In honor of LSD Day (November 16, the day LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann), this week’s episode is all about LSD and the psychedelic experience.
There’s not much about the psychedelic experience that Dr. Fadiman hasn’t seen or heard about. The shifts and insights that psychedelics can bring are truly incredible. While there are other ways to achieve the same shifts in worldview, it’s not the same experience.
Here’s why psychedelics aren’t just a hippy phenomenon.
The Psychedelic Experience
Dr. Fadiman likes to talk about the entire psychedelic experience, not just the psychedelic drug. The experience includes the drug, your intention in taking it, the people around you, your guide, and set and setting.
Set and setting is the atmosphere in which in you take a drug and how you’re feeling about it. It’s there when you take any drug, but particularly matters for psychedelics. Feeling personally safe and being in a safe environment is essential for an enjoyable trip.
Dr. Fadiman compares psychedelic experiences to flying a plane. They are incredibly safe if you know what you’re doing, but can be unsafe if you don’t. Also like planes, they can take you places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.
Psychedelic guides are someone who is there to help the person experiencing psychedelics. A guide should be sober, because their entire purpose is to support the person on the trip.
There are a few reasons Dr. Fadiman is a fan of guided trips. The first is safety: the guide is like a designated driver and is there to help if anything goes wrong. If the person on the trip starts getting frightened, a guide can help them remember that they’re hallucinating and nothing bad is actually happening.
Guides can also help you remember if you wanted to explore particular thoughts or feelings during the trip. Otherwise you run the risk of getting stuck watching the water in the toilet bowl swirl around.
There’s no one right way to experience psychedelics. Exploring psychedelics on your own, with a guide, and with a shaman are all valid, although different, ways of approaching the situation.
The amount of LSD you’ll want to experiment with depends on your intention. What do you want to get out of the experience? Do you want to travel through time and space, or just feel more creative? *Remember: Doses of LSD are incredibly small. We’re talking micrograms, not milligrams.
- 400 micrograms: Take this amount if you’re interested in a spiritual or mystical experience. If you’re taking this much, you really need a sober person with you to guide and support you.
- 200 micrograms: This amount is perfect for personal exploration and uncovering deeper insights about your inner workings.
- 100 micrograms: A healthy dose for working on scientific and creative problems. You’ll still be able to focus on hard science, but your mind will be open to outside the box solutions.
- 50 micrograms: This is a “museum” or “concert” dose. The name says it all. This is the right dose to have a good time, enjoy audio or visual stimuli, and avoid getting caught in a negative emotional space.
- 10 micrograms: This is a microdose. It’s sub-perceptual, meaning there’s no obvious visual effects. The world looks the same, but clearer, like when you get a new eyeglass prescription. Your overall functional capacity is slightly enhanced. Most people report that it helps them feel better and are able to handle more difficult situations.
Don’t Take LSD If…
The thing about any substance is that if you give it to enough people it’s going to be bad for someone. LSD and other psychedelics are not suitable for people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. For a successful psychedelic experience, you need a solid sense of ego, and those disorders affect the sense of self.
However, LSD and other psychedelics are generally safe for people with depression.
The dose may be small, but the benefits are pretty impressive. From the first dose, your overall functional capacity is slightly enhanced. Most people report that it helps them feel better and are able to handle more difficult situations.
Microdosing once every four days for a month can bring overall health benefits. People report that they are eating healthier, exercising more, and practicing yoga, without any application of willpower. It’s as if your body starts getting more votes in making decisions. Some women have even reported that their periods are less painful.
Is this all placebo? Dr. Fadiman says it doesn’t really matter when we consider that placebo could also be called the body’s “natural healing response,” since it actually does change things.
- Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, by Dr. James Fadiman
- The Doors of Perception, by Aldous Huxley. Dr. Fadiman recommends reading this description of Huxley’s psychedelic experiences before your first so you have some idea of what to expect.
- A Brief History of Microdosing, a Vice article with Dr. Fadiman
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