Science | Mescaline: A Neglected Tool for Psychotherapy
Sam Woolfe looks at the unique characteristics and therapeutic potential of mescaline.
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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 Chemical Collective or any associated parties. Always practice good set and setting when exploring any psychedelic compounds. We have a fantastic article looking into this subject you can read here.
Out at a club with my friends one night, a guy approached me and hugged me like we were best mates. It was one of those awkward moments where I didn’t recognise him or know his name so I fumbled through the conversation trying to search my brain for how we knew each other. Apparently, he was at a party at my flat and we had indulged in a particularly debaucherous weekend. He mentions us staying up for two days, taking lines of coke the length of my kitchen table and drinking ‘cocktails’ (we’ll come back to this later).
I felt bad because the guy obviously viewed it as a particularly memorable night, but to me, it just sounded like every weekend at my flat, and I still couldn’t place the guy. I felt terrible. This exact scenario happened to me quite regularly to differing degrees, and more and more it made me realise that my twenties were basically a complete blur. Even when talking with close friends, when they asked me about the events of a particular night when we were at a particular club or partying in mine, I could never attribute anything to an individual night – my memories of socialising just felt like one big, endless sprawl of narcotic fueled madness.
Cocaine had become an almost constant presence in my life. I was taking it every weekend without fail – Friday to Sunday, but it had started to bleed into weekdays as well. It was becoming easier to count the days I wasn’t on it than the days I was. The weekends didn’t consist of regular recreational use either – it was outrageously excessive.
Taking down an ounce in one sitting was becoming a regular occurrence. While we had access to extremely high-grade coke, I would take almost anything that was going. My best mate and partner in crime would show up every Friday after work. We would order a huge rock and proceed to get wired and chain smoke in my kitchen for hours and hours. Other folk would come and go. When the clubs came out at 3 am my phone would start blowing up and more often than not, my flat would end up packed to the gills with party people.
LSD had made its way onto the roster of substances we were using, but predictably, it was just another party drug at this point. Often, I was waiting until the early hours of the morning, when the coke and pills weren’t hitting the spot anymore and acid was a way to shake up the party and start a new chapter of madness – I did notice something different about the psychedelic experience though. It seemed to be more enjoyable when the crowds dispersed and my core group of close friends remained. However, it would be a long time before I really appreciated the significance of this particular aspect of the acid experience.
For the most part, it was business as usual. Cocaine was the constant among many variables but I had made a dangerous discovery. I realised that using benzos and opiates the day after coke allowed me to maintain a degree of normality in my day to day life but instead of using them as just a crutch, I had the mindset that as long as I had unlimited access to downers, I could use coke anytime and essentially cancel out the debilitating comedowns as long as I had pharmaceuticals. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly dangerous and unsustainable game. On more than one occasion, my partner found me passed out on the floor in a rubber and incoherent state. The cracks were starting to show.
On top of this, benzos and opiates are both highly addictive classes of drugs in and of themselves, so on the rare occasions when I didn’t have access to these, I became a depressed and erratic mess. Eventually, I went to the doctors and was prescribed antidepressants and while these did level me out in a certain respect, my consumption of other drugs didn’t slow down. The escapism was too addictive.
My house had become a full-blown circus at the weekends. People would just turn up expecting a party and they were rarely disappointed. The powder was flowing and the techno was blasting from Friday to Sunday without fail. At one point, my best mate and I calculated the money we were spending on drugs and the numbers were frightening. My best mate (who’s insane blackhat skills were bankrolling much of the insanity we were engaged in) took us to Ibiza for four days and we spent close to £10k on drugs over that weekend alone. Of course we laughed about this like it was some sort of point of pride when in reality it was just insane excess. I fell asleep after 48 hours of non-stop partying that weekend and he loaded a gram of coke into a straw and blew it up my nose. I shot up like a bolt, thanked him for his assistance and we continued to party.
By the end of that weekend, I felt like I was going to die, but it didn’t slow me down. Old habits are hard to break and the madness just continued when we got back home. Weekend after weekend. Part of me was definitely starting to become concerned at this point but, as sad as it is to admit, I had a reputation to maintain, and this was a strong driver to keep it going. My job and relationships were no longer immune to the aftermath though, but this still wasn’t enough to make me apply the brakes. It was pedal to the metal every Friday just as before. My brother once said to me and my best mate that he thought we possibly had the worst coke habit in Britain – this was coming from a man who ran his own club and was absolutely no stranger to drugs himself. While he probably wasn’t fully serious, he was genuinely shocked by the intake that was happening. Once again though, this became something to laugh about rather than the stark warning it should have been.
I ended up in hospital with a lung abscess and spent two weeks in the respiratory ward surrounded by people gasping for breath and losing their lives. I was the youngest patient there by thirty years. The staff asked me repeatedly if I was using drugs intravenously – which I wasn’t – but they had never seen someone my age who wasn’t injecting drugs with such a serious self-inflicted internal infection. You would think this at least would have been a catalyst for change but sadly it wasn’t. The day I was released I was hitting buckets (gravity bongs) and the following weekend, a half-ounce of coke was being cut out on my kitchen table. On it went. On and on and on…
Something did eventually change. I got sick of my house being full of strangers every weekend. I was not ignorant to the fact that I was being used but it never bothered me before to be honest. I instigated a new rule when we were partying – if anyone brought any kind of bad vibe into the party, they were asked to leave immediately. This significantly reduced the number of bodies in attendance every week but as an unintended side effect, we started taking more acid – a close-knit group reemerged and we all felt safer and more at ease which meant we were willing to go psychedelic more often. Depressingly, I was still taking coke most of the time – anyone who’s mixed these drugs knows that they have the opposite of what you might call synergy. To be honest, I didn’t even enjoy cocaine all that much anymore, it was just always there.
Then, a new drug crossed my path, something that would literally (eventually) change my life – N,N Dimethyltryptamine. The mind-blowing nature of the drug was something I had never before experienced, even on high doses of acid. It was just in another league. I started to experiment with it heavily and noticed something changing within me. I stopped taking coke on nights where I knew I would be smoking DMT (mainly because it dampened the trip) but this was pretty groundbreaking for me. Don’t get me wrong, I was nowhere near a point where I was in control of my coke habit but for the first time in years, I was saying no to lines, and as trivial as it sounds, that felt like a big step.
I was utterly fascinated by DMT. The rapid onset, the feeling of shifting to a different reality, the beautiful tranquillity of the afterglow. It just grabbed me. Every day I found myself thinking about it and planning my next trip. At this point I had experienced the feeling of separation from my body and the hyperdimensional visuals and I was sure for months that I had already experienced a full breakthrough, but I was wrong. I was very wrong.
DMT had started to shake my core beliefs. I was a staunch atheist and strongly believed humans were nothing more than temporary beings, imbued with higher-level consciousness only by the grace of fortunate evolution and nothing more. My trips were changing that. I started to feel like there was more to reality than I had assumed and that the DMT molecule, and the experience it facilitated, could not be a fluke. It felt like something divine, predetermined and placed here waiting for us to discover it. This of course implies the existence of a higher power – and that was something I was not positioned to accept – yet. It certainly gave me plenty to think about. One of the remarkable things about DMT is that, just when you think you’ve gone as far as you can go, you discover a deeper level to blow your mind anew.
Now I may have been reckless with drugs in general, but I was at least well informed. I always spent time reading about the substances I was taking, but DMT took this to a new level. I was spending every spare minute reading trip reports and researching different methods for smoking the spice. My reading brought me to learn about a routine to ensure powerful breakthroughs consistently and I decided I had to try the method. The results were insane.
It was a simple technique. Load 100mg into a pipe sandwiched between herbs or ash (I know this amount is excessive but the theory is that contact with a flame will always destroy some product) light up and take the biggest draw possible. Hold for 7 seconds. Repeat two more times. I ultimately perfected this routine and the outcome was dramatic.
The first time I pulled it off was my most memorable trip. By the time I exhaled the second puff, the world erupted. Everything in the room burst into invisible flames, the rapidity of the onset shocked me. I felt the vibrational force that had gently pulled my awareness from my body in previous trips, but infinitely more intense this time. It was hard to take the third puff as I could barely see the pipe and my throat was on fire, but I forced myself and inhaled with all my breath. I don’t remember exhaling. Luckily my trip sitter was there to take the pipe off me and guide me onto the bed.
Now I am going to describe this trip but the words I’ve used are an approximation at best. The details of the experience are so otherworldly and abstract that I don’t have the language skills to accurately report how weird it actually was.
The vibrational force yanked me from my body and I was blasted through a kaleidoscopic tunnel, surrounded by swirling glyphs and glowing symbols, accelerating so quickly I couldn’t take in a single frame. I realised there was no body feeling associated with this – because I no longer had one. I was a single point of disembodied consciousness flying through hyperspace. I emerged into an unfathomably massive cosmic cathedral and my motion slowed to a leisurely drift. Shifting columns and mesh domes, constructed of morphing green crystal formed a fractal pyramid that folded and collapsed on itself while simultaneously growing. It was both stunningly beautiful and mesmerising.
Then my perspective shifted. Suddenly I was inside the structure and I was some kind of machine. The pyramid was inhabited by green slug-like entities and the machine I had become their provider of sustenance. As they fed from the nozzles that were part of my being, I felt myself providing nourishment to the community and felt an overwhelming sense of purpose and pride in this task.
Then I shifted again and became one of the slug entities. After ‘eating’ I excreted a green crystalline goo which I used to construct new beams and columns in our habitat. Again a divine sense of purpose and usefulness overcame me. Then I became the habitat itself and felt a powerful parental protectiveness over the community I held in my structure. I know how insane this sounds but my words are not doing justice to how much more bizarre and profound this actually was. Now, conventional measures of time like minutes and hours are meaningless in the DMT realm but it felt like I had been there for a long time. Many more shifts took place where I literally became other entities and objects but I can’t even begin to articulate these parts. It was just too strange and abstract.
When I came back I was speechless. Literally. I couldn’t say a word for several minutes and my sitter was slightly worried. I wasn’t traumatised or anything, I just couldn’t believe how ‘real’ the experience was. The word real was starting to lose all meaning, to be honest.
Things began to change after this trip. More and more I found myself refusing lines of coke when offered. Certain triggers were still undeniable. Events like weddings and going to clubs were still always awash with powder but I was starting to gain more control and I was starting to question everything around me. I now realised that everyday waking life was just one aspect of reality. There was more to be discovered. Much more. This fact alone added new meaning to life.
Many people speak of finding answers in psychedelic trips, but in my experience, they actually brought up more questions than anything else. However, the pursuit of satisfying these questions did bring a certain feeling of enlightenment. Not in the Buddhist, we-are-all-one sense, but about the inner workings of my own psyche. Something about that last trip really stuck with me. The sense of purpose I had felt being a functioning, contributing member of an ecosystem (as bizarre as the whole thing had been) played on my mind daily. I wanted that feeling in my own life, and I knew that hammering cocaine every weekend was not going to lead me there.
I had broken the back of my addiction but full control was a long way off. Over the course of the last few months, I had come to the certain conclusion that psychedelics were far more than party supplements – they had the power to bring about change. Not, as you’d expect, through the power of their own dramatic effects, but in the endeavour to integrate what was experienced. In other words, the compounds showed you things, but change came from reflecting on and integrating the experience. The hard work started after the trip itself.
For the first time, I started tripping with my partner – just the two of us. This became our favourite ‘date night’ activity. We would go for dinner, get tipsy then come back home and drop tabs together. Not only was the sex mind-blowing, but we also found our connection deepening with each trip. We would laugh, cry and everything in between. We would discuss things that were holding our relationship back, with none of the resentment and defensiveness that would be present in a sober state of mind. To this day, we often trip together, sometimes lying in the garden beside a fire until the sun comes up. As cliche as it sounds, it’s always magical and continues to strengthen our relationship.
My belief that psychedelics were powerful tools to heal and enhance human consciousness was now rock solid. I became one of those annoying people who talked about psychs all the time and promoted their use to anyone who would listen – and many did.
At this point, I started to feel my depression lifting on some days. I no longer felt the need to escape my normal mindset every chance I had. There was lots of work to do, but I was ready for it and felt better equipped to tackle my issues than I ever had. Change was hard, but I no longer wanted to run away from it. I was ready to face it.
This is part two of three-part series on Dev’s experiences with drugs, addiction and self-development. The final article in the series will be added in the coming weeks.
Dev | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective
Dev 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 Matt via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Woolfe looks at the unique characteristics and therapeutic potential of mescaline.
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