Isn’t Trying Psychedelics and Hallucinogens a Part of the College Experience?

 In Addiction, Mental Health

There has been an increasing buzz around the topic of psychedelics in recent years. As a nation, and as young people, we’re curious about them, about their effects, and we wonder whether we’re missing out if we don’t give them a try. 

Many look to psychedelics to experiment with, as they are popular with over 30 million people reported using psychedelics in 2014, as well as due to the potential mind-expanding experiences.

Increasing the temptation, research on using psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes has restarted from the sixties and seems to be trending towards viewing the substances as helpful in the treatment of a variety of mental health disorders. This positive reception has been giving college students and others a means to defend using hallucinogens, but there may be an unbalanced focus on the positive and ignoring other more problematic factors.

Even though interesting research has become available, there are many complexities to psychedelic use and those should be carefully considered. 

Common Myths 

First, the basics: Psychedelics are composed of many different types of compounds within a class of drugs called hallucinogens. Common types are LSD, mescaline, mushrooms, PCP, and MDMA, to name a few. 

Now, the myths:

#1: Research has proven that all psychedelic use can be helpful.

The research community has been making many strides in exploring the effectiveness of psychedelic use, that’s true, but this is in a controlled clinical setting. They are not looking at recreational use. Some of the differences are that in a research trial they are giving participants the pure form of a substance and dosing it correctly. 

What is bought illegally could contain other substances like amphetamines, which could greatly impact the experience and potentially create more risk for addiction. Additionally, there is a possibility that someone may not fully understand how much they have taken, which could increase symptoms of rapid heartbeat, vomiting, or paranoia, to name a few. There is also research that has found that recreational use could exacerbate or create mental difficulties. 

#2: If you have a friend to guide you, then you won’t have a bad trip. 

There is no specific thing that a person can say or do that can take someone out of a bad trip. Due to the effect of hallucinogens, this previously safe person could now be perceived as unsafe or be seen as an adversary. In clinical trials, there is more than one person in a controlled research setting who are trained to assist in this process with protocols and safety measures in place. Even within all of this, people can still have negative experiences from taking a psychedelic.  

#3: There are no dangers to psychedelic use. 

A common concern of psychedelic use is that it lowers the inhibitions of the user. This can lead to increased confidence like trying to jump from too tall of a height or even something like staring at the sun too long and damaging their eyes. It could also increase paranoia and create an urge to run away from a safe place. This all creates the potential for bodily harm and that is not considering the potential that the drug that was ingested was laced with something else, which could create a whole host of other safety concerns. 

#4: Using Psychedelics will help you understand the universe better or heal past wounds. 

Psychedelics are known as drugs that alter one’s perceptions and cognitive processes, which make them potentially desirable to “unlock” certain parts of the self. The concern here is that not all of the information coming in while using is based in reality and could be relatively useless in daily life and could be taken out of context. There is the other potential where a ‘trip’ could produce incredibly emotional or traumatic experiences. If this were to happen, previous wounds could feel even more exposed with no knowledge on how to repair the damage.

 In therapeutic trials, there are often several integration sessions to utilize the information. This is done by people who are specially trained and it is not typical for therapists to be knowledgeable in it and most likely neither are your friends. 

#5: Hallucingentic drugs can’t cause long term problems. 

A potential, though rare consequence, could be developing hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder. This occurs in about 4% of chronic users who will experience flashbacks of their past use while sober. This can be a frightening event and difficult to control. 

There is also the chance of creating an addiction. Even though psychedelics have been found to unlikely to cause physical dependence, it can still be abused which can create addiction. Red flags of abuse are: ignoring responsibilities, spending significant time in drug-related activities, mixing substances, continued use despite negative life impacts, and reckless behavior like driving a car while under the influence. 

Why Would Someone Want to Use? 

Many people might be curious about hallucinogens for a multitude of well-meaning reasons. There can be a desire to access a higher self, to develop more awareness and insight into their strengths or troubles. There could also be the need to feel more connected to others, ourselves, and the world. Also, with the research coming out, people also may be interested in pursuing self-healing for depression, trauma, or anxiety. This could potentially be more damaging instead of helpful though. 

Currently, psychedelic psychotherapy is only being used in limited research trials and is in the early stages. It will likely be a long time before this treatment is accessible to the general public, so there is a need to explore other avenues to build self-knowledge, connection, and healing.  

Here are some ways to explore the inner self and promote healing in sobriety: 

 

  • Meditation and Breathing Exercises

 

How much time are you taking to check in to your body and mind on a daily basis? Spending time tuning into the body and mind can allow things to rise up to be addressed and gives more opportunities to relax. 

 

  • Creative Expression

 

Some things are difficult to say in words. Spending time drawing, writing, painting, molding, or using any other medium could provide space to communicate feelings and create something new in the world. 

 

  • Sensory Deprivation Tanks

 

You might be craving a new experience to try. There are many different things that could offer something new, like going to a deprivation tank and seeing how that affects you. This could also be going to a sound bath, hot yoga, or an experiential group to help access different parts of awareness and sensation. 

 

  • Being in Nature

 

Taking in the view of the forest, ocean, or mountains can help be a reminder of how small we are in the world. Mindfully looking at the colors of the leaves or sky can give space to be grateful and connected to our world. 

 

  • Spending Quality Time with Others

 

As people, we crave relationships with others.  If isolation or loneliness is contributing to wanting to use, try to see if you can deepen the conversation and be more vulnerable with your friend circles. 

 

  • Going to Therapy

 

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties, counseling is effective for many people. This provides a safe way to explore your inner world and past traumas with a trusted professional. 

The college years are focused on curiosity and exploration, which for some involves drug experimentation. However, this doesn’t mean that there are not great risks that come alongside these substances that should be carefully be considered, especially regarding the social, legal, and other potentials for a negative experience or for addiction to develop. 

If you are looking for healing from your past, there are other, more effective ways of unlocking the pain inside. Call us today to learn more about diving into your inner world, and launching back into your life. 

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