Hallucinogens are a varied group of psychoactive substances, which can produce subjective changes in the sensory perception, mood, emotions and thought process. These substances heighten the sensory perception and induce highfalutin perceptions that are diametrically different from those of ordinary consciousness. Apart from being synthesized in the laboratories by chemicals, these are usually derived from plants, cacti, fungi, mushrooms and animals.
What pushes the press button?
In the brainstem, the most primitive part of the brain, lie clusters of serotonin neurons. Serotonin produces an inhibitory effect on nervous system that calms, soothes and produces feelings of general satisfaction. Hallucinogens are thought to interact with the serotonin system, which interferes with neuro-sensory inhibitory systems resulting in perceptual alterations. Though the exact mechanism of action of hallucinogens is yet to be discovered; it seems evident that neurotransmitter system plays an important role in causing their effects.
They exist since time immortal:
Hallucinogens have been widely used for experiencing out-of-the-body realization and transpersonal stages. They are also used in psychedelic psychotherapy, entheological practices and in achieving the state of suspended animation. A lot of evidence exists for their use since prehistoric times, including Ancient Egyptian, Vedic, Ancient Greek, Maya, Inca and Mycenaean cultures. They are often abused by virtue of their properties which induce the numb spells of bizarre befuddlement, the state of drowsy delirium and the flashy trance of fixed daze.
Popular Players And Their Trivia
- In the 16th century, it was described as the work of devils by Christian missionaries.
- It’s use in the tea form has been popularized by many prominent figures viz. Chilean novelist Isabel Allende, author Jeremy Narby, author Wade Davis and radio personality Robin Quivers to name a few.
- The dark-red resin of the medium sized tree bark is refined and the snuff is blown directly into the nostrils through a hollow tube to experience the psychedelic effects.
- Popularly called as ‘Beach Moonflower’ or ‘Sea Moonflower’
- Its flowers open their petals only at night.
- The grounded seeds are used to make an infusion, which is used to induce a numb trance helpful in communicating with spirits for the purpose of divination and diagnosis, as is claimed by the users.
- Extracted from the yellow flowers of a perennial tree with thorny bark, and known to cause delirious flight of thoughts, often lasting many days.
- A well known source of dietary calcium
- Its wood is having extreme tensile strength and used for making good quality furniture
- Apart from having an enviable hallucinogenic reputation, this substance has been used for many medical purposes by local population viz. diabetes, asthma, blindness, neurasthenia and rheumatism since ages.
- It’s topical application enhances milk production in lactating females
- It is known to be fatal to deadly strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a microbe with extreme toxicity
- Jim Morrison, the legend of rock music, was known to experiment with peyote
- While working as a night watchman at a psychiatry ward, Ken Kesey was inspired by peyote to pen down his award winning novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
- First referred in ancient ‘Atharvaveda’ (Holy literature of ancient Indian folklore, focusing on healing processes and powers) between 2000 and 1400 BC, as the divine food
- Consumed in various preparations by masses in one of the most popular festivals of India, Holi
- Cannabis is offered to Lord Shiva, the protector of universe according to Hindu mythology, in temples. Followers of Lord Shiva frequently smoke cannabis extract mixed with tobacco leaves and consume sweet milk laced with cannabis resin.
- Also called as Diviner’s Sage or Seers’ Sage
- Known to cause vision of two dimensional membranes and thin, hollow films
- Synesthetic experiences such as glossolalia (speaking in tongues) have frequently been noticed with its usage
- Masis claimed in 2007 that if rats are given options of free cocaine and free salvia, they would stop taking cocaine.
(8) Atropa belladona:
- Also called as Devil’s Berries and Death Cherries
- Belladonna in Italian means beautiful woman. Drops prepared from belladona plant were used by ancient females to dilate their pupils, which was considered a sign of divine beauty
- In the ancient Roman era, this was used as a poison and the legend goes that the wife of Emperor Augustus and the wife of Claudius used it to kill their enemies
- Also called as ‘Stinking Nightshade’ and thousands of cattle have known to die after consuming its falling leaves in early 1960s.
- The popularity of Henbane witnesed a phenomenal rise when celebrity chef Antony Thompson recommended Henbane as a tasty addition to salads, in 2008. This was done erratically and soon apologies followed along with an urgent message stating that Henbane is a highly toxic plant and should never be consumed in any form
- The small green fruit of Datura plant is offered to Lord Shiva in temples and various religious rituals in Hinduism.
- The demand of Datura fruits during Mahashivratri (a Hindu festival marking the marriage day of Lord Shiva) escalates so high that is sold in exorbitant prices.
- In the town of Jamestown, Virginia, British soldiers were drugged by Datura by United States soldiers while attempting to suppress Bacon’s rebellion. Since then this plant was rechristened as Jamestown weed.
- They have a history that dates back as far as about a million years ago, originating in East Africa.
- Archeological evidence in the form of many rock paintings featuring hallucinogenic mushrooms reinforce the belief that they were ubiquitously used those days
- Apart from providing tumultuous trance and delirious experiences, they are known to cause visualization of a particular color upon hearing a particular sound
- Known to induce neuroplasticity (neuronal change that typically occurs in response to a stimulus, be it a hormone, environmental cue or behavior) by their action on neuronal arrays.
(12) Psychoactive toads:
- Certain toads contain psychoactive substances in their poison glands, located under their chins.
- It is claimed that in 1970s, group of hippies used to lick these toads to experience visual and auditory hallucinations.
- Reportedly, in Australia, where these toads form a large part of fauna, some dogs keep on licking the toads for extra sensory pleasure
The drug for cream of the crop:
Various cult figures have admitted using hallucinogens to get a creative high. Syd Barrett, the lead guitarist and vocalist of legendary rock band, Pink Floyd, used to experiment a lot with LSD. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix are known to experience the transcendental trance by using the hallucinogens. Some high-flying members of the society viz. Aldous Huxley, Allan Ginsberg, Timothy Leary actively advocated the use of LSD and related hallucinogens among intellectuals and artists. Though no concrete evidence exists, the sayings suggest that Osho (Acharya Rajnish, an Indian spiritual guru with international following) used to encourage the use of hallucinogens in his ashram at Pune, India.
Like it or hate it; it all lies in your choice:
In 1966, Meher Baba, an Indian mystic and spiritual master, spoke out strongly against the illicit use of hallucinogens in a pamphlet named ‘God in a pill?’ saying they were harmful mentally, physically and spiritually. In India, various pilgrimages and shrines are inhabited by saints and priests who frequently use hallucinogenic agents to achieve an altered state of mind, and to be able to communicate with divine powers. Though governments of virtually all the countries have unanimously banned the experimental usage of these agents; the truth is that they are used with the consent of local population in accordance with the prevailing customs and beliefs.
Can hallucinogens fix the mind?
- MDMA, an active content of many potent hallucinogens, is being investigated as a possible adjunct to psychotherapy for Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in people who did not benefit from available PTSD treatments.
- In Switzerland, clinical studies are going on to see if a moderately large dose of LSD (200 mcg) is more helpful as part of psychotherapy for patients with life-threatening illnesses than a lower dose (20 mcg).
- A synthetic form of the active chemical in marijuana, THC, has been approved for prescription use by cancer patients who suffer from severe nausea after receiving chemotherapy.
- Though meticulous research into possible therapeutic values of hallucinogens has been there since long time, the only published pilot study so far is one that showed that Psilocybin could be safely given to those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and showed trends for improvement of symptoms.