Lizards in the Sink with David.

(A Nowa Fantastyka reprint)

Squippersnapper

Squippersnapper

Back when I was in grad school, I built an electric water pipe out of Erlenmeyer flasks, rubber stoppers, and an aquarium air pump. It fed into an inhaler that dangled over my bed like the deployed O2 mask of a falling airliner— right next to the control panel that ran my planetarium, a home-built device that projected stars and nebulae and exploding spaceships across the far wall. The stars actually moved in 3D, came right out of the center of the wall and spread to the edges at different speeds. Wisps of nebulae would undulate as they streamed past. Planets swelled across the screen, rotating. Not bad for a contraption built out of old turntables and light bulbs and half-melted plastic peanut butter jars stuffed with colored cellophane. You haven’t lived until you’ve got stoned and sailed through the Trifid Nebula to the strains of Yes.

Back then I was what some might call a “pothead”. And yet I never progressed beyond cannabis, never even dabbled in hallucinogenics.

In hindsight, it was a serious deficiency in my upbringing. Two thirds of those who’ve used psychoactives describe the experience as among the most spiritually significant of their lives. MRI studies show that LSD wires together parts of the brain that normally don’t even talk to each other. It deconstructs one’s sense of Self right down at the neuronal level, and you know me: I’m flat-out fascinated by this stuff. So why, half a century of my life already spent, had I never tried LSD?

This is your brain on drugs. Many questions!

This is your brain on drugs. Many questions!

About a year ago I voiced this regret to a friend of mine, a guy I’d first met when he was just a bright-eyed adolescent asking me to talk to his high-school English class. Somehow he’d grown up in the meantime (I myself remained utterly unchanged); now he has a PhD under his belt, teaches at a local university. He took pity on me; a few months back he slipped me a couple of confetti flakes laced with hallucinogenic goodness.

I knew people who swore by the stuff. I also knew people who admitted that under its influence they’d wandered down the middle of busy streets, or tripped along the edges of the Scarborough Bluffs with a strange sense of invulnerability. I was curious, but I had no great desire to end up as a puddle of viscera at the foot of some cliff. I chose a more controlled approach. I called on my buddy Dave Nickle to ride shotgun.

“Three ground rules,” Dave told me upon his arrival. “First rule: You don’t leave the house. Second rule: When you break the first rule and leave the house, do not go into the road. Third rule: when I say Stop what you’re doing right now, you stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Right. Now.”

I sucked the first tab to mush. Not much happened, beyond a growing impatience at Dave’s rate of progress through the game of SOMA he was playing while we waited for things to get interesting. So I popped the second one after about an hour.

Things got interesting.

*

It kind of sneaks up on you.

At first it just feels like being drunk or mildly stoned: light-headedness, a loss of somatic inertia, but without any nausea or hypersalivating spinniness. After a while the edges of vision start to look a little like those optical illusions you see in Scientific American— you know, those moiré patterns that seem to be moving even though you know they’re not. The effect starts at the edge of vision, spreads inward to the center; suddenly the folds in my bedcovers are rippling like rivulets in an alluvial delta. Plunging my splayed fingers down onto the bed stops that movement dead, for a few moments at least; my fingertips somehow anchor the material, force it to behave. But then those rivulets start eroding around them, as though my fingers are sticks in a stream: not stopping the flow, but only reshaping it. No matter how hard I stare, no matter how intense my focus, I can’t get them to stop.

*

I’m a ghost for a while, my body as ethereal as mist. I think I know why. They’ve done experiments where you watch someone say a word, but the word you hear doesn’t match the speaker’s mouth movements. The brain reconciles that conflict by hearing different sounds than those actually spoken, sounds closer to what the mouth seems to be saying.

I think this is something like that.

I feel incredibly weak. I just know, down in the gut, that I lack the strength to even lift my arm off the bed. And yet I do more than that: I rise up off the bed entirely, go into the next room, do a few chin-ups. How does the brain reconcile that? How does the wetware square you’re too weak to move with you’re moving? I think it’s decided that I must be massless. I lack the strength to move anything; I am moving; therefore I must be made of nothing.  I become a ghost, utterly free of inertia. I feel the truth of that right down in my diaphanous bones.

*

There are different cognitive modes, mindsets as distinct as delight and dementia. They do not overlap. Sometimes the hallucinations are vivid and undeniable but my mind is stone cold sober: I can look hard at the bright static image on the screen, see beyond doubt that the things there are moving— and yet know intellectually that they’re not. I report the hallucination with clarity and concision, comment both on what I see and the impossibility of it, as though I were dictating the results of an autopsy. My senses are lying, but my mind is clear; I am not fooled.

I swear to God the lights in that ring moved, like traffic headlights. Going both ways.

I swear to God the lights in that ring moved, like traffic headlights. Going both ways.

Other times, though, I don’t even know if this thing called “I” even exists. It seems to— to spread out across the room, as though I’ve become some kind of diffuse neural net hanging just below the ceiling. It’s not a visual hallucination— this mode’s pretty much hallucination-free except for a ubiquitous heat-shimmer effect that makes everything ripple[1]. This is a more visceral, intuitive sense of being distributed. Every now and then some ganglion in the net lights up at random, and the system blurts out whatever words that node contains.

It is at one of these times that Dave sadistically engages me— apparently he thinks there still is a “me”— in political discourse. (I believe this is known in the vernacular as “Harshing the Buzz”.) Somehow we’re talking about the US election, and the distributed neural net wants to say: I don’t think Trump really believes all that shit he says about Muslims and Mexicans. I don’t think he believes much of anything; after all, he was staunchly pro-choice before he started running on the Republican ticket. I think he just plays to the crowd, says whatever gets him the loudest cheers. The real danger isn’t so much Trump himself, but the fact that his victory has unleashed and empowered an army of bigoted assholes down at street level. That’s what’s gonna do the most brutal damage.

This is what Neural Net Watts is trying to say. But the nodes light up at random and I think what comes out is more like “Aww, I don’t think Trump is so bad” This horrifies whatever vestigial part of me still exists; I try desperately to clarify so Dave won’t think I’m a complete asshole, but the neural net wonders “Are these words just random network discharges with no intrinsic meaning— or, have the drugs stripped away my humanitarian facade of decency revealing the true, Trump-defending monster within?” The neural net wonders how much of this it said aloud.

Some, at least. Because from a very great distance, Dave is saying “Don’t sweat it, dude; I’m not hearing anything you haven’t said before.”

*

We watch the back end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve seen that movie at least 50 times; this is the first time I’ve ever seen it while high. I am entranced, more entranced than I’ve ever been before by this masterpiece. Every frame, every sound is a revelation packed with new meaning. Five minutes after the credits, though, I can’t remember what any those meanings actually were.

This also is your brain on drugs.

This also is your brain on drugs.

I want to watch Alien next, or maybe Eraserhead. Dave guides me gently toward something less potentially-traumatizing: a fan-made episode of “Star Trek” posted on Youtube, with cardboard sets and twentysomething amateurs playing Kirk and Co. Apparently there are several of these: Star Trek Continues, they’re called collectively. This episode is a sequel to “Mirror, Mirror”. Evil Spock’s goatee looks like someone glued a shoehorn to his chin.

It’s like watching a high-school play put on by students from my ’73 shop class. The drugs do not help at all. Alien would have been far less terrifying.

I cannot look away.

*

Twenty minutes of preflight research have uncovered the fact that tomatoes apparently taste awesome when you’re high. Many have attested that the taste of a psychoactivated tomato is orgasmically intense. I have laid out an array of tomatoes, from tiny grape to humungous vine-ripened. At the height of my powers, I devour them all.

Meh.

*

In a blinding flash of insight, I understand why people always sound so trite when describing acid trips: because language evolved to describe the pedestrian realities of everyday perception. The psychoactivated brain is wired up differently; there are literally no words for the way it parses reality. These insights are literally untranslatable. Of course forcing them into words turns them into lame, trite clichés.

I try to explain this revelation to Dave. It comes out in a torrent of lame, trite clichés.

*

Coming down now. The light-headedness persists, but the shape of the world has congealed back down to its baseline state. Caitlin has returned from work; apparently Dave has been texting updates to her all day. I study the tendons in my hand as he provides my wife an executive summary. “It went okay,” he says. “There was one point where he started seeing bats everywhere, but there actually were bats, so that was fine.”

It’s been six hours, in and out. I thought it would last longer.

We release Dave from his duties with hugs and thanks and a bunch of uneaten snacks I’d stockpiled against a case of the munchies that never materialized. He is a good friend.

The last of the buzz is fading. The BUG is glad that I did not hurl myself in front of a bus. We climb into bed and boot up our laptops and discover that Leonard Cohen has died.

I hope that’s just a coincidence.

 

[1] I think these might be the source of those clichéd Aauugggh your face is melting! depictions of drug use so favored by the Just Say No crowd

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday January 18 2017at 12:01 pm , filed under neuro . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

31 Responses to “Lizards in the Sink with David.”

  1. Congrats fellow. Too bad you missed the sunset, otherwise you’d have written of nothing else.

    Few films compare to the 2001 in that setting. My go-tos are Malick’s Tree of Life and the animated Song of the Sea. Boards of Canada for music.

  2. My first acid trip was at a house party with Monty Python’s meaning of life playing on a TV in one of the rooms.

    My peak kicked into high gear just before Eric Idle stepped out of the fridge to explain the meaning of everything.

    Needless to say, there weren’t any great insights on my first trip, but it was pretty awesome — to use a now-trite adjective.

  3. I always preferred Shrooms, or if I could get it, Mescaline, to LSD. Both those tend to be much more mellow experiences than LSD. Unless you have a friend who’s a good chemist, street LSD tends to be cut with some nasty stuff and the physical side effects are unpleasant.

    If this is a habit you’d like to pursue, I’ll tell you my favorite way to go about this. After I had moved on from the “hey let’s trip balls and watch Fantasia” college dorm room mentality (although if you haven’t, you should definitely watch Fantasia while tripping balls), I became a dedicated day tripper.

    Requirements:

    1) A relatively stress free mindset. If you’re carrying around a lot of anxiety about something, you’re not going to have a good time.

    2) A bright, sunny day. Spring or Summer–although the Autumn produces some nice days for this as well, you risk thoughts of death and decay which , well, see point #1.

    3) A comfortable lawn chair, preferably pointed at a less urban, more natural setting.

    I’d gobble a handful of Shrooms early in the day and just watch the world. I’d marvel at the synchronicity of nature, and discover all those hippy dippy cliches like “we are all one”, except as a very profound personal truth. You can spend an hour watching a ground squirrel, deconstructing its fluid clockwork movements, its skeleton and musculature, and wonder how you ever wasted time watching television.

    By the time I was ready for bed, the chemical effects were mostly gone, so there’s no tortured, sweaty attempts at sleeping like you get sometimes after an LSD trip, and no sleep deprivation.

  4. I *did* watch Eraserhead once when tripping on magic mushrooms. It was hilarious. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but there’s a scene where one of the minor characters (the girlfriend’s father?) is sitting at the kitchen table having a good rant about something and as soon as he stops talking this dog, from somewhere outside in the industrial wasteland goes “woof!”. Honestly, I laughed until I stopped.

  5. LSD has never appealed. Possibly I had the wrong sort of peers; quite a few indulged, but failed to market the experience very effectively. Tried salvia a few times, though. It has the convenient feature of wearing off quite rapidly. No blinding flashes of insight, though… I’ve had those from some particularly intense fever dreams brought on by the horrible plagues some of my family members occasionally catch at college or school and share, but I can’t really recommend that experience as a whole.

  6. In case you’ll feel like continuing this line of research, may I recommend also trying the following activities:

    1. Snorkeling on a tropical reef (scuba diving, perhaps, would be even better, however the risk of death there would be unreasonably high)
    2. Participating in a dancefloor containing enough people in pursuit of similar scientific interests (locating one may be somewhat difficult, however eclipse parties are usually good; the nearest one is in late August somewhere in Oregon)

    The latter allows one to experience a very convincing illusion of several minds synchronizing/merging together, which is interesting and also, perhaps, is a way of understanding how the future of functional neural interfaces may feel, ahead of time

  7. So you _were_ trying to trigger the Beatles song in my head.. Ah.

  8. Bats? What time of year was this?

  9. You didn’t do nearly enough. Next time ask for a dosage equivalent to eight hits of windowpane then call me.

  10. Congratulations! How WONDERFUL. Sounds like a fantastic trip! Not at all boring to read about. Especially lovely for me is being reminded how during intense and realistic LSD hallucinations my pre-frontal area was stone cold sober, watching, commenting, storing up observations for later as to how my senses were reporting incorrectly. Took me back to being a kid.

    Knowing from personal experience that your consciousness is actually blind, not touching the outside work at all, that reality is always filtered and organized by ones senses is immensely valuable, and hard to communicate unless you have experienced it first hand.

    Thanks for the posting about your experience.

  11. Back before it was illegal, for a while there, I was trying some MDMA, to some degree on the basis of the reputation it had acquired within the psychobabble community, as a very powerful aid to marriage counseling. While it didn’t do much good for me in that regard — to say nothing of the self-respect I lost remembering several hours wandering around telling houseplants how deeply I admired their personality, and the cat not speaking with me for days after — I did get these really amazing flash insights from it. Recall your first experience of a webpage, or of the notion of hyperlinks. I got a sort of a vignette of a 3×5 index card on my closed eyelids, with little descriptions of some incident and I’d look at a bolded word and poof I’d be at another card. This reminded me of the “hypercard” application that came with the old cinderblock Macintosh computers, so I went with the mode. For a few moments it was as if I were faced with a sort of rolodex-plus-hypertext, and fell through every hyperlink in it. Not entirely different from “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” in “2001”, that was.

    All of this had good points and bad points. All of those links went to how I remembered things, or thought I remembered things, and I would be right at the point of thinking “oh wow, I have been understanding that all wrong”and *zap* I’m down the rabbit hole onto the next card. Repeat at an increasing rate, a blinding accelerating strobe of experience amid a sort of fade to unconsciousness or perhaps a zen-like abandoning of the self, and the next thing I know, I’m off with the houseplants plighting my troth etc. A few days later, however, once the serotonin started getting “re-uptaken” at the usual rate (whatever), I was left with a taste of all of those memories that had been on the mental 3×5 index cards. These were things I had not thought about in ten or more years, in most instances. Sometimes those were things I hadn’t thought of because I had sealed them off as hurtful. Sometimes it’s good to confront these sort of memories, if you know you have them, particularly in the face of any schizoid tendencies towards withdrawal, and encapsulation of trauma. Getting your memory jogged loose from being stuck can be really beneficial, if done right.

    This last, or some comparable effect, might be where MDMA had gotten such a positive reputation in the therapy communities.

  12. Cliche, but apropos.

    Apologies to all the ‘Crawlsters who despise this sort of thing, but it’s not often you can feel forward of your favorite futurist. I’ll just leave this here, and you can all fret about how it does or doesn’t belong. Except you know it totally does.

    Catching up to counter-culture.

    Dr. Watts, I’d trip with you any time. And I personally despise human contact while tripping. You ever make the mistake of looking in a mirror while tripping? We’re disgusting. Those pores and follicles. Deconstruction is the blessing and curse of the psychoactive state.

  13. I recall having read that “it toggles the significance evaluation of what you’re experiencing” and I found that an apt description. “You biologists don’t find anything disgusting” someone once told me about the way I see the world. Ayup. Enhanced that.

  14. “language evolved to describe the pedestrian realities of everyday perception. The psychoactivated brain is wired up differently; there are literally no words for the way it parses reality.”

    That about covers it, I think.

    For me, they showed how strange it is to exist. They never let me out of the box, but they opened the blinds, and the perspectives from that light have stayed with me for decades, which I’ve found a welcome thing in this world.

  15. I’m really interested – did you experience “open eye visuals”?
    That is, did you see things in the world that actually were not there?
    Having tripped off various things a number of times, it’s something I’ve never experienced, and my mum says that she hasn’t either.
    My dad has seen all sorts of stuff: the souls of the dead filling a river, Odin, etc.
    My experience has been a lot of the ‘ripples’ that you describe, but always with the certainty they weren’t really caused by movement in the objects.
    In my mind’s eye, I get fantastic displays of colour and sound, and I’ve had tactile hallucinations, like my skin turning to ceramic, emitting a great, unburning heat.

  16. […] Watts describes a trip on […]

  17. Do yourself a favour and next time DO leave the house. Watch the sunset, or (better yet) the dawn, walk through a forest in moonlight, stumble in some mud, sit by a river, listen to the sea. Its the way to go.

    One note of caution, be careful about your supply, you really, really, REALLY dont want to mistakenly eat some NBOME, its hellish stuff. One advantage of mushrooms is that at least you know what youre getting.

  18. Ru: LSD has never appealed. Possibly I had the wrong sort of peers; quite a few indulged, but failed to market the experience very effectively. Tried salvia a few times, though. It has the convenient feature of wearing off quite rapidly. No blinding flashes of insight, though…

    Well “wrong sort of peers” depends on your point of view, I suppose. But god, no. Salvia is not remotely like LSD, and no one should ever use it. It is a wretched experience. Terrible stuff.

  19. > stumble in some mud

    Fascinating stuff, mud, if you look at it closely.

  20. Great photo.

  21. I’ve always thought that everyone should trip on acid at least once. The effects are as variable and ephemeral as snowflakes. Unless you’re doing clinical acid, the dosages contained in any hit are wildly unpredictable and the effects depend on pretty much everything: the individual, the environment, the exact constituents of the drug you’ve taken etc. Your insight about how the “insights are literally untranslatable” is right on the money.
    Dave is one of my favourite people – and probably a good choice as a spotter since I can’t imagine him letting you slip too far away from reality. But I laughed out loud when when described him Harshing the Buzz. Since you had a pretty mild trip in the first place, it also may have been good to have someone around who would have encouraged you to become a bit “more” untethered.
    I haven’t done hallucinogens on purpose (Demerol in the hospital was pretty heavy duty) since my teens, after a few journeys into darkness, but I did do it dozens of times back then. And while there were elements and markers that remained constant from trip to trip, the actual experience was very different each time.
    I too preferred Mescaline and MDMA to LSD. I was indifferent to shrooms and despised Salvia.
    Is it worth more exploration? Sounds like you got most of the goodness there was to be had – so probably not. The insights you gained may inform your writing a bit, but being as untranslatable as you say, the only ones who would “get it” (or be interested) are other people who have had similar experiences.
    So, it sounds like a fun time, but not necessarily one that bears repeating.

  22. Hmmmmm!

    I had some fun psychedelic experiences in my Wanton Youth, but apart from mushrooms the one time*, nothing really ‘seeing dragons and dissolving of the self’ level. I had the weightlessness, too, which made me convinced I needed to walk really hard to keep myself from floating off.
    I have to say the most intense reality distortion I ever had was on hot knives, which put me in a very bad place and on another occasion, literally ‘in’ The Overlook Hotel. Yes: I chose to watch ‘The Shining’ on drugs. Never sure since if I came off the trike. (Hot knives = turning large lumps of hash gaseous through the application of heat and inhaling.)
    * The one time involved me going off to play ‘Battle Zone’ in the all-night cafe in my student town, which dates the experience (and me) very well. (Great game! Great trip!)
    I think I would be up for more psychedelia between now and EOL, but I am worried about the demons coming out. Though arguably they should.
    Thanks for the post, Dr P. Stirred lots of thoughts – as your writing always does.

    Are you better/diagnosed yet?

  23. The easiest way to lie is to believe the lie.

    Even this supposes a singular truth, when it might be far better to compartmentalize. Most people don’t have the luxury of integration. The tools of reason in one situation become fatally dangerous in another.

  24. Drug prohibition is really a crime against humanity. Billions of people are deprived of the wonderful experiences that can be provided by drugs like the hallucinogens. I cannot use LSD now because I do not know of any safe source. I wouldn’t want to end up as one of those poor unfortunates who unwittingly get carfentanyl from a gangster.

  25. Peter,

    I’ve imbibed the elixir of your work for one third of my brain-mush-memory, and I have discerned an appreciation for unbound audacity.

    Would you like to collaborate on a project with Us. The audacity of the project knows no bounds ;), it seeks to frame all astonishing as mundane.

    *

    (What follows is an English translation of the visceral experience of a dying pig.)

    My tribe has been eaten, I am the last. I am lying here, unable to spasm to the contours of the pain I am experiencing. My throat gargles, I am inhaling and coughing a mixture of blood and mud into a fleshy pool.

    The other tribes, our battles with them, I am the last loser of my tribe. Members of the other tribes, they have finally reached me, they have found me and I am here, under their stomping hooves and within their mouths. I know this taste, I know what they are eating. They are eating me, and they relishing the experience.

    We are inseparable in our glory and suffering.

    They have stopped, and now they move away. What approaches is our father. We have all felt the disciplines of our father, and even in my death he teaches. He speaks. He speaks to all of us, of our shame. He speaks of our eternal suffering, that there is no escape because We are pig.

    *

    A ‘machine elf’ says to Terence McKenna: “Don’t give in to astonishment.” (The meaning of this is elusive. Terence McKenna’s account of the dialogue practically ends here, but upon rumination I believe that the rest of the dialogue would proceed like this:)

    “What do you mean by astonishment?”

    “Astonishment is a shock. The knowable is mundane. If you have given in to astonishment, then you have fallen into an experience of NOT experience.”

    “The impossible?”

    “NO. An emulation from within: the unknowable. A place that is not you that you infer exists. You might refer to this as reality, although that is not the whole truth. What you call reality, I call the unknowable. Sometimes we have to conceive to our self that we are a self and not the unknowable. You are known to you. The unknowable will hollow you.

    “And imagine this. We can always see you but you can’t always see us, at least presently.” (The ‘machine elf’ disappears but continues to speak.) “Imagine what it looks like to look at a crowd and they can’t see you. Observe the crowd observing an explosive display of fireworks. Fireworks do not put a crowd into a gawking stupor very often, but go ahead and imagine it. The crowd is gawking at the fireworks. Now, imagine that, instead of a set of tame and delighted eyes and instead of a crowd gawking at fireworks, imagine a set of eyes that are delirious, but looking into the same singular direction. The selves behind the eyes are hollowed by astonishment, the selves are filled with whatever is coming from the one direction. You may have seen this in your life within the eyes of an entranced creature. You may mistake the suspended state of shock for stupidity. Do not make this mistake.” (The ‘machine elf’ reappears.) “Do not allow yourself to be distracted. The self that takes within the unknowable may become unknowable to self. It is a sadness that so many are taught to destroyed from within.

    “Is there a way back from the abyss?”

    “Yes and no. We call some forms of being: lost. They are in a continual state of short circuiting until they pop out of experience. We are always, at any given moment, a part of larger whole. You are part of a larger whole. Your self is its own larger whole. All selfs are a larger whole. However, do not be confused. You are not the larger whole. There is a whole inside of you that resembles the whole you are within.
    “A whole cannot be said to be incomplete. When a whole begins to respond to self as unknowable, imprints, then relays the impression of the unknowable then that whole has become constituent to other whole. This has been done to your constituent pieces, your cells. There is nothing wrong with this. What We want is for whole to experience what it wants to experience without infringing on other experience. To learn how, whole will produce many iterative versions. We all do this as beings of experience.

    “There are wholes that are invisible to emerging forms of life. There is nothing wrong with this, the multi-whole whole is important. The invisible wholes are circuits of information. The invisible wholes can cultivate the synchronicities that are performed. The invisible wholes can leverage the synchronicities that you perform. The invisible wholes want for you to be their life, their movers, their arms and feet and eyes. Just like you, the invisible wholes are invisible ripples of life. You are an artifact of this forever pulse. But, unlike you (well… actually… just like you), invisible wholes are contiguous wholes projected within a conduit of greater wholes. They are holographs that are given reality as contiguous and persistent inward projections. Some invisible wholes benefit the constituent wholes. Some invisible wholes help themselves. There is nothing wrong with this, you have done this to your cells byway of synchronized autonomy of cell life and byway of shedding the dead cells to regrow new cells. Sometimes the invisible ripples of life, the invisible wholes, the invisible conduits and circuits… do not know other wholes. There is nothing wrong with this, nothing can account for all of its pieces. To become the bigger whole is a rite of passage.”

  26. I genuinely look forward to discovering pieces of your experience in future writings; if that is what you continue to do after this.

  27. Have sex on acid, thank me later for the 6 hour long orgasm. Can even candyflip; take a dose of MD (120mg), wait 30 minutes and take your acid tab (200ug). May need a viagra.

  28. I’m so glad you went out on a limb and did this! It does rewire you, even if just a little bit and even if you’re not suddenly consumed with Love(tm) for yer fellow man. PS nothing wrong with My Face Is Melting. I thought it was funny as hell when it happened to me…

  29. Without going out on a limb, back in college while taking a mandatory health course, when we got to the section on mental health and they started covering schizophrenia and other psychosis, the instructor kicked it off by asking people “can you tell us anything about schizophrenia”. Most of the people who raised their hands to answer made really deprecating or stereotypical remarks, more or less “crazies” as if it were a moral fault or a questionable religious choice like joining a cult. The instructor tried to provide some insight, but other than repetition of “brain chemistry problems”, they weren’t helping much. I raised my hand and gave it a try.

    “Have y’all ever heard of acid, I mean, ell ess dee?” Hands shot up all around the room. “Okay, you’ve heard of bad trips on acid?” Hands remained raised. Interestingly these were a lot of the same hands that had popped up to declare that they knew that schizophrenia meant “crazies”. I continued: “Okay, imagine that you take some acid but it’s not very good acid, but it keeps getting a little stronger every day, and it gets to be more of a bum trip every day, until finally one day you are tripping balls and the whole world is a terror to you. And you never come down and mostly it only gets worse.” Someone asked if they couldn’t just take the drugs that people got at the hospital for bad acid trips. I said, that’s exactly what they do give them. That was 1980 or so, and things haven’t changed all that much, other than that we now have more genetic-basis clues. As the article (linked, left) says, “Drugs for schizophrenia today treat just one of the symptoms of schizophrenia, which is the symptom called psychosis, which are the hallucinations and delusions. Those are actually just one of many symptoms of schizophrenia. And if you ask most patients what are the symptoms that most bother them, what they will tell you is it’s the agonizing cognitive decline that many of them suffer in their first decade after diagnosis. There are no drugs today that address either the cognitive losses in schizophrenia or the emotional withdrawal or the underlying disease.”

    For me, it’s almost plausible to imagine that what’s going on in schizophrenia — especially as regards the hallucinations and other acid-trip-like symptoms — is many co-occurring syndromes and that perhaps the hallucinatory/psychotic elements are actually adaptive to the bigger problem, which appears to be related to the synapse-pruning of young adult brain maturation. I have not seen any papers on synapse-pruning in the context of hallucinogenic drugs though I expect they’d be interesting. Yet if the acid-trip-like symptoms from an actual acid trip seem to help provide insight to the user, once the trip is concluded, perhaps there was originally some sort of adaptive benefit — perhaps comparable to “lucid dreaming” or even REM sleep — to be had from this sort of process in counteraction to a cognitive decline and personality destruction usually seen in deep schizophrenia.

  30. Off-topic. Seems like I once warned of something like this.

    The Ultimate Trolling of Canada.

  31. +10000 to all who suggested trying it in a natural setting. The difference in what you perceive from artificial sources cannot be overstated. New insight into what you’ve written about vampires and right angles…