At least once in their life, 90% of 45yr-olds in the United States had tried an illegal drug – according to a 2006 NIH study.
Strangely enough the mass media and general ‘adult’ society have shunned psychoactive drugs at grand scale until 2011, when marijuana legalization talks and progress flooded mainstream news.
We rarely hear about the times they’ve helped great artists, inventors and creators. And if we do it’s surrounded in condescending context – the typical “they were lucky” or “they got off easy” deal. It’s incredibly rare to find authoritative or wide-reaching publications supporting responsible drug use. Many publications actually use the click-bait headline “is [drug name] good for you” frequently, yet always come to the same conclusion: no, they aren’t. This is a twisted cluster-fuck of ethics because they bait readers in only to squash the false hope they created. It’s hard – especially for a large part of the public – to accept that an acid or shroom trip could be a positive experience. Sometimes it’s hard for those who have clean trips to coherently and respectably put into words how their trip awakened mental processes that were dormant for years. Inevitably, this becomes a crutch to those trying to make the case for responsible use.
creativity, exploration, awakening, sensory development, patterns and linking, aligning with natural elements, discovering identity, etc…
These experiences and terms scare those who watch from afar. Being under “control” and being “responsible” seem too far-fetched a consideration. There’s the obvious cause and effect idea that taking an illegal substance is inherently wrong. It’s also more of a workload and branding risk for publications to honestly consider how educating responsible drug use could have positive results, especially on people who experiment for the first time. I mean, just look at the New York Times. It wasn’t until this past July (2014) when their editorial board published their first ‘official’ stance on marijuana legalization.
Yet alcohol remains the number one drug classification that causes the most harm to other people, and one of the top 5 for most self-harm:
LSD, shrooms, and ecstasy – generally the core experimental drugs after marijuana and alcohol for 16-34yr olds – rank among the lowest for both self-harm and harm to others. It’s odd they’ve been immortalized as basically irrational to consider in safe environments, especially when alcohol ads stream throughout our society (can someone make a futuristic mushroom-brand Superbowl ad?)
Fortunately, digital societies have risen over the past decade with a commitment to providing access to drug information, responsible drug use, sharing experiences, and learning. Some of them include:
- /r/drugs + /r/drugs reading for first-timers
- Duncan & Gold’s Drugs and the Whole Person, Ch.18
- Bluelight forums
- [if you know any others just let me know in the comments and I’ll add’em here]
Making resources, education, and community members publicly available to the inevitable journeyer is vital. To dismiss the safer benefits, facts, and potential of certain drugs – especially when compared to alcohol – is to exhibit nothing more than ignorance. Imagine someone who has made up their mind about trying a new drug. All dissuading statements, programs, and ads had no effect. But what if somewhere – amidst the mountains of scare tactics – a source made a practical statement along the lines of:
“If you do find yourself in a position where you are mentally, physically, emotionally prepared, here are some steps you can take to help mitigate risks.”
These steps could mention information about sources, comfort levels, environments, and even how to test drugs; for example, a bunk police drug test kit makes it easy to identify substances in powder, pill and paper form. At the very least there should be .gov site on responsible use that actually recognizes the fact that 90% of adults in the U.S. will try something. Instead, publications pounce on any drug-induced mishap they can, with raves and rave culture being their most recent prey the past few years. (For any ravers reading this, has anyone reviewed Rave ON or another 5-HTP?)
The very nature of drugs (or finding drugs in nature) is what makes them a ‘sexy’ and ‘taboo’ topic, and thus a catalyst for any type of celebrity hype. Just think how many headlines you’ve seen with ‘[celebrity] does [drug]’. The media only serves this crap up because our public is so willing to eat it up. It’s what sells.
When prominent figures (usually comedians) do comment publicly on their experiences with drugs it can feel very refreshing, especially those who offer practical insights. Here are a few of my favorites:
“They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you’re high, you can do everything you normally do just as well — you just realize that it’s not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.”
– Bill Hicks
“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.”
– Robin Williams
“Now here’s somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he’s caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That’s the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons”
– Milton Friedman
Friedman’s quote ties directly to the self-harm graph. And while Williams and Hicks thoughts may be controversial, there’s certainly truth to be found.
I wanted to find and learn more about journeyers whose experiences had a significant impact on not just their lives, but the world. While researching this topic I found many inventions created while under an influence so I had to strip it down to about a dozen, described in more detail below.
Keep in mind this is purely for consideration and education of what has been done and not some out-of-left-field advocating tale, such as “you too can write an international classic on a proper cocaine diet.”
Please consult the digital communities listed above for more information on responsible drug use and to have your questions answered.
DNA and the Double-Helix
While researching these examples it quickly became apparent that in the field of biological science, LSD – Lysergic Acid Diethylamide – is a pretty common tool. Both Dr. Francis Crick – the godfather of the double helix’s DNA structure – and Dr. Kary Banks Mullis experimented with this drug.
Dr. Mullis won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993, thanks to the invention of PCR – a technique that allows DNA sequences to be amplified for testing and monitoring. He’s also infamous for the following quote, which attributes his success to the psychotropic drug:
“Would I have invented PCR if I hadn’t taken LSD? I seriously doubt it. I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the polymers go by. I learnt that partly on psychedelic drugs.”
Dr. Francis Crick originally came up with the double-helix structure – which we associate with DNA today – while under the influence of LSD.
Read more about it in Dr. Mullis’s book, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field. (I..don’t even…)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde In 1886, has become one of the 26 most translated authors in the world. He wrote all sixty thousand words of this classic novel in just six days while, allegedly, under the effects of cocaine regularly. By 1901 it was estimated over 250,000 copies sold worldwide with stage adaptions among the most popular. The novel is now considered a timeless classic in the world of English literature.
Read more about it here: Robert Louis Stevenson: A Literary Life
Haven’t read the classic? Check it out: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Sigmund Freud – considered to be the father of psychoanalysis – was seriously experimenting with cocaine in his early twenties. In 1884 he even published a paper called “On Coca,” that explored the use of drugs as a cure for both mental and physical problems.
He didn’t actually come up with the concept of psychoanalysis while high as a kite but he did pick up the foundation much earlier in life. Not only did he introduce the idea of the subconscious mind, he also preached about free association, dreams as gateways to the unconscious and the fact that sexual desire motivates almost all decisions and actions. This is the same man that argued earlier in life that cocaine – when used in moderation – can enhance sexual arousal and performance. He also believed that the drug allowed you to experiment with new feelings, which could benefit you greatly throughout your lifetime.
Read more about it here: An Anatomy of Addiction
Believe it or not, the late and great Steve Jobs has gone on record to say that dropping acid in the 1960’s was “one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.”
Of course, by the time he was crunching in an Apple office coming up with some innovative and grandiose ideas he had long since given up his high times. That said, just the influence of the drugs themselves led to what Jobs believed to be a more imaginative personality later in life.
“Throughout that period of time [1972-1974] I used the LSD approximately ten to fifteen times. I would ingest the LSD on a sugar cube or in a hard form of gelatin. I would usually take the LSD when I was by myself. I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.”
In fact, Jobs even spoke out against Bill Gates saying he had a serious lack of imagination because he never used the drug. In hindsight, his comments are a bit undermined by Gates recent admission to trying LSD as well.
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas. […] He’d be a broader guy, if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”
High or not at the time, Jobs has clearly attributed his innovative ideas to the use of a drug earlier in life. Does that mean you can drop acid and develop a multi-billion dollar company too? Probably not.
Read more about it here: What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
In 1885, when Coca-Cola was created, John Pemberton – the Atlanta based pharmacist that invented the concoction – often claimed that it could cure everything from depression to anxiety and morphine addiction. It makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that the Coca leaf – what the drink was named after – is used to produce cocaine. Pemberton, like Freud, was very outspoken about the substance’s numerous “health benefits.”
Cocaine was eventually removed from the drink in the early 20th century. However, before that Mark Pendergrast claims there was about 8.45 milligrams of cocaine in each serving. That’s nearly a quarter of what addicts snort to get high these days. In other words, there was a lot of coke in Coca-Cola. Good thing it’s no longer an ingredient, right?
Read more about it here: For God, Country, and Coca-Cola
A lot of The Beatles songs were inspired by drugs, despite the fact that most people didn’t catch on until much later. Former Beatle, Sir Paul McCartney has admitted in an interview that drugs “informed” most of the bands famous music. Got To Get You Into My Life was “about pot, although everyone missed it at the time” and Day Tripper was even “about acid.” Honestly though, who the hell missed that last one?
Their music is often regarded as a cornerstone of the must-listen-to-music-while-under-an-influence. This was simply part of the Beatles culture and the revolutionary shift they brought to the music industry and the world.
Read more about it here: Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties
Thomas Edison Inventions
Thomas Edison, the remarkably successful inventor known for creations such as the carbon microphone and incandescent light bulb, was a prolific consumer of Vin Mariani. Vin Mariani was actually a type of Bordeaux wine – invented by French chemist Angelo Mariani, in 1863 -that included coca leaves. As you know from the Coca-Cola description above, coca leaves are the main ingredient of cocaine.
Edison was well known for his insomnia, a definite side-effect of cocaine, and it’s often mentioned that Vin Mariani would be in hand during many of his working and brainstorming sessions.
Read more about it and a million other examples here: Alcohol and Drugs in North America [2 volumes]: A Historical Encyclopedia
Lilly was the first person to ever map the pain and pleasure neurosensory pathways in the human brain. He also invented the world’s first sensory deprivation chamber, a unique tank designed to eliminate all senses at once. He conducted a series of experiments in which he ingested a psychedelic drug either in an isolation tank or in the company of dolphins.
Read more about it in his book: Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer: Theory and Experiments
Astrophysics and Cosmology
Carl Sagan, a renowned astrophysicist and cosmologist, was also known as a marijuana advocate. He often supported the use of the herb to boost intellectual pursuits. In 1971, he even wrote an essay for the book Marijuana Reconsidered that explored the benefits of the drug. The essay was written under the pen-name “Mr. X,” which was later revealed to be Sagan after he passed away.
I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves. It was a point obvious in a way, but rarely talked about. I drew the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down. One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics. Because of problems of space, I can’t go into the details of these essays, but from all external signs, such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books.
There you have it – another reason why we need to write down all these good ideas we convenience in the bathroom.
Read more about it here: A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection
Kevin Herbert, a Cisco Systems programmer says that whenever he runs into a serious problem he just drops acid (LSD-25).
“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”
He also said that some of his most difficult programming and technical problems have been solved with the help of LSD and the Grateful Dead’s trippy rhythms.
“When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing.”
Herbert actually fought to ban drug testing (of technologists) at Cisco and if that wasn’t enough reason to be deemed an advocate, he was present for the 100th birthday of Albert Hofmann, the first person to synthesize, ingest, and learn the psychedelic effects of LSD.
That same year – 2006 – a conference dubbed LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug became an event for members of science and technology communities to “come out” as users of LSD in a safe, understanding environment. This was a massive step forward for not just these respective communities, but for all users; recognizing thousands of studies and research to conclude the responsible and positive effects of LSD.
While the following quote may be controversial, it’s definitely something to consider:
“When you study natural science and the miracles of creation, if you don’t turn into a mystic you are not a natural scientist.”
Hofmann also confirms Kary Mullis using LSD to help develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences. The LSD crusade for creative and scientific exploration can easily ward off journalists from any mutual understanding. Fortunately, this society continues to grow with more people like Herbet joining in to help – at the very least – make peers feel more comfortable.
Read more about it here: LSD: My Problem Child
New Age Journalism: Gonzo
Hunter S. Thompson completely altered the face of modern journalism, just by sampling quite the list of drugs. He is often credited as the first official Gonzo journalist, after publishing The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.
His follow-up material Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream was eventually adapted into a movie starring Johnny Depp. He recorded a drug trip – while visiting Las Vegas – on a voice recorder and then did his best to put the experience into words once he was sober. The result was Fear and Loathing which The New York Times said was “by far the best book yet written on the decade of dope”.
Thompson was one of the first new age journalists to become emotionally and mentally attached to his work – and be public about it – something that was both foreign and undervalued by publications before then.
The “Gonzo” style of journalism is described as a style written without claims of objectivity where reporters involve themselves in the action/subject to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. Thompson was nothing less than a central figure of his stories and his personal life and relationships were just as wild and turbulent as his writing. For example, out of the mirage of articles he wrote for the San Francisco Examiner, his editor David McCumber described his writing as hit-or-miss, saying,
“one week it would be acid-soaked gibberish with a charm of its own. The next week it would be incisive political analysis of the highest order.”
I feel like this quote may represent a shared ground for critics and users of psychedelics to discuss responsible use. Bad trips can happen. Expectations don’t always become concrete realities. There are a plethora of factors influencing the overall experience but mainstream media publications with reputations to protect shy away from discussing them. The sub-topics of marijuana legalization are actually breaking down these images because when a publication promotes their stance, it aligns more readers. If they continue to follow this trend we may begin to see psychedelics enter the responsible use picture.
Do you feel psychedelics are fairly represented in the media? Are there any trends you’ve noticed? Feel free to share in the comments or start a discussion / forum topic in the community section.