Properly understanding psychedelics and the effects on the human mind and body has taken center stage in the research and medical community. Though psychedelics have always been a point of interest for scientists, new research pointing towards the use of these trippy drugs to treat depression and other forms of mental illness are making their rounds in the scientific community.
Even the popular psychedelic magic mushrooms have begun the process of decriminalization in certain areas in the United States.
Yet before even breaking into that exciting world of psychedelics and mental health we decided to take a hard look at what psychedelics are, how they are categorized, and what science says about the effects they have on the human brain.
For the uninitiated psychedelic drugs are psychoactive drugs whose primary action is to alter the thought processes of the brain. These trippy drugs are thought to disable filters which lock or suppress signals related to everyday functions from reaching the conscious mind.
Some go on to describe these effects as mind-expanding, or consciousness expanding as your conscious mind becomes aware of things normally inaccessible to it. Psychedelic drugs are actually a subcategory of hallucinogens and can be broken down into three main categories.
Let’s start with serotonergic or classical psychedelic drugs. These are the drugs you usually think about when discussing psychedelics with friends. Well, known drugs like LSD, DMT, and mescaline all fall into this category. These psychedelics will cause drastic changes in your sensory perception including visual and audible hallucinations.
Secondly, you have empathogens. These drugs make you feel good. Empathogens affect your neurons that release serotonin, giving the user the feeling of euphoria, love, and increased attentiveness and awareness. Nevertheless, you only experience mild forms of changes to perception.
Finally, you have dissociatives. These psychedelics create a dramatic sense of depersonalization and derealization, creating something that is literally out of this world. People who take dissociatives tend to disconnect from the world, their surroundings and even their bodies.
Now lets a look at some of the world’s most popular psychedelics.
You’re probably very familiar with LSD as this psychedelic has reemerged in pop culture because of the raging micro-dosing trend currently taking hold of the Silicon Valley and the potential of the drug to become a means to treat mental health issues. Lysergic acid diethylamide was synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hofman but was not revisited until 1943 when he accidentally absorbed some through his skin.
LSD was a staple of the hippie movement, creative muse for much of pop culture, only to eventually become a Schedule I drug as a part of the Controlled Substances Act. LSD temporarily alters how our brain interacts with dopamine and serotonin causing hallucinations and euphoria.
LSD is nonaddictive and builds a sort of self-regulating tolerance almost immediately. An LSD high can last up to 12 hours. In controlled experiments, those who have taken LSD have shown increased levels of optimism, openness, creativity, and imagination.
Another spiritual guide, peyote has been used by the Native Americans for years. The drug has been used during religious ceremonies. Though it is not chemically like LSD or psilocybin it has been known to produce a similar effect to both of the substances. Users have been described to feel deep introspection and the ability to dissociate from one’s self.
Another popular psychedelic, psilocybin or magic mushrooms are a group of fungi that have been used since prehistoric times as both an entheogen and hallucinogenic drug. Nevertheless, the substance exists in a wide range of genera with a little over 100 species in the genus.
The effect of psilocybin range from empathy, to euphoria, and altered thinking. Psilocybin is not chemically addictive or even represents a direct threat to your health. In fact, psilocybin is currently being researched to treat depression.
Though it is less popular 2C-B is just as intriguing as some of the other psychedelics because of its unique properties. It was synthesized in 1974 by the famous Alexander Shulgin. The psychedelic creates euphoria, empathy, increased insight, brightened colors, and increased sexuality.
2C-B works on the serotonin receptors of the brain, blocking the 5-HT2C receptor which leads to the psychedelic effects. The psychedelic has been used to aid in the bonding between a therapist and their patient.
Salvia is one of the few psychedelics on this list that is not an illicit substance in the United States. Yet, it is one of the most potent naturally occurring psychedelics known to humankind. The psychedelic has been used for centuries by the Mazatec natives in South America.
Salvia bonds to only one of the receptors in the brain causing the dopamine in your brain to drop significantly. Some people who have smoked salvia had described a feeling of separation from the self.
DMT has grown in popularity over the years all thanks to Rick Strassman who gave it the nickname “the Spirit Molecule,” while Terence Mckenna studied the psychedelic in detail documenting the effects. It has been used for thousands of years for spiritual ceremonies that are still happening today.
DMT is considered to be one of the most powerful psychedelic drugs on earth causing in some case very literal out of this world trips.
With two million pills being smuggled into the US every day, MDMA is a party drug for a reason. Yet, compared to the other substances on this list, MDMA is one of the more harmful drugs on this list. The drug was created in 1912 but was not explored until the 1970s by Alexander Shulgin in the field in of psychotherapy.
The drug dramatically affects your serotonin receptors creating a tremendous wave of euphoria which after 8-12 hours is followed by a comedown. Frequent use of MDMA has been said to cause permanent brain damage because of the drastic effects on serotonin. Even more so, MDMA on the black market is usually cut with other substances that can be life-threatening.
In our next psychedelic article, we will explore how some of these psychedelics are being used to treat mental health.