Saturday, April 9, 2011


Flashbacks were something that I didn't believe in until a close & trustworthy friend told me about his. He was sitting in Denny's late at night as is his habit, reading and drinking coffee with whiskey from his flask mixed in, when the walls started to undulate. He sat back and let it pass. For him, it wasn't a negative experience, but a transitory curiosity.

Flashbacks are a re-occurrence of the effects of a hallucinogen, usually short and mild. They usually occur within a few days after a trip, and seem to be triggered by alcohol, marijuana, stress, caffeine, fatigue, or a history of mental illness. (Though as far as I recall my friend had not tripped recently when his flashback occurred, but it may have been related to the whiskey.) Most users (70%) never experience one, and for all the fuss that is made about it in anti-drug literature, flashbacks only have a 20-30% chance of occurring (Wikipedia).

Though science hasn't yet presented us with a definitive explanation for this phenomenon, it has been proven that they are not caused by residual chemicals trapped in the spinal cord. LSD dissolves in water very easily, and therefore gets washed out of your system within 24 hours (Shulgin). Edward M. Brecher has a theory, which makes sense to me, that flashbacks occur with any extremely emotional event (whether positive or negative) and so it is of no surprise that LSD use would result in them as well (XS4All).

It's possible that the key to flashbacks will also provide insight into the mystery of HPPD, or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. I'll write a more in-depth post on that later, but for now, it's a syndrome that is defined by certain symptoms of a trip lasting a very, very long time (or permanently).

Many people find the threat of flashbacks a reason to avoid LSD, because of the unpredictability of the experience. However, in my opinion, if you're having a flashback you'll understand what's going on and be able to ride it out. If you were okay while tripping (which is likely) you'll most likely be okay during a flashback. If you have a history of mental illness, you shouldn't be doing acid in the first place.

It seems that although flashbacks do occur, they are a purely psychological experience, and don't pose any threat. Therefore, anti-drug literature that treats LSD as an insidious specter that will haunt you for the rest of your life is entirely incorrect. However, he may show up every once in a while to say "hi."
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  1. Like you, I didn't really "believe" in flashbacks. Then they started happening to me. I get major acid flashbacks once in a while when I smoke weed, which mostly consist of the feeling that everything around me is flashing and pulsating, which happens all the time when I do acid.

    I have to admit, the first time this happened to me it freaked me out. I smoked a small amount and suddenly things were bright and pulsing and I couldn't remember what I was saying and what I was thinking, which happens to me on acid but never on weed.

    Anyway, I was in a very comfortable place with the person who I am most comfortable with in the world and like you said in the post, I told myself that I had survived this while I tripped (in fact, LIKE it while I tripped), and so I easily could again. And it passed.

    It doesn't happen every time I smoke, but it has happened a few times since, and so now if I feel like I'm not in a state where I want to handle an acid flashback, I just don't smoke.

    I get flashbacks on other occasions too, and in a very good way. Usually when I am ecstatic or amazed by something I get low-key visuals, as if I'd taken half a hit or something. Those flashbacks I welcome!

    I definitely don't think that the treat of a flashback should be a reason to avoid LSD. All this does is emphasize that set and setting are important. If you feel comfortable and safe during a trip, there's no reason to not be able to ride out a flashback.

  2. I have gotten one definite flashback before, when I was really high. Then two friends and I ate a whole bag of oreos, and I washed it down with a beer. That was probably the most un-sober I've been. ;)

    Since then, I've had minor flashbacks while high, but they might just be a result of similar feelings.

  3. Notice how Threat and Treat are so similar in spelling, lol.


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