For hundreds, if not thousands of generations, hallucinogens have been used in shamanic trance rituals throughout the world. From the prehistoric art of Pleistocene apes to the ancient cultures of Greece and Egypt, the consumption of these substances has been an essential human meme. Entheogens have been, and continue to be, used in a number of ways including education, celebration, divination, and initiation.
When used as holy sacraments hallucinogens make it possible for Homo sapiens to encounter deeper meaning in their lives by revealing the divinity within themselves through profound mystical awakening. As part of this, many of our primitive ancestors learned of these sacred plants and fungi from the behavior of other animals. For instance, Siberian shamans learned of the peak experience by watching reindeer consume specific mushrooms (Amanita muscaria), while their Amazonian cousins observed jaguar eating certain vines (Banisteriopsis caapi).
Millennia ago, it was unheard of for anyone to attempt communing with the divine without first ingesting a hallucinogen. Groups of Proto-Indo-Iranian people thought that the only way to practice their faith was through the consumption of a holy sacrament known to them as “sauma”. This ritual drink was then carried over as “soma” in Sanskrit and “haoma” in Avestan. Then, dogma started to raise its ugly little head, beginning with Hinduism in the East and Zoroastrianism in the West.
Unfortunately, laws quickly banned the use of drugs and the ancient priests soon lost sight of the true nature of the sacred mystery schools. So, now, the time has come to fix that tremendous oversight in our anthropic heritage. Creatures like the peyote cactus, psilocybin mushroom, and iboga plant should be tremendously revered. Even marijuana is not just medicinal, or even recreational, its use is supposed to be spiritual. That’s what psychedelic or “soul-manifesting” drugs are really for.
Hallucinogens often lead to a feeling of being part of an undifferentiated cosmos, and that feeling of unity is one of if not the most important characteristic of a mystical encounter. Along with this, another feature common to both the psychedelic and peak experience is a deeply felt assurance that everything is always alright. This blessed feeling of peace is the most exhilarating experience a person can ever have. The immediate insights that are gained from this kind of awareness are nearly ineffable, usually with long-lasting positive effects in one’s beliefs and behaviors.
Throughout history, hallucinogens have been described by a profusion of nomenclature, most of which is associated with a particular theory of the nature of these chemicals. Throughout recent decades past, academics have tried to coin a number of terms to describe the various different substances that bring about states of cerebral excitation in the form of hallucinations. This has included “cataleptogenic”, “mysticomimetic”, and “psychodysleptic”, to name but a few.
Given the general consensus among modern scholars based on the implied connotations and denotations of the word, the term hallucinogenic will be used more or less exclusively in the context of this brief exploration into the subject. As a whole, hallucinogens can be classified by their subjective effects, mechanisms of action, and chemical structure. For instance, most hallucinogenic chemicals contain nitrogen and are therefore classified as alkaloids.
The problem with structure-based frameworks is that the same structural motif can include a wide variety of drugs that have substantially different effects on the brain. However, even though not all mind-altering substances produce the same effect and the same drug can produce different effects in the same individual on different occasions, there are still many features common to all hallucinogenic experiences. This includes, but is not limited to, changes in perception that tend to predominate in proportion to other effects and an absence of addictive cravings. In general, hallucinogens are a group of pharmacological agents that can be divided into a few fairly broad categories based on the way they interact with the mind, as follows.
CLASS I HALLUCINOGENS
- Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
CLASS II HALLUCINOGENS
- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
CLASS III HALLUCINOGENS
- Ibotenic acid
CLASS IV HALLUCINOGENS
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
(Class I) Along with producing a range of acute perceptual changes, LSD has the capacity to bring about profound mental and spiritual experiences. This is tremendously important because these artificially induced entheogenic states of consciousness can have substantial personal meaning and mystical significance which can then contribute to sustained positive changes in one’s attitude and well-being, similar to spontaneously occurring moments of transcendence. This is what gives DMT supernatural powers, as the “spirit molecule”.
(Class II) The term empathogen is used to describe a class of drugs that produce distinctive prosocial feelings and elevated states of arousal. However, rather than simply making you horny, class two hallucinogens like MDMA also work to produce specific psychological effects different from the more classic amphetamines and psychedelics, particularly in regards to an emotional closeness with others. As a result, this can alter the socio-emotional risk-taking behavior in the individuals who become intoxicated on MDMA, but it also underlies the therapeutic benefits of the drug when it is used medicinally rather than recreationally.
(Class III) Deliriants make up a distinct group of drugs from the third class of hallucinogens. These psychoactive substances typically induce a state of delirium similar to the experiences of people with delirious fevers. This is typically characterized by extreme confusion and an inability to control one’s actions. A number of pharmaceutical drugs can also produce this effect when taken in very high doses. Common among these are diphenhydramine and dimenhydrinate, often sold under the brand names Benadryl and Dramamine, respectively. At sufficiently large enough doses, these compounds evoke terrifically vivid hallucinations, peripheral disturbances, confusion, feelings of isolation in conjunction with paranoia, and the partial or total loss of reality.
(Class IV) Dissociative drugs like PCP are known to produce analgesia, amnesia, and catalepsy at anesthetic doses. These chemicals typically give rise to a sense of detachment from the surrounding environment through disruptions in memory and perceptual distortions. A lack of sensory input then leads to a phenomenon known as derealization, which presents as dream-like. Other dissociative experiences include depersonalization, along with feeling able to observe one’s own actions but not actively take control of them. The primary dissociatives achieve these effects by blocking the signals received by the NMDA receptor set. This particular neurological antagonism can be brought on through the ingestion of drugs like DXM and nitrous oxide.
As a general rule, the first and second classes of hallucinogens typically have stimulant effects, so there is usually memory to their effects retained during use. In contrast to this, the third and fourth classes of hallucinogens tend to sedate in addition to the fact that memory of a user is often impaired. Nonetheless, both positive and negative hallucinogens form a single pharmacological class of substances with common properties. Still, there are important differences in both chemical structures and behavioral effects.
Given this to be true, there is little likelihood of finding a simple, unitary explanation of their mechanism of action. There is, however, a reasonably distinct class of hallucinogenic chemicals formed by anticholinergic substances which induce delirious states. In contrast to this, another broad class of hallucinogens primarily exert effects upon aminergic systems of the brain.
As a broad class of drugs that all produce distortions in perception, hallucinogens come in a wide variety of forms. Genuine soul-manifesting psychedelic experiences are quite different from insanity-producing psychotomimetic experiences. Along with this, at high enough doses, even common household inhalants can be used to bring about mind-dissolving, psycholytic, states of consciousness. As a veteran psychonaut, I should know.
Ultimately, the sheer range of things that one might encounter while under the influence of these kinds of substances is almost endless. In addition to this, along with the numerous different kinds of subjective effects they produce, hallucinogens often share objective properties as well. For instance, one way to classify hallucinogens is by comparing and contrasting their molecular structures with each other as well as the neurotransmitters they tend to resemble.
As an example, LSD and DMT mimic the shape of serotonin, so these substances bind with the receptor sites associated with that particular chemical configuration. Of course, as with any taxonomy, there are always things that don’t quite fit in a particular category. For instance, ibogaine is a rather unusual serotonergic hallucinogen in that it also interacts with the brain at a number of other receptor sites as well. Another exception to this particular classification system can be seen in a group of dissociative anesthetic hallucinogens which do not seem to resemble any known neurotransmitter.
As part of this, certain hallucinogenic substances tend to transcend their chemical classifications like blotter acid and peyote buttons, which are molecularly distinct but psychologically similar. Although the former appears to be serotonergic and the latter noradrenergic, both drugs tend to produce the same kind of psychedelic state. In contrast to this, a class one substance like DMT could produce an entheogenic experience while a class two substance like MDMA might produce empathogenic effects.
Simply put, tripping on Ayahuasca is much different from rolling on Molly, but an LSD high is more or less indistinguishable from that of mescaline at comparable doses. LSD does this by binding to 5-HT2A receptor sites in the brain better than serotonin, which is why trips last so long. Plus, I find that the potency of LSD rises exponentially, yielding three distinctly different degrees of experiential phenomena:
This means an artist can take a micro-dose of 25 micrograms to become more inspired. However, in order to deal with a mental disorder, someone might need to consume about 250 micrograms of LSD per therapy session. In contrast to this, someone having a spiritual crisis might need to take three to four times as much. Then again, if someone took a really large dose of 2500 micrograms, the paradigm-shifting effects could be permanent, for better or worse. The thing is that most people couldn’t handle tripping on that much acid, nor would they ever need to. LSD is so potent that just 100 micrograms can be sufficiently therapeutic, particularly under guidance.
A thousand micrograms of LSD is usually sufficient enough to produce an entheogenic experience in almost anyone. This mystical event is what Abraham Maslow called a “peak experience” and it can be very beneficial, for a number of different reasons. Peak experiences were originally described by Maslow as “moments of highest happiness and fulfillment”. This is at the top of our “hierarchy of needs”. The aim of his transpersonal psychology is for a person to attain physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This should be at the heart of every psychedelic clinic, and we need to open thousands of them, across the country and around the world.
Unlike opioids which inevitably lead to increased depression among users by dulling the body, psychedelics lead to increased elation by sharpening the mind. This is why getting spun out on meth diminishes the humanity of a tweaker. That’s why it makes sense for something like heroin to be illegal, but not mescaline. Junkies are definitely a threat to themselves and others. More importantly, it isn’t possible to consistently and responsibly consume cocaine, but it is possible to do this with magic mushrooms. So, in reality, these are mutually exclusive counterculture movements. One is a path toward illness, the other wellness.
The scheduling of all of these controlled substances in similar classes is absolutely erroneous. The thing is that the ruling elites know that the stark divisions in social status cannot be maintained without sufficiently subservient masses, so they prevent expanded awareness and free thought. As a result of this, the partially misguided attempts of governments only focus on the freedom from being poisoned by pushers, but they ignore the freedom we should all have to search the soul. Everyone should have sovereignty over their own states of consciousness, to that extent. Private psychedelic intoxication should not be illicit or illegal, but that’s not the world we live in.
It’s so inhumane to criminalize something like marijuana, which can add a spiritual component to one’s life. On top of adding more meaning to life, psychedelics don’t even lead to dependence. In fact, they can actually be used therapeutically to put an end to addiction. That’s why it’s an absolutely unforgivable sin to keep entheogens away from people. Part of the human birthright is to commune with your own Higher Power, and the most reliable way of doing this is with hallucinogens. We are all filled to the brim with extra-neurological potential, but we idle on the mundane setting of ordinary waking states. It is impossible to know thyself fully in that limited way.
Similarly, a drug like MDMA can be used to produce an empathogenic experience. This creates a sense of communion that fosters emotional openness, which makes it much easier for a patient to divulge things to their therapist. This works very different from LSD, making it particularly useful in cases of PTSD. People who have PTSD have a hyperactive amygdala, where they process fear. They also have reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, where they think logically. Along with this, they have reduced activity in the hippocampus, where they store memories into long-term storage. MDMA changes the brain in the exact opposite way.
Psychedelics are what nature intends on us to use to override negative self-narration and it’s why those drugs are often far more effective than psychiatry sessions administered in conjunction with prescription pharmaceuticals. Regardless of what most contemporary doctors are doing, lots of people are still getting really sick because entheogens and empathogens are the kinds of medicine that people actually need. To better cope with the diseased world, society must normalize psychedelia to deal with all the disorders. In many ways, hallucinogens are the only hope for humanity.
So, with all that being said, there is a great deal that could but probably wouldn’t go wrong. Although your core personality traits are predominantly stable after the third decade of life, hallucinogenic experiences can bring about long-lasting life-changing experiences at any age. This can affect any or every aspect of your life, opening you up to entirely new ways of being, for better or worse. Just be careful. Some of these drugs can have extremely harmful life-altering consequences.
On average, hallucinogens tend to produce rapid tolerance to psychological effects like euphoria but not to physiological effects like a fever. Along with this, based on the duration of action and long half-life of hallucinogens, users can spend a great deal of time recovering from intoxication. This tends to differ dramatically depending on the particular drug being used. DMT produces no real after effects, while MDMA is very difficult to come down from. An MDMA hangover often presents with fatigue, loss of balance, headaches, insomnia, and a number of other adverse reactions.
Now, although there isn’t any clear connection between the vast majority of psychedelic substances and organic brain damage, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder is a diagnosed condition wherein certain visual effects persist for an extended duration sometimes even permanently. There are a number of different detrimental side-effects to go along with the potentially beneficial ones. Flashbacks are just one of them. This re-experiencing of perceptual disturbances can lead to significant distress as episodic geometric forms or trailing images present themselves to an otherwise sober mind. Such flashbacks can occur months or even years after intoxication has ceased.
Finally, during a “bad trip” anxiety can escalate to the point of a full-blown panic attack, particularly at higher doses. There is no sure-fire way for you to avoid having this kind of dysphoric experience since even high-functioning, well-adjusted, open-minded people are vulnerable to feeling rotten from time to time. Many people who ingest hallucinogens require a degree of mental adaptability as well as access to a positive support group to successfully navigate their way through the transcendent reality of a psychedelic experience. In the end, it’s all about the “set and setting”, as they say. Ultimately, no matter what you take or how you take it or who you take it with or when or where or why just please trip responsibly. With that being said, thanks for reading and happy tripping.