Psychoactive Drugs

Psychoactive Drugs #

Show me research on drug harms in the UK

Drug harms

Nutt, D. J., King, L. A., & Phillips, L. D. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. The Lancet, 376(9752), 1558-1565.

My experience #

Psychedelics are substances that reveal and amplify your inner experience.1

Sacred mandala
Credit: Midjourney "sacred mandala"

I have personal experience with

I am a member of

Psychedelics are not for everybody.

Predicting Your Reaction to Psychedelics #

Your reaction to a psychedelic strongly depends on the willingness of your Parts to get quiet.3 See my discussion of effortless meditation to learn more about Parts and how to help them relax. There are at least three possible outcomes:

  • Parts are overactive and not willing to get quiet. A psychedelic will tend to make Parts more loud and extreme. This is going to be a difficult trip and corresponds to the monkey mind of an inexperienced meditator, magnified to Godzilla size.
  • Parts are active but willing to get quiet. In this situation, the client gains more access to Self energy and may do Parts work spontaneously. There is the opportunity to make rapid strides toward therapeutic goals.4
  • Parts are fairly quiet. The Self shines with unusual brilliance because the psychedelic does the bouncer Part’s job, facilitating an experience of Self that is profoundly effortless. Similar to effortless meditation, there is ample capacity for blending with a target. This is readily seen in reports of music perception under the influence of psychedelics. For example, “Volunteers reported far greater absorption in music, as well as greater perceived beauty and significance of music.”5

Suppose you are curious to try a psychedelic but are not sure whether your Parts will get quiet.

Which psychedelic poses the least risk to the naive user?

Serotonin #

Some of the most popular psychoactive substances operate by modulating the serotonin system. Serotonin is important because it is, in part, responsible for regulation of serenity.6 Serotonin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, or abbreviated, 5-HT. There are at least 14 different serotonin receptors that allow cells to respond in various ways to the presence of serotonin. The two most prevalent brain receptors are known as 1A and 2A (also called 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A). The figure below shows the function of the two main serotonin receptors.7


Credit: Carhart-Harris & Nutt, 2017, Figure 3

I suggest that psychedelics that target the 5-HT1A receptor pose the least risk to the naive user. The subjective experience is a gentle spotlight on the feeling of soothing comfort. Using this soothing comfort as a target helps tangled Parts relax. Until recently, MDMA and 5-MeO-DMT were the popular psychedelics that seemed to modulate 5-HT1A activity. 5-MeO-DMT directly modulates the 5-HT1A receptor, but MDMA influences it indirectly. MDMA seems to influence the 5-HT1A receptor by its ability to release serotonin (biology is complicated8). In any case, both MDMA and 5-MeO-DMT have disadvantages compared to psilomethoxin. The disadvantage of 5-MeO-DMT is its rapid onset and come down, which can be disorienting. In contrast, psilomethoxin has a user-friendly gradual onset and come down. However, the main advantage of psilomethoxin over these other substances is its legal status. Psilomethoxin is currently unregulated and easy to obtain.

Once there is familiarity with altered states and some confidence is gained in effortless meditation then I suggest the next psychedelic to try is dimethyltryptamine (DMT) combined with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, a combination colloquially known as Daime or Ayahuasca. While selective for 5-HT2A, pure vaporized DMT has an extremely rapid onset and come down. The monoamine oxidase inhibitor temporarily stretches out the journey to about four hours, with a gradual onset and come down. Subjectively, in contrast to psilomethoxin, DMT does not spotlight any particular emotion but facilitates affective unblending in a more pure or indifferent way, demanding more cooperation from Parts to guide the experience.

Effortless meditation is precarious in the sense that we can not entertain targets that prompt much Part involvement. This is where DMT can pick up the slack. DMT can facilitate Self energy in situations where Parts must exert some effort. For example, Santo Daime is a psychedelic church that has won legal protection in the USA, parts of Canada, and Brazil. In Santo Daime ceremonies, everybody present drinks Daime tea, lead musicians included. Moreover, everybody is expected to sing and dance. It seems unlikely to me that new members would often enjoy much Self energy without the help of the psychedelic sacrament. The Daime helps the congregation remain mostly in Self while exerting considerable effort to pronounce Portuguese and precisely synchronize movements to the rhythm of the music. The combination of ample Self energy and creative involvement in the ceremony can make for an extraordinarily beautiful experience.

Notes #

  1. Nichols, D. E., Nichols, C. D., & Hendricks, P. S. (2022). Proposed Consensus Statement on Defining Psychedelic Drugs. Psychedelic Medicine. ↩︎

  2. I am a bit embarrassed to be affiliated with Catholicism given its sordid history. In general, I admire the best of all of the world’s religions. ↩︎

  3. Aday, J. S., Davis, A. K., Mitzkovitz, C. M., Bloesch, E. K., & Davoli, C. C. (2021). Predicting reactions to psychedelic drugs: A systematic review of states and traits related to acute drug effects. ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science, 4(2), 424-435. ↩︎


  5. Barrett, F. S., Preller, K. H., & Kaelen, M. (2018). Psychedelics and music: Neuroscience and therapeutic implications. International Review of Psychiatry, 30(4), 350-362. ↩︎

  6. Olivier, B., & Mos, J. (1990). Serenics, serotonin and aggression. Progress in clinical and biological research, 361, 203-230. ↩︎

  7. Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Nutt, D. J. (2017). Serotonin and brain function: a tale of two receptors. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 31(9), 1091-1120. ↩︎

  8. Ray, T. S. (2010). Psychedelics and the human receptorome. PloS One, 5(2), e9019. ↩︎