The world of psychedelics is as vast and endless as the fractals that often accompany a psychedelic trip. With all the information we have, there is still so much more to learn about the benefits of psychedelics. That said, there are a lot of unhelpful myths circulating, so whether you are a connoisseur, a concerned parent, or simply an interested party, it is key to know the difference between psychedelic fact and fiction.
Psychedelics are Party Drugs
Myth. Psychedelics are widely used for recreational purposes but should not be boxed into the category of party drugs. It would be a disservice to rule out the numerous beneficial spiritual and therapeutic ways psychedelics are used around the world.
The use of psychedelics creates a mental space for optimal connection, whether it be with nature, music, loved ones, or simply with yourself. Dosing prior to a day in nature opens visual awareness and other senses in a way nothing else can. It stimulates a multifaceted experience of profound awareness and connection with your surroundings.
Psychedelics are used in spiritual ceremonies to help individuals go deep into themselves, gaining access to the spirit world. Some shamans believe the use of psychedelic plants such as ayahuasca or San Pedro cactus can help release deep trauma. The beneficial effects of using these psychedelics, otherwise known as psychedelic therapy, has been likened to those of years of traditional therapy.
Psychedelics are Actively Researched and Used
Fact. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been used in clinical studies to collect data on its therapeutic potential for psychiatry. Researchers studied LSD from the 1950s through the 1970s. They were assessing the potential to treat patients with symptoms and disorders such as anxiety, depression, psychosomatic diseases, and addiction. But not all of these studies had proper controls in place. It was several decades before researchers used consistent controls. According to the Frontiers of Psychiatry, “LSD is revealed as a potential therapeutic agent in psychiatry; the evidence to date is strongest for the use of LSD in treatment of alcoholism.” They also express the need for more studies to support their findings and further the research on the beneficial medical uses of LSD.
Microdosing LSD, the act of ingesting about one-tenth of a psychedelic dose, has recently come into mainstream popularity. The goal is to ingest too little an amount to trigger hallucinations, instead stimulating neural pathways in your brain. This can assist in awakening and sharpening your mind. Microdosing has also shown potential in helping individuals overcome depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Psychedelics are “All Natural”
Myth. Entheogenic plants (plants with psychoactive properties) are natural, but a large variety of lab-made psychedelic substances exist as well. The list of psychedelic classified substances is too long to list, and is worth a gander on Wikipedia for all interested parties.
Below is a short list of the more common synthesized substances.
- LSD or LSD 25 is synthetic. Albert Hofmann, working for Sandoz Laboratories (the same lab that manufactures Xanax), created it in a laboratory in 1938.
- 2C-B is a less popular synthesized psychedelic. It usually comes in powder form and is similar to mescaline and LSD.
- MDMA (Molly or Ecstasy) is classified as a psychedelic. It is made synthetically.
- MDMA’s sister drug MDA (Sass, Sassafras, Sally) is not actually “natural.” It is made from the sassafras plant, but is synthesized as well and can be considerably more psychoactive.
- Plenty of synthetic versions of many entheogenic plants are also available on the black market. These include mescaline and varieties of dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Synthetic DMT often comes in the form of a white, strong-smelling powder.
Psychedelics Always Make you Hallucinate
Myth. This myth is probably attributable to the fact that psychedelics do fall into the category of hallucinogenic drugs. The word hallucinogen comes from the Latin word alucinari, meaning “to wander in the mind.” Essentially, this is the goal when ingesting psychedelics. But hallucinations can vary drastically and, as we mentioned, depending on the dose, may not even occur.
In a new film MDMA: The Movie, Rick Doplin, founder of MAPS, shares his views on his work. “Psychedelic means to manifest the mind,” he says. “Dreams are psychedelic, meditation can be psychedelic, non-drug techniques like Holotropic Breathwork, like hyperventilation, like ecstatic dancing—all sorts of things are psychedelic.”
Dosage of psychedelics also plays a large part in the psychedelic experience. Properly microdosing psychedelics will not cause hallucinations; however, it is proven to increase awareness and achieve a higher state of mental functioning.
Psychedelics Put Holes in Your Brain
Myth! Recent studies have shown quite the opposite. Psychedelics such as psilocybin, common in magic mushrooms, create a myriad of new neural pathways in your brain. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan, is reviewed as a phenomenal read. It has been recommended to those interested in beneficial uses of psychedelics on an individual’s brain and mental well-being.
One possible source of this myth is that it came from the diagnosis of HPPD, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. This is a rare issue involving the presence of visuals long after all drugs have left the body.
Another scenario that has laid false blame on psychedelics is the onset of mental illness. This applies particularly to schizophrenia, which often shows signs in an individual’s early late teens to early twenties. Psychedelics can trigger these already-present illnesses, but in no way cause them.
In contrast to putting holes in your brain, psychedelics have shown promise in brain growth activity. Author Terance McKenna proposed the “Stoned Ape Theory” in his book, Food of the Gods. His controversial theory says that magic mushrooms may be responsible for speeding up the evolutionary development that doubled the size of the human brain between the emergence of Homo erectus and early Homo sapiens.
Scientists Know Everything About Psychedelics
Definitely a myth. Scientists don’t understand everything about anything, and psychedelics are surely no different. As mentioned above, proper controls were not always placed on many earlier studies done on psychedelics. Focus and funding is just now being put back into play to dissect all the ways we can benefit from psychedelics. Another factor is the large variety of psychoactive substances, many of which have very little to no controlled scientific studies. In the past decade we have seen a surge of funding for controlled testing on a variety of substances such as ayahuasca, LSD, and psilocybin. But again, this is just the beginning of a hopeful future where science embraces psychedelics and their numerous uses.
Everyone Should Try Psychedelics
Myth. Never do anything based on peer pressure or shaming. Psychedelics are serious and should be respected. They can change your life for the better. But it is a personal choice and not to be made by anyone else. Although many people feel that psychedelic experiences have changed their lives in positive ways, it is important to know your body and comfort level.
Acid Stays in Your Body Forever
Psychedelic Myth. LSD does not stay in your body forever—but the experience will. Do not mistake the two.
LSD can last up to 12 hours in your body, but it is metabolized within 48 hours at the most. Ingesting LSD orally sends the substance into your gastrointestinal system, where your body channels it into your bloodstream and on to your brain. It only stays in your brain for about 20 minutes, according to HEALTHLINE, but the lasting effects can depend on how much is in your blood. The LSD travels through your bloodstream into your organs, eventually reaching your reliable liver—which breaks it down for you to release from your system.
Psychedelics are Addictive
Myth. This is a yet another psychedelic myth. Because psychedelics do not create the same changes in brain chemistry that lead to a physical dependence they are not classified as an addictive drug. The substance itself is not something that stimulates the brain command to continue consumption after you have reached the desired effect.
It is worth noting that many addiction recovery centers want to spread awareness encompassing more than just physical dependence. This leads us into murky waters. To clarify, a person will not develop an addiction to psychedelics. That said, any individual can develop a psychological addiction to an action, which is where the concern may lie and where this psychedelic myth was probably born.
Psychedelics are Highly Toxic
This is a multifaceted topic that demands a high level of respect. When misused, many psychedelic substances can be toxic, just like vitamins, mouthwash, and numerous everyday items.
When taken responsibly, meaning with proper dosage and reliable sourcing, many psychedelics do not harm your body.
Drugs Without the Hot Air: MInimizing the Harms of Legal and Illegal Drugs by David Nutt is a brilliant read for anyone with a desire to gain a better understanding of the risks and toxicity in substances. Nutt is an English neuropsychopharmacologist specializing in drug research that affects the brand, and conditions such as addiction, anxiety, and sleep.
RS Contributing Author: Pimienta Fantasma
Fantasma is first and foremost a world traveler. She has cultivated a dynamic understanding for human diversity, residing in Germany, Peru, and all over the United States—including the Big Island of Hawaii, Boulder (Colorado), New York, and the good ole Midwestern Indiana (“Ain’t no place a Hoosier hasn’t been”—Vonnegut). She has been curiously experimenting with a wide range of psychedelics since the ripe age of 14 years of age. She owes a great deal of gratitude for her personal evolutionary journey to the power of psychedelic medicine. Fantasma has had multiple hero-size doses of LSD, psilocybin, San Pedro, Mescaline, Ketamine, MDMA, DMT, Ayahuasca, LSA, 2CB, 2CI, and Changa—to name a few. These experiences are responsible for the rainbow-laser-sharp, otherworldly, and overall chakra-explosive lens kit through which Fantasma views the world.