms, and to a lesser extent, ketamine. While physiological toxicity may not be an issue with most psychedelics, and research suggests that psychedelic users have a reduced risk of mental health disorders and suicide ideation (with psilocybin users showing the lowest rates), these remain powerful compounds that deserve respect. In eons past, you’d take them under the watchful eye of the village shaman. In today’s successful clinical trials, patients take them with medical professionals on hand. Results drawn from clinical trials do not necessarily apply to eating a fistful of shrooms in the garage when your parents go to bed.

The rise of the research chemical scene, where foreign labs tweak existing formulae to create novel psychedelic compounds without human testing, presents an additional wrinkle. Many deaths and trip disasters attributed to LSD are actually caused by novel research chemicals sold as LSD. Proceed with caution and wait for the science—and legal status—to sort itself out.

While the classical psychedelics LSD and mushrooms are generally extremely safe, MDMA, ketamine, and iboga deserve closer scrutiny.

MDMA: A discredited and retracted study purporting to show catastrophic brain lesions in MDMA-using primates actually injected meth into their brains rather than MDMA. The paper was retracted, leading many to assume that MDMA was completely free of risk. It isn’t. The body still generates neurotoxic metabolites during MDMA metabolism. If you’re going to take MDMA, a specific list of supplements and nutritional considerations can lower generation of toxic metabolites by inhibiting the responsible enzymes and mitigate some of the neurotoxicity.

Ketamine: Ketamine can be incredibly psychologically addictive, even (or especially, given the need for regular dosing) when used to treat depression.

Ibogaine: Iboga is contraindicated for patients with heart issues and several deaths have been attributed to ibogaine’s ability to induce cardiac arrhythmias in susceptible patients. Ibogaine clinics prescreen for this, but it does highlight the dangers of unsupervised iboga administration.

Many of these substances also have recreational and spiritual potential. They enrich our emotional appreciation of music. They induce mystical experiences and can lead to an overall positive (and sustained) outlook on life. They dissolve the ego, our sense of self. Long-term users seem to have lower rates of psychopathologies. These are important characteristics. Joy, transcendent spiritual experiences, and just seeing and hearing really cool stuff is an important part of being a healthy, happy human. Psychedelic microdosing (where you take doses too small to really feel anything) is blowing up across the tech world, where people are reporting big benefits to creativity and problem-solving. And every month, new research confirms that the authorities may have spoken too soon on the therapeutic potential of these compounds. I fully expect some of these compounds to be legalized in the coming years, at least for medical use.

This is a big topic. An important one, too. I’m not an expert. Heck, I’ve never even used a psychedelic. So if this post intrigues you, keep digging.

That’s it for today, everyone. I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever used any of these (or other) psychedelic compounds? What did you gain (or lose) from your experience?

Thanks for reading.

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69 Comments on "Psychedelics: A New Medical Frontier?"

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Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
1 year 4 months ago
This is a very important topic, one that I’ve been thinking about writing in for quite some time. Thank you Mark! P.S. As a resident of Colorado, maybe it’s time to ask what role Marijuana plays in the Primal Lifestyle. I was a little bummed to see no mention of that in this article, but I also believe that topic is perhaps broad enough to warrant a whole separate post (Hint, hint..) Mark, have you ever considered being a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast? I think you’d fit in perfectly, as a lot people in your world have… Read more »
Andrew
Andrew
1 year 4 months ago

Yes, PLEASE get on the Joe Rogan podcast. I’ve been waiting for that forever.

I’m not sure how the guest procurement process works. If he seeks out the guests, or if the guests seeks out him. It might be a bit of both

But I think normally, it’s just an organic kind of thing where he comes in contact with cool smart people through a mutual friend, and then a podcast seems to be arranged.

I would PAY MONEY to see you on the Rogan podcast.

Benjamin
Benjamin
7 months 1 day ago

He has already been on the JRE, however the topic of discussion was mostly centered on healthy eating and fitness, as well as the primal lifestyle’s role in athlethes and sports. I’d urge everyone to listen to it, it was a GREAT podcast, in my opinion. I really hope he returns to the JRE.

Shirley
Shirley
1 year 4 months ago

I too was disappointed that Cannabis was not mentioned.

Groktimus
1 year 4 months ago

We’ll call this “The Pineapple Express” post.

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons
1 year 4 months ago
Such an important area of discussion, Mark–thank you for addressing it here! So glad that you point to the differences between various psychedelics…and to the crucial aspect of context. With psychedelics, “set and setting” affect everything, so context is central. As you noted, usage in many traditional societies was/is under the watchful eye of a trained shaman (or other healer or spiritual guide). Often, in today’s world, people play with such substances without a guide or safe “container.” For a fascinating read, I highly recommend Terence McKnna’s books along with Rick Strassman’s “DMT: The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor’s Revolutionary Research… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago
Agreed. Anything by Terence McKenna is awesome. I used to take his Ayahuasca mixtures at the Esalen Institute in the 80’s and reported back to him for research. An amazing individual. Another good book is by Andrew Weil (before he got conservative), The Natural Mind. Even as children, didn’t we all like to be spun around in circles by our arms and then try to walk and fall over? Yes, we did! I think it’s innate to humans to want to be in altered states at least some of the time. Love this topic. As another poster said, with a… Read more »
Jeremy
Jeremy
1 year 4 months ago
MDMA is truly an amazing and potentially life-changing drug. I try to take it a few times a year at least. The only way I can describe it is an extremely intense feeling of physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and a huge breakdown of barriers that lasts for about 6 hours. Take the obvious precautions — take a reasonable dose (start out small), don’t mix with out drugs (I’ll admit that I’ve had some really positive experiences smoking weed while on it, but it’s still not something I’d recommend others to try unless they’re sure they can handle it), do… Read more »
Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
1 year 4 months ago
In a wider context, I think this post touches on the Unalienable Right of consenting adults to be charge of their own consciousness. Graham Hancock did a great talk on this at TED (where he talked a great deal about the importance of DMT/Ayahuasca) which ultimately got banned (you can still view it on the interweb). Hancock was a habitual marijuana vaporizer (16 hours a day, 7 days a week for several decades) and then quit cold turkey after several Ayahuasca sessions. Very ironically and entertainingly, he lit up with Joe Rogan on his podcast for the first time in… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

+1.

Another great read for those interested is: ‘Cracking open the Head’ by, Daniel Pinchbeck

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
1 year 4 months ago

“Some think it’ll fry your brain, make you think you can fly out a ten story window, or turn you into a hippy.”

Hey baby, isn’t “hippy” a body shape?
Peace,
-A hippie

Lauren C.
Lauren C.
1 year 4 months ago
I am a long time reader and big supporter of Marks Daily Apple. I have almost never read a post that I strongly disagreed with or that I thought was irresponsible in any way. But this one is. I am a person in long term recovery, a person who has thoroughly explored the effects of psychedelics and other drugs – and let me simply say that while drugs give us the illusion of getting closer to the Mystery, to the Divine, to God – they most certainly take us away from it. They cut off the flow of Spirit inside… Read more »
Linda
Linda
1 year 4 months ago
Lauren, while I completely respect and honour your experience with these substances, which seems to have been a bad one, it does not mean that it has to be like that for everyone. I truly and firmly believe that pot has helped me become more relaxed during my anxiety-ridden adolescene, and that MDMA helped me grow from an antisocial loner into a truly empathic, well-rounded human being. Not saying that the drugs get all the credit, but they sure helped me along the way an awful lot. Similarly, the few mushroom experiences I’ve had have given me a more magical… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

Come on Lauren, humans have been working with these substances for eons. I believe from my research that there were NO drug addicts in any of these cultures…until the westernized folks started abusing them without ritual. I will strongly disagree with you.

Marty Rheaume
Marty Rheaume
1 year 4 months ago

Yea, well, that’s just like, your opinion, man.

Belinda N.
Belinda N.
5 months 28 days ago
Lauren, I’m a latecomer to this post, and I want to say that I’m so sorry that you personally have had a bad experience with these plants and chemicals. They don’t work for everyone, and Mark stated as much quite clearly. Your personal chemistry simply may not be a good mix. However, to say that they “rob our souls of all that is good”? I’m sorry, but all you’re doing here is giving voice to the negative experience •you• went through. It’s not fair of you to try and frighten off those who are truly suffering and in need of… Read more »
A. Davis
A. Davis
1 year 4 months ago

Personally, I tend to steer away from anything man-made (lab made), but have always wondered about the natural stuff… the stuff you *could* find growing naturally in your own backyard (depending on where you live). But for all the items you discussed, why no comment on marijuana or hash oil or opiates? All grow naturally. All have effects. Why no scientific discussion on them?

Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC, NHC
1 year 4 months ago
Lauren, Are you in long term recovery from psychedelics, or “other drugs”? In other words, I don’t think Mark is equating a once-a-year Ayahuasca trip with a daily cocaine/meth/alcohol habit. I’m not saying that psychedelics cannot be addictive or troublesome, but I’m very curious what “other drugs” you were taking as well, as I think there’s an important distinction there. And I do think it’s worth considering the fact that there has never been a culture on earth that didn’t incorporate psychedelics into their rituals. What that means for modern culture will remain to be seen, but I still believe… Read more »
Rick
Rick
1 year 4 months ago

Which psychedelic do the Maasai use?

Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

Acacia Nilotica…the african ayahuasca!

Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

The Maasai call it, ‘ol erbat”

Rick
Rick
1 year 4 months ago

Meditation takes me deeper than any drug ever did, and I’ve tried a “few”.
But in 1989 I did enough ‘cid to melt a small truck. Perhaps I overdid it.

Angela
Angela
1 year 4 months ago

One thing I’ve observed in my friends who’ve taken ayahausca…it was a transformative experience, but they didn’t know how to sustain that, or to get back to the place ayahuasca took them. Meditation has done that for me. It’s like climbing a mountain daily, rather than taking a helicopter right to the top…you know the path and build up the endurance, so you can visit at any time.

That said, I think there’s a place for the helicopter, too. 🙂

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons
1 year 4 months ago

+1 🙂

owen bruhn
owen bruhn
1 year 4 months ago
One thing for people to think about is that some people may be susceptible to having a major mental health illness triggered by these drug induced experiences they are well known with the conventional illegal drugs. Going back to the 1960s, there were arguments about whether or not pot and lsd could cause such effects but now there seems to be agreement about that. so that has to be considered on the negative side. On the positive side it seem ubiquitous that all the old cultures have practicises such as the dancing, extreme temperatures etc. These appear to lead to… Read more »
Angel
Angel
1 year 4 months ago
I am inclined to believe that people who are susceptible to having a mental health crisis after taking a psychedelic drug are ones who may already have some unaddressed mental health issues. A few years ago I tried a guided, intense, and positive spiritual meditation. The result, 24 hours later, was a uncontrollable rage attack that shook me to my core. This recurred again the next day. Fortunately I made the connection very quickly between the meditation and the rage attacks and I quit the meditation. Turns out this is a very common occurrence among people who grew up in… Read more »
Kelda
1 year 4 months ago
Angel This too is my unfolding experience and it’s taken me until my later 40s to really begin to understand the effects of my upbringing on my brain wiring and struggles with life. Abuse takes many forms and what seems insignificant to one individual can have a profound effect on another. I’m reading In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness at the moment by Peter Levine, he really understands the impact of trauma. For me I know intuitively experimenting with psychedelics would be a mistake, I realised several years back the alcohol was not helpful,… Read more »
owen bruhn
owen bruhn
1 year 4 months ago

I forgot to mention Pauline McKinnon’s book “Living Calm in a Busy World” which is in publication and outlines the Meares method. It is written for the general audience and does not have a prmal slant to it but it a good job of covering the Meares method. ob

eatsleepswim
eatsleepswim
1 year 4 months ago

I’ve never used illegal drugs. Period. And I don’t drink. Not even tobacco has passed my lips. I’ve joked that I could sell my urine to Olympians. But this article from a few years back made me think there is a place in this world for taking a closer look at the potential advantages of psychedelics. Plus I love Cary Grant????
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/08/drugs-in-hollywood-201008

Ed
Ed
1 year 4 months ago

As a student I have come across The Daily Apple. A follower I have become. Mark has a clear minded and (perhaps) less encumbered approach to the physiological machinations of the body with relation to the mind (spirit).

And now he breaches a subject that touches the nerve of the very thirsty. The void, grand bottomless pit of the mind, wrinkle in time, door that never closes, clouded, shrouded, maybe wished you hadn’t, ever… should we or shouldn’t we. Hahaha!

Good luck!

Marti
Marti
1 year 4 months ago
Tobacco is used as a vehicle of communion by some Native Americans whereas wine is a vehicle of communion by Catholics. Drag these practices out of their sacred context and you can end up with heavy drinking and chain smoking. For most of us, swinging on a jungle vine might not be divine. There are widely-practiced methods of attaining altered states of consciousness or exercising the spirit including singing, prayer, chanting, meditation, and dancing. I have practiced drum-driven shamanic journeying (Harner method) for a decade. This time of year, I recommend donning a reindeer horn headband and singing along to… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

Speaking of Michael Harner, he wrote: The Way of the Shaman, and he went to the Amazon and took Maikua a long time ago, which is much, much stronger than Ayahuasca. He did several workshops/drum driving shamanic journeying at the Esalen Institute in the late 80’s. My own favorite ways to attain altered states are chanting, mushrooms and meditation. There are hundreds of ways of course, and each must find there own path or be forever stuck in the worldly mind! And we have seen where that has gotten us…

Shary
Shary
1 year 4 months ago

Interesting topic. I have no problem with medical marijuana or even the responsible use of a little recreational weed (I live in Colorado), but I think I’ll skip all that other stuff.

I have no desire to be “flooded with the feeling that everyone and everything is right and okay and beautiful.” There’s such a thing as reality, and it isn’t always like that. I’d rather deal with it than hide from it.

Pittzer
Pittzer
1 year 4 months ago
I think the point is that sometimes a person’s reality is self-governed to the point that he/she may be needlessly limited, in some cases to the point of a pathology. Psychedelics have been proven to temporarily lift those limits and while it might not be “real”, it can allow a person to then come back and imagine a new reality that they can then create. This is most obvious in artistic endeavors. Mark just mentioned The Beatles in passing, but if you have compared. A Hard Day’s Night (great album, don’t get me wrong) to The White Album, you begin… Read more »
TheMadRoot
TheMadRoot
1 year 4 months ago
Know your drug. Know your body. Know your mind. None of these will lead you to nirvana but yes in the context Mark talks about them they can have a use much greater benefit than the horrid pharmaceuticals science use to fix your brains. Thanks for addressing the subject Mark. Our society is devoid of sense of being, link with nature and we are all swamped in futility; deep experiences can help reconnecting with our sources and showing us some light. These can be either problem solvers or dead end shortcuts depending where you stand in your evolutionary level. Or… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

MadRoot, thanks for putting it so clearly. It’s a big subject and you nailed it nicely. I’m wondering how many people use pharmaceuticals yet are scared or against mind altering psychedelics. The drug companies pushing their poison scares me a million times more. Cholesterol lowering drugs? Hell no!

Maurice
Maurice
1 year 4 months ago
I have used (and continue to use) MDMA, Mushrooms, LSD, DMT(there are several forms) and weed. I started in my 40’s and continue to experiment. I quit drinking after 25 years due to the experiences that I have had on these substances. There is a massive difference between these substances and those that are considered addictive (ie. heroin, alcohol, tobacco etc.) I defy anyone to show me someone addicted to mushrooms. I have become closer to my wife and kids through these experiences. I am not a religious person but > 5 grams of mushrooms will get you there. They… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks Maurice for sharing. The erowid website is amazing. Keep that mind open…

Rob Gee
Rob Gee
1 year 2 months ago
Thanks for sharing Maurice. I agree. Using ecstasy (MDMA) as a party drug in my 20’s changed my life for the better and I am so grateful that I had these experiences. How did it change me? It expanded my consciousness (made me aware) of a different way to view the world. One based in love. A big subject which I have spent a lot of time exploring further, but the important thing for this post was that it was these experiences that got me started on this road. My opinion is that if everyone in this world used MDMA… Read more »
HealthyGuy
HealthyGuy
1 year 4 months ago

“Heck, I’ve never even used a psychedelic”

Uh … umm … uh … yeah … me neither Mark!

Directm
Directm
1 year 4 months ago

As a former hardcore paleo guy (I go dark every now and then) I know our diet increases our insulin sensitivity and sharpens our dopamine receptors. I know many drugs are impacted by these factors (exceptions LSD & mushrooms) and so I would like to see you address the issue how Paleo rewires our brain.

Thanks,

M

Angie
1 year 4 months ago
Fascinating article… I think I start a lot of my comments with those two words! I appreciate several of the comments above. I work in a Drug Rehab Community, and so I understand completely what Lauren says about what happens when the pendulum swings into dependancy and abuse. I see young men enter as Zombies. After a couple of months, they start becoming human again, but it can be a long haul. I noticed that, as my yoga and meditation practice deepeded, the desire to ingest or smoke any kind of psychedelic substance just completely disappeared: you’re already out on… Read more »
Juli
Juli
1 year 4 months ago

Well stated. In the words of my Zen master, “if there were a pill to reach this state, I would take it.” I suspect he may have looked, didn’t find it, and chose years of practice to achieve samadhi.

Julian
Julian
1 year 4 months ago

We argue that eating primally is a desire to attain another level, even if many of us are looking “back” to get better. Drugs are the same for some of us. We’re looking for another level.

The real world sucks sometimes and some people benefit from a change of venue as it were. The ape theory is interesting. We certainly benefited from a change of perspective going from four to two legs. A trip is another level that some of us want to reach.

Michael Allen
Michael Allen
1 year 4 months ago

Before you take ketamine take a careful look at UK experience:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/29811499/k-bladder-the-uks-secret-ketamine-epidemic

I have an acquaintance who has suffered serious damage.

Gary
Gary
1 year 4 months ago

Excellent post, Mark! Now some of us would like your take on cannabis and I for one would like to know about its potential effects on appetite and exercise. Thanks!

Kris K
1 year 4 months ago

Interesting, as always. I’ve never done psychedelics and doubt I ever will. My concern is addiction. If something opened my mind and heart so much, it would feel great . . . too great. The temptation to return to a drugged state would be too strong.

simon fellows
simon fellows
1 year 4 months ago
Aidan
1 year 4 months ago
Timely post Mark as we in the UK wake up to the news of a young man dying after being stabbed to death during an ayahuasca treatment by another. It is a booming business and that brings with it cut corners, and cheaper routes with inferior products touted by unqualified professionals. That being said though, I did take ayahuasca two years ago which I’ve documented in detail on several blog posts on my website and have to say it was one of the most exciting, incredible, emotional, upsetting but cathartic experiences of my life IF you choose a reputable outfit… Read more »
Andrew
Andrew
1 year 4 months ago
Marcus
Marcus
1 year 4 months ago

Not sure what to do with this. I think all of the items discussed in the article are illegal here in the US. Not like I can experiment with any of it if I wanted to. Informational I guess.

Maurice
Maurice
1 year 4 months ago
The legality of a drug is not a factor in my decision to try one. You shouldn’t let the words some old narcissists wrote be your guide. That is what laws are. They are neither right nor wrong, moral or immoral. Humans have always seeked to alter their conscious. That is what alcohol is. Even if you say, “but I only have one drink with dinner”. One drink is enough to relax you and let the conversation flow. There should be no guilt associated with this. The current situation with weed is telling. For years it was considered immoral, and… Read more »
Marcus
Marcus
1 year 4 months ago

While they might not NEED to be illegal, they ARE illegal. Which would mean by experimenting with these, or merely obtaining them, I’d be breaking the law. Fill in fallout here: _________.

Nick
Nick
1 year 4 months ago
Drugs do not dissolve the ego. Trust me, I’ve done drugs and I’ve spoken with people who were on drugs. While many of them certainly remove inhibitions and fear they do not remove the quality of human nature that defines ego: desire. ‘Need’ at its basest level, ‘avarice’ at its worst, desire motivates and empowers the human ego. Desire does not disappear during drug use; indeed, often desire expands. When inhibitions and fear dissolve, and feelings of well-being ensue, the ego is left with no barriers between its bottomless pit of pleasure reception and the objects of desire. Weak minded… Read more »
Eugenia
1 year 4 months ago
Sorry, but you can’t be serious. Why? Because you label all drugs as “drugs”. This is the Police State speaking, not someone with experience. They’re not all the same. Entheogens (the kind that Mark talked about) are not like cocaine or heroin or meth, which are indeed very destructive. Entheogens are different, non-addictive, and more conscious-expanding. As for losing the ego, entheogens CAN do this, *during the high of the drug* ONLY. Other “drugs” don’t do this. When you return to Earth, your ego is back, still intact, however you’re left with a more objective view of what the ego… Read more »
Nick
Nick
1 year 4 months ago
Please be kind. I am not a police state. I am a human being with valid opinions and a desire to make intelligent discussion with other human beings. I believe all drugs should be legalized. I am very serious. My mistake for not saying it in my original comment: the “drugs” to which I refer above are only the ones Mark discussed in the post. The reason I did not clarify that in my original comment was because I thought it would be understood. I said: “Drugs do not dissolve the ego”. I did not say: “you never lose your… Read more »
Noconago
Noconago
1 year 4 months ago

Eugenia, I love your artwork.

Sorry Nick, but you are not using the good stuff. Obviously!

bonita
bonita
1 year 4 months ago
Barbarian
Barbarian
1 year 4 months ago

I can see that starry transcendental universes collide in the mountains for the seagulls gains.

Could it be that the circle rocks are falling from the bottomless pit ?

I watched C-Beams glisten in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

John Fawkes
1 year 4 months ago

Just FYI, you can do LSD legally. Google 1P-LSD, it’s legally available as a research chemical.

Morten
Morten
1 year 3 months ago
Thanks for being brave enough to write this Mark! I´ve been an avid follower of yours for almost five years and have been a psychedelic recreational user for 8 years. For me psychedelics have only been positive, and the few times they haven´t I found the lessons in the experience. What I mean is that bad trips, scary as they might be are signposts that you are living your life wrong. I feel like life is like driving down a road in a car where you can´t look out trough the windows. So you are not really sure if the… Read more »
Karl
Karl
1 year 3 months ago

Having practiced conscious detachment for years to battle occasionally severe depression, I can imagine how a drug like ketamine that induces detachment could also help w depression. Downside being, when you are detached from life the joy is mostly gone too. But it beats the heck out of having a firehose of negative thoughts flooding your mind constantly.

Joe Rogan narrated a good film on DMT, it’s on Netflix if you search for it. Worth the time if you are interested in this stuff.

Thanks for an interesting article.

Maurice
Maurice
1 year 3 months ago
I find it interesting that those on the other side of argument quote the one or two deaths annually attributed to these drugs as evidence that they should be illegal. Really, any idea how many people die annually from alcohol use? For some, like LSD and mushrooms, there is no known toxicity. This means that there have been no deaths from overdose. If someone is dying it is from other factors. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to treat them with caution. But this is a little like the misplaced fear of terrorism that is sweeping the nation. If… Read more »
Rob Gee
1 year 2 months ago

For further reading, I highly recommend a look at this one: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/a-war-well-lost

Phil M
Phil M
1 year 2 months ago
I know I’m late to the party but having recently tripped on LSD multiple times I must share my experiences and give some tips if you decide to take a trip. It was about 11pm on sat when my friend (mike) and I arrived back at my place and decided to each take a hit of LSD. This was my first time ever taking it so I was pretty freaking nervous, luckily mike had plenty of experiences under his belt, and helped calm my nerves. When he immediately took his hit and placed it under his tongue and laughed like… Read more »
Prince
4 months 11 days ago

Come on Lauren, humans have been working with these substances for eons. I believe from my research that there were NO drug addicts in any of these cultures…until the westernized folks started abusing them without ritual. I will strongly disagree with you. Medical Tourism in India

PA Petry
PA Petry
3 months 5 days ago
I was very disappointed by this article and its biased viewpoint based on pseudoscience. It is irresponsible, and the kind of nonsense that is so easily taken as fact, especially by naive young people. How many times have I heard young people, following the siren songs of apologists for tinkering with the neural synapsis by stimulating or short-circuiting the central nervous system, regurgitate the same arguments, only to later discover they ended up in jail or a psychiatric care facility, or worse. Some disappeared. Some dead. Psychedelics like LSD-25 induce a state of temporary schizophrenia. For some, when the effects… Read more »
Psychedelic
Psychedelic
2 months 7 days ago
I use psychedelics semi-regularly and also eat a cyclical low-carb-keto primal style diet, I usually carb up the night before a trip and have full effects the next day. I noticed a few times when I don’t carb-up the substance has significantly less effect. My theory is that psychedelics are glycolytic and the slow process of gluconeogenesis can’t keep up with the brains glucose demands… I tested this theory by eating some honey during an underwhelming low-carb trip on a strong dose of LSD – the effects at least doubled within a short time! This has made me seriously questionmy… Read more »
Lindsay @ PFM
2 months 1 day ago

Yeah maybe these mind altering drugs might make you feel “happy” or better for the moment, but what are their long term effects? Or what about the people who take a drug and go crazy and start killing people? Becoming more out of touch with reality is NOT the way to true happiness.

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