How to hallucinate at home, without mind-bending drugs

Always wanted to trip but don't want to risk brain damage? We might have a solution for you.

Outside of the various claimed benefits of psychedelic drugs, many people find the concept of inducing hallucinations alluring. Given the negative side effects of many psychedelic drugs, the high likelihood of getting a knock-off drug of low quality instead of what you asked for, and the terrifying possibility of a nine-hour-long bad trip in which you are attacked by demon clowns, drugs might not be the best method for this.


However, it is possible to cause yourself to hallucinate without taking drugs.

The Ganzfeld effect is a well-documented phenomenon where the brain, deprived of sensory input, will attempt to make sense of the lack of input by amplifying its own internal processes. This results in audio-visual hallucinations of varying intensity.

This has been known of since ancient times. Followers of Pythagoras would retreat into dark caves until visions appeared. Certain schools of Tibetan Buddhism also exploit this effect to bring visions of wisdom. Prisoners locked in dark dungeons have reported seeing things since records have been kept.

Explorers of the polar regions, including Ernest Shackleton, have reported changes in mental state and vivid hallucinations as a result of seeing nothing but white for days on end.

More recently, it has been exploited in the Ganzfeld experiment to attempt to prove the existence of extra-sensory perception. While the experiments failed to prove the existence of ESP, the occurrence of the hallucinations was the one part of the experiment that has remained unquestioned. 

So, how do I trip without drugs?

To exploit this effect, you’ll need a few things: sheets of translucent paper, cotton pads, scissors, string, rubber bands, a source of static or white noise, and noise-canceling headphones to start.

To see how to use them, you can watch these two nuts. The two fellows in the link create a sleeping mask out of the paper and remove audio stimulus with the static and headphones. They then lay perfectly still under white lights for 20 minutes. After getting up, they report various hallucinations of varying intensity and dilation of time. 

Is this safe?

By all accounts it is. Which is to say we found nothing that said it was dangerous. 

However, long-term sensory deprivation is used as a form of torture and mental stability starts to go after several hours of it. While it is unlikely that people would willingly do this for that long, a fair warning is needed. Thirty minutes would be enough to assure some result if you are going to try this. 

Sensory deprivation tanks are currently used to help relieve stress, and short-term exposure has not been found to have negative effects. It might not always be pleasant though. The quietest room in the world, a room in Minneapolis so quiet you can hear your internal organs operating, is famed for driving people to a point of such uneasiness from the utter lack of sound that nobody has remained inside it for more than 45 minutes.


An anechoic chamber, similar to the one in Minneapolis, in France. How long do you think you could stand going without audio input before you started to lose it? (Getty Images)

So, have you always wanted to trip but also want to avoid the problems of psychedelic drugs? This might be a solution for you. While the exact results are variable and most likely of a much lower intensity than drug use, the effect is very real and if you try it something is likely to happen. Just don’t forget to take and break after a little while.


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Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. Think a dialysis machine for the mind. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.