THE CHANGING FACE OF PSYCHEDELICS
I bought this months Marie Claire magazine. I’m not into women’s magazines as a rule. I find them creepy at worst, patronising at best, but Marie Claire tries to have intelligent thought provoking features, plus they’re giving away a really nice free gift this month, Neal Yard‘s hand cream products. I got the Wild Rose Hand Cream, which is a tenner to buy in real life, which is steep by anyone’s standards. I’ve got to say it’s worth it though. A quality product which absorbs quickly, leaves skin feeling smooth, soft and nourished and has a long lasting divine scent. I have to say that, because I feel I’ve got it knock off somehow. I’m attempting to advertise, to make up. But it is good. I wouldn’t say it was good if it wasn’t. Also the magazine was marked down from £4.99 to £2.50. So, it’s pretty much a bargain this month, which needs to be snapped up people!
There’s some good interviews in it. Scarlett Johansson talks about vaginas, there’s an feature on The Cheer Leading Grannies Of Tokyo, but the the main thrust of this post is an article written by health journalist Charlotte Haigh MacNeil. She went to a retreat in the Peruvian Amazon, to learn more about ayahuasca, ‘a traditional hallucinogenic ‘medicine’, made of up of two plants: chacruna, which contains a substance called DMT, generating visions, and the ayahuasca vine itself, which allows DMT to work in the brain.’
It is being discovered, among the psychiatric profession, that psychedelic drugs may aid an array of mental health conditions. They have found, in particular, that they are helping people overcome addictions, deal effectively with depression and anxiety, and more notably, OCD.
Professor David Nutt, (I know, I’m thinking the same thing) is a psychiatrist and neuropsychopharmacologist. In a study of magic mushrooms, given to people with chronic depression, there have been positive and lasting changes in the participants mental health. Half of them are still well after six months. (Shame about the other half).
‘Psychedelics are considered relatively safe in comparison to alcohol, but experts strongly advise against trying them in a recreational or non-clinical setting, as you may have a disturbing experience,’
No kidding. Well, I’ve never been there. I’ve never taken drugs. There was that ONE time…when a very serious but sweet college acquaintance took me back to her rented flat after class one lunchtime. Her cat and dog were already smoking the weed when I got there. They were bad pot heads. I vaguely remember leaving her flat around one in the afternoon and jay walking right through busy city centre traffic, without a care in the world, and with a severe case of the munchies. She had converted my 18 year old self into a vegetarian in one morning. I was to take up the mantle for twelve months. That’s no mean feat. She did well, but without her continued influence, I was back on the sausage rolls after a year.
Anyway, back to the point, according to psychiatrist Dr. Rucker, ‘psychedelics ‘loosen’ your brains usual patterns and defences start to dissolve.’ Which means that the things you have locked away in your brain, that you don’t really want to face, start to manifest.
Not good. Or is it? To me, it’s like dreaming when you’re awake. We all know how dreams can help us in our waking life. Dreams can guide us and help us assimilate and understand our waking lives. Often times, they even act as warnings. And on a personal level, dreams have given me glimpses of a possible future that have stopped me making horrendous mistakes in my waking life. Psychedelics induce a dream state while the dreamer is awake. They seem to induce Super Dreams, but on a vertical level, which in many cases, appear to help the dreamer deal with the most pressing problems in their life.
Charlotte, the journalist on the retreat, had lost three children to miscarriage. She was broken up inside, deeply bereaved. When she drank the ayahuasca, something strange began to happen, she had a vision where she met her three children, lost through miscarriage. At first, her vision is dark, painful and distressing, but then she sees a women in the sky smiling and cradling her children and she feels a great sense of peace. This woman was able to ‘accept her loss’ after her four hour ‘trip’. Six months on from the ‘trip’, she is still feeling at peace and has some sense of closure. Her pain and suffering has left her, to some extent.
Dr. Rucker says, ‘All psychedelics stimulate the 2A serotonin receptor, which processes and co-ordinates complex information in the prefrontal cortex in the brain, and enables you to think and get perspectives on different situations.’
‘Brain scans show, that in depression, the prefrontal cortex is overactive, as people become trapped by repetitive negative thinking. By triggering the type 2A serotonin receptor, the psychedelic encourages the brain to broaden its scope and come up with other ways of seeing things.’
Dr. Rucker says that ‘psychedelics cause the overactive bit of the prefrontal cortex to quieten down, and parts of the brain that weren’t talking to each other, start communicating.’
The conversation might go something like this.
PARIETAL LOBE: Now you be quiet FRONTAL, this has nothing to do with you.
FRONTAL LOBE: What have I done now?
PARIETAL LOBE: You know what you’ve done.
FRONTAL LOBE: It’s all your fault PARIETAL. And by the way, I’m not talking to you so don’t talk to me.
OCCIPITAL LOBE: Hey, stop picking on PARIETAL. He didn’t do anything.
TEMPORAL LOBE: It’s all your fault FRONTAL. And by the way OCCIPITAL, PARIETAL is not a He.
FRONTAL LOBE: Did you not hear what I said? I SAID, don’t talk to me. Talk to the hand.
Not everyone has powerful and profound visions, but it does seem to work well on people who have suffered loss and bereavement and those who have found it extremely difficult to accept their life situation. The visions some people have after partaking of this psychedelic, seems to help them work through their loss effectively and give them some sort of closure.
New research suggests ayahuasca generates new brain cells. There’s even talk about being able to treat Alzheimer’s through this psychedelic, while LSD and psilocybin have the potential to treat Post Traumatic Stress.
Professor Nutt (It’s that name again) does acknowledge that these substances are still considered dangerous, people have bad trips which can be very distressing, and a lot more research needs to be done, but which probably won’t be done…because they are considered dangerous.
I believe some people do get some seriously good results from taking hallucinogenics. But I’m sure there’s an equal number who have bad trips. Really bad trips, that may impact their lives negatively, in the same way good trips impact a life positively. I’m not sure we should mess with this stuff. It’s a bit like a baby with a loaded gun. I wouldn’t want to play Russian Roulette in that way. Apparently, they have an ‘expert’ standing by to monitor you, if you have a bad trip. but that’s all they can do in the end, monitor a bad trip. They can’t stop a person having it. They can’t reach inside the mind and pull out the distressing visions or produce an antidote. All they can do is stop you jumping over the veranda or hurting yourself physically in some way. They are powerless to stop the violence playing out in your mind.
So I’m not going to stuff myself with hallucinogenics just yet. I’ll go the old fashioned way – denial. I’ll deal with any deep seated emotional pain through alcohol, the occasional workout and Eckhart Tolle.
I, for one, hope that in the future, such dramatic and life changing benefits can be found, not in mushrooms, but in white wine, chocolate and black pudding. Until that day…cheers.