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Psychoactive drugs for "expansion of consciousness"

  1. Jun 23, 2016 #1
    Before anything, I'd just like to say I do not use nor promote the use of any drugs. I've experimented with cannabis a couple of years ago but quickly stopped when my senior years approached. I am now doing very well in my last years of school, especially in sciences. I am however struggling with English since I've only been speaking it for 4.5 years, so I apologise if I'm not clear enough.

    I've gone briefly in biology about how our brain is still the result of evolution and natural selection, mostly made to defend ourselves from those tigers trying to eat us, stick together and gather food, and other survival reasons. Also for other things like finding the offspring of our species "cute" so that we do not kill them as that would not help in our species dominating the world.
    Of course, our brains were not made to see more into the universe, for science or for maths, but we can use it for those purposes.

    What I'm thinking that these psychoactive drugs do, especially psychedelics is change some of those signals going on in your brain (obviously) but so that are able to look beyond everyday common sense, see our blind spots, and just go beyond the constant illusions we are under. Understand just how strange we mortals are, each here for a brief sojourn, for a purpose he knows not, but continues to live life as it is.
    In fact, after smoking pot for a couple of months I began to see things I otherwise wouldn't in a normal waking state, and this was the whole reason while I started studying and doing really well in school (I've never been the kind of person to study, I'd just do some homework and pass my tests). It was also because of this that I quickly stopped smoking and dedicated everything to school.

    Here are some great minds that changed the world and explored with psychoactive drugs;

    -Good old Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist I was a fan of when I was a kid and inspired me into science. Apparently, he used to love his weed and has talked about it a bit.

    -Bill gates, he had an interview where he (indirectly) admitted to having experimented with LSD under the age of 25, but reporting to not do it again afterwards.
    Similarly, Steve Jobs said he did it a few times while in university, but didn't do it again.

    -Francis Crick (I actually have an entire dot-point in biology devoted just to him and his discovery of the double-helix experiment while collaborating with other scientists) He apparently discovered the double helix while on LSD, and "In fact, in a 2004 interview, Gerrod Harker recalls talking with Dick Kemp — a close friend of Crick's — about LSD use among Cambridge academics, and tells the Daily Mail that the University's researchers often used LSD in small amounts as "a thinking tool." Evidently, Crick at one point told Kemp that he had actually "perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD." "

    Reminds me of what the great Alan Watts said "If you get the message, hang up the phone. For psychedelic drugs are simply instruments, like microscopes, telescopes, and telephones. The biologist does not sit with eye permanently glued to the microscope, he goes away and works on what he has seen"

    I've actually always been really curious about ayahuasca: There is a spiritual ceremony that some of my family does where they will drink this tea once in their life to see deep into themselves and just have a spiritual experience. My cousin, who is 29 now doing her PhD in biology, did this for the first time a month ago. She reported to be in a "zen state" for a week after that and she's been much calmer and peaceful ever since. Now I'm considering doing it on my holidays before I start university (I'll be 19), but this is something I'' have time to think about.

    What do you scientists think about this? I couldn't find much on this or talked to anyone about it, so I'd love to hear everyone's logic and opinions on this are.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2016 #2
    As a software engineer, if I considered random changes to a functioning software system, my expectation would be that the changes would cause malfunctions. In a fault-tolerant system where there were redundancies and the ability to automatically check system performance and make compensations, I would expect that substantial functionality would often remain.

    I don't doubt that there are conditions where the modification of brain function may be appropriate. For example, taking a Tylenol to reduce fever and avoid distracting pain can be viewed as an accommodation to a modern environment where most ailments are far less threatening than they were 10,000 years ago - and so ignoring pain and suppressing an immune reaction (the fever induced by the hypothalamus) may cause a more appropriate response from the brain.
    But perhaps not. Recent studies published in the Oxford Journal (http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/05/27/scan.nsw057) suggest that students were less empathetic while under the effects of Tylenol. Perhaps in our modern world, that is the most important brain function of all !

    The point here is that, more than anywhere else, when looking at technology-induced changes to our brain operations, anecdotal evidence and testimonial indicators can not be trusted. If there is a suspicion that something is causing an improvement, it needs to be checked out (by way of well-planned, controlled, reviewed studies) before it should be generally relied upon.

    As for your anecdotes, I think it shows that in some cases, the effects of pot or LSD are not so great as to cripple rational thinking. And if Crick made his discoveries in connection with a "trip", it's at least as likely that this was done in spite of the distractions and not because of it.
  4. Jun 23, 2016 #3


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    Many of these types of drugs are promoted and prescribed medically.

    Some that are illegal nowadays were not so previously.

    Alcohol is probably the most widely used is the western world.

    One comment.
    You may want to re-think.
  5. Jun 23, 2016 #4
    You can expand your consciousness with meditation and chanting japa. It takes longer, but the path is natural, and you still get there with your sanity intact. One bad psychedelic experience can mess you up good.
  6. Jun 23, 2016 #5


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    This thread is dangerously close to being locked. Any talk of "expanding your consciousness" or other effects needs to be clearly explained/defined within the terms of current science (to the best of your ability), and all discussion should be traceable to a reliable source. Personal experiences and anecdotes are permissible if they are posted in conjunction with a reliable source, but posts should not consists solely of things like, "I think X is true because I experienced Y when I was high". Put simply, if you have no source for your information other than personal experience or a few pop-sci articles, you're better off not posting.

    I hate to have to post a warning, but threads like this tend to get locked for not sticking to PF rules.
  7. Jun 23, 2016 #6


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    The science of subjective experience is a tricky one.
  8. Jun 23, 2016 #7
    I agree and apologise. The main reason i did make the post is to see what "scientific people" like yourself have to say about it.
    Also I got the title from Google's definition for psychedelics:
    1. 1.
      relating to or denoting drugs (especially LSD) that produce hallucinations and apparent expansion of consciousness.
      "psychedelic drugs" "
  9. Jun 23, 2016 #8


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    Well, since this is a science forum, our rules requiring a link to the scientific study in an acceptable peer reviewed journal for any post is required. As Drakkith said any anecdotes would have to be linked to such a study. What anyone here "thinks" doesn't matter. I remember one member here that said their life was ruined by experimenting with LSD while at Yale and became schizophrenic and had to drop out of school and became permanently mentally disabled. If you searched you could probably find it. I personally know people that also wound up in mental hospitals, one was somewhat famous, if I told you his name you could find his story on the internet, but we aren't going to allow these stories, only known science from peer reviewed studies.

    Thank you.
  10. Jun 27, 2016 #9
    I've done a lot of research now and I'm certain that these people either had a history of mental illness and took way over the recommended dosage or it wasn't LSD. In fact, my professor for quantum physics overheard me talking to a friend about it and ended up calling us to have a talk. All the caution he told me is to make sure it isn't some other stuff and to wait until I'm at least 24...
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2016
  11. Jun 28, 2016 #10
    I agree that what anyone on here "thinks" doesn't matter, but of course as you also mention, you can recall experiences (or histories, say of an earlier forum member). That said, there was a recent study that found no link with LSD and other psychadelics with developing mental health problems:


    I have experimented a lot with certain types of drugs myself, and have a great deal of experience (not only with me, but with others too). However I won't go into this, since the rules of this forum are quite strict about it (I was warned once before). All I will say is that there is a lot of interesting research currently going on with psychadelics (being used to cure alcohol / drug addiction, give pain releif for persons with cronic headaches, ease terminally ill cancer patients to living peacefully, used creatively to solve complex problems / art, a way of "reseting" oneself if one has been severly depressed / suicidal, etc.), but as of today the old fashion preconceptions (and current laws) make it quite difficult to discuss openly unfortunately.
  12. Jun 28, 2016 #11


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    Staff: Mentor

    I can certainly see that. Even here on PF. If you want to discuss something about drugs, and you want to be as sure as you can that your post won't get locked, I'd recommend finding a couple of valid references on the topic and then talking to a mentor prior to posting. Unfortunately the quality of many of the studies I've seen is rather poor, and the conclusions they reach are questionable, so it's always difficult to a have a productive discussion about them.
  13. Jun 29, 2016 #12
    I'm sure that in hindsight the psychedelic experience was enjoyable, but during the event, it's horrific.
  14. Jun 29, 2016 #13
    It depends on what you consider to be horrifying.
  15. Jun 30, 2016 #14
    Yeah psychadelics can be quite powerful, I have had very good and very bad experiences. This is very much dependant on your current state of mind, the environment around you, and the psychoactive drug / amount taken. I would NOT advise anyone to take them, if one has not taken into account these factors. Do your own research (as scientifically as possible), but also discuss it with a broad range of people that you trust who have gone through the experience themselves (given here is where you would most find the most valuable information, since the science is still not fully understood).

    Lastly on the topic of these drugs "expanding consciousness", well does one really understand what that would entail? How comfortable are you already in your normal sense of (perceived) "reality"? What does it feel to completely loose the sense of the "self" (aka ego-death)? What about not having any control of your mind, sensory information no longer having distinct definitions, concepts of reality breaking down (like fractal images in some mental loop)?

    Again these are very "real" things that can be experienced, I clearly understand the fear that people (and even governments) can have. These are profound experiences and quite difficult to explain, given that the very definitions (while during a trip) can dissolve into nothing. I do hope the science catches up, because I feel there is a lot of potential (for the future of mankind / the world), if this could be understood properly in a scientific context.
  16. Jun 30, 2016 #15


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    Thread closed temporarily for Moderation...

    Edit -- thread will remain closed. It's a bit too difficult to have a strictly scientific discussion about this subject.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
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