Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Psychedelic Science

LSD's psychological effects (colloquially called a "trip") vary greatly from person to person, depending on factors such as previous experiences, state of mind and environment, as well as dose strength. They also vary from one trip to another, and even as time passes during a single trip. An LSD trip can have long term psychoemotional effects; some users cite the LSD experience as causing significant changes in their personality and life perspective. Widely different effects emerge based on what has been called set and setting; the "set" being the general mindset of the user, and the "setting" being the physical and social environment in which the drug's effects are experienced.

Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert considered the chemical to be of potentially beneficial application in psychotherapy. If the user is in a hostile or otherwise unsettling environment, or is not mentally prepared for the powerful distortions in perception and thought that the drug causes, effects are more likely to be unpleasant than if he or she is in a comfortable environment and has a relaxed, balanced and open mindset.

Some psychological effects may include an experience of radiant colors, objects and surfaces appearing to ripple or "breathe," colored patterns behind the eyes, a sense of time distorting (time seems to be stretching, repeating itself, changing speed or stopping), crawling geometric patterns overlaying walls and other objects, morphing objects, a sense that one's thoughts are spiraling into themselves, loss of a sense of identity or the ego (known as "ego death"), and powerful, and sometimes brutal, psycho-physical reactions interpreted by some users as reliving their own birth.[9][40]

Many users experience a dissolution between themselves and the "outside world".[41] This unitive quality may play a role in the spiritual and religious aspects of LSD. The drug sometimes leads to disintegration or restructuring of the user's historical personality and creates a mental state that some users report allows them to have more choice regarding the nature of their own personality.

Some experts hypothesize that drugs such as LSD may be useful in psychotherapy, especially when the patient is unable to "unblock" repressed subconscious material through other psychotherapeutic methods,[42] and also for treating alcoholism. One study concluded, "The root of the therapeutic value of the LSD experience is its potential for producing self-acceptance and self-surrender,"[43] presumably by forcing the user to face issues and problems in that individual's psyche. Many believe that, in contrast, other drugs (such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine) which are used to escape from reality, LSD is seen as more of an introspective experience. Studies in the 1950s that used LSD to treat alcoholism professed a 50% success rate,[44] five times higher than estimates near 10% for Alcoholics Anonymous.[45]

Some LSD studies were criticized for methodological flaws, and different groups had inconsistent results. Mangini's 1998 paper reviewed this history. She concluded that the efficacy of LSD in treating alcoholism remains an open question.[46] Dr Abram Hoffer referred to Mangini's paper as "a good review of the literature" but said that, in common with many other scientists, the author has failed to grasp the important point that psychedelic therapy is a therapeutic experience.

The critics of psychedelic therapy have not taken this into account. Thus the Toronto studies studied the drug. They made no attempt whatever to induce a psychedelic experience. I saw at least two of the patients many years after they had been treated in Toronto and they told me that it was the most horrible experience they had ever had. It was in fact a true psychotomimetic experience and probably reproduced delirium tremens more than anything else. Not surprisingly their patients did not do well. They gave them 800 micrograms which is too heavy, gave them a barbiturate in advance to prevent convulsions, tied them to the bed so that they could not run away, and had sitting with them a psychologist who wrote notes all the time and did not interact with the patients.

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