Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time Flies... or Jumps, or Skips, or....

Trouble and confusion regarding the passage of time is a really common characteristic of hallucinogenic experiences. Some people find it pleasant when time slows down or seems to behave strangely, and others will become baffled and anxious. This is sometimes exacerbated by the need to keep track of time for worldly engagements, or by paying too much attention to where you are in relation to your peak. Time perception is a really intricate brain process, involving many different pieces working together, and is by no means regular or infalliable.

There are many things that can affect your time perception even while sober. For example, the efforts of your eyes to maintain a clear picture can affect time perception. The eye actually makes many more jerky motions than we notice, and therefore has processes in place to give us the movie that we're used to. If you move your eyes very quickly to a clock with a second hand, you'll see that that one second seems to last longer than it should. The visual parts of the brain extend that image backwards in time so you perceive a smoother transition between your last focus and this new one.

I am by no means an expert on this matter, but from what I do know of perception and hallucinogens, these drugs affect the way your brain integrates the information that comes to it. I assume that that is why you sometimes see multiples-- your brain loses the ability to mesh the images from each of your eyes together. The kaleidoscope or fractal effect seems to me to be a result of the doubling of the edges of complex or irregular shapes, like clouds. Therefore, it's not a stretch that maybe the parts of your brain involved in time misfire similarly. LSD (I'm not so sure about other hallucinogens) results in sleeplessness and a loss of appetite, which may affect the Circadian Rhythm, which is the body process that tells you when it's time to eat and sleep. And experiencing novel things makes time seem to slow, and with hallucinogens novel is the name of the game.

My first trip was really interesting in this regard, and I didn't take it very well. I was reminded of this by both my friend's trip the other day and because I found my graphical representation of my time perception during that trip while I was cleaning out my drawer. :)

My ex-boyfriend took me out to the nearby park for my first peak. I figured I would feel very comfortable there because we hung out there a lot, but it was an unseasonably nice day so it was very crowded. It began to remind me strongly of a day that I had spent there with him a year earlier, and as that idea began to grow in my mind I became very confused. It seemed that the year had formed a loop, and that it was up to me to figure out the secret of breaking the loop so we didn't endlessly relive that year. Obviously, I had no idea how to go about this. I asked him if we could go back to his house, and he agreed. I sat down on his bed and asked for a piece of paper so I could try to explain my problem in a drawing. "I'm confused," I repeatedly whined. I felt that something important had happened on the journey home (probably just my peak) but I couldn't remember it.


I was trying to explain to you how time kept getting reset every 20 seconds. Minutes feel like hours. I feel like... who knows. I should just let it do its thing. I can't wrap my head around time. Like, the leaves could have been spring or autumn and then it was the day we met, it was a funeral was a wedding everything kept getting reset. What the hell was up with the pinecones? It seems tragic that I could have made that much of a fool of myself. I should stop fighting.

Time just got too much for me to handle. I should let myself float. I shouldn't be this confused.

All I can see are the leaves on the ground-- registers as orange. Orange? Could that be right? What? What day is it? Suddenly this matter o time is of utmost importance

I am glad that I saved this because I find it hilarious. :)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Windows of the Skull

Part of the reason that LSD is so amazing and rewarding is because it removes the doors of perception and thought so you are better able to explore your piece of the universe in a creative and unorthodox way. This can mean feeling comfortable enough to play with your environment, or create bold new art, or think about God, or even just sit back and watch the movie blossoming around you. All these are great reasons to do acid, but sometimes I am whisked away by my fascination for the molecule itself. We know the basics of how it works-- the molecule, because of its shape, replaces serotonin in your nervous system, and therefore alters your modes of thought. But why does it make the radical changes it does? What about lysergic acid diethylamide turns clouds into fractals? What about it helps you get closer to the spiritual? It baffles me that a molecule exists that is so harmless to the body but so powerful to the mind. This, when it comes down to it, is what fascinates me about acid. It's an important tool both for the individual and for the study of the normally-functioning brain.

Yesterday I had the most intense drug experience of my life. My friend Barrett had his parents' house to himself for a few days, so he invited over me, M, and B to trip. I was really excited because Barrett is my favorite trip partner-- he and I are on the same wavelength in many areas, and we're both very curious and driven to learn about the drugs that we do. M is a chill sort of guy who had done acid once before, but usually preferred Ecstasy, whereas B is a lovely and joyous girl who had never tried anything stronger than pot. They were both acquaintances from high school, but were more friends of Barrett's than of mine. I actually had to be talked into this trip, because of my terrible comedown from the last one, the horrific nightmares I've been having, and because of the depression that has been seeping back into my life. I had spent the night before drowning my problems in tequila (which I've never done before) and contemplating another round of self-mutilation-- Boyfriend is a saint and managed to talk me out of it, but I knew it wasn't the best set to begin a trip with. Barrett promised that he'd keep that in mind and make sure to help me through it if I had any problems, so I reluctantly agreed. I love tripping with Barrett and it happens much to seldom for my liking, so I'm really glad I took the opportunity.

B had heard a rumor that some molecule in mangoes will make a trip stronger, so she brought over a tub of chopped mango in addition to some amazing vegan carrot cake. I was skeptical, after hearing rave reviews about the effects of orange juice and never experiencing anything noticeable, but I love mango and hadn't had time for a good breakfast so I ate quite a bit to avoid being hungry later. We made a meal of it, and then went upstairs to take our doses. Barrett had trouble figuring out where to divide the tabs, because they weren't perforated and only had dots in the center of each tab to judge their boundaries. He did his best, and we all placed the purple paper under our tongues.

Either Barrett can't use scissors, or the mangoes worked wonders. Afterwards, me and Barrett estimated that even though we took about a hit and a half, that the trip had been more in the four-hits realm. I'm so thankful that his house was deserted, because we wouldn't have been able to keep it together around "Outsiders." We agreed that it was the strongest trip that we'd ever want to have, but it was altogether a pleasant and eye-opening experience.

We went for a hike in the woods near Barrett's house. The woods are beautiful and worth the trip, but the quarter mile of busy suburban neighborhood we had to traverse makes me super nervous. They are truly little boxes on the hillside but my uncle's family lives along the way, and I dread getting stopped by one of my cousins while tripping. But the acid hadn't hit us yet, beyond a great body high that was almost immediate, so we made it to the woods without a hitch. The forest there is lovely, because it's so winding & secluded that you forget you're at most forty feet away from a sprawling housing development. Barrett and I agree that the time we tripped and played Bridge to Terabithia in there was a ridiculously great time, so we were excited about showing it to M and B.

The path took us through dense trees and fallen logs and patches of Forget-Me-Nots and cornfields. B had a great time naming all of the flowers, which I appreciated and admired because nature knowledge is something I really don't possess. I told B that she was missing her true calling as a wood nymph. The four of us rested for a while on a footbridge across a bubbling stream. The bridge spanned a little waterfall, and through the clear water you could see a reddish algae coating the worn rock. Some sort of industrial building was only yards away, but people were nowhere to be seen and we felt perfectly comfortable and alone. We ended up traversing back to "Terabithia," which is a clearing near a different part of the stream. Surrounded by a mini-moat is an island with a tree and a tire swing. On the other side is a small flat piece of grass and then a field of various kinds of flowers and grasses. It was a little muddy, but to us it was beautiful. We laid down a blanket and stayed there for our peak.

Visually, it was the most real and "present" trip I've ever had. Often, in lower-dose trips visuals will just be an augmentation to the changes in thinking, but this time the fractals and kaleidoscope patterns formed by the clouds and the leaves totally took over my vision and mindset. Unfortunately, the bugs also multiplied. Laying in the grass, I ended up with a spider on my face, which made me very paranoid and uncomfortable for quite a few minutes afterwards.

The amazing visuals made me and M perfectly content to lay on the blanket in a pile, sometimes in long stretches of silence and sometimes comparing and sharing what we saw. I had a very very strong urge to take off my shirt due to the inescapable heat, but I knew rationally that it wasn't a good idea so I kept my urge in check. B alternated between being even more of a forest sprite than she is in day-to-day life, and being an Alice in Wonderland who was a different size in depending on what she looked at. Barrett jumped over the creek onto the tire-swing island and couldn't find the courage to get back. Barrett is inordinately sensitive to psychedelics, sometimes not returning to normalcy for weeks after a trip, and as I realized he was in a mental space very far away I began to get a little worried. He was talking distantly about how he could see the future, and kept asking bizarre questions in response to our conversation, like, "What does it feel like to be alive? Am I alive? What is a house? Are you the human they call Minna? How does time work?" I was in a conundrum because I wasn't sure whether I should let him explore or try to pull him back. I asked him a few times but he gave noncommittal answers. I decided not to push it for fear of making him or someone else nervous, but it was freaking me out a little. I'd tripped with him before and I knew it wasn't his normal behavior, and as the purveyor of the substance and the location we all looked towards him as a guide. I was next in command, being at least as experienced, but I didn't want to have to handle a crisis. M was calm the whole time and could be counted on to remain so, but I doubt he would have been able to help. In the end, I decided that making a big deal of it would do more harm than good-- Barrett's weird trip was his own to grapple with. Later, the three others agreed that at some point during this period, we shared a consciousness-- I remembered the discussion, but I didn't feel it, which is disappointing.

Around rush hour we got the energy to make our way back to Barrett's house. After emerging somewhat from his weird cocoon, Barrett began to feel like a Messiah guiding us back to the promised land. We chose 5:30 to come back to civilization, not realizing that we would encounter a family admiring a new bicycle, a jogger, some pedestrians, and a few SUV's. A dog very near my uncle's house began barking as we passed, so I hurried us along and made sure to keep my eyes averted from that direction. Honestly, I am better at "keeping my shit" while tripping than while high, but this was way out of my league. I was on the far side of the strongest peak of my life, with three other people in varying states of sanity. B was babbling excitedly like a child, and Barrett kept making sketchy-looking glances back at the rest of us who were following him in a very awkward line. M and I were making pretty normal conversation, but I was always very aware of how odd the four of us must look, as mismatched and muddy and quiet as we were.

The air-conditioning in Barrett's house felt so soothing and refreshing to me that the super-awkward journey had been worth it. We situated ourselves back in Barrett's upstairs bedroom, but not before B ran around downstairs 100% convinced that she was a sprite. Barrett was still not even close to reality, so my indecision about trying to pull him back resurfaced. I offered him a place in our puppy pile, which he seemed to react warmly to, but B got distracted with the myriad weird objects in his room and therefore my plan fell through. I started thinking of new things to suggest, but when I brought up glow sticks he began muttering about how he needed a sink to extract the fluid, so I stopped that train of thought in its tracks. I don't think that he realized that he was talking out loud, because he looked really confused like I read his mind. I decided we were going to put on an episode of Adventure Time. It was sketchy for a few minutes because of the dark plotline (B stopped being sprightly and became really engrossed), but it resolved well and put everyone in a better mood. Barrett came back from the future for the most part, so I considered it a success.

We went downstairs and had a few hours of play time. We experimented with furniture, and with music, and with food. B loved the feeling of the carrot cake and the frosted flakes in her mouth (even though it made her afraid her teeth were falling out) so I challenged them to find me a food that I'd like while tripping-- it didn't last long because we got distracted enumerating the different kinds of smooth. I became very frustrated that orgasms could only result from genital stimulation-- I wanted to cum from my wonderment at all the sights I was seeing, and I almost did. We invented a unit to measure fun. I dubbed B the Cosmic Housekeeper after she straightened the entire house and told M to quit moving what she had straightened. We were deities who created an ocean out of a blue handkerchief and a plastic octopus, and then subjected the poor creature to horrible storms. Barrett blasted his favorite Icelandic music. We found a very soft stuffed Llama, who we named the Cosmic Llama. I mentioned that I had been miscounting the number of people in our group the entire trip, and that the CL was obviously the unseen fifth member. This was a bad thing to voice, as it freaked out B quite a bit when it seemed to be staring at her. We spent quite a few minutes playing with perspective on the stairs-- Barret and B laid down at the bottom with their feet on the steps, while me and M sat at the top, creating an Escher-like effect that made B feel like she was floating. That was definitely one of the coolest visual & spatial things I've ever experienced.

My cell phone reception was bad in Barrett's house (I took it as an allegory) so I got a bit nervous about making arrangements to be picked up-- I don't drive, and I hadn't made specific plans with my dad in advance. Luckily, B noticed his headlights in the driveway, earlier than I had expected.This was about ten hours after we took our doses, but I was still far from sober, and my dad hates to be kept waiting when he picks me up. I was afraid he'd be angry, but he blamed our cell phones for the lack of communication and was in a good mood, so I listened to his conversation and then retreated straight into my room when we got home. I'm sure he noticed that I was acting strangely; my mother asked me what was wrong and I wasn't sure how to reply. I've been around my parents before while under the influence, but the degree of this trip was so unlike anything else that it was entirely impossible to act normal. My father knows about all the drugs that I do, and doesn't really mind as long as I'm careful-- he's done them too, plus other ones that I'm not interested in. However, I still feel like the boundaries between parent and child require that I hide it enough that he doesn't have to confront it.

The comedown was much better than last time. For one thing, I had had a fun-filled day with some great people, and now I was ready to relax. After cleaning for a bit (ineffectually) I sat down with my thick book filled with the collected poems of Allen Ginsberg. I've decided that this my favorite activity for a comedown-- it's inspiring and productive, but not always easy. He writes a lot about war and insanity and his glaring faults and vulnerabilities, but also about drugs and the beauty of life and the seemingly banal details of his existence. I have not encountered an artist of any kind that I've felt so connected with. One of the biggest obstacles in my comedowns is the persisting thought that I never really do anything with my life, so reading some Ginsberg is the best way to counteract the perception that I'm rotting my time away, and to inspire me to write great poems myself.

I slept relatively well, and food is palatable again-- I think I'm back to normal. I didn't come away with any of the earth-shattering insights I always expect from acid trips, but I had a great time playing like a child and pushing the limits of my perception of reality. I'm glad to have a friend who knows just how to do these things right-- I've never experienced nature or the company of others like I did during that trip. I can't help but fixate on the question of whether the strength of the trip was from a misjudged dosage or from the mangos, but I'm glad to have had the chance to explore new territory and conquer it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Portugal's Drug Decriminalization: 10 Years Later

We spend so much time arguing about whether a society where drugs were legal would be one of peaceful joy or hedonistic anarchy. Everybody has an opinion, but the facts are often ignored. Very few people know that ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. Now that a decade has passed, the results can be analyzed-- and they're very promising.


Decriminalization is different from legalization-- those caught with more than ten days' personal worth of drugs still have to face penalties. However, these penalties are administrative rather than criminal. This was a choice made by the Portugese government as a result of their drug problem: instead of incarcerating casual users, they gave them the option to seek help for addictions. This makes it a healthcare issue, rather than a criminal one, and eliminates the stigma. The accused are brought before a discussion board that consists of a legal official, a counselor, and a healthcare official. The board will recommend either treatment, a fine, a warning, or no penalty. Other penalties include the revocation of career licenses, a ban on visiting high-risk areas like nightclubs, or a restriction on international travel. Dealers and traffickers still get the same penalties as they did before the law was passed.


Overall, drug use in Portugal has increased slightly among most age groups, but drug-related problems have decreased sharply. The number of deaths from overdoses has dropped from an average of 400 to an average of 290, and HIV cases from dirty needles plummeted from 1,400 to just 400. Probably most encouragingly, the numbers of people seeking treatment for drug addiction more than doubled. In fact, more Americans have used cocaine than Portugese have used cannabis: only 10% of Portugal's population uses it over the course of their lives (and I guess that's some sort of good thing). There have been some moves to improve the policy's efficiency through bureaucratic changes, but very few people are trying to repeal it. Much of the rest of the EU is looking to follow in Portugal's footsteps. It looks like good news to me! 


Many international treaties make a ban on drugs an obligation, so decriminalization is the most realistic option and seems to have worked really well. America's legalization proponents should look into this as a compromise. It keeps everybody happy: politicians get to feel effective, users don't get hunted like witches and burned at the stake, and those who really need help with their drug use can get the help they need without fear of incarceration.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Microbes & LSD: Disappointing Hype

Scientists are making LSD from microbes? Hardly. I was really excited when I first saw this article, but its title is woefully inflated, although the actual facts are still pretty cool.

There's a guy named Jake Wintermute whose job is to make synthetic biofuels. He was kidding around one day and said that he'd like to make LSD, since it's so expensive. LSA, a related compound, is currently synthesized from the Ergot fungus and then purified and used to make a dementia medicine called nicergoline. Right now he's working on genetically modifying yeast to make this compound (just add water!) but he's only one third of the way there.

This is not a "living LSD factory." He's doing perfectly legal and legitimate things with that yeast. However, it would be great to be able to make LSA that easily, since it's also hallucinogenic: it's what you get from eating morning glory seeds. I'd love to be able to buy that at the supermarket, but unfortunately, that's not what's happening. At all.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hunter S. Thompson

I have a friend who IS Hunter S. Thompson. He's always wearing those iconic amber-colored sunglasses, has the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, writes profusely, is extremely neurotic, and can produce a wide variety of illegal substances from his immediate person at any time. That is definitely a compliment, because Hunter S. Thompson is awesome.

Hunter S. Thompson is most famous for the counterculture classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He created what he called Gonzo Journalism, which means that the reporter involves himself in whatever he's writing about, and therefore becomes the main character in his own first-hand account. He was open about his lifetime drug use, including substances like alcohol, cannabis, LSD, mescaline, and cocaine. He loved guns and hated any authority, but especially Richard Nixon. He disagreed with the lack of real convictions he saw in the Hippie culture.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was always in trouble as a kid, including being kicked out of a prestigious high school club because of his criminal record. His first experience with the criminal system came when he was implicated in a robbery, because he was in a car with the robber after the crime was committed. When he joined the military, he received an honorable discharge because of his inability to follow orders, and he was fired from Time Magazine for his insubordination as well. One of his first successful writing projects was a book about the Hell's Angels, who he lived with for almost a year before they decided that he was using them to make money and so he got a "stomping." He lived in New York, San Francisco, and finally settled in a secluded spot in Colorado, where he remained for the rest of his life. In New York, he made friends with famous Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. In Colorado, he ran for sheriff of his county, on the Freak Power ticket, whose platform included legalizing drugs and abolishing paved roads and tall buildings, and he almost won. His best friends included Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, who both played him in different movies. He died by suicide, probably as a result of his chronic medical conditions, and at his funeral had his ashes fired from a cannon.

To come: A selection of Hunter quotes, and a review of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, including a comparison of the movie vs. the book!

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Saying "No": How & Why

A lot of anti-drug propaganda focuses on how to say "no" to drugs, but saying "no" to drugs isn't any harder than saying "no" to playing a game of kickball, or saying "no" to a food you don't like.

I skimmed a book recently, on how to get kids to avoid drugs, and it got me thinking. Propaganda often treats drug users as evil fiends who hand out drugs just to ruin people's lives. This is blatant hysteria: the motives of those that offer aren't examined. Some people probably will offer you addictive drugs and then make sure that they're your connect, which is obviously of questionable morality, but many are just well-meaning friends trying to be polite. (If you get made fun of or pressured, your "friends" are immature and playing a power game. Say "More for you!" and go hang out with someone who isn't a douchebag.) Also included was a list of ways to say no. Surprisingly, many were actively hostile, like "I don't want to. End of discussion." or "Are you crazy?" That bristly hostility is just plain rude, and often directed at someone who wasn't meaning any harm. This just passes the hysteria along to children, who think of a drug offer like an offer to be an accomplice in a murder. They ignore drug use as a legitimate choice, and though I don't expect that sort of reasoning from propaganda, it still bothers me.

Especially because I fully support the choices of those that don't do drugs. Of course, I still pass them the bowl to be polite, but I would never pressure anyone into doing anything they didn't want to. I like to correct people's incorrect D.A.R.E. ideas about the drugs that I do, but if they know the truth and still don't want to join me, I leave them alone. In fact, occasionally I actively support their decisions. I have one friend who everyone thinks smokes pot, because she dresses like a hippie, has synesthesia, is spacey, and eats vegan. But her veganism is exactly why she doesn't do drugs: she's very interested in nutrition and exactly what she puts in her body, so she likes to be extra careful with any chemical that goes past her lips. She likes to investigate the health, political, and moral implications of everything she ingests, and I really respect that. I also try to dissuade my friends with mental health issues (like addictive personalities, depression, or schizophrenic tendencies) from doing drugs, or at least try to supervise them and make sure they're careful. Some people shouldn't, or don't want to, do drugs at all, and I support them in their decision.

To say "no" to drugs, all you have to do is say "No, thanks" and pass the pipe along. Learning to say no to drugs shouldn't be a campaign in itself, because anyone who has the self-esteem to say "no" to anybody, about anything, can say "no" to drugs.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

LSD & Autism

My brother and I have always been exact opposites. He likes sports; I like books. I love to go out with friends; he would rather stay home and play on the computer. He likes math class; I like English. However, our most obvious difference is that he was diagnosed with Autism at age three. 
I was only five years old at the time, but since then the lives of each of our family members have been impacted irrevocably, mostly in a positive way. My mother encouraged my early love of books and writing by giving me a unique "homework assignment." I wrote and illustrated a shoe-tying manual when my brother was having trouble grasping the concept. He was an early reader as well, and would delightedly flip through each of the pages and laugh at my goofy stick-figure drawings. My mother would hold him on her lap and guide him through the process, until he finally understood well enough to do it himself. I would sit next to them and beam with pride that something I had created could have a positive effect on someone else. From then on, the only thing I have wanted to do with my life is write. I hope to use my skill with and enthusiasm for language to influence the world and the individuals in it. 
As time went on, I developed skills to match those he lacked. He often speaks in a cryptic, seemingly illogical way, but since we grew up together I was the only one who could translate what he meant to my parents and the other adults who dealt with him, further improving my own language and people skills and helping him to be understood and accepted. I helped him make friends by inviting him along with me on outings, and encouraging him to join clubs he might be interested in. I enjoy seeing him succeed in a realm where he has had such difficulties, and love doing whatever I can to help. 
Most importantly, I learned from my brother that each individual really is just that, and cannot be judged by his or her differences. In the diverse world we live in, we must learn to accept everyone, regardless of any label or diagnosis you can attach to them. My brother's presence in my life has reminded me how important the individual is to the whole world, and what a difference one person can make.
Yes, I just subjected you to my entire college admissions essay (names excised). Yes, it's a little cheesy and self-serving, but it's all true. I think it's important to help you understand not only my relationship with LSD, but my relationship with Autism as well.

Autism is often misunderstood, due to its spectrum of symptoms that differ per individual, and its convoluted history. I have lived with my Autistic brother for 17 of my 18 years, and even so, it's much easier to explain my brother and his unique behavior than it is to explain Autism as a whole. I can assure you that the barely-stifled rumors of Autism being created by unloving mothers isn't true: Autism is thought to be caused by a variety of factors in conjunction, including genetics (not one gene; the rights ones must be "in alignment"), disease during pregnancy (like Rubella), exposure to certain chemicals in the womb, and/or immune system deficits. There is no test for Autism, and maybe there never will be, but symptoms are noticeable by age three, and include:

  • Impairment of nonverbal social behaviors (like eye contact)
  • Trouble with peer relationships
  • Lack of social reciprocity (trouble holding conversation, or truly sharing in shared experiences)
  • Delay in spoken language and other forms of communication, like gesticulation
  • Inappropriate use of language (not the swearing that is a stereotype of Tourette's, but problems with pronouns and prepositions, or repetition of other people's words or sentences, etc.)
  • Restricted and obsessive interests (for example, my brother can't really hold a conversation about anything besides sports statistics)
  • Adherence to rituals and schedules, and a resultant anxiety if they are changed or something unexpected occurs
  • Repetitive mannerisms (hand-flapping is the stereotype; my brother never does anything halfway, and instead gallops around the yard or house with his hand a few inches from his face, and makes ticky-sounding computer noises to his hand, which I'm sure terrifies the neighbors)
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimulation (one boy I know keeps his fingers in his ears all the time; my brother is phobic of fire alarms and dogs, and has to cut the itchy tags off of all of his clothing)

These traits persist through adulthood-- an Autistic child, without extensive therapy and special education, will probably never be socially "normal." Therefore, Autism isn't just a disorder, it's an important part of what makes an Autistic individual him- or herself. (If you're interested in reading more about Autism, its history, and its impact on families, I recommend Richard Grinker's Unstrange Minds. I'm only about halfway through it right now, but it's very interesting and informative and matches up closely with my experience with this disorder.)

Before LSD was hijacked by the hippies and the radicals, it belonged to the psychiatrists. They used it to treat a variety of emotional and psychological problems, including alcoholism and schizophrenia. In the early sixties, Autism was just changing from a symptom meaning extreme introversion, to a unique diagnosis separate from childhood schizophrenia (which is actually extremely rare). However, psychiatry at that time was not as organized as it is today, and therefore childhood schizophrenia was still a frequent diagnosis.

LSD and schizophrenia were connected in the minds of the experimenters because it was first used to simulate psychotic episodes for the researchers themselves, to better understand their patients. Though it is now believed by most that organic schizophrenia and this induced state are very different, the connection remained and LSD began to be explored as a treatment for schizophrenia. In a field dominated by Freud's psychoanalysis, psychologists thought that the same anxiety that induced psychosis in some test subjects would release repressed material in others, helping them to deal with the roots of their problems. Patients on LSD experienced either an intensification of their symptoms, no change at all, or a strange mix of intensification and normalization of behaviors. Mute patients would often laugh-- or cry-- hysterically for hours on end, sometimes bouncing between the two at the mercy of strong mood swings. However, most schizophrenic patients seemed relatively immune to the effects of LSD, and therefore it was an ineffective treatment. A few researchers were inspired by these studies decided to try their luck with LSD therapy for the "childhood schizophrenics." They believed that the disinhibition may make Autistic children more "present" and better able to assimilate social understanding.

Freedman conducted a study on twelve moderate-to-severe cases, ages five to eleven. The observed effects, which were were either physical and measurable or inferred through body language because of the patients' lack of speech capabilities to describe their experience, included flushing of the face, pupil dilation, catatonia, lack of coordination, lack of appetite, exploration of new bodily sensations, increased desire for physical contact, mood swings, hallucinations, panic, relaxation, freer use of language (an increase in quantity of communication but not quality; no new words or phrases were used), and (my favorite!) "dizziness due to whirling." The researchers had a problem with continuing the treatment because tolerance built up so quickly, but the research was promising. One eight-year-old girl responded very well to treatments over a year's worth of weekly sessions; the severe behavior problems were cured in a young boy; and another ten-year-old girl improved after only three months.

Another study found a greater rate of success by administering half-doses twice daily. It raised the social maturity rating of the younger children but was less beneficial to the older children. Children who were not Autistic, but actually had schizophrenia, showed much more improvement with LSD therapy than did adult schizophrenics.

Though LSD has worked for Autistic children in the past, I wouldn't say that I recommend it for everyone with Autism. My brother, for example, is too high-functioning, anxious, and self-aware to end up with anything besides unpleasant confusion and/or a bad trip-- pot brownies might suit him better. However, I know kids with more severe symptoms, who would be more likely to benefit from LSD therapy. Those who are further removed from the everyday reality of the rest of us may be better equipped to deal with LSD therapy as just another new experience in a world that barely makes sense to them as it is. This is another promising field of psychiatric research that has been entirely stemmed by the insane War on Drugs, which is not only punishing recreational users, but alcoholics, PTSD-sufferers, AIDS patients, and Autistic children.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

For First Time Trippers

Erowid, which I'm sure you've heard of if you've found your way here, is the internet's encyclopedia of drug use. They've written an awesome and in-depth guide for first-time trippers which I highly recommend. I wrote a similar guide (you can find it here) but it deals more with the practicalities of tripping, whereas Erowid's has a lot about what to expect from the drug.

I whole-heartedly agree with a lot of its advice. It has an entire section on choosing tripping companions. I find that tripping with somebody can either create or enhance intimacy-- not necessarily sexually, but tripping makes you emotionally vulnerable, so choose companions that you are at least comfortable with and feel friendly towards.

Eating while tripping is a tricky issue. I always have the problem of getting super hungry while tripping but not being able to eat. So before a trip, eat something healthy and filling, like spaghetti with meat sauce or peanut butter sandwiches.

They corroborated the point I made here about citrus fruit!

They also have coined (as far as I know) the term "triptoys," which is going to become an indispensable part of my vocabulary. However, Jell-O is a really bad idea. My favorites include glow sticks and other lighting stuff.

I disagree with some of it, though, too. It recommends not going outside during your first trip, which is just insanity. Obviously, avoid busy parks and public places during your trip, and make sure you can find your way back to home base, but if you have an empty backyard or something at your disposal, rock on!

Their advice on trippy music is entirely wrong, unless you share their goal of an enlightening sort of trip (which is a very noble goal, but not one that most people share). Trippy music that I like when I'm sober (Black Moth Super Rainbow comes to mind) is just way too much when I'm tripping, and I'm not suddenly going to start liking drum music just because I'm inebriated. I recommend music that you usually like that isn't too abrasive.

Other than those two flaws, it's a great guide. If you haven't tripped before, you should read it (in addition to my advice) to prepare yourself a little bit and then TRIP. DO IT. :)
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Vitamins and LSD

There's this rumor circulating about the connection between LSD and citrus fruit. Some say it will dull the effects of acid if it becomes too much, and others say it strengthens and smooths a trip for less paranoia and restlessness. Others say niacin will help handle bad trips.

Do you have an opinion on this? Have you tried it? On accident or on purpose? What did you experience?

I certainly do. The first time I tripped, I dug into a grapefruit on the comedown and it was probably the best experience of my life. I don't know if it was the sensations or the vitamins, but I was suddenly on cloud nine. Whether there's any truth to this myth or not, I recommend citrus fruit while tripping whole-heartedly. ;)
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Caught Up in the Let-down

The comedown is always so sad. It's like, for a few hours something makes sense. Maybe not life, the universe, and everything, but something: why people do what they do, your own neuroticism, the body... and then as you sober up, things go from crystal clear to the opaque solidity of reality. You still have all the same facts present, you remember what you said, but that perfect diagram you had of human interaction as a switchboard where everyone's motives are as clear as the golden paths on a microchip, that's gone. When you're on acid, it seems so silly that you spend so much of your sober time loving trippy things so much, but when you're sober you remember that it's in the hopes of recapturing some little part of that. But you can't, really. So you drop some acid again, a few weeks or months later, expecting to get closer to that mystery, and maybe you do. And then the process starts all over again.

In another way, my comedown was good. My first trip, as I sobered up I realized that I had lost my entire sense of identity-- it was like my body knew all along who I was, and my mind had to slowly remember. It resulted in a lot of weird questioning over the next few days ("Why do I care about this person? Why do I like to do that?" etc) but overall it was a positive experience because it forced me to question the basics of my identity. I guess that sensation has been a staple of my trips since then, but I never really noticed it until I picked up my journal last night to record a few fleeting sensations, and then started rereading the past few weeks (like I often do). I happened to open up to a page where I was writing about one of the happiest experiences of my life. And everything that I read after that seemed to take on that same hue of brightness and hope. I was reading my journal like somebody else would, and I was amused at all the things I wrote. That was a pleasant introduction back into my daily life, which made the rest of it a little easier.

I commented to my close friend, who I was tripping with, that this was my eleventh trip. I only knew that because it occurred to me that my first experience with DMT was my tenth (to use trip in a broad sense). He said that he had heard various reports (from various people who don't trip) that it's impossible to reach ten without having a bad trip, or that after ten you're legally insane (I heard it was seven). Obviously, they're full of shit. I don't feel any more insane than I did yesterday (or a few months ago). Obviously, LSD has had some long term effects (a greater appreciation for color, my decision to just wholeheartedly not give a shit, some great friends I've made, and some of those revelations I talked about in the first paragraph) but honestly, I don't think that I would be doing LSD if I wasn't that kind of person anyway.

Despite the unfortunate comedown. LSD is definitely my favorite drug (shrooms may still be in the running, but require more experimentation). The pricing system is easy, it's easy to conceal, it doesn't require paraphernalia, it doesn't show up in drug tests, it's cheap, and unlike anything else you can buy for 10 bucks,  it can change your life. For some reason, I just feel more comfortable dealing with people and life while I'm on acid than when I'm high, which I'm sure is the opposite of most peoples' experience. Like, going to the bathroom is so much more daunting when you're high. Am I odd? Most likely. ;)
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Question For My Female Readers

I'm not a huge fan of tripping while on my period. I don't like getting any kind of fucked up actually (besides hemp, which helps deal with the cramps) because it makes dealing with he practicalities of having your period so much more daunting. And gross.

But recently-ish (as in, since the last time I tripped on my period, which was like a year ago at least) I found out that LSD causes uterine contractions. Which is kind of cool-- it's synthesized from Ergot, which used to be used to perform abortions. But on the other hand, the last thing I need while I'm tripping is more cramps (sometimes I can barely walk it hurts so bad) or a heavier flow (ick!)

I mean, I'm probably going to do it anyway. I'm not one to pass up a trip, especially with my oldest friend who I've never tripped with. But I was just wondering-- do you find that LSD use affects your period? Don't be shy about the details. :P

Hallucinogens of Europe

Europe has a reputation of distrust of any intoxicant besides alcohol, due to the overbearing influence of the Catholic church, and then its intolerance for hallucinogen use in the conquered areas of the New World. It is certainly less rich in hallucinogenic species than Central and South America.

But is this true? It has come to light that Europe has more hallucinogenic plant species than most people know about. Besides the ancient use of opium and hashish, Europeans had a lot of hallucinogenic (but often dangerous) drugs at their disposal.

FLY AGARIC is a mushroom native to the Siberian and Scandinavian regions, used in traditional shamanic ways by the inhabitants thereof. They are used in traditional Lithuanian marriage ceremonies in isolated areas to this day. Symptoms include nausea, twitching, drowsiness, salivation, hallucinations, euphoria, seizures, and overdose can result in coma. Often, one person would eat the raw mushroom and the others would drink his urine a few hours later. The active ingredient would remain unchanged in the urine, while the more harmful substances were filtered out, giving the second-hand trippers a purer and stronger trip with less ill side effects.

ERGOT is a fungus that grows on rye, and is most famously blamed for the accusations of the Salem Witch Trials. It is theorized to be one of the substances that was used by the Eleusinian Mysteries cult in Greece, which was connected with the worship of Dionysus. Symptoms include gangrene, hallucinations, irrational behavior, convulsions, death, uterine contractions (making it a useful purveyor of abortions), nausea, and unconsciousness.

The next five plants were common ingredients in witches brews, leading some scholars to believe that medieval witches actually believed that they committed the crimes they confessed to, and they also share symptoms with recorded accounts of werewolves (like staggering and cottonmouth). Witches were susceptible to set and setting just like hippies, so when they tripped on the Sabbat or the full moon, if they expected to grow fangs or attend a demonic orgy, they generally would. The strength of conviction in their ignorance and superstition just made this tendency stronger. Interestingly, the only thing that differentiates witches from shamans is that they only used hallucinogens occasionally, on their Sabbat, and practiced their magic rituals sober. Shamans, on the other hand, do their magic under the influence.

The plants share the active ingredients atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine, which can be absorbed by the skin. Therefore, to take a trip witches would rub these compounds on sensitive skin when they wanted to take a trip. In fact, it has been documented that the iconic broomsticks may have been used as dildos to slather ointment on the vaginal membranes for a quicker and more efficient onset. Unconsciousness would set in as the visions began, which often had erotic connotations. Atropine is used in modern medicine as an antispasmodic, an antisecretory, and as a cardiac stimulant.

HENBANE was common near prehistoric settlements in Britain, and was used in continental Europe and the Middle East before it spread to the British Isles. It is an anesthetic and a hallucinogen, and causes restlessness, visual hallucinations, and vivid sensations of flight, corroborated by more modern users.

MANDRAKE is a depressant, a hallucinogen, and an aphrodisiac. Since the roots often resembled human body parts, it was the focus of many myths and was attributed many magical powers.

DATURA, the group that includes Jimson Weed, the thorn apple, and more, has a long history of use in India and may have been responsible for the Oracle at Delphi. It grows on every continent, and can be mixed with cannabis and smoked. Its effects include delirium (an inability to distinguish between reality and the imagination), hyperthermia, an increased heart rate, bizarre behavior, pupil dilation, photophobia, and amnesia.

HEMLOCK, famous for causing the death of Socrates, is a highly poisonous sedative.

BELLADONNA's name comes from the custom of Italian women who dripped its sap into their eyes, causing the pupil to dilate and create a glassy stare that was considered attractive. It is highly poisonous and can cause dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, increase in heart rate, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, dry mouth, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delusions, and convulsions.

Apparently, Europe is rich with hallucinogens that it quickly became socially unacceptable to use. Therefore, its users incriminated themselves by attributing their miraculous visions to evil forces. Unfortunately, this witch hunt continues today: the irrational distrust of the social outcasts who choose communion with nature, forbidden sex, and mind-altering drugs.

Hallucinogenic Plants: The Golden Guide
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