UNDERSTANDING THE TOOLS
The natural psychedelics have been in
use for thousands of years, and I anticipate that both synthetic and natural
psychedelics will still be used thousands of years from now.
Contrary to being considered dangerous,
throughout most of history psychedelics have been considered gifts of the
Gods, and have been associated with the healing of the body, mind and soul.
History is full of shamans
and shamanesses who consumed these substances hundreds of times each
year for their entire life and suffered no ill effects .
Likewise my thousand or so experiments with various psychedelics seem to
have done no harm. To the contrary, I feel I've received numerous benefits
from their use.
I suspect most of the psychedelic scare
stories published in the late Sixties and Seventies were generated by people
pursuing their own political or financial agendas, or by people with fundamentalist
morals who were afraid of losing their power, or even seeing people feel
too good. Other scare stories were written purely for sensationalism to
sell magazines and newspapers. Many of the stories, such as LSD
causing chromosome damage, have been proven false. Other stories, such
CIA's dosing of unsuspecting people who went on to jump out of windows...
Well, as Robert Anton Wilson says "They
either didn't know what was happening to them, they thought they were losing
their minds, and they jumped out of the window. Or they did realize what
was happening, that the intelligence agency of their own government was
covertly giving them mind-altering drugs..., and they jumped out of the
window." A thorough review of psychedelic history will show that problems
encountered through psychedelic use are rare, especially if you consider
that in this country alone, millions of doses of psychedelics are consumed
When I discuss psychedelic safety I
think it's important to separate physical safety from mental safety. Physical
safety deals primarily with the drugs and various combinations thereof.
Mental safety is a much more individual issue and must be monitored and
evaluated by each psychedelic user. This section deals with general psychedelic
safety. More information is given for specific substances where appropriate
I consider ecstasy
and other synthetics of the
phenethylamine family exceptions in terms of psychedelic safety. These
are amphetamine relatives which can mess up one's equilibrium, leaving
one feelmg physically drained and mentally frizzled. I definitely monitor
my intake of these substances but have not found occasional use of moderate
doses to do any lasting harm. There have been a few cases reported in which
people died from dehydration after taking ecstasy at hot, crowded dance
clubs, and attempting to dance for several hours straight without drinking
any water. Extreme situations like this have been avoided by most users
by exercising some forethought.
Aside from the use of ecstasy and
the Belladonna alkaloids, I know of but one case where someone experienced
physical harm from psychedehc use. And this was with the ultimately potent
combination of Harmaline and 5-MeO-DMT. Anxiety
about physical illness is a frequent response the mind can generate when
undergoing the psychedelic transformation, and often the increased awareness
of bodily functions can cause one to feel sick. It's useful to be able
to distinguish whether a symptom is actually the result of a substance,
or just the mind's imagination. The book The
Psychedelic Experience describes this quite well. On psychedelics
it's also possible for one to become aware of the complex body/mind relationship,
and discover how to ease bodily discomfort by releasing mental/emotional
Whenever working with a new substance,
the more cautious users will start with a small dose and work their way
up. During this period they can watch how their body and mind responds
to the drug and determine which dosage works for them. This can be important
since some people may have powerful reactions to amounts which produce
only minimal activity in most people. Some psychedelics, such as LSD, have
a wide margin between the active dose and the amount which may be considered
toxic. Other psychedelics, such as ecstasy, can exhibit toxic effects at
just twice the average dose. Unfortunately, legal scientific research on
these substances is practically non-existent, and the maximum safe dosages
have not been accurately calculated.
It is not uncommon to feel nauseous
on many of the psychedelics. Users generally report that if they feel the
urge to vomit it's best to not resist it, and that they usually feel better
afterwards. Nausea is not an indication that there is something wrong with
one's trip. Indigenous people are known to say that Peyote,
or Ayahuasca, acts as a purge,
and is cleansing the body and soul. They also say that when the body and
soul are purlfied one will no longer feel discomfort from the Peyote. I've
often noticed that psychedelics purge and cleanse my body in a manner similar
to fasting. Many users experiment with different diets or fasting prior
to tripping, which can eliminate or reduce nauseous feelings during the
Some people feel exhausted or out of
touch with reality the day after a psychedelic trip. This can be expected
since they went through so much during the experience. Many users find
it's good to have an extra day after the trip to recuperate before returning
to work, etc. Avoiding familiar routines for a day allows people to retain
more from their psychedelic journeys.
Hopefully anybody using these substances
knows that while high, it is dangerous to drive, fly a plane, etc. I'd
like to emphasize this point since we live in a society where driving while
intoxicated on alcohol is fairly common.
Many people may have driven while mildly
high on a psychedelic without getting into accidents. However, I'm sure
there are some who drove while tripping and are no longer alive to tell
about it. If one were to take a large dose of a psychedelic they would
be in a state of mind where the world that appears before their eyes is
going through massive changes each moment. They may have difficulty recalling
their name, and driving would be totally out of the question. Smaller doses
of psychedelics produce similar but milder changes in one's consciousness.
The psychedelic experience is simply not compatible with the split-second
decisions and maneuvers one must routinely make while driving around in
a two-ton chunk of steel at 60 MPH.
I think that to get the most from a
psychedelic experience one must put aside time completely devoted to the
experience, and take a dose that significantly alters perception. The "recreational"
use of smaller amounts of psychedelics, as is common in social settings
such as raves, concerts, and parties, seldom provides one with a full spectrum
of the psychedelic experience. This is not to say that using psychedelics
in this context can not be beneficial or enjoyable, but many people I have
spoken with who have used psychedelics in only this type of setting
don't appear to have had deep or powerfully transformational experiences.
In a situation where transportation is required, people should try to have
a friend drive them, take a cab, or simply beam themselves wherever they
wish to go!
Anyone who has any type of health problem,
or is taking prescription or over-the- counter medicines, should be cautious
using psychedelics. Most psychedelics increase pulse rate and blood pressure.
The effects of using psychedelics with medical problems, or most prescription
drugs, is largely unknown. Anyone in this situation should find a knowledgeable
and open-minded doctor to give them some advice. Pregnant women should
also consult such a doctor prior to using psychedelics.
The main physical danger with psychedelics
is with those that are MAO inhibitors and with combinations. Two psychedelics
discussed in this book are MAO inhibitors: 5-MeO-DMT and the Harmala alkaloids.
Many prescription anti-depressant drugs are also MAO inhibitors. MAO (Mono-Amine-Oxidase)
is an enzyme in the body which breaks down certain foods and chemicals.
If one has these foods or chemicals in their system while taking an MAO
inhibitor they will not be broken down, which can result in discomfort,
illness, or even death. Following this section is a list
of items not to be taken with MAO inhibitors. Prior to taking an MAO inhibitor
I review this list and do a double check on what's in my system. I've also
found it useful to memorize this list of items so that I don't eat any
foods that will make me sick while using MAO inhibitors.
Each person's mind and capacity for
handling psychedelics is different. Psychedelics are not for everybody,
and some of the substances discussed in this book are particularly heavy.
Although most psychedelic trips are experienced as baneficial, some people
have had experiences that left them distrurbed afterwards. The main reason
for these negative experiences is lack of preparation, rather than anything
inherent in the person or in the substance. One's chances of having a bad
trip, or not being able to reintegrate themselves afterwards, can be sharply
reduced by learning about the experience.
A point I should note here is that
I've never heard of anyone experiencing long term adverse effects through
the use of natural psychedelics, such as psilocybin
mushrooms or mescaline-containing cacti.
When disturbing experiences are produced by these substances, the users
seem to take it in stride and come back to center.
People with schizophrenia, or any other
type of mental disorder beyond the common neurosis, should exercise extreme
caution in using psychedelics. When psychedelic research was widespread
until 1966 there were many successful results treating mental patients.
However, people with mental imbalances have a greater risk of a negative
experience, especially without the guidance of a therapist.
Psychedelics are much more than recreational
drugs. They have the ability to make significant changes in us with a single
use. Many advanced users consider this ability to "reimprint the mind"
as the most important benefit of psychedelics. If examined closely, most
psychedelic experiences will fit the following model. Psychedelics will
dissolve one's identity and perceptual framework, a process commonly called
"ego death." Next one experiences the raw or undifferentiated energies
flowmg through their senses from a formless or unclefined state. They can
tap into the vast banks of imagery within their mind, addmg their creative
powers to generate limitless visions of intricacy beauty, and meaning.
During this time one may try on various "filters" through which everything
is perceived, and create hallucinations or expenence many personalities.
The journeyer will be outside of their normal conceptual framework and
will be able to look at their thought processes and personality from new
angles. Later in the experience they will re-assemble a new personality,
based on their old personality, but hopefully improved.
In some cases it takes users numerous
sessions to go through the process of ego death, and detach from their
familiar mode of perceiving things. This often occurs when someone begins
experimenting with small doses, and very gradually increases the amount
they consume. In these cases the psychedelic never fully transports them
out of routine awareness. When ego death is spread over weeks or months,
it can take on strange manifestations as one experiences separation from
various aspects of their familiar reality tunnel.
Much of each person's experience is
based on SET and SETTING. Set refers to a person's mental
and emotional makeup expectations about the experience, cultural upbringing,
etc. Setting is the immediate environment and stimulus present during
the experience whether outdoors or in a building, with friends or alone,
the presence or absence of music, artwork, etc.
If I had to choose one setting as being
the most conducive to a positive experience, I'd pick one which most closely
resembles the time honoured methods of using these substances. This would
involve taking a natural psychedelic like mushrooms or Peyote. It would
be done outdoors m nature, away from the noise and activity of any city
and with a group of respected friends or family. For novices being initiated
into the psychedelic world the session would be guided by trusted and experienced
People who try to manifest the lessons
learned through psychedelic use seem to benefit the most from them. Examples
of this are people who take psychedelics to modify their personality or
thinking process, use them as part of a healing process, or have some creative
outlet such as art or music. In addition to my psychedelic research and
writing, I find that psychedelics give me the inspiration and ability to
design and manufacture high tech audio/visual equipment, work as a performance
artist, pursue several artistic hobbies, as well as hold a senior management
position in the corporate world. Often people who do not go through personal
change with psychedelics find that their experiences tend to stagnate and
get into a repetitive groove. I've seen people successfully move through
this stage by stopping for a while, pursuing other interests or means of
self-exploration, then trying psychedelics again at a later date.
How often one can effectively use psychedelics
varies from person to person. Users must monitor their own mind, body,
and life, as well as listening to their friends and others around them
to determine if they are overdoing it. Psychedelics are best enjoyed when
the body and mind are in good health, properly nourished, exercised, and
rested. Taking psychedelics when exhausted tends to produce more negative
experiences. This can also lead to poor health since when the body is in
a state of exhaustion, the main things it needs are nourishment and rest,
and psychedelics disrupt the normal patterns of appetite and sleep. A small
percentage of users "abuse" psychedelics by taking more than their psyche
or body can integrate. However, I've only seen this occur with people using
synthetic substances, such as ecstasy, Ketamine,
Traditionally, the only people that
use psychedelics on a "daily" basis are the shamans, curanderos, or folk
doctors. They use these substances in the capacity of helping and healing
the people in their communities. For the shaman the psychedelic experience
is like a well, into which he can enter to bring back "healing water" and
knowledge to cure people's physical ills, mental dilemmas, and societal
problems. I doubt that individuals who are artists, inventors, or seekers
of personal refinement or fun can effectively use and assimilate these
experiences on as frequent a basis.
Psychedelics greatly amplify everything
the user experiences. This intensity can feel like a nuclear bomb exploding
inside the skull. And whether one is feeling brilliant joy or a fearful
hell it's going to be felt intensely on a good dose of psychedelics.
Anyone who regularly uses psychedelics
stronger than ecstasy can expect an occasional unpleasant experience. This
can be much more unpleasant than anything experienced in regular life,
just as the joy experienced on psychedelics can be much more intense than
that of ordinary life. Even experienced trippers will occasionally have
a bad experience. I've had several trips during which I thought I was dead,
or could not tell whether I was alive or dead. If one uses psychedelics
frequently they will eventually confront nearly all the skeletons buried
within their psyche. One should approach these substances with a willingness
to deal with whatever issues come up. How one integrates a frightening
or dark experience is important. I generally find that I learn more from
the unpleasant trips than I do from the average psychedelic session. One
can use these experiences to re-evaluate their identity and ideas about
life. If an unpleasant experience comes during a trip it's best to flow
with it, try to learn from it, and move on to the next phase of the experience.
There's no need to spend an entire psychedelic session wrapped up in one
issue or feeling.
One of the most important things to
remember during a trip is to flow with the experience. Don't try to hold
on to your former identity as it is being dissolved. Don't be afraid of
letting go of a beautiful feeling or vision if it starts to fade. If you're
having a frightful experience don't run away from it, but look at it and
see what you can learn. And when you recognize that you are starting to
come down, don't rush to reclaim a familiar identity. Reflection and easing
back to routine reality will allow you to retain more from your trip.
The psychedelic drugs differ significantly
in intensity. The wiser users gradually move from the milder to the more
intense. For each psychedelic I've assigned an intensity level from 1 to
10. (1 = mild, 10 = intense.) These intensity levels are for an average
experience on the substance. A high dose of something like LSD can give
one a level 10 intensity trip. And since the experience is in the mind,
one can even have a high intensity trip with a small dose of a psychedelic.
The following psychedelics are MAO inhibitors: 5-MeO-DMT
& the HARMALA ALKALOIDS. Many prescription anti-depressant drugs
are also MAO inhibitors. These should not be taken in combination with
the foods or drugs listed below.
Items Not To Take In Combination With MAO Inhibitors
This information was obtained from several sources discussing
|Sedatives & Tranquilizers
Asarone / Calamus
|Tryptophan - large doses
Tyrosine - large doses
Phenylalanine - large doses
||Prescription or Over-the-Counter Medicines
Unless one is certain that these can be taken with MAO
inhibitors they should discontinue use long enough for them to pass out
of their system before taking the MAO inhibitor.
||Ecstasy, Mescaline, 2C-B and other Phenethylamines
See discussion following this table.
Avocados (especially overripe)
Bananas (especially overripe)
Nutmeg - large doses
Oil of Dill - large doses
Oil of Parsley - large doses
Figs & Raisins
Ecstasy, Mescaline, 2C-B and other Phenethylamines
- (Combined with MAO Inhibitors)
There is conflicting information on
the compatibility of using phenethylamine drugs with MAO inhibitors. Several
books list them as incompatible and dangerous, but with no explanation.
On the other extreme, I've heard many
first hand reports from people who've used these combinations frequently
and have had no problems.
Someone highly knowledgeable in this
field told me that phenethylamine drugs are not broken down in one's system
as quickly as normal if one has taken an MAO inhibitor. This results in
a much smaller amount of the phenethylamine substance being required to
achieve the same effects. This information corroborates with my limited
experiments using 2C-B with an MAO inhibitor. I found the 2C-B to be significantly
intensified in these situations, necessitating a high degree of caution
when using combinations of this type.
In all chapters that deal with either
phenethylamine substances or MAO inhibitors I have listed this combination
as significantly intensified, possibly dangerous.
Above artwork by Ozric Tentacles
- An amazing progressive, psychedelic rock band from the U.K. Reprinted
by permission of Dovetail Records Ltd. (UK)
1. Maria Sabina, the shamaness who performed the ceremony
for R. Gordon Wasson's first mushroom voyage, died of old age at 97, after
some 67 years of regular mushroom use.