Moving the needle forward on psychedelic research.
- Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine has had a psychedelic research group since 2000.
- Funded by a $17 million donation from a number of private donors, the university will be able to open a new center.
- This comes on the heels of an increasing acceptance of psychedelic research and use.
Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine recently announced it'd be launching the largest psychedelics research center in the world. Its new Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research was funded by a $17 million donation from a group of private donors. Doctors and researchers at the center hope to learn and examine whether these psychedelic drugs will be able to treat conditions such as depression and opioid addiction.
In recent years, there has been an increased interest in psychedelic research and recreation. A number of tech entrepreneurs have jump started this once-dynamic discipline.
Paul B. Rothman, dean of the medical facility at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine is on record stating, "Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential."
The school has maintained a psychedelic research group since 2000, but this new initiative will allow them to conduct greater investigations and delve deeper into the psychedelic expanse.
The field has largely been a string of disconnected researchers ever since counterculture legend Timothy Leary and company began investigating the substances in the 1960s.
Progressive psychedelic research
LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and a number of other psychedelics have been illegal in the United States for a number of decades. A small trickle of studies have come out in the intervening years showing that they may be effective medical treatments for a number of issues. This has shifted public perception considerably.
Earlier this year, Denver became one of the first cities in the United States to decriminalize magic mushrooms – the mushrooms that have psychoactive makeup of psilocybin. They did this after consulting research which suggested the compounds in mushrooms could be beneficial for treating anxiety and depression experienced by cancer patients.
A host of these psychedelic substances are still listed as Tier 1 illegal drugs in the United States, which means they're on part with much more harmful drugs like heroin and cocaine.
The new funding for this facility will help spur a five year research study to find out whether or not psilocybin can also treat alcoholism, PTSD and a few other complex mental conditions.
Primarily, they're looking to figure out the physiological effects of the drug on the brain and body. This will transfer over when it comes to treating opioid addiction and even Alzheimer's disease.
In reference to the new organization, Dr. John Krystal, chair of psychiatry at Yale University, stated, "This is an exciting initiative that brings new focus to efforts to learn about mind, brain and psychiatric disorders by studying the effects of psychedelic drugs."
The center at John Hopkins has been producing some amazing research for years. As they've explored the potential of psychedelics and other recreational drugs for psychiatric problems, they've found evidence to suggest that ketamine and its related compounds could help to treat depression.
Breaking the psychedelic taboo
The history of abuse related to psychedelics has kept a great deal of researchers at bay for years. Evidence is mounting for claims that psychedelics have a positive effect on treating a host of these mental issues, but experts are still cautious. Psychedelic treatments can't be used in a double blind experiment in the same way most drugs are tested, that is because participants will know right away whether or not they're experiencing the placebo or the real thing.
Dr. Guy Goodwin, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford mentioned the infamous Leary trials and the debacle that followed in the sixties and beyond.
"It raises the caution that the investigation of hallucinogens as treatments may be endangered by grandiose descriptions of their effects and unquestioning acceptance of their value. Timothy Leary was a research psychologist before he decided the whole world should 'Turn on, tune in, and drop out.' It is best if some steps are not retraced."
A lot has changed during that time. Messianic inklings and a cultural shift of epic proportions helped swell the psychedelic revolution of the era. If we can somehow incorporate psychedelic research in our modern institutions, we may get a second chance to do it all over again.
So far 2019 has been a banner year for psychedelic research and access. On top of Denver decriminalization, there was also the vote that decriminalized entheogenic plants in Oakland, California.
The university announced in a press release:
"The group's findings on both the promise and the risks of psilocybin helped create a path forward for its potential medical approval and reclassification from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive federal government category, to a more appropriate level."
John Hopkins's new center will be able to continue on the research and hopefully push forth the federal government towards a more equitable and fair treatment of psychedelic use and study.
A study on the effects of LSD microdosing shows some fittingly strange results.
- A new study offers some of the first evidence that microdosing – taking tiny, regular doses of LSD – does have measurable effects.
- Subjects taking LSD were less accurate when estimating how long an image appeared on a screen than subjects who were sober.
- The mechanism that causes this effect remains unknown, but several ideas have been put forward.
LSD is known to severely warp not only how takers perceive what they hear and see, but also how time and space are experienced. The incredible power of psychedelic drugs to change how we experience the world at even the smallest doses has attracted the interest of both hippies and scientists for decades. One study on how mescaline affects people dates back to 1913.
Yet, despite the increasing amount of attention psychedelics have been enjoying over the last few years and the existence of a few subjective studies in the sixties, no serious, well-structured attempt to measure how acid warps the perception of time has been made – until now.
Taking LSD for science? The hippies have taken over!
In a study published in Psychopharmacology, British scientists had 48 older adults take either a placebo or a microdose of LSD and then try to measure time subjectively. The LSD doses were tiny, either 5, 10, or 20 micrograms, and most patients reported not noticing any hallucinogenic effects at all.
In this case, time was measured by looking at a blue dot on a screen, deciding how long they thought they saw it for, and then holding the space bar on a keyboard down for the same amount of time afterward. The act of pressing down the spacebar created another blue dot on the screen for comparison. The scientists looked for how accurate or inaccurate the test subjects were in their attempts to press the space bar for the same amount of time.
As you might have guessed, people on LSD were less accurate than the ones on placebo and tended to hold the spacebar down too long. This effect was negligible for the shorter tests, such as when the dot was on the screen for 1.6 seconds, but was significant when the dot was on the display for 2-4 seconds.
The study is similar to a previous one involving psilocybin, the drug in psychedelic mushrooms. Strangely, the results here were the opposite of what was found in that study, with patients consistently carrying out their task for too short of a time. The authors of this study suggest that the different mechanisms the drugs use – LSD affects both the serotonin and dopamine systems while psilocybin only affects serotonin – could have something to do with this discrepancy as could the size of the doses used in each study.
The authors mention other studies that their new research seemingly conflicts with, and suggest that further investigation into how these drugs influence time perception must be carried out to understand why these discrepancies exist.
This is groovy and all, but what are the implications? What caused these observed effects?
This is one of the first studies into the effects of microdoses of LSD, as almost all previous studies have been more interested in what the drug does at regular, psychedelic doses. If nothing else, this study demonstrates that there are statistically significant effects of microdosing which could be very different from larger, more typical doses.
Exactly what causes this time-warping effect when reproducing an image you just saw is still unknown, and this study wasn't extensive enough to determine what caused it. Was the over-reproduction caused by tripping test subjects thinking the blue dot was on the screen longer than it was when they saw it or, as suggested in a Twitter post by neuropharmacologist Manoj Doss, by the memory of how long the dot was there being influenced by the LSD?
Study co-author Devin Terhune hypothesized that the effects could be caused by acid first affecting the serotonin system and then the dopamine system, as has been observed in animals, and that the differences between this study and others could be explained by which system was being affected when the test was carried out.The authors mention that the neurophysiological effects of microdosing LSD are largely unknown and suggest that some of the discrepancies mentioned above between this study and previous findings could be attributed to the dosage. If this idea is correct, it could lead to many new applications for microdoses of LSD and a better understanding of how the mind works.
But what does it mean for time, man? Is it all, like, in my head?
This study suggests that LSD can seriously affect how we grasp the passage of time even at doses too small to have other noticeable effects. By seriously investigating this effect and following up with more studies on how this drug warps our perception of time we could come to understand the brain processes that shape our understanding of and experience with time. Maybe someday such a study will even give us a more definitive answer on what time really is.
LSD is a potent drug with tremendous potential for both helping people and causing harm. While microdosing to help improve performance is increasingly popular, the effects of this are still largely unknown. While this study begins to examine how these small doses affect our experiences, much remains to be discovered.
Though why you would take a drug that can make the present moment last forever while you're in the office, I'll never know.
Time is a puzzle to scientists, but your brain has it all figured out
From the cosmic blast into another being's mind, to rolling bliss or obedient mind-slavery, fictional drugs have it all.
- Fictional drugs are a major part of the lore and foundation for many science fiction stories.
- The unique effects they have on their characters is an interesting new way to explore important issues.
- Many of these fictional drugs are synonymous with the stories that have been told.
Fiction writers have always been good at whisking us away to strange and new alien worlds, places we've never dreamed of and that would never have seen the light of day if they had not been coaxed from the author's wild imagination to carve out space forever in readers' minds. But new worlds aren't the only novel things that can be laid to the page.
Fictional drugs explore a highly important dimension of minds, societies, and what it means to be human or sometimes something else entirely.
The following are some of the most mind-bending and reality-shattering fictional drugs.
Soma – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Soma derives its name from the ancient and legendary psychedelic plant used in Indian religious ceremonies. Author Aldous Huxley, profound philosopher and dabbler in altered states of consciousness, created one of fiction's most memorable drugs.
Soma is used to pacify an entire population in Brave New World. The World State's populace is split into uniform castes, cloned and grown from vats, and they all lovingly accept their servitude and uniformity. And it's all thanks to Soma. The wonder drug and means of control for all castes in society has variable affects at different dosages:
..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon...
Like a mix between television and religion, Soma quells the masses with ease.
Tasp – Ringworld by Larry Niven
In the futuristic alien world of Larry Niven's Ringworld, the Tasp is device and drug of sorts wielded by a three-legged alien race known as the puppeteers. When attached to a human or other species, the device fires off a beam that stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain.
You'd think such an overload of ecstasy and pure exaltation of joy would be welcomed by the inhabitants of Niven's fictional universe. But to the contrary, it's used as a means of control and a threat. Enough of a tasp exposure and you'll be the unwitting slave to whoever wields it. In a conversation between a puppeteer named Nessus and a Kzin, an eight-foot bipedal feline, the threat is made to use the tasp if the beast gets out of line. Later in the story, it is done:
But Nessus zapped him with a surgically implanted tasp, reducing Speaker to helpless ecstasy, and Louis disarmed the Kzin. Nessus warned Speaker he would use the tasp whenever he felt menaced. Speaker replied he would not again threaten the Puppeteer; a prideful Kzin would not shame himself with addiction to a tasp.
Penfield Mood Organ – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
The Penfield Mood Organ is an ingenious invention of author Philip K. Dick. In the novel that Blade Runner was very loosely based on – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – there exists a device in the opening scenes that the characters can use to tune their thoughts.
It isn't clear how the mood organ works, but it seems that some kind of wave affects certain parts of the brain. Here is an excerpt from the book when Rick Deckard is arguing with his wife about the right mood to tune into:
At his console he hesitated between dialing for a thalamic suppressant (which would abolish his mood of rage) or a thalamic stimulant (which would make him irked enough to win the argument).
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."
'So I left the TV sound off and I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair… So I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that's a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything...'
One hilarious example of the mood organ is when they dial 888, which gives its users "the desire to watch TV, no matter what's on it..."
Philip K. Dick also explored this idea in other books with the concept of the empathy box, which religious adherents used to let their followers experience their savior's apotheosis.
"An empathy box," he said, stammering in his excitement, "is the most personal possession you have. It's an extension of your body; it's the way you touch other humans, it's the way you stop being alone."
Water of the River Lethe – Aeneid by Virgil
Long before there was Soma, humans have dreamed of chemical means of suppressing and changing the nature of our thoughts. In the great Latin epic poem, the Aeneid, Virgil tells the story of the wandering Aeneas. At one point in the story he comes across the water from the River Lethe, one of the first known fictional drugs.
On the edge of the Elysian Fields of Greek eternity, Lethe water grants its users forgetfulness and erases their memories. It was a form of cleansing if you wished to be reincarnated — you had to leave your past thoughts and experiences behind in order to know the divine. In a beautiful quote in The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann elucidates and expands on this concept:
Space, like time, gives birth to forgetfulness, but does so by removing an individual from all relationships and placing him in a free and pristine state — indeed, in but a moment it can turn a pedant and philistine into something like a vagabond. Time, they say, is water from the river Lethe, but alien air is a similar drink; and if its effects are less profound, it works all the more quickly.
Beta-phenethylamine – Neuromancer by William Gibson
William Gibson's seminal cyberpunk work Neuromancer is jam-packed with uppers, downers, zoomers and electronic bloomers. Early in the book, Case (a virtual reality hacker extraordinaire and junkie) undergoes surgery so he can get booted back into the virtual world. During that surgery, they also give him a new pancreas and plugs in his liver that stop him from getting high on his usual round of super amphetamines.
When visiting Freeside, a Vegas-in-Space, Case meets a woman named Cath, a junkie who seems to be permanently spaced and jacked up on some majorly powerful drugs. She gives him something called beta-phenethylamine. Ecstatic bouts and super energy are followed by some of the most hard-hitting hangovers ever written. But with crystalline moments realized like these:
His eyes were eggs of unstable crystal, vibrating with a frequency whose name was rain and the sound of trains, suddenly sprouting a humming forest of hair-fine glass spines.
Case stays a functional albeit highly scatterbrained genius virtual hacker.
Moloko Plus – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Made famous by one of the most iconic openings of a film ever, Anthony Burgess's book A Clockwork Orange (which was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's film of the same name), put Moloko Plus on the map of fictional drugs. Alex and his gang of droogs hang out and get their kicks at the Korova bar drinking Moloko Plus.
This milk-based drink with a cocktail of add-ons includes some kind of mix of barbiturates, opiates and synthetic mescaline. The details are a bit murky on its effects, but Alex states at one point:
... a nice quiet horrorshow fifteen minutes admiring Bog And All His Holy Angels and Saints in your left shoe with lights bursting all over your mozg.
Melange (Spice) – Dune by Frank Herbert
One of the most famous drugs in science fiction, Spice isn't just your regular everyday enlightenment trip. Melange is found on a desert planet called Arrakis, and it's produced by giant sandworms. The inhabitants of Frank Herbert's fictional universe Dune consider this the perfect high. It even allows its users the knowledge and ability to travel through different forms of space-time. There are some downsides to it, like having to battle giant sandworms just to get a taste and a few other negative side effects as it changes each time it's used.
It's like life—it presents a different face each time you take it. Some hold that the spice produces a learned-flavor reaction. The body, learning a thing is good for it, interprets the flavor as pleasurable—slightly euphoric. And, like life, never to be truly synthesized.
Ketamine is showing promise in alleviating suicidal thoughts.
- The popular party drug has shown promise in stopping suicidal thoughts in a number of small clinical studies.
- First synthesized in 1962, the anesthetic was used to treat Vietnam War soldiers in the early seventies.
- Though the accompanying hallucinations are a roadblock to widespread therapy, innovations in psychiatry are necessary.
The dirtiest drug I ever tried was ketamine. Besides having a general aversion to snorting powder, I vividly recall one evening in 1995 when, after ingesting a hearty dose of the anesthetic, I could no longer tell the difference between standing, sitting, and lying down. Fortunately I was in a safe environment; the effects eventually wore off, my relationship to gravity restored. The following morning was rough, causing me to swear off the drug forever.
Bad experiences create aversions. There are too many horror stories to count about the curious traveler landing in Los Angeles to partake in recreational marijuana who ends up eating fifty milligrams when five would have sufficed. Once that experience is locked into memory it's doubtful you'll ever enjoy an edible again. Dosage matters. If you're not careful, you're writing off a potential beneficial therapy due to ignorance and over-enthusiasm. Getting back on the horse, as it goes, takes a certain determination.
Ketamine isn't actually dirty, I just took too much. Others are finding a lot of benefit to the chemical. The recent uptick in clinical cases promoting ketamine as an antidote to suicidal thinking is one such victory.
This isn't exactly new. In June, 2017 I covered this study, discussing the means by which ketamine works:
Ketamine is responsible for blocking the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which causes an immediate alleviation of depressive effects, while another metabolite in the drug helps the effects last for hours. This blockage is also what causes the hallucinogenic effects.
First synthesized in 1962 by Wayne State University chemistry professor, Calvin Stevens, it was first tested on human prisoners (following animal trials). Regardless of the ethics of testing on the prison population, it was approved for clinical use by the FDA in 1970. Shortly thereafter it was used an anesthesia in the Vietnam War.
Ketamine was also immediately used outside of clinics and hospitals, quickly "discovered" by the psychedelic community. By the time I stumbled into it in the nineties, it was synonymous with ecstasy on the rave scene. It wasn't until 1999 that the US government labelled it as a federally controlled substance. It has never been an especially blacklisted drug, not to the level of other clubbing substances.
Now, with life expectancy dropping in America for the second straight year due to the opioid crisis and increased rates of suicide, ketamine is being looked at more closely. There is no single reason for these data about declining life spans, Moises Velasquez-Manoff writes in the NY Times,
The trend most likely has social causes — lack of access to mental health care, economic stress, loneliness and despair, the opioid epidemic, and the unique difficulties facing small-town America. These are serious problems that need long-term solutions. But in the meantime, the field of psychiatry desperately needs new treatment options for patients who show up with a stomach full of pills.
Ketamine might be that treatment, he continues, noting that it has been shown to "halt suicidal thoughts almost immediately." Not that there aren't hurdles to overcome. Cultural associations are one, but there is evidence that ketamine causes brain damage, cystitis, and persistent hallucinations in abusers. Abuse is key here. Like my dreadful evening, too much is too much.
Current treatments for depressive and suicidal disorders can take weeks to months to kick in, however, some of which actually increase the likelihood of suicide. Velasquez-Manoff writes that ketamine operates differently from antidepressants by working on the brain's glutamate system rather than the serotonin system—most of the body's serotonin is produced in the gut, anyway.
Animal research suggests that partly blocking certain glutamate receptors increases brain plasticity — the ability of the brain to make new neuronal connections — and corrects some of the abnormalities that result from chronic stress. These salutary effects on the brain, coupled with how quickly ketamine works, have inspired a flurry of research.
The hallucinations present another hurdle for clinical usage. If you're not accustomed to such mind states, doing so while lying back in a doctor's chair might not be the place to start. Or...it might be. "Setting" has long been an integral part of the psychedelic experience, as important to the outcome as strength and dose of the substance. Feeling safe under the guidance of an experienced professional might allow for mind wandering without the accompanying fear.
Which has, in fact, always been a part of the psychedelic experience. Ayahuasca should not be consumed alone or out on the scene; the shamanic ritual is a necessary component. Separating substance from context is certain to result in a terrifying experience, which is a shame given the potential therapeutic applications of these substances.
Ketamine might not have the stamp of approval yet, but the fact that it's being treated seriously is a good start. We know our current drug program is not working. All options should be on the table. That we live in one of the most advanced civilizations ever, with a wealth of resources and information, yet cannot take care of an increasing number of citizens is problematic. There is no singular solution, so we have to exhaust all possibilities.
Turn on, tune in, and drop out and into a good psychedelic book.
- Psychedelic literature contains some of the richest prose and musings on the human condition.
- A great deal of these books hail from the 20th century.
- These are gateway books to a rich and other worldly adventure.
Much has been said about the psychedelic experience and its rich and thrilling history. Luckily for us, some of the greatest pioneers who pushed forward into the choppy waters of the mind wrote it all down. Packed with governmental intrigue, freak-out trips and the loving grace of human community, this breed of psychedelia literature has it all.
Split between riveting fiction, biography and beatific new age how-to manuals, these books cover much of Western culture's first foray into the star soul of mind-blowing consciousness.
There is an exhaustive amount of books pertaining to this subject and this list tries to cover at least a smidgen of these incredible visionaries.
Here are some of the best psychedelic books ever written.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Largely popularized as a cult classic movie adaptation starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson jumpstarted a new book and writing genre critics called Gonzo journalism. Following in the footsteps of the beatnik poets before him, Thompson penned a roman á clef novel loosely based off an excessive drug-addled trip to Las Vegas.
Delving into the savage heart of the American Dream and casualties of a failed cultural revolution, Thompson's satirical wit makes this book a staple of psychedelic literature. If you're looking for universal consciousness truths laid out nicely in a row, hang on to your hats because you won't get that in this book.
Thompson tears into reality with a dizzying array of hallucinatory scenes that wind you up and drop you down before you can figure out what's really even happening anymore. Interspersed between the crazed prose are beautiful bits of wisdom lamenting in the death of an era. Nowhere is that more potently felt than in Thompson's famed Wave Speech. By the end of the book it is clear that Thompson has left a warning sign for all those future freaks and seekers who naively believe that fundamental change in the world is just a tab away.
We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that '60s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling 'consciousness expansion' without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit.
But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force — is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
Timothy Leary was the great proselytizer of the psychedelic revolution. From Harvard psychologist square to guru-exile, he ran the gamut on what it meant to change your mind. High Priest is taken from the early chronicles of the 1960s and written right around the time Leary was getting acquainted to the many jail and prison cells he'd been forced into by the overzealous drug czar Nixon administration and company.
This is a central book for understanding both the rich cultural history of the time and the story of a great man. Famed poet, Allen Ginsberg once remarked that Timothy Leary was a hero of consciousness. The book pays its dues to the many prophetic mystics and scientists that came before him, while also touching on some contemporaries' of the time as well, such as Aldous Huxley, Ram Dass and Ralph Metzner.
It's a thrilling journey for both the reader and Leary himself. At one point he states:
I learned more about...my brain and its possibilities... and more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than I had in the preceding 15 years of studying doing research in psychology.
Leary's High Priest is a gateway drug to opening your mind and entering into one of the most important cultural time periods in the 20th century.
The Doors of Perception
Break on through to the other side. The philosophical essay and book by Aldous Huxley that inspired The Doors' Jim Morrison. First published in 1954, the book covers Huxley's experiences while taking mescaline. It's a recollection book that's often paired with his other essay on William Blake. The title comes from a phrase in Blake's poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
The beautiful line goes like this:
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.
What's even more surprising about this book was that Huxley wrote in a time that preceded the onslaught of the counterculture. But that comes as no surprise to if you've read Huxley's Brave New World, which has been eerily prescient in predicting our current future.
The Hasheesh Eater
One hundred years before the beatniks, hippies and whatever you want to call our current breed of hedonistic meanderers, Fitz Hugh Ludlow's tour de force novel, The Hasheesh Eater, influenced an entire generation in the ways of drug experimentation. Written in 1857, Ludlow's book describes his experiences of altered states of consciousness while using the cannabis extract.
He dedicates many pages to wild flights of fancy from the visions he saw while ingesting the drug. Ludlow also takes the time to talk about the perils of addiction, which some critics believe was more related to his eventual problems with opium.
In a time many people don't place with a bohemian surge of freedom and creativity, Ludlow helped to bring about a unique change of pace in mid 19th century American culture. With passages such as these:
I am borne aloft upon the glory of sound. I float in a trance among the burning choir of the seraphim. But, as I am melting through the purification of that sublime ecstasy in oneness with the Deity himself, one by one those pealing lyres faint away, and as the last throb dies down along the measureless ether, visionless arms swiftly as lightning carry me far into the profound, and set me down before another portal.
It was no surprise that so many wished to experience this. Not too long after the books publication, many companies began advertising "Hasheesh Candy" and private hashish clubs sprang up all over the country.
DMT: The Spirit Molecule
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is an incredibly powerful psychedelic compound that is also endogenously produced inside the human body. After a long period of draconian drug research suppression, Rick Strassman was able to conduct a number of biomedical tests on human subjects taking DMT. In recent years there has also been many new promising studies into this wondrous substance.
Strassman conducted a series of tests in the early 1990s at the University of New Mexico. Although Strassman has a scientific background, he's very well versed in the cultural history of psychoactive drugs and never bores with the explanations of his subject's experiences. The book opens up with an unexpected hilarious account of the Kafka maze of bureaucracy he has to go through just to acquire the drug legally.
Mixed with a dash of scientific expertise and spiritual proclamations, it's a great book that, in a sense, is carrying the torch forward for future scientific exploration of these altered states.
Terence McKenna recounts his insane adventures in the Amazon Basin in the search for a mythical hallucinogenic substance called oo-koo-hé. Whether or not this was the tall tale from some sophist raconteur or a glance at the truth to the inner cosmos, McKenna knows how to tell a story.
True Hallucinations is a wonderfully erudite story that's mixed in with reams of esoteric history, metaphysical pondering and just outright hilarious situations. After their mother's untimely death in 1971, Terrence and his brother Dennis and a coterie of seeker friends set out to the Amazon to experiment with DMT and a whole lot of psilocybin mushrooms.
McKenna truly believed that the fate of humanity and the species rested on returning to the roots of shamanism — the expanding of consciousness — and what he termed the Archaic revival. At one point in the book he says:
The Archaic Revival is a clarion call to recover our birthright however uncomfortable that may make us. It is a call to realize that life lived in the absence of the psychedelic experience upon which primordial shamanism is based is life trivialized, life denied, life enslaved to the ego and its fear of dissolution in the mysterious matrix of feeling that is all around us. It is in the Archaic Revival that our transcendence of the historical dilemma actually lies.
Nothing is off limits for McKenna in this whirlwind paean for the search on the true ontological nature of reality itself.
LSD: My Problem Child
This is the story told by the father of the substance himself, organic chemist Albert Hoffman. Hoffman traces back LSD's humble beginnings in his chemist's lab that would go on to radically change the world, sparking hysteria and a new age.
The book follows Dr. Hoffman as he goes across Mexico searching for sacred plants and corresponding with other notable figures about his discoveries, which also included psilocybin. For the father of such far-out drugs, Dr. Hoffman grounded himself to a scientific reality with an added twist of pure mysticism. This was evident in some of his speech:
The wonder, the mystery of the divine in the microcosm of the atom, in the macrocosm of the spiral nebula, in the seeds of plants, in the body and soul of people.
Hoffman focuses less on "trip reports" in this book and goes into the nitty gritty of the chemistry of LSD and other psychiatric drugs. However, the book is not bereft of some wonderful ravings and incredibly diverse citations of a mountain full of great scientists and philosophers.