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A fractal pattern, similar in some respects to what may be seen during a psychedelic experience

A psychedelic substance is a psychoactive drug whose primary action is to alter the cognition and perception of the mind. Psychedelics are part of a wider class of psychoactive drugs known as hallucinogens, which also includes related substances such as dissociatives and deliriants. Unlike other drugs such as stimulants and opioids which induce familiar states of consciousness, psychedelics tend to bend and twist the mind in ways that result in the experience being qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. The psychedelic experience is often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, yoga, and dreaming.

The term psychedelic is derived from the Greek words ψυχή (psyche, "mind") and δηλείν (delein, "to manifest"), translating to "mind-manifesting". The implication is that the psychedelics can access and develop unused potentials of the human mind.[1] The mongrel form of the word was coined by Humphrey Osmond, loathed by Richard Schultes, but championed by Timothy Leary, who thought it sounded better.[2]

Psychedelics are thought to disable the brain's filtering ability to selectively prevent certain perceptions, emotions, memories and thoughts from ever reaching the conscious mind, an idea first introduced by Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception. These signals are presumed to originate in several other functions of the brain, including but not limited to the senses, emotions, memories, and the unconscious (or subconscious) mind.[3]

A definition that more clearly sets apart a classic or true psychedelic is offered by Lester Grinspoon: “a psychedelic drug is one which has small likelihood of causing physical addiction, craving, major physiological disturbances, delirium, disorientation, or amnesia, produces thought, mood, and perceptual changes otherwise rarely experienced except perhaps in dreams, contemplative and religious exaltation, flashes of vivid involuntary memory and acute psychoses”.[4]

Over time, the term psychedelic has been expanded to include many more kinds of substances than originally intended. Many pharmacologists define psychedelic drugs solely as chemicals that have an LSD- or mescaline-like action, working on the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor in the brain. Some people have applied the term psychedelic to other hallucinogens including dissociative NMDA receptor antagonists such as phencyclidine, dextromethorphan, and ketamine, tropane deliriants such as atropine, and other psychoactives such as Amanita muscaria, cannabis (to some extent), Salvia divinorum.

Contents

Traditional use

A couple of doses of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)

Psychedelics have a long history of traditional use in medicine and religion, where they are prized for their perceived ability to promote physical and mental healing. In this context, they are often known as entheogens. Native American practitioners using mescaline-containing cacti (most notably peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian Torch) have reported success against alcoholism, and Mazatec practitioners routinely use psilocybin mushrooms for divination and healing. Ayahuasca, a psychotropic drug, is still used in Peru for religious festivals.[citation needed]

Examples

Classic psychedelics include LSD ("Acid", "Lucy"), a semi-synthetic psychedelic derived from ergot and discovered by the late Albert Hoffman in 1938 (the psychoactive properties were not, however, established until 1943- see Bicycle Day), psilocybin and psilocin (active constituents of Psilocybe mushrooms, also known as "Magic Mushrooms" or "Shrooms"), mescaline (active constituent of Peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian Torch cacti), ergolines (active constituents of Hawaiian Baby Woodrose, Morning Glory, Rivea Corymbosa, and Ergot) (LSD is also considered to be an ergoline) and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) (primary active constituent of Ayahuasca, a traditional shamanic tea brewed from plants containing DMT and harmala alkaloids). A few newer synthetics such as MDMA ("Ecstasy"), 2C-B ("Nexus"), DOM ("STP"), and 5-MeO-DIPT ("Foxy Methoxy") have also enjoyed some popularity. Cannabis, one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world, produces effects similar to low doses of classic psychedelics, though at higher doses or in susceptible individuals it can be quite psychedelic, depending on the strain.

Pharmacological classes and effects

Serotonergic psychedelics (serotonin 5-HT2A receptor agonists)

This class of psychedelics includes the major hallucinogens, including the ergolines like LSD and LSA, tryptamine-based compounds like psilocybin and DMT, and phenethylamine-based compounds like mescaline and 2C-B. Many of the tryptamines and phenethylamines cause remarkably similar effects, despite their different chemical structure. However, most users report that the two families have subjectively different qualities in the "feel" of the experience, which are difficult to describe. At lower doses, these include sensory alterations, such as the warping of surfaces, shape suggestibility, and color variations. Users often report intense colors that they have not previously experienced, and repetitive geometric shapes are common. Higher doses often cause intense and fundamental alterations of sensory perception, such as synesthesia or the experience of additional spatial or temporal dimensions. Some compounds, such as 2C-B, have extremely tight "dose curves", meaning the difference between a non-event and an overwhelming disconnection from reality can be very slight. There can be very substantial differences between the drugs, however. For instance, 5-MeO-DMT rarely produces the visual effects typical of other psychedelics. Some drugs, such as the β-carbolines, produce very different effects from the more standard types of psychedelics.

Empathogen-entactogens (serotonin releasers)

The empathogen-entactogens are phenethylamines such as MDMA (Ecstasy), MDA, and MDEA, among others. Their effects are characterized by feelings of openness, euphoria, empathy, love, heightened self-awareness, and by mild visual distortions. Their adoption by the rave subculture is probably due to the enhancement of the overall social and musical experience. MDA is atypical to this experience, often causing hallucinations and psychedelic effects in equal profundity, but with substantially less mental involvement, and is possibly both a serotonin releaser and 5-HT2A receptor agonist. This gives the user, subjectively, the "best of both worlds".

Cannabinoids (CB-1 cannabinoid receptor agonists)

The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and related compounds are capable of activating the brain's endocannabinoid system. Some effects may include a general change in consciousness, mild euphoria, feelings of general well-being, relaxation or stress reduction, enhanced recollection of episodic memory, increased sensuality, increased awareness of sensation, creative or philosophical thinking, disruption of linear memory, paranoia, agitation, and anxiety, potentiation of other psychedelics, and increased awareness of patterns and color. They are more similar to the above categories as dose increases.

Other

Cryogenine (Vertine) is the active constituent of sinicuichi. Although it has anticholinergic properties, use tends to produce psychedelic effects rather than that of a deliriant (this could possibly be dose related). The primary noted effects include auditory distortions, improved memory and relaxation.[citation needed] Some users report a yellow tinge to their environment while on the drug, and others have referred to intense muscular pain in days after ingestion. This could be related to the anticholinergic effects.

Salvia divinorum is an atypical psychedelic. The active molecule in the plant, Salvinorin A, is a kappa opioid receptor agonist, working on a part of the brain that deals with pain. Activation of this receptor is also linked to the dysphoria sometimes experienced by users of opiates either therapeutically or recreationally. This explains, to an extent, the majority of salvia divinorum experiences which are reported as negative. An unusual feature of salvia divinorum is its high potency (dosage is in the microgram range) and extremely disorienting effects, which often include "entity contact", complete loss of reality-perception and user's experiencing their consciousness as being housed in different objects i.e. a pane of glass or a pencil. It is also unusual as it is a diterpenoid as opposed to the general alkaloid standard for psychedelics.

See also

References

  1. ^ A. Weil, W. Rosen. (1993), From Chocolate To Morphine:Everything You Need To Know About Mind-Altering Drugs.New York, Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 93
  2. ^ W. Davis (1996), "One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest". New York, Simon and Schuster, Inc. p. 120
  3. ^ Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. ISBN 0-0605951-8-3
  4. ^ L. Grinspoon, J. Bakalar (1979), Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered. p. 9. ISBN 0-9641568-5-7
  • Roberts, Thomas B. (2006). Psychedelic Horizons: Snow White, Immune System, Multistate Mind, New Learning Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic.
  • Stafford, Peter. (2003). Psychedlics. Ronin Publishing, Oakland, California. ISBN 0-914171-18-6.
  • Winkelman, Michael, and Roberts, Thomas B. (editors) (2007) Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments 2 Vols. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood.

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