Many religious books have been written by people who have had great insights, which they have tried to pass on. Unfortunately their followers have often totally missed the point. Instead of being inspired to find the same insight into life, many have become ignorant fundamentalist know-nothings who build belief systems and dogma from the texts.
That risk is present where ever people are trying to pass on insights. Some seem to think that the point of it all is to try to parrot what the person who seems to know has said. But a parrot does not become a human even if it wears a hat, just as someone with no insight doesn’t become insightful by reciting texts which they do not understand.
Don’t be a parrot.
Lift your eyes from the pages.
Explore for yourself.
Think and talk with your own words.
This is a question that I sometimes get from people who do not understand why others want to get involved with “drugs”. The question itself is revealing, because it is obvious that the person has alcohol as a reference, which limits their understanding of other substances. It is rarely clear in everyday conversation that “drugs” can have other uses than intoxication.
Intoxication is only one of several states that alcohol and drugs are used to achieve. To broaden the subject, I would rather use the phrase mind altered states. Why do people want to achieve altered states of mind? By changing the words I hope that it will be clearer that substances may have more to them than only intoxication.
But let’s still begin with the state of intoxication. Alcohol is the typical example of an intoxicating drug, because it has few other purposes. In small or moderate use it can work well as a social lubricant or as relaxation. At high consumption it is an excellent escape drug, which explains its high potential for abuse. There are a large number of drugs with similar characteristics, or that are at least used in similar ways – as intoxication, social lubricant or as an escape. Opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, some prescription drugs and cannabis, to name a few.
But what other altered states of mind are people who take different substances looking for? Speaking of cannabis, there has long been talk about the plants medicinal properties. Some medicinal properties can certainly be isolated so that you can get the medical effect without the altered state of mind, but in other cases the altered state is strongly linked to the medical effect. Cannabis is used to relieve chronic pain and difficulty coping with stress, to name just a couple of uses.
Another group of substances that is much more mind altering is psychedelics, also called hallucinogens or entheogens. With these I have experienced everything from extreme confusion to total clarity, but I have never felt intoxication to be a valid word for my experiences. From a Western medical perspective, these substances can be used as therapeutic tools. They might give me the opportunity to become aware of and release that which is restricting me, help me heal past trauma, give me insight into who I am, give me a sense of purpose and my place in the world. The question of why I choose to intoxicate myself becomes very strange, because I am working therapeutically with the substance in order to heal and grow. The abuse potential of these substances are remarkably low, since they typically raise your awareness in a manner which makes you want to quit any substance abuse.
Another place where virtually all cultures seek altered states of consciousness is in the spiritual. Some achieve it through prolonged meditation, others in intense dance, through drumming, singing, beating themselves, with yoga, in prayer, in ceremonies, sweat lodges, through sex, separated from the world, or in close, intimate contact with it. One of mankind’s oldest ways to connect with the higher divine is by plants, which is a tradition that we know is more than twice as old as the Bible, and probably many times older yet. There are a few scenarios where it might be relevant to talk about intoxication, but in most spiritual contexts the word intoxication is extremely inappropriate, as the goal is rather to open up to other realities, for example so one can be able to speak with nature, spirits, ancestors, angels and the highest divine.
I understand that I have not given an answer to the original question. I have rather tried to explain that there are several other reasons to take drugs than just to get intoxicated. If we seriously want to answer the question of why people want to get intoxicated, we first need to take a step back and make these distinctions. Otherwise there is the risk that we confuse abuse with use, medical use or spiritual exploration. It is not helpful if we actually want to understand why people get intoxicated.
In conclusion I should probably have a go at answering the actual question. I think of the word intoxication as being connected to the word escape, which in turn connects to the word abuse. Intoxication is a very narrow and limited way to use a substance; a way that suggests that the person is out of balance. People are trying to escape themselves for many reasons, but what these people seem to have in common is that they often lack the tools and/or the driving force to handle the situation differently. People who live their lives in a haze do so because they don’t understand how it could be done differently. To unlock the mechanism that makes people want to escape through intoxication, we first need to identify what the person is trying to escape from and then confront and come to terms with it. When the reason we want to escape is healed, we no longer have the urge to do so.
Main photo: Self portrait – Me and my right hand man by MattysFlicks on Flickr
I am suffering from depression for 3 years now, and I saw your blog. Do you have any suggestions about using psychedelics to treat depression? I am from Israel and I am 27 years old.
Thanks a lot! Meir
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Psychedelics are generally absolutely fantastic for working with depression. One reason is that depression usually has your negative thoughts going around in circles. It is hard to see anything else, because you are caught in a negative thought pattern.
It has been explained to me that the way the brain works is that the more times you think a thought, the easier it is to think that though. If one thinks of this as roads in the brain, then a new thought is like walking through a wild forest. After a while that walk becomes a path and when you have thought the same thought many more times that path becomes a road.
After three years of depression those negative thought patterns have become highways in your brain. What psychedelics do is to, at least for a brief moment, open up for totally new connections in the brain. Your thoughts get to walk off into the woods, explore new paths and create other roads.
What is important to remember while working with psychedelics, and I would say that this goes for any serious medicine or therapy, is that you will have to do the work yourself. You don’t take psychedelics and just get better. I can’t rule it out as impossible, since the miraculous impossible always seems to be happening with psychedelics, but I still want to say that you need to be ready to continue working with yourself intensely.
Psychedelics can help you find new paths to explore, but you need to make the effort to keep walking on them until they become the new highways in your brain. That is what you do when you take all the insights, lessons and challenges that you get during the session and apply them in your day to day life.
In my case I needed several doses of LSD over a period of time, and conscious work with reprogramming myself between sessions, to finally get rid of my four year long depression. The LSD showed me new paths and after the first session I managed to stay on that new path for a week before my thoughts fell back into their old patterns. After the second session I managed to walk that new path for two weeks. It took me approximately three months of dedicated work to cure myself completely.
Here are a few links to earlier blog posts that I think might also be helpful:
My name is Daniel Wilby. I am a 40 year old father of two, a writer and an yoga practitioner. Or as Tommy Lindh at the Swedish police in Värmland called me in the Swedish tabloid Expressen – a “drug liberal youth.”
I’m alive thanks to LSD.
Nine years ago I was literally on the verge of drinking myself to death. By pure chance, at age 31, I tried LSD and the experience was so transformative that I stopped drinking that same evening and started taking responsibility for my life. There began my journey of healing and growing, and vital tools for that were LSD and psychedelic mushrooms.
When I had my first experience of LSD, where I over night miraculously recovered from a 13-year long heavy alcohol abuse, I thought that my recovery was unique. When I started to look into it and talk to others who have taken LSD and other psychedelics, I quickly discovered that I was by no means unique. Among people who know psychedelics these kinds of stories are very common. LSD is sometimes likened to ten years of therapy in one night, which I can attest that it is often.
I have worked with these substances for eight years, with myself and with others. I have seen much healing, I have seen many insights that have changed peoples’ lives for the better, I have seen many challenge their fears and overcome obstacles within. For that reason, I have begun to study social work. It is my goal to one day work with legal psychedelic therapy.
But back to Tommy Lindh at the police in Värmland, who today wrote about LSD on the police Facebook page. The post has created some stir, because it’s obvious that the person who wrote it is very ignorant. In it Tommy Lindh writes about internet drugs which claims victims and says that they have discovered LSD which is an “extremely strong drug which in its dangerousness is clearly comparable to heroin.” In an article in the Swedish tabloid Expressen he continues to confuse LSD with research chemicals and says that the young people have died.
I happen to know much more about LSD than Tommy Lindh at the police in Värmland, so I would briefly like to give you a few facts:
∙ It is basically impossible to die of LSD. You need to take more than 1,000 times the dose to stand the slightest risk. No one has ever taken that much LSD.
∙ To risk death with heroin one need to take 5 times the dose and to risk dying from alcohol poisoning one needs to take 10 times the dose. The latter is equivalent to a fourteen year old drinking a full bottle of liquor in 15 minutes.
∙ LSD has with extreme success been used to relieve and cure such things as substance abuse, post traumatic stress, depression, death anxiety, and empathy disorders.
∙ LSD was early on used to treat alcoholics and had much better results than the 12-step program has ever had. Actually one AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, wanted LSD to be step 1 in AA treatment.
∙ Many who use LSD and other psychedelics do it with a spiritual purpose. Psychedelics have been used for more than 6000 years by witches, shamans and medicine men to cure people and to get in contact with the spirit world.
It makes me both sad and upset to see ignorant people like Tommy Lindh at the police in Värmland speak in that manner about healing substances that can help so many people, in a time when more people than ever need the help. It irritates me that people like him are allowed to express their ignorance unchallenged in the media.
But I am not waging a war against Tommy. I think it is a pity that his knowledge is so limited. I think it is a shame that so many in the police, the prison service and in other social sectors are so profoundly ignorant to things that could save so many lives.
There are few who dare to speak as openly as I do about these things, because they fear social reprisals. To be able to take this discussion I stay completely drug-free and have done so for more than a year.
If the police in Värmland want to have a better understanding of psychedelics, they are most welcome to hire me as a speaker.
It is common that we lift things from our subconscious to our conscious when we are tripping. When we become conscious of something unpleasant and become aware of how we, for example, hurt ourselves, we need to choose how to handle that insight. I have identified three ways that I have handled them.
I ignore and repress it down into my subconscious again. This leads to the pressure increasing considerably. I know what is right, but I choose to ignore it. This will eventually lead to an explosion or collapse.
I convince myself that my bad choices are logically and right. I find rational excuses for why I should continue to violate myself or allow others to violate me, and tell myself that it is actually good. Again, I know in my heart what is right, but I ignore it. This increases the pressure in the same way as when trying to repress and eventually leads to an explosion or collapse.
I accept and am grateful for the insight that I have received and make changes in my life that are in line with it. My growth and development continues.
Many “bad trips” are due to the person not being open to making the changes that the insights require of them. Therefore psychedelics can often be quite traumatic for people who want to continue turning a blind eye and fleeing from themselves.
Photo: The Sun and The Moon by David Goehring on Flickr
Johan hade aldrig provat några droger tidigare, men fascinerades av upplevelserna som ett par av hans kurskamrater hade haft med ayahuasca.
– En av dem hade exempelvis haft väldiga problem med sitt uppblåsta ego, vilket ayahuascan hjälpte honom att övervinna. När han berättade det så blev jag väldigt intresserad, så jag bokade en resa till Amsterdam för att delta i en ceremoni med Santo Daime.
Santo Daime är en kristen kyrka, vars sakrament är den traditionella shamanistiska psykedeliska brygden ayahuasca. Kyrkan härstammar från Brasiliens djungler, men har på senare tid spridit sig över världen.
– Ceremonin som jag deltog i hölls i en vanlig kristen kyrka i Amsterdam, som de hade lånat för ändamålet. Vi var ungefär 100 deltagare och därtill fanns ett 10-tal andra som hjälpte till i ritualen på olika sätt. 40 euro kostade det.
Ayahuasca är en starkt psykedelisk och läkande brygd, som traditionellt använts av shamaner i Sydamerika. Den verksamma substansen är DMT. Brygden är mycket specifik och kräver såväl noggrann tillredning som en specifik diet innan intagandet. Renande kräkningar och även diarré är mycket vanligt förekommande under ceremonier.
– Ett tag trodde jag att jag skulle klara mig, men jag fick sitta med spannen mycket.
Resan som följde kom att handla mycket om kroppen.
– Plötsligt kunde jag uppfatta kroppen framför mig. Jag befann mig i en bubbla bakom min kropp och kunde se dess skelett och ryggrad. Snart upptäckte jag att jag kunde styra kroppen. Jag kunde röra huvudet upp och ner, röra på armarna, men det var kroppen som rörde sig, inte jag. Jag var själen bakom, men det fanns en connection mellan oss. Det var roligt att upptäcka och jag blev helt fnissig. Kroppen var som en leksak att upptäcka.
– Jag kom att tänka att det var lite som att köra radiostyrd bil. Kroppen lyder mig, jag bestämmer över den, men den är inte jag.
Johan had never tried any drugs before, but was intrigued by the experiences that a couple of his classmates had with ayahuasca.
– One of them, for example, had serious problems with his inflated ego, which the ayahuasca helped him to overcome. When he told me of his experience I was very interested, so I booked a flight to Amsterdam to attend a ceremony with Santo Daime.
Santo Daime is a Christian church whose sacrament is the traditional shamanistic psychedelic brew ayahuasca. The church began in the Brazilian jungle, but has recently spread worldwide.
– The ceremony I attended was held in a regular Christian church in Amsterdam, which they had borrowed for the purpose. We were approximately 100 participants and 10 or so helpers. It cost 40 Euros.
Ayahuasca is a highly psychedelic and healing brew, traditionally used by shamans in South America. The active substance is DMT. The brew is very specific and requires careful preparation as well as a specific diet prior to ingestion. Purifying vomiting and even diarrhea are very common during ceremonies.
– For a while I thought I wouldn’t have to do all the vomiting, but I needed to sit with the bucket quite a lot.
The journey that followed was much about the body.
– Suddenly I could perceive the body in front of me. I was in a bubble behind my body and could see its bones and spine. I soon discovered that I could control the body. I was able to move the head up and down, move the arms, but it was the body that was moving, not me. I was the soul behind, but there was a connection between us. It was fun to discover and I was giggly about it all. The body was like a toy to discover.
– I got the feeling that it was a bit like driving a remote controlled car. The body obeys me, but it is not me. I am the soul. At the same time, I realized that my soul, that it what is really me, actually feels how the body is feeling. When it feels bad, when it strains, when it is in pain or suffers from anxiety or physical ailments, then the soul feels the same suffering.
– I came to the realization that my body is here for me. It is mine to use in this life and I don’t want to cause it any distress. Then I realized that I am the one who feeds it. It is I who decides what to put in the mouth and if I feed it with bad stuff it can become too heavy and sick. That would be really bad, because I want a body that feels good and is easy to use. I want to learn what works best for it and what kind of nutrition it needs. Somewhere around there I managed to disengage myself from my attraction to chocolate. “Poor body” I thought, and since then chocolate no longer tempts me. Nowadays I see a mixture of substances which is named chocolate, and I no longer feel that I trust it. I know that the mixture of sugar and cocoa butter is bad for my body’s health.
– The body also needs to be touched, I understood. I wanted to feel it and give it love. It needs to know that I love it and want it to work. I started thinking about other people’s bodies and how some people shied before my touch. I understood that they, like myself, loved their bodies and were afraid that someone else would do it harm. It is important to approach the bodies of others with love and care.
– A lot happened having to do with my relationship to my own and others’ bodies. My shame about my own body has been substantially reduced afterwards. I went to a nude beach with a female friend this summer, which was no problem at all. It’s all very unlike me.
– The realization that others can touch my body, as long as they are caring towards it, also came with the understanding that it does not matter what sex that person has or where I am being touched. As long as the person is gentle and loving and open to how I feel and what I need, it feels good. And there a big part of my homophobia just disappeared.
– I looked at my body and my arms and thought of the time I had spent at the gym. Why work out? I thought to myself. The body is just a tool. It is just a doll and there is no value in it being extra beautiful. I am not the body, I am the soul. Some souls love to show off what they manage to do with the body. “Look how high my body can jump” or “listen how I managed to train my body to sing.” Lifting weights at a gym has become completely uninteresting to me, but I will gladly carry water to flowers or helping with anything that is for the benefit of nature. Making the body beautiful for others to enjoy no longer interests me. However, I want it to feel good and be strong.
– I used to have ticks around the eyes and involuntary head movements. Now I very rarely have them, because now I know that I control the body. I am the soul and I can choose what the body shall do. As long as I know that, I will not have any ticks, since I can deliberately turn them off when they come. On the other hand, when they do come, now I try to listen to the body. What is it trying to tell me right now?
Johan is now trying to put his many insights about his own body to practice in life.
– One of the most meaningful things I like to do after my experience with ayahuasca is to look into people’s eyes to see if there is anyone at home.
– My two biggest insights were that I have a lot to gain from being more flexible. I can be quite stubborn and believe that I am always right. The other big realization was that I have given up so often in my life. In the ritual I felt really bad and tried to distract myself to feel less discomfort. One of those who supported us during the ritual helped me to realize that I should not give up and bend down to the floor, but that I should instead stretch my body upwards and be with my friends, even when it feels like hell. And I did, even though I was sick and struggled and stood there on trembling legs about to faint. In life I have often given in to laziness, because of fear or anxiety, instead of fighting for what I want.
– I will do it again in a few months. I am in no hurry to do it again, but I want to. I’ll probably throw up and feel bad and have a difficult struggle, but I’m looking forward to it.