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SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS: PART TWO – Understanding the Effects

simon-jonsson

By Simon Jonsson

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS
in this article
  • STAGES OF THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE
  • EFFECTS OF PSYCHEDELICS
  • PSYCHEDELICS AND THE UNCONSCIOUS
  • PSYCHEDELICS AND SPIRITUALITY
  • AFTER THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE
  • YOU DO NOT NEED PSYCHEDELICS
  • PSYCHEDELICS WILL NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE
simon-jonsson

By Simon Jonsson

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

READ PART ONE

STAGES OF THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS

Onset

The onset will likely be around 30-50 minutes after which ther effects will likely come on pretty fast. If the onset is longer than expected it is never a good idea to take another dose. Partly because it can hit fully later, especially if you have a slow metabolism, but also because many substances will have a short-term tolerance that render second doses largely ineffective.

Peak

After this for about one hour the experience will peak. The peak will be by far the most intense part of the trip. Likely here we will go through the most significant illusions and emotional tumult. During the peak the sensory overload will likely be a bit more overwhelming than one asks for, but eventually this passes. It is during the peak that we are outside of our comfort zone and it is here that a lot of change can happen. We get access to these high potential and high demand alternate states of consciousness, but we do not need to be there for the entirety of the experience. In the peak we can lose time, language and our ego completely. This is scary but promotes the sensation of rebirth. 

Plateau

If you should remember anything during your experience, remember that the peak will pass. After this hour or so of intense psychedelic journeying the effects plateau and the experience becomes much more manageable. Most likely this later part of the experience will be much more enjoyable. When the experience plateaus it is a good idea to reflect on what happened during the peak, as it is often so different from regular mental processing that it is easily forgotten.

EFFECTS OF PSYCHEDELICS

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS

Distortions of mental time 

The easiest way to describe the effects of psychedelics is that they remove sensory filters, or that they are nonspecific catalysts and amplifiers. We become through this process unable to filter out sounds, tastes, smells, visuals, touch and proprioception. This usually also means that the trip will have a component of infinity, of being outside time, since what we are experiencing right now is so immense. The result is that the whole experience will feel very long, one minute can feel as long as an hour, and certain moments can exist as if outside time completely. 

Emotional processing

Emotions similarly will not be easy to filter out. We may for example re-experience some memory over and over, and simply be unable to inhibit the associated feeling even though the event may have taken place decades ago. The way to cope with these types of experiences is to open one’s mind, to surrender to it and see whether some deeper truth about this memory or emotional discord is revealed to us. This type of direct emotional processing is how much of the healing in the psychedelic experience actually happens, and ignoring or fighting it is one of the main reasons that people end up having bad trips. 

It is mainly difficult for people since we do not choose it, we can not escape it, and it may be very different from the fairytale rainbowland we have been expecting. The truth is that, if confronted properly, these types of processes only take about as long as they would in a normal sober state. With distorted mental time however, they may feel much longer, they may feel as if they have no end. If we assume that there is no answer, that we are being cruelly victimized into feeling this way, yes, we are entering hell. If we accept that this feeling exists, we observe it, try to learn about it, from it, we are able to process deep emotional patterns and traumatic experiences, and liberate ourselves from them forever. Especially when we are first discovering these states, chances are that the emotional component will be substantial. It is through diving deep into the emotions that constantly accompany us that we can truly process them and move on, it is through running away from them that they continue to rule our lives. Here we cannot run any longer, and this is a central component to why magnification of emotions leads to such therapeutic progress. With each layer we manage to peel, we will find another one, and although we may never reach the end, we will come closer to peace, truth and self-love. 

Sensory overload

Enjoyment of the trip comes from different ways of utilizing this increased sensory sensitivity. The psychedelic state doesn’t have to involve any emotional processing at all, it can simply be a platform for enjoying music, food or a bubble bath. To improve the conditions for a good trip we need to do what we can to ensure that the sensory experience that is being overloaded is as pleasurable as possible. 

The more experience I have with these substances, the more I believe that the sensory overload and emotional processing really is possible to regulate but that it requires a conscious control of these mechanisms. This is a skill that takes time to develop. It is also something that depends a lot on the person and the substance. The possibility to exercise control in this is coupled with inner calm and mental equanimity. 

Loss of ego

Most of us will comfortably assume that we are right about most things, and that we have a good grasp on life. Sorry to break it to you but you do not. The question is: are you able to accept a new reality where a large number of things you believe are revealed to be false? Will you accept a mirror image truth about yourself or will you look away? 

Many will warn about psychosis or bad trips, but this is really not the true danger. Yes, if you are prone to paranoia, delusion, if you are bipolar or schizophrenic, do not use these substances. You can perform a psychosis-spectrum test here. However, the most prevalent danger is the stress found in not being able to accept a new reality, that you will not want to follow through on this deeply overwhelming experience and want out. Sorry, there is no out. The ego wants control: you do not have it. Embracing and surrender is the mantra. Focus on your breath. Try to physically relax. Remember that it is, like everything, a passing experience.

Try to be present and try to connect to your own unconditional love. 

Other than this risk, losing one’s ego is a great thing and for some it will be as easy as removing a hat. It is extremely helpful in life and it is a great way to learn true self-awareness. It is a way to be perpetually content. It is the key to grasping innumerable things that otherwise will be impossible to understand. People may argue with me about this, but I believe that losing one’s ego is the only way to be happy, it is shedding desire and realizing that we do not need anything. Living this truth is the only way to experience happiness that is more than a momentary relief. 

Losing language

One confusing and potentially scary situation that can arise is that the relationship between experience and language may not be immediate or simply be lost completely. This is the type of situation which may prompt one to believe that something has gone wrong but it is no reason to panic. The experience itself is beyond language. In the most overwhelming parts of it hence, it may not function.

PSYCHEDELICS AND THE UNCONSCIOUS

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS

One persistent myth about the psychedelic experience is that it involves hallucination and delusion. This can happen but it is really very rare. I would like to be very clear about the language I use here. When I write illusion I mean perception being bent, stronger colors, tracers, thinking the doorbell sounds like a piano. This will be commonplace. When I write hallucination I mean the experience of something that is not there, meaning the dog speaking, a face in the distance, a snake hissing in the bathroom. With hallucinations you can understand that it is not really happening, and they likely only persist for a short amount of time until this settles in. Hallucinations will most likely not occur but may happen in the peak if you are more prone to these types of experiences. 

Delusion is seeing and believing, meaning having the experience that something really is happening when it is not.

Tying your shoelaces without shoes on your feet, talking to entities, someone being possessed by demons, feeling intestinal parasites, hearing the voice of an angel. Delusions only really happen with astronomical doses or specific substances such as Datura. If you have them otherwise you probably have to accept that you are prone to psychosis or other potential detrimental effects of psychedelics and should not take them. 

What happens in these moments is that we encounter the unconscious in various forms, usually in the shape of thoughts, memories, intangible feelings or emotions without a clear context, but also in different kinds of seemingly external imagery and imaginary apparitions. Often this leads people to the feeling that they are being transmitted information, that they encounter spirits or have telepathy. While I am not dismissing the possibility that this can happen, the most useful approach to understanding these aspects of the experience are as encounters with our own mind, and to accept that they are no more dangerous than that. They are often externalized, take the form of objects or other beings, because these aspects of our mind are not integrated with the conscious. Learning to interpret the language of the unconscious mind can be a very valuable tool when investigating ourselves. There is no easy way to do this, but Carl Gustav Jung is a good place to start.

PSYCHEDELICS AND SPIRITUALITY

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS

How do we prepare ourselves for spiritual experience? The psychedelic experience can, for better or for worse, shake us to the core with what it shows us, and the only real way to prepare for it is to have extra time associated with the trip. The experience may be a true rebirth, where we literally from one day to the other feel like a completely new person, and we may never identify with that old self ever again. A milder variety may feel like a reboot of the computer of our mind, and even a soft rebirth can be incredibly valuable to us.

If you land from a trip with some major change in mind, like breaking up with someone or quitting your job, I recommend that you give it a month or so before you go through with the decision. While many insights will be valuable, it should be understood that these substances also amplify the perceived value of the insight, and the unfortunate truth is that many of them will not stand the test of time. 

We may seriously face our demons when we use psychedelics. This means that we can use this to reach that pivotal moment when we make the change that may have been coming for ages. We may see the consequences of our actions much more clearly. This is part of why psychedelics are so effective to treat addiction. These treatments reach effectiveness with proper integration technique and associated therapeutic practice.

AFTER THE PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE

Integration 

Integration is the most overlooked aspect of the psychedelic experience and you can find a good scientific write-up of this topic here. 

I started this blog by writing that: It is you who does the healing in the end.

As a general rule this is true, but there is also a sense in which you do not do this healing at all. What I mean by that is that you are using something external, a tool, to achieve a certain outcome, and while it may have good results, chances are that you have no idea how to achieve this outcome without the tool, and that much of the progress achieved during the experience will gradually regress. 

Self Improvement

The best recommendation I can give for this is to include psychedelics within a larger framework of self-improvement where you continuously evaluate its impact, especially in relation to your intentions for using it. I recommend for anyone interested in the regular use of these substances to read my article on “The importance of Ceremony in the Psychedelic Experience”.

YOU DO NOT NEED PSYCHEDELICS

It is naturally not easy to follow all of the above advice. If we want to increase safety these tips aid in that. These substances should always be approached with caution and hence I will come back to my original point: If you have doubts, do not take them. You do not need these substances. They can be fun. Other things are also fun. They may help you, they may not. Other things can help you as well. The only real advantage is that they facilitate, that they can make things happen faster. That means that a lot happens at once, and hence the whole process is more fragile and volatile than committed traditional therapy or deep meditation practice. 

It also takes less commitment than actually changing in life, this may seem like an advantage but it really is more of a problem than anything. Without that same commitment to change, the change is unlikely to consolidate, and the whole thing may distract from actually making real changes. This is one of the most central problems with regular use of psychedelics.

PSYCHEDELICS WILL NOT CHANGE YOUR LIFE

SAFE USE OF PSYCHEDELICS

Psychedelics can only give perspective, these substances are not shortcuts to change your life. Only you can do that. For that you don’t need anything more than commitment. If you are able to commit to the concepts above you are likely capable of this type of change without the substance. If you are not able to do that, perhaps this is where you should start. I am not trying to be cute, what I am saying is that without commitment this is just going to feel like change, it won’t be actual change, and if you have the commitment it takes to change with the experience you most likely can achieve the change without it as well.

The unfortunate truth about our problems is that we most often choose to live with them, and hence we won’t change unless we truly want change, and if this battle is won the change is already present.

Simon J | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective

Simon is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to David via email at blog@chemical-collective.com

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maniorson
10 months ago

really good informations

Foz1981
11 months ago

Really good article with plenty of helpful pointers and insights. The last peak experience I had was quite challenging. Even with a good set and setting emotional turbulence can be tricky to deal with. Once I started to plateau though I had a really positive day.

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