I’ve always had an interest in psychedelics. Specifically the sort of life altering experiences that many have while on them. There are a million descriptions, but here’s one per Wikipedia:
A state of bliss, a participation mystique, a connectedness with both the interior and exterior universes…
This piqued when I listened to Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons lead singer) on the Lex Fridman Podcast. Throughout the podcast I was shocked at how much I agreed with Reynolds, mostly his approach to life, his introspection, etc. This sounds stupid, but I thought to myself ‘We are the same person, but he was born into a Mormon family and I was not‘… And obviously not the rock star part either.
Within that podcast, he described taking ayahuasca. He was super skeptical of it but when he saw how it helped his wife move on from trauma, he felt compelled to try it. He describes part of his experience:
“I felt very like I was communicating with something that was perceived as god, or highest sense of self, or mind…A profoundness… I walked away feeling very convinced that there is more to be known, for sure, and that a lot of my deep trauma didn’t feel traumatic anymore.”
He goes on much more than that, constantly acknowledging how ‘crazy’ all of it sounds. But something about how I felt aligned with him prior to that subject, then hearing him talk about it, made me feel like… If that experience exists for me to have, I want to have it.
My Psychedelic Experiences… So Far
Up to this point, I have tripped on psychedelics twice, both times were mushrooms at concerts.
The first was in 2018. In my journal the next day I wrote “Last night was a life experience, maybe the most significant one I’ve ever had“, then wrote four pages of exactly what happened.
To summarize, when the drugs kicked in, I began having this heavily out-of-body experience, eyes mostly closed but super visual, with the music sort of facilitating everything.
It was great. Until it wasn’t.
Intermission hit and when the lights came on, I was struggling to sort of ‘stay with it’. I CONVINCED myself that I was too mentally strong to have a bad trip! But it was kind of happening.
The band came back on and I was half on edge the rest of the show as the drugs wore off. I remember thinking during it all that it was REALLY meaningful. That all of these thoughts I was having, this whole experience, was extremely important. I wanted to write it down as it was happening.
The next day I was still fascinated by it, but it faded quickly. It didn’t fundamentally change my life in anyway, it was just a cool experience.
The second concert was a few months ago and the experience was similar. Per the Shulgin Scale, I was at a +++:
PLUS THREE, n. (+++) Not only are the chronology and the nature of a drug’s action quite clear, but ignoring its action is no longer an option. The subject is totally engaged in the experience, for better or worse.
It was a battle. I actively embraced the ‘journey’, but there was a constant feeling of ‘Am I actually okay here?‘. I tried to have moments of clarity where I told myself I was good, just a guy on drugs at a concert like a thousand other people here, before diving back into this super immersive thing.
The effects were similar to the first time, lots of strong visuals, mostly from my childhood, and this sort of out-of-body-ness that I’d never had except the previous concert.
However, when it was all said and done, this time felt less significant. I assume that’s because I’d done it before; it just felt like a wild time, not a significant life event.
ALL OF THAT SAID
Neither time hit the transcendental state described. Granted that wasn’t the goal with these two concerts. In fact I’ve been told that tripping at a concert, especially for your first time, isn’t really the ideal setting. It can be very overwhelming (it was).
So what do I do? What’s my goal?
I know this experience is out there. I know it’s something I’d like to try. But what’s the point? Am I having a midlife crisis and need an awakening? No. And I’m not actively seeking to relieve any trauma. It just sounds cool. It sounds like something I would enjoy.
It’s also doesn’t seem practical to make happen. Reynolds had a shaman dose him two separate times. That is likely not something I will be able to do.
Despite my fascination, if I was betting on whether I will ever have this experience, I’d say no is going off around -200. But it has always been a thought.
There’s a completely separate use for psychedelics that I find almost as fascinating, and that’s their use in modern therapy. Similar to what Reynolds described regarding his trauma, therapists have been using DMT (drug in ayahuasca) and psilocybin (drug in mushrooms) during therapy to help patients with severe depression or PTSD, most notably combat veterans.
I won’t deep dive here but this has been going on for a few years and the initial trials are convincing. The Lex podcast with Rick Doblin is great on this, and it seems probable to me that in the next few years / decades this becomes much more commonplace. I don’t see this useful for me, but it’s just cool.
I was unsure if I should write this post. Once I decided to, I was unsure if I should admit to having done them. This is the bugaboo with psychedelics.
There’s a societal sense that they’re wrong to do. They’re a ‘hard’ drug, and it’s irresponsible to do them, or trip too hard on them, or you’ll jump off a bridge because you’re tripping too hard.
I’m not an expert by any means. I feel this is mostly overblown. Like anything, they can be problematic in excess, but generally speaking they’re not addictive and you typically won’t ever die by taking too much.
I wouldn’t argue that they should be used by everyone or even frequently by anyone, but humans have been using them for thousands of years. Much of the art and music we hail as the greatest ever were inspired by trips on these drugs. The positive after-effects from controlled environments as well as recreational use are being proven more and more, and they’re clearly capable of having profound effects on certain individuals, be it therapeutic or creative. With little risk of addiction or death from use, it feels like they should have a place in society if people so choose to use them.
This isn’t all 100% related to what I opened with, about wanting to have that ‘transcendental experience’, but I naturally feel unsure publishing “I’ve taken drugs, and want to take more“.
If I do ever have this experience, I will write a post as it’s happening.