User Perceptions of Mental Health Consequences of Hallucinogen Use in Self-Identified Spiritual Contexts

Aims: The article aims to gain insight into the private worlds of users of hallucinogenic drugs in spiritual contexts, with a focus on the self-perceived mental health implications of their practices. This will help us understand the rationale behind and consequences of hallucinogenic drug use. Method: Respondents were recruited at several internet fora for individual email-mediated interviews (n = 5) or group interviews in public discussion threads (n = 11). They were predominantly males in their 30s or 40s with stable jobs and living conditions and extensive hallucinogen experience. Results: Both positive and adverse consequences were assessed, and respondents emphasised the capacity of hallucinogenic drugs for healing and personal growth; even adverse experiences (“bad trips”) were regarded as valuable for these purposes. The dependence potential of these drugs was regarded as low because of an inherent self-regulatory mechanism whereby positive effects disappear with overuse. A minority of participants reported mental health problems that may result from their hallucinogen use, but the majority have experienced no significant adverse reactions after many years of use. This should be seen in light of the low frequency of their hallucinogen use. Conclusion: The study obtained evidence of a predominantly male group of mature users taking hallucinogens in carefully prepared sessions for the purpose of personal spiritual growth, acknowledging some risks but also several benefits from this practice.

Creative Problem Solving

OF ALL the strange permutations which occur with LSD use, two of signal importance for researchers have been found to be heightened sensitivity and vulnerability. Unlike the hypnotic trance, this “defenselessness” is coupled with consciousness and will power. Therefore, the subject, if he has a problem to solve, can put his altered responses to this task. Solutions can emerge if proper attention has been paid to the “set” (the user’s expectations, his emotional make-up and motivations) and “setting” (the surroundings and circumstances under which the drug is taken).

Among the endless variety of problems which LSD can help solve, the most clear-cut and spectacular—for which there is unequivocal proof—are creative and technical problems. Hopefully, as more and more technical and creative problem solving is done with LSD and word of it comes to light, valid non-medical uses of the drug will be publicly recognized and understood. If and when this happens, unrealistic and fantastic claims about LSD’s powers and dangers will be recognized for what they are.

Psychedelics, Injustice & Intersectionality of Trauma w/ Sevelius, Williams, Kahn & Redbear

Trauma is caused by feeling profoundly unsafe – physically, emotionally, or spiritually – and is often the root of mental illness. Despite the misperception that PTSD is most commonly caused by a single event, for many people, simply existing in a society that marginalizes their identities is inherently and perpetually traumatic. Violence, poverty, and discrimination can all contribute to traumatic experience at both individual and collective levels. These ongoing traumatic experiences – enhanced and compounded in people who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities – are often under-diagnosed and thus under-treated. MAPS’ MDMA-assisted psychotherapy research, and research with other psychedelic-assisted therapy, shows us the vast potential for psychedelics to heal trauma and help people approach wholeness. But how does that healing potential stand up to systemic oppression? This panel seeks to explore if – and how – psychedelics can contribute to the healing the trauma that stems from injustice and hopefully, ultimately, contribute to stopping the cycles of trauma, injustice, and oppression in the first place.

Neurons to Nirvana

A stylish, in depth look at the renaissance in psychedelic drug research in light of current scientific, medical and cultural knowledge. The film explores these socially taboo substances as adjuncts to psychotherapy, as crucial but neglected medicines, and as technologies of consciousness. From Neurons to Nirvana: The Great Medicines features interviews with some of the world’s foremost researchers, writers, and pioneers in the growing field of psychedelic psychotherapy. These radical healers and dissenters are using everything from ancient concoctions to newly created designer molecules to the once demonized psychedelic drugs of the 1960s. They argue convincingly for the legal right to incorporate these substances into therapeutic practice.

Psychedelia: The History and Science of Mystical Experience

PSYCHEDELIA​ ​is an hour-long documentary film about psychedelic drugs and their ability to induce mystical and religious experiences. The film chronicles their use in controlled research studies prior to the cultural upheaval of the 1960s, when LSD was regarded as a promising medical breakthrough, as well as their recent re-emergence in psychiatry.

Featuring leading experts in the field of psychedelic research, the film tells the story of medical professionals who have re-introduced these compounds into a legal and growing field of study. First-person accounts from a study on end-of-life anxiety explore the profound, life-altering insights psychedelics induce in participants and what these insights might mean for society at large.

Revealing the Mind: The Promise of Psychedelics

Nearly every culture throughout history has used chemicals that alter consciousness for spiritual exploration. In the 20th century these drugs caught the attention of scientists. Psychedelics, as they were named, proved effective at treating intractable illnesses like depression and addiction. And they became a tool for studying the mind, opening “the doors of perception,” as Aldous Huxley wrote. But those doors slammed shut when President Nixon declared psychedelics dangerous and medically useless. Join scientists and “psychonauts” who are now picking up where research left off 50 years ago, experimenting with LSD, psilocybin, DMT and other psychedelics to heal—and reveal—the mind.

The Big Ideas Series is supported in part by the John Templeton Foundation.

Solidarity and Drug Use in The Electronic Dance Music Scene

Current research and theory on rave culture has articulated a link between solidarity and drug use, although the precise nature of this relationship remains unclear. Work conducted in the field of cultural studies contends that while rave participants engage in drug use, it is by no means the exclusive source of solidarity. However, work in the fields of public health and medical science portrays rave culture as a site of extensive drug consumption and personal risk, where solidarity is dismissed or dubiously acknowledged as chemically induced. Prior research has not sought to reconcile this tension, or to consider how the relationship between drug use and solidarity may have changed over time. Using data from a multimethod ethnography of the rave scene in Philadelphia, we found the drug use–solidarity relationship substantially more complicated than prior scholarship has articulated. Our discoveries, consequently, provide clarification of this relationship as well as advance the literatures on solidarity, collective identity, youth culture, and music scenes.

The Shaman and the Rave Party: Social Pharmacology of Ecstasy

Current psychobiological models of drug addiction are focused on the capability of drugs to cause a pathological exploitation of the neural rewarding system. This approach has emphasized the role of hedonistic factors in the etiology of drug addiction. Comparing primitive and modern settings of intoxication, such as shamanic rituals and rave parties, it is possible to confute this assumption. The archaic way of perceiving and elaborating drug effects mainly determined their use as being for supernatural purposes and excluded recreational purposes. Only after a completely profane setting of drug use was developed, did psychoactive drugs express all their hedonistic potentialities. This development, however, has been a slow process.