Hallucinogens and LSD
Perception to misperception
Hallucinations are alterations in one’s sensory perception. They involve discernments and interpretations without the presence of any real sensory stimulus. Thus one may see or hear or feel things that are not really there. As the name suggests, hallucinogens give rise to a transient loss of contact with reality, and may be accompanied by heightened and expanded awareness. Unlike other drugs that simply produce euphoria, wellness, and a sense of contentment these drugs actually generate an alternate consciousness.
There are 3 categories of hallucinogens: the psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, MDEA and psilocybin (shrooms) alter sensory perception, dissociatives like dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ketamine and phencyclidine engender a sense of environmental detachment and deleriants like mandrake and nutmeg actually produce altered awareness which in many ways is similar to a delirious fever. Since hallucinogenic substances have always been present in natural plants, many cultures used them for recreation and in fact culturally sanctioned them.
How they act
Hallucinogens can get absorbed in the body through all means-oral ingestion, inhalation, smoking or intravenous injection. Their effects last for a few hours and tolerance develops fast. This tolerance is reversible and the person can give up the substance and have the neurotransmitters reach baseline within 7 days. However the memory of the experience is vivid and produces significant psychological dependence. The pleasurable ecstatic reminiscence is what the user deeply craves for in its absence.
Acid that burns
Well known as ‘acid’ LSD is scorching the lives of many. Commonly taken through drops on sugar cubes or blots of filter paper, effects of LSD begin in one hour, lasting 8 to 12 hours. Perceptions become unusually brilliant and intense; colors become richer, contours get sharper, music more profound and smells and tastes get heightened. Synesthesiae are common, colors are heard, and sounds are seen, emotions are touched. Changes in body image and alterations of time and space occur. Emotions become intense, at the same time they change frequently so the reaction of the person may seem odd. Introspective reflection and feelings of religion and philosophical insight are also common. The sense of the self changes, sometimes leading to a depersonalization of the soul from the body and uniting with the world. Most people feel that a single dose of LSD alters their perspectives and talents, gives relief from psychosomatic complaints, makes them creative, and generates newer insights. This however is not true. Single use of LSD can permanently damage the serotonin neurons and set people into incorrigible depression.
MINDFRAMES: Reframing perception
The treatment of the psychoses, depression and behavior alterations associated with use of hallucinogens, involves comforting and talking down the individual in the acute phase. Such people require care, patience, companionship, and reassurance. Subsequently, co-existing depression or psychoses can be managed effectively with suitable medication, counseling and behavior modification strategies to assist in abstinence and attain remission. Substance dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with these drugs. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.