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Dave King


A Quick Introduction.

A Definition ..

Medical Safety ...

An Anthropological History ..

Legality ...

Photos .

Medical Use

Chemistry .

The Psychedelic Experience .


Bibliography and Further Reading..












I first wrote this booklet for my family and friends as a de-stigmatiser and to
supply a short summary of psychedelic knowledge. It is not at all academic; it
is completely unreferenced, very personal, and probably infringes copyright
laws at a dangerous frequency. After numerous requests I am now, finally,
uploading it to the internet. Should any claims in this work provoke curiosity,
cynicism or outright indignation, please contact me for references at dk85[at] A second version is in the works, and should be much more

I plan to go into the field of ethnopharmacology, following my current degree
in Anthropology, my planned masters in Pharmacognosy and doctorate in the
aforementioned specialism. Part of the research that I aspire to do will involve
extensive, academic research into the class of hallucinogens a most
interesting group of compounds.

There is, unfortunately, a great deal of stigma associated with these
substances, and all too often they are grouped alongside more dangerous
intoxicants such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine; both by law and
by the rather all inclusive label of drugs . There is a prevailing opinion that
hallucinogens pose a danger to both body and mind, individual and society. It
is rare, for instance, that I find somebody who knows that in the 1940s and the
1950s, hallucinogens were widely used in a medical setting therapeutically,
and that they were integral to a massive advance in understanding of and in

the fields of psychiatry, psychotherapy and psychopharmacology during this
time. It is rare also that people are aware that the banning of hallucinogens in
the early 1970s was against the advice of almost every doctor in the relevant
fields, without any scientific evidence, and in response to a public outcry
propagated by a string of media claims that were either based on poor
research or were fabricated completely. It is incredible to read some of these
articles ( and to my mind a far greater crime to knowingly publish something,
manifestly influential and erroneous, to further one s own celebrity or bank
balance - especially when medical and therapeutic avenues suffer as a
consequence- than it can be to responsibly administer anything to one s own
body ) and to appreciate that they were actually printed. It is also uncommon
to find people aware of the rather interesting fact that many of the classic plant
hallucinogens have been utilised by both man and animals since pre-history.
From the Ancient Greeks to the Mayans, across every continent and
throughout time, hallucinogens have been considered sacred gateways to
spiritual realms.

I take some offence to any published work that criticises or praises anything,
regardless of content or my personal opinion, if it is an argument unsupported
by reason, research, science or logic. This semi-excludes the critique of art
and literature which cannot be entirely scientific, but in a similar fashion there
are few people who would rate a book review of someone who had not, after
all, actually read the book. As such, I shall endeavour to avoid a single
incidence in this leaflet where I pose fiction or opinion as fact. If I make claims
like the banning of hallucinogens in the 70s was not supported by
scientific evidence , please be aware that I am not making wild,
uncorroborated allegations. I would supply references to all claims, but I do
not want this to appear to be a formal, pedantic work of academia. If I put
forward an opinion, I will attempt to make it clear that it is just an opinion. A
bibliography is at the back of this leaflet, containing a useful list of further
reading. If you have questions after reading this, I shall either refer you to a

relevant book or try to answer it myself. The last chapter of this booklet is
largely theoretical.

Why am I writing this? I often discuss psychedelics with people who, I feel, are
interested, but unable to escape from the notion that all we are really talking
about are drugs . It is perfectly natural to have an interest without a desire
to actually intoxicate oneself. There is a lot of curiosity out there, but still a
great deal of stigma and disapproval. There is also an awful lot of
misinformation about hallucinogens, and in this booklet I shall try to dispel
some of the common myths and supply a broad scope of educative
information about these chemicals.

I know many people who have discovered certain psychoactive plants or
compounds who proceed to elevate their discovery to the level of panacea.
This results in tendencies to talk about said discovery at all possible
occasions, and attempt to convert others to their way of thinking. Believe me, I
am not trying to create a new generation of hippies. I am of the opinion
however, that honest education is always a worthwhile cause, and it saddens
me when the positive aspects of hallucinogens are hidden behind a barrage of
fear, derision, cynicism and presupposition. If you are reading this booklet,
please respect the time it has taken me to write this by approaching it with an
open mind.

I have sorted this booklet into chapters which are not reliant on each other. If
you have no interest in the chemical make up of hallucinogens, skipping that
chapter will not impair understanding of the others. This means that I will
occasionally repeat myself. However, all of the chapters do tie in and the final
chapter will be most appreciated with an understanding of the others.

Dave King

To define the word drug' is not nearly so easy at it might seem. Most people
think they know precisely what drugs are, but when it comes to drawing a line
around the group and saying this is what separates a drug from a non-
drug , it becomes most problematic. I am not using the word, incidentally, to
refer to the category of pharmaceutical medicine also often called drugs.

To hear people talk of drink and drugs' indicates a clear distinction in the
public view between alcohol and illegal substances. While many people will
agree that alcohol is itself a drug, there are few people who, upon being asked
whether or not they use drugs, will say yes, they use alcohol. Unfortunately, if
the definition of drug is based on legality, it soon becomes apparent that such
a distinction is flawed. Powerful hallucinogens such as Salvia divinorum and
Tabernanthe iboga are, at the time of writing, still legal in the United Kingdom.
A large number of psychoactive plants, including the powerful Amanita
muscaria mushroom and the less potent blue lotus, kratom and kanna plants
are also unclassified, not to mention alcohol and tobacco. These however are
all still, quite certainly, considered to be drugs. A definition set upon legality
would also have to change from country to country.

What about a definition of drugs that relies upon the unusual behaviour
induced by a substance? This also is flawed, for the behavioural response is
one not mediated purely by the drug itself. Consequently, some people may

react to certain hallucinogens by becoming quietly introspective, exerting
behaviour that is quite common among people who have not taken a drug.

A definition dependent on changes in neural action does not distinguish
between foods, medicines and drugs, for all three may affect the nervous
system. To use addictive potential as a basis excludes the entire class of
hallucinogens, which do not induce dependence. To make a classification
from chemical structure would be very difficult, for there are often exclusions
to the rules. For instance, the basic structure of hallucinogens such as
mescaline or DOM is phenethylamine, a substance found in chocolate and
also the basic structure of various endogenous chemicals. To use the feeling
of being drugged as a starting point for drug classification excludes drugs
like tobacco, for many users of tobacco cannot identify any sort of drugged
state entered into after tobacco use.

This difficulty brings a new problem into light. This group of drugs
contains an array of very different chemicals. There is almost no similarity at
all between, for instance, a drug such as heroin and a drug such as LSD.
They have different methods of neurochemical action, they differ significantly
in terms of chemical structure, their physical appearance is unrelated and they
induce very dissimilar effects in the body and mind, both short term and long
term. Their only likenesses are that they are both illegal, and both have been
categorised under the umbrella term of dr ugs . Yet, people continuously
refer to the group of drugs as if it were an undivided whole. The concept
of drugs' implies addictive potential, negative impact to the individual and to
the society, health risks, a feeling that their use is in some way anti-
establishment and a connection to t he drug problem' which our
governments are trying so desperately to control. There is, consequently, a
very common stigma to almost all members of this unfathomable classification
of drugs, and an innate feeling that drugs are bad, unsociable things with no
valid or constructive benefits. This is a fallacy. Drugs' are neither good nor

bad, useful or not useful, simply because drug' does not really mean
anything at all. There are certain chemicals that fall under this banner that
have high potential for abuse and high health risks, but under the same
banner are substances with low health risks and genuine medical value. To
gain the most from this booklet, it is advisable to try and read it without any
sort of presupposition that, whatever I might be trying to tell you,
hallucinogens are drugs, and drugs are bad, ergo: hallucinogens are bad.

Hallucinogens are a class of substances that alter human perception, thought
and mood, rarely accompanied by mental confusion or memory loss, and not
linked to any sort of physical dependence or addictive potential. They may
cause hallucinations in any or all of the senses and may enhance colour
greatly. The last chapter in this booklet will describe the psychedelic
experience. It is important to note that the term hallucinogen has been found
unsatisfactory so many times that an incredible number of synonyms have
been proposed, for instance:

Psychotomimetics [ imitating psychosis ]
Entactogens [ promoting self knowledge ]
Entheogens [ evoking the inner divinity ]
Psychedelics [ mind manifesting ]
Eidetics [ giving rise to ideas ]
Empathogens [ evoking empathy ]
Psychotogenics [ affecting the mind ]

This list, which is far from complete, indicates the problem of accurately
defining the hallucinogenic effect in a single word. Hallucinogen will be the
word which I utilise throughout this book, but it is important to remember that
hallucinations themselves are far from integral to the experience. Full
hallucinations rarely exist at low to moderate doses, and the hallucinations are
not what one might imagine them to be. These drugs rarely produce the

Albert Hofmann, discoverer of LSD

Hollywood effect of seeing something that quite manifestly is not really there
at all. More often, there is a change in the interpretation of sense data, and
distortions in space, distance and form may occur. Things may very certainly
appear to look differently to how they do under a sober mindset, but it is
unusual for an object to be conjured entirely. Closed eye visuals are the most
common form of hallucination, where one may see complex and rapidly
changing fractal patterns, a dream-like array of images or motion, often very
vibrant and at least as detailed and clear as the world perceived with eyes


So, how safe are hallucinogens? They are generally considered to be
relatively non-toxic ( or at least non-damaging, toxicity is the name given for
the ability to intoxicate hallucinogens are rarely used at toxic levels ) , non-
addictive and safe to physical health. In fact, one of the most potent natural
hallucinogens, DMT, is found endogenously in the human brain. To use LSD
as an example for toxicity levels, Peter Stafford documents that one person
survived consumption of 2000 times the active dose of LSD. No humans have
been recorded to have died from the toxicity of this hallucinogen, and the
estimated LD50 ( dose at which 50% of users would die ) could be as great
as 1mg/kg. This would mean that a 60kg human would need to take 3000
times the active dose ( 20ug ) in order to die from overdose. As for
dependence, the entire class of hallucinogens are not physically addictive;
they induce neither signs of dependence nor of withdrawal upon cessation of

Having said that, it is possible that a plant hallucinogen may indirectly cause
physical harm. Some plants containing a psychedelic principle may also
contain chemicals with high toxicity. There are also certain plants ( l ike
nutmeg ) which produce delirium comparable to hallucinations, and that can
be extremely toxic and dangerous. Other alkaloids, such as cytisine, which
pharmacologically belongs to the same group as nicotine, also induce delirium
that may be comparable to the effects of a hallucinogen, are highly toxic and
can instil fatal respiratory failure. It is worth noting that these dangers are not

an attribute of the specific chemical class of hallucinogens. However, it is
possible that a hallucinogen taken at a very high dose by somebody with
severe heart or liver problems could cause medical complications. For
somebody with a heart defect to take a high dose of a hallucinogen is akin to
them taking a trip upon a powerful rollercoaster. A rollercoaster may excite, it
may instil terror, it might leave the user with a feeling of awe and wonder.
While a rollercoaster is ultimately a very safe mechanism, it would not be
altogether surprising if the physiological excitement induced by a huge ride
was dangerous to somebody with a heart condition. Likewise, it would be
irresponsible for such a patient to undergo a powerful hallucinogenic trip.
Nutmeg and the mescal bean ( cytisine ) are not hallucinogens, rather
deleriants. Almost all dangers to hallucinogens are conjured from an absence
of research, preparation or responsibility. It is certainly true that hallucinogens,
especially at high doses, can take the user to places which may be hellish if
they are unwise enough to have not sufficiently prepared.

The links between hallucinogens and mental health are poorly understood. It
is frequently suggested that hallucinogens are linked to neurosis, psychopathy
and mental illness. This is true in some ways, and untrue in others. The ability
of some hallucinogens to produce effects that can model certain psychological
disorders was the main attribute that psychiatric research found so valuable,
and while certain experiences may appear to mimic psychotic states, these
states are not only transient and non-indicative of long-term effects, but have
since been identified as quite different from genuine psychosis. There is
ample evidence to suggest that frequent hallucinogenic use does not produce
any long-term negative physiological, mental or behavioural effects.

It is interesting to discover that many hallucinogens are commonly utilised as
medicines for physical ailments. Flowers known as Angel s Trumpets
( members of the Brugsmansia genus, containing the active alkaloids
scopolamine, hyoscamine and atropine ) are used by the Kamsa and Ingano

Indians to relieve rheumatism. Cannabis is used in India to alleviate dandruff,
headaches, sleeping problems, tuberculosis and venereal disease. Cannabis
is also used by the Hottentots and Mfengu to treat snakebites. Datura is used
by the Zunis as an anaesthetic. It was used during the Sankritic period as an
Indian medicine for mental disorders, various fevers, tumours, breast
inflammations, skin diseases and diarrhoea.

Cannabis is a psychoactive plant about which there are frequent debates.
While not always classed as a hallucinogen, cannabis can induce
hallucinogenic symptoms at a sufficient dose. Hoffer and Osmond s
definition suggest hallucinogens to seldom produce mental confusion,
memory loss or disorientation for person, place and time . For anyone who
has used cannabis, it may be appreciated that short-term memory loss,
confusion and disorientation are quite prevalent in its effects. Cannabis is not,
whatever today's media might tell you, intrinsically linked with any
psychological disorder. A recent study at Keele University found no link
between increasing cannabis potency and usage with levels of schizophrenia,
concluding that the data is not consistent with the hypothesis that increasing
cannabis use in earlier decades is associated with increasing schizophrenia or
psychoses from the mid-1990s onwards. However, other studies suggest
that in a small number of people with a genetic inclination towards
schizophrenia, heavy cannabis use may facilitate its development. It is
possible ( and in my opinion fairly likely ) that smoking cannabis regularly
and in large quantities may exacerbate any existing psychotic or neurotic
problems. Smoking cannabis, while not physiologically addictive, will damage
the airways and lungs, and the plant material contains tar. Compared to
tobacco however, it is usual for less material to be smoked, and less
frequently. Psychological dependence can develop after frequent and heavy
use, although it is rare that physical withdrawal symptoms are present upon


This chapter is perhaps not named sensibly, for the history of hallucinogen
usage is not exclusively anthropological.

Hallucinogens have been utilised by humans for many millennia. The extent of
their history is unknown, and it is probable that it extends far beyond our
records. Certain scholars have suggested that our hominin ancestors may
have first discovered hallucinogens hundreds of thousands of years ago by
imitating animal behaviour. From the ancient Indian Soma, to the Eleusian
Kykeon, to the Aztec Teonanacatl, there are almost no geographical or
historical borders in which hallucinogenic plants have not been part of culture.
At the time of the birth of philosophy, in Ancient Greece, five hundred years
before the birth of Christ, Socrates drank the hallucinogenic Kykeon ( thought
to have contained alkaloids from ergot ) during the annual mysteries of
Eleusis. Other notable initiates are purported to include Plato, Sophocles,
Aristotle, Cicero and Aeschylus. These mysteries, born in the Mycenean
period eleven hundred years earlier, revolved around an ancient myth of
Demeter and Persephone s betrayal by Zeus. The Eleusian mysteries were
abolished by Christians in the fourth century AD. The Indo-Iranian soma was a
hallucinogenic drink portrayed in the Hindu Vedas as a holy sacrament, even
as a god. The god Soma became a deity of the moon, for it was at the time of
the full moon that the drink was prepared. Some scholars, such as Wasson,
maintain that Soma was the Amanita muscaria mushroom, while others
suggest it was a psilocybin-containing fungus. Teonanacatl, a mushroom of

the latter variety, is still used today in Mesoamerican religious rituals and as a

Hallucinogens have an age old synergy with religion. The best known and
debatably the most widespread use of sacramental hallucinogens is that of
shamanism. Terence McKenna summarises shamanism as such; the
shaman has access to the superhuman plane, is a master of ecstasy, can
travel in the spirit realm at will, and most importantly, can cure and divine .
Shamanistic structure seems to differ only mildly from culture to culture;
hallucinogenic plants are almost always used by the shaman for his journeys
to this superhuman plane . Contrary to the Western assumption that
spiritual contact is an erroneous interpretation of hallucinogenic visions,
McKenna found through his own experimentation of Amazonian ayahuasca
( a potent, DMT-based tea ) that the inner world of shamans was far more
real than the constructs of science can ever be .

Various ethnographies show the link between hallucinogens and religion. The
North American Algonquins used Datura as a ceremonial hallucinogen, and
the Native American Navajo take it for its visionary properties. The Bwiti cult in
Gabon and Zaire regularly use Iboga to produce a psychedelic experience in
which the spirit supposedly leaves the body to communicate with ancestral
souls. The Venezuelan Guahibo shamans use Yopo seeds to prophesise,
divine and seek contact with spirits. Fly agaric is used by the Canadian Dogrib
as a sacrament in shamanism. In addition, the Yanomamo Indians of South
America utilise hallucinogenic snuffs, and Tukanoan shamans, also from
South America, used hallucinogens for spiritual and thought exploration. It has
been suggested that wines used in early Christian ceremonies were likely
fortified with plant extracts from opium ( not a hallucinogen ) , datura and
belladonna. It also seems probable, according to Carl Ruck, that cannabis
was widely utilised in early Christianity, and almost certainly in early Judaism.
It is commonly argued that the sweet or aromatic cane mentioned in Exodus

30:23 is a mistranslation of the ancient Hebrew term keneh bosem, meaning
cannabis. Mescaline-containing cacti have been used for thousands of years,
and their usage amongst the Mexican Huichol is probably the most famous
ethnographic hallucinogenic example. It was estimated that peyote ( the most
famous mescaline cactus ) was known to the Chichimeca and the Toltec at
least nineteen-hundred years before the European invasion of Mesoamerica.
Later archaeological research estimated the age of peyote cults to be at least
seven thousand years old. Archaic images of mushrooms have been found in
Africa by archaeologists and ancient rock art found in Europe indicates
prehistoric usage of psychedelics. The list of hallucinogens and their historical
practice is almost endless, and it is clear that their usage could be as old as
humanity itself.

Various factors, not least the Catholic suppression of non-Christian teachings,
extermination of Gnostic groups and eradication of indigenous folk and herb
lore, meant that by the time hallucinogens were being rediscovered in the late
and early 20
centuries, there was very little known about them.
Psychedelic plants had been associated with witchcraft, and when European
settlers arrived in the New World they strongly disagreed with the cultural
usage of hallucinogens. The Catholic church tried to wipe out all knowledge of
the plants across their empire of influence, in the Old and the New Worlds.

At the end of the 19th century, for the first time in psychedelic history, the
active chemicals of hallucinogens started to be scientifically recognised,
isolated, synthesized and studied. As will be discussed in later chapters,
hallucinogens enjoyed a few decades of fruitful psychiatric research until they
escaped from the laboratory, took society somewhat by storm, and were
eventually banned.

I have hinted that hallucinogenic use is not exclusively human in nature. I shall
not go into this in depth, for whole books can easily be written on the subject,

but I shall talk briefly about the usage of psychedelics by animals.

Ronald Siegel and Giorgio Samorini have, among others, presented evidence
that shows animals to actively and intentionally seek drug intoxications. Siegel
found this to be so prevalent that he proposed it as a fourth drive, akin to
hunger, thirst and sex. It has been known for some time that the usage of
hallucinogens by man seems to reach back into the origins of humanity itself
( and has frequently been proposed as key to the development of art, religion
and other human traits ) , and the widespread, ubiquitous behaviour of the
drug-seeking animal kingdom does well to suggest that the history of
hallucinogens may be far more expansive than previously thought. The ability
of hallucinogens to decondition the user has led scholars such as Siegel and
Terrence McKenna to suggest that they have historically played a significant
part in behavioural evolution.

Many drugs were discovered through the observation of animals. Coffee was
first appreciated as a stimulant when a goatherd watched his goats consume
coffee berries and become excited. Iboga, the bitter African hallucinogen, was
sought out, dug up and eaten by wild boar and by primates. Toadstools are
named because of the frogs and toads who would gather by mushrooms like
the fly agaric because they knew that flies would gather, become intoxicated,
and would provide an easy meal. It is a common misconception that the fly
agaric mushroom kills flies; it actually sends them into a stupor. Other
examples of animal drug use include hawkmoths with datura; cattle with
locoweed; rats with kava; cats with catnip; elephants with fermenting fruit;
bighorn sheep with narcotic lichen; and koalas with the narcotic eucalyptus.
There is a beetle that secretes an intoxicant, and certain ant species guard
the beetle so ferociously that they will sacrifice their offspring first if the nest is
under attack. The range of animal-drug interaction is quite remarkable. For
more information, I recommend Intoxication by Ronald Siegel, or if you prefer
a more concise read, Animals and Psychedelics by Giorgio Samorini.

The situation that led to the banning of hallucinogens in 1970 is well known,
and the psychiatric research that preceded the prohibition is covered in other
chapters. I shall briefly discuss the laws that control hallucinogens today, but
also mention the legal rights legislation that is relevant to the religious usage
of hallucinogens.

To briefly cover the situation in the 1960s; hallucinogens had been used for
many years as part of a new wave of psychiatric research, proving drugs such
as LSD to have great therapeutic value for treating autism, depression,
alcoholism, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and
opiate addiction. These drugs then escaped the laboratory and medical
scenes, and had a hand in the generational revolution known as the hippy
era. As part of a social panic, the media whipped up a storm of anti-
hallucinogen propaganda. Rick Strassman examined every paper describing
negative reactions to psychedelics and concluded that the risk of complication
in controlled settings was virtually non-existent. Bad trips occurred when
ill-prepared patients took substances without knowledge of what they had
taken or without testing for contaminants, often combined with other drugs, in
uncontrollable settings. These negative reports, in combination with made-up
or misleading media articles led to a societal pressure upon the government to

ban the compounds, against all advice from medical practitioners at the time.
The 1970 drug law that still today controls hallucinogens in the USA was
imposed without any scientific foundation. The Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK,
established in 1971, was a response to the USA law, and was similarly
unsupported by science. A recent study by a team of medical researchers
argued for a radical reclassification of drugs, based on realistic evaluation of
social and individual harm, and addictive potential. Hallucinogens, specifically
LSD, were found to be less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco and solvents.

Moving onto human rights law, Ronald Siegel argued that not only was drug
usage universal in almost all areas of the animal kingdom, but that the drive
for intoxication was as fundamental as the drives for sex, food and drink. If
Siegel's fourth drive theory holds credence, it is arguably as serious an
ethical problem to restrict one s choice of intoxicants as it would be to restrict
one s choice of food.

The United Kingdom Human Rights Act, 1998, declares that an individual has
the right to freedom of speech, thought, conscience and religion. The United
States constitutional First Amendment declares freedom of religion for US
citizens, and declares that Congress must not pass any law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . The
European Convention on Human Rights states that everyone has the right to
manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and
observance . The principle effect of a hallucinogen is to alter the process of
thought. As Hoffer and Osmond noted, the perceptual changes [in response
to a hallucinogen] are often minor; changes in thought and mood are much
more important . Subsequently, I argue that the European right to freedom of
thought implies the prohibition of any forced restriction or limitation of thought;
the prohibition of hallucinogenic drugs being such a restriction.

In the case of the United States, a citizen has a fundamental right to

unrestrainedly explore his or her religion through whatever means desired. It
is debatable that the freedom of religion cited in the British and the European
legislation should entail all facets of religion, including, if relevant,
hallucinogenic sacraments. These statements hold very arguable credibility in
the light of Cookson s definition of religion; she claims that if religion could
be defined as that which seeks to expand the consciousness or explore
one s inner energy, the usage of hallucinogens ( specifically LSD ) can
be considered to have deep religious overtones . Hallucinogens have been
legalised for sacramental use for particular American religious groups; namely
the Native American Church and their use of the peyote cactus.

As religion is often found in legal cases to be indefinable, it would be
unfeasible to legalise hallucinogens solely for religious purposes as it would
be impossible to restrict their usage to an uncategorical category. Additionally,
such a law would discriminate against atheists seeking to expand their
spiritual horizons outside of organised religious groups. If hallucinogens were
to be legalised, it would have to be unconditionally.

The great cannabis debate probably deserves its own chapter, but I shall
dedicate only a few paragraphs. I am unsure as to whether or not I would
place cannabis in the category of hallucinogen. Various scholars and
ethnopharmacologists have, and it is probably the best classification.
However, although undeniably psychoactive, it produces psychological
symptoms that are somewhat different to other hallucinogens.

A brief rundown of the legality of cannabis: US federal law places it in
Schedule I, but over a dozen states have effectively approved it for medical
use. Synthetic THC ( the active ingredient ) is only Schedule III. Cannabis is
decriminalised in Australia, Portugal and the Netherlands. England classifies
the plant as Class B. Various countries have laws against cannabis, but in
practice do not enforce them or are lenient at small doses; areas of Canada,

Jamaica and Belgium.

There are a considerable amount of anti-cannabis articles in the media, much
of which is somewhat misleading. A good example is the term skunk ,
which in reality doesn t actually mean a lot. Skunk is one of hundreds of
cannabis strains, but the media have adopted the term to refer to any
cannabis of higher potency . There is some confusion as to what precisely
it signifies when used by the media in statistics, because there isn t really a
universal definition. Because of the way in which cannabis is smoked, there is
not the tendency, as with alcohol, to keep on imbibing past the point of
intoxication. As the only physiological dangers are from the smoking of plant
material, and not from the active alkaloids themselves, a higher potency strain
of cannabis simply reduces the amount of plant burnt in order to reach desired
effects and so is, in a physical sense, of less risk.

Cannabis has recently been moved from a class C drug to a class B in the
UK. This move was openly against the advice of the ACMD the Advisory
Council for the Misuse of Drugs. A professor on this board maintained that the
change was unlikely to have any beneficial effects, claimed that the use of
cannabis posed no harm to anyone who chose not to use it, and suggested
that those who experience unpleasant mental effects from the usage of
cannabis were very much in a minority.

My personal opinion is that the dangers of cannabis as a gateway drug and
the negative associations with drug crime are purely as a result of its illegality.
Neither issue would exist if cannabis were decriminalised. Cannabis usage is
lower in the Netherlands, where cannabis use does not incur legal penalties,
than it is in either the UK or the USA. Reports show that in Portugal, where
drugs such as cannabis, heroin and methamphetamine have all been
legalised, drug use is now substantially lower than other EU countries,
including England, and the USA. Prohibition has never worked, and never will.

As Terrence McKenna once said, only legalisation can lay the basis for a
sane drug policy .

As an anti-legalisation argument, it is probable that continual, heavy usage of
cannabis causes some cognitive impairment. Areas of the brain that are
necessary for short term memory and motor co-ordination are less efficient
under the influence of cannabis. If one were to spend the majority of one s
time intoxicated for months on end, it is likely that those areas of the brain
would suffer from prolonged reduction of activity. While cannabis is not
physically addictive, it is probably psychologically habit forming if used
frequently. However, when used infrequently, in moderation and with a little
intelligence, I do not believe cannabis to pose much risk to a healthy mind.










In my introduction, I touched upon the use of hallucinogens in psychiatry. I
covered also, in the Anthropological History, how the European knowledge of
hallucinogens until the late 19th Century was virtually non-existent. In 1938, a
chemist by the name of Albert Hofmann was working for Sandoz Laboratories
testing a compound called LSD-25 as a treatment to reduce uterine bleeding.
He found the chemical to be ineffective at this, and did not encounter it again
until 1943. Hofmann was drawn back to LSD-25 by a curiosity, and by chance
found himself to be under the influence of a psychedelic. Assuming that these
peculiar alterations in his consciousness must have been a result of
absorbing a trace amount of the compound through his skin, Hofmann
realised that LSD-25 must be psychoactive at an extraordinarily small dose.
He self-administered 250 micrograms ( 250 millionths of a gram ) , a dose he
thought far too low to have any effect, but a safe quantity to start tests.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, it turned out, was very much active at this level
and Hofmann found himself in the midst of an almost overwhelming
psychedelic experience.

At around the same time, researchers had discovered a drug that
revolutionised the treatment of mental disorders; Thorazine. Vast numbers of
mental patients found Thorazine to be effective enough to live outside
asylums and with a degree of normalcy. LSD and Thorazine were united in
the field of psychiatry by the discovery of endogenous serotonin, which was
soon heralded as the first neurotransmitter. Serotonin was shown to mediate

vasoconstriction, aggression, sexual behaviour, sleep and a host of
physiological systems. The chemical structures of LSD and serotonin were
shown to be startlingly similar, and tests revealed that LSD mimicked or
blocked the actions of serotonin at various brain sites. It was hailed as the
finest tool available for researching the link between consciousness and

Over the next two decades, an incredible
assembly of research unfolded. Clinical,
psychedelic trials involving the three principle
hallucinogens; LSD, mescaline and psilocybin
were carried out across the United States and
Europe by the hundred. A library of books,
journals and research papers were published by
dozens of researchers. LSD was shown to be an
astounding psychiatric aid on several different
levels; the taking of it by doctors and
psychiatrists lent them a far greater
understanding and sympathy for the mindset of
their psychotic patients; the taking of it by
psychiatric patients greatly improved talk-therapy
and facilitated the uncovering of hidden, repressed memories; and the drug
inspired pain release in terminally ill patients when standard anaesthetics no
longer worked, lifted depression and enabled these patients to make peace
with their prognosis by accepting death. Aldous Huxley died in 1963 of natural
causes with two hundred micrograms of LSD in his blood, after his wife
administered the drug to him. She wrote later about how he dissolved gently
and gradually into death, at peace and without fear, and without the physical
convulsions the doctors had predicted his illness would induce. LSD was also
used to help the families of terminal patients make groundbreaking progress
in their attitudes towards the difficult situation.

To paraphrase Schultes, Hofmann and Ratsch ( see bibliography ) , imagine
the perception of reality as such: the external world ( the sender ) provides
data or signals, the deep unconscious self is the receiver, and the ego is the
translator. If either the translator or the receiver are non functional, reality"
ceases to exist; the screen is blank, the radio is quiet. The perception of an
altered reality is a result of the biochemistry of the brain ( the receiver )
changing; it is set for a different wavelength to that of sober reality. This
altered state of perception is in many ways an expansion of the normal mind.
The reality of the experience is addressed in the last chapter; The
Psychedelic Experience.

The importance is that the psychedelic experience causes the distinction
between subject ( the user, the ego, the translator ) and object ( the world,
the sender ) to deteriorate; a process known as ego-loss. This is an
imperative psychotherapeutic aid for the patient who happens to be caught in
a problem that involves an egocentric cycle. The results may be a recollection
of early childhood memories, a greater connection with the psychiatrist,
greater ability to benefit from psychotherapy or the resolution of psychological
disturbance. It is worth noting that hallucinogens are not intrinsically
psychotherapeutic, but are a tool by which psychotherapy or self analysis may
be vastly enhanced.

The method of use most prevalent in European clinical settings was to
administer a medium dose on a regular basis, whereas the American
inclination was to provide a single, very high dose. Both methods are
accompanied by a great deal of mental preparation by and for the patient, and
the patient is chosen carefully. Some mental disorders react with greater
efficacy to the treatment than others, and it is imperative that the
p sychonaut to be is prepared for the experience. The doctor
administering the drugs must have personal experience with the compounds,
for it was found to greatly enhance the connection between the patient and

psychiatrist if the doctor were aware of the place in which the patient found
themselves. Additionally, experimentation by the doctors revealed a greater
insight to the workings of the human psyche, and was beneficial to their work
in general. It was thought for some time that certain hallucinogens provided a
model of psychosis; a temporary adventure into mental illness that could be
analysed as such. It has since been discovered however that the psychedelic
experience differs from genuine psychosis in several important ways.
Nevertheless, under the influence of a hallucinogen, one may gain greater
understanding of particular disorders.

Since the banning of psychedelics in the 1970s, the area of hallucinogenic
psychiatry has progressed little. A few noticeable exceptions involve research
into LSD/psilocybin therapy for patients with life threatening illness, the use of
MDMA ( although not hallucinogenic ) for treating post-traumatic stress
disorder, and the use of ibogaine for easing severe addiction.

Ibogaine therapy involves the utilisation of active principles from the root of
the African Tabernanthe iboga bush. The bulk of the experience involves the
patient in a sort of trance, or heavy sleep that may last up to thirty hours.
During this time it is usual for deep-seated emotional and psychological
issues to present themselves to the unconscious patient, and provide them
with an opportunity to examine their own psyche in a completely unique
manner. Consequently, addicts frequently leave the experience having dealt
with the root ( pun intended ) causes for their addiction, and do not return to
whatever substance they were addicted. I was given the remarkable statistic
by the doctor of a London based Iboga clinic that 15-20% of opiate addicts
who came for Iboga treatment went for a year or more without using after
a single Ibogaine experience. These patients, I was told, were often heroin
addicts who had been using heavy amounts daily for many years, and yet
after one day of Iboga therapy they had managed to conquer their addiction,
with no withdrawal symptoms and no need for methadone. I was told also that

the patients who received treatment were not only those addicted to heroin
but also chronic alcoholics, patients of depression, patients with deep seated
anxiety problems or phobias or occasionally those who merely wanted a
chance for self-development. Iboga, he claimed, was the single most powerful
therapeutic tool he had ever come across. Due to the nature of the
experience, which can often be a rough ride, and because of its duration,
iboga has limited potential for recreational abuse.

The great injustice is that iboga has no future in the psychiatric world. The
patents have run out, and so there is no money to be made from its
production. To get approval for a hallucinogen as a registered medicine one
must provide a wealth of research, presented with a body with influence. Both
research and influence are sadly dictated by funding, and the pharmaceutical
companies who could provide this money have no interest to, because Iboga
would not be lucrative enough for investment. The western governments have
a War on Drugs to uphold, and the stigma of hallucinogens is not easily
overcome. Consequently, it is almost certain that within a decade, Ibogaine
will be made illegal. I deeply believe it to be a tragedy that this great medical
tool which can ease addiction quite literally like nothing else known to man,
which can emancipate patients of depression and anxiety and which has
great efficacy in the treatment of post traumatic stress syndrome tool will be

swept under the carpet out of ignorance and because it will not make
people rich. When twenty years of volcanic psychiatric research was
hammered out of existence in a single governmental law, the same thing
happened. It is a great shame for all victims of mental illness or addiction for
whom such therapy could have helped.

There are almost 400 medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles
county; twice the number of Cannabis retail outlets in Amsterdam. There
are claimed to be various medical uses for marijuana including use as a
painkiller, as an anti-nauseant and to help AIDS patients recover their
appetite. Cannabis law is covered in the chapter on legality.

Hallucinogens exert their effect by mimicking the behaviour of certain
neurotransmitters. Most psychedelic drugs are structurally similar to one of
four neurotransmitters: serotonin, acetylcholine, norepinephrine and
dopamine ( both catecholamines ) . Hallucinogens can be divided into five
classes, based on the activity they excite or inhibit at particular receptors.
Anticholinergic, catecholaminelike and serotoninlike psychedelics reflect
similarities to the above neurotransmitters. The remaining two classes are
glutaminergic NMDA receptor antagonists ( psychedelic anesthetics -such
as Ketamine- and dextromethorphan ) and the opioid kappa receptor agonist
salvinorin A ( the active principle of Salvia divinorum ) . Anticholinergic
psychedelics include scopolamine, one of the active ingredients in plants
such as Angel s Trumpets, Belladonna, Henbane and Datura. Scopolamine
is also used as an anti-nauseant in travel sickness tablets. Catecholaminelike
psychedelics include mescaline ( the active compound in cacti such as
Lophophora williamsii and Trichocereus peruvianus, and written about in
1954 by Aldous Huxley ) , MDMA ( ecstacy) , DOM and TMA. Serotoninlike
psychedelics include LSD, DMT ( a powerful endogenous hallucinogen )
and psilocybin ( magic mushrooms ) .


Hallucinogens can also be categorised by the recognition of particular
chemical structures. For instance, the phenethylamine hallucinogens all
contain a phenethylamine group somewhere within their chemical structure.
Likewise do tryptamines have a tryptamine group and indoles have an
indole group.
Examples of phenethylamine hallucinogens:

( 3,4,5tri-methoxyphenethylamine )

a substituted phenethylamine
( 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine )
The phenethylamine group.
The neurotransmitter

Examples of tryptamine hallucinogens:

( dimethyltryptamine )

( O-phosphoryl-4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine )
The tryptamine group.

Bufotenine is a type of DMT secreted
by the Colarado River Toad,
Bufo alvarius. ( see next page )

The neurotransmitter

The effect of hallucinogens on the brain is
dependent on particular spatial arrangement of
atoms within the molecule as well as chemical
structure. LSD, a semi-synthetic compound,
is chemically very similar to certain active
principles in Ololiuqui a plant hallucinogen.
The only difference between the two
chemicals is that two hydrogen atoms from
the Ololiuqui hallucinogen ( l ysergic acid
amide ) have been replaced by two ethyl
groups, to form lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD
is active at 0.05 milligrams ( 50 micrograms,
1/20,000 of a gram ) and has a spatial
isomer ( a stereoisomer ) that differs only in
the arrangement of the atoms, which at 10
times this dose will instil no hallucinatory
( l ysergic acid diethylamide )
( l ysergic acid amide )

THC ( above )
Salvinorin ( right )
effects in the user whatsoever.

Almost all plant hallucinogens are nitrogenous, and belong to the class of
chemicals known as alkaloids. This term is used for the nitrogen-containing
metabolic products of plants that have alkaline properties, and are therefore
al kaline-like ( alkaloid ) . Cannabis and Salvia divinorum are among the
only psychoactive plants whose active compounds ( THC, or
tetrahydrocannabinol, and salvinorin respectively ) do not contain nitrogen.

Possibly the most frequent argument I hear against the psychedelic
experience is the claim that it is not real. It is a delusion, an illusion, an
aberration from the truth of sobriety. There is no way of scientifically
evaluating reality, and so the following is only my opinionbut it is an opinion
formed as a result of experience, research and a great deal of contemplation.
I shall attempt to explain why, in my opinion, the reality argument is flawed.

I have explained in previous chapters about the many synonyms found for
hallucinogens ( psychedelics, phanerothymes, psychotomimetics,
mysticomimetics, phantastica, entheogens, eidetics, psychoticants and
psychotropics, to name but a few ) . I chose to use the term hallucinogens
throughout this booklet because it is the word most commonly used to refer to
this class by the media and by the layman. It is also one of the terms which
has accumulated the most stigma. Had I used the word phanerothyme
throughout this booklet instead, I would have had the opportunity to suggest a
new series of responses to the class, bypassing previous stigmatic
connections. However, I felt it wiser to directly address the commonly
perceived negative characteristics rather than sidestep them. As I have
already said, there is a great problem with the term hallucinogen. A
hallucination is, by definition, something that does not exist in the external
world. Hallucinogen, therefore, immediately creates an image of something
that has no root in validity, of a perceptual conjuror of illusion. I shall

endeavour to explain three things; the role of true ( or full ) hallucinations in
the psychedelic experience, the validity of hallucinations and the
v alidity of the psychedelic experience. It is important to remember that
hallucinations and the psychedelic experience are not synonymous.

True hallucinations are not particularly central to the psychedelic experience.
Distortions in space and time, through any sense, can be argued to be on the
hallucinogenic spectrum, but the infrequent experience ( i ndeed, an
experience almost unfound except at high doses, or from various doses of
very particular hallucinogens ) of a complete sensory delusion is often not
important. Not only can a true hallucination ever be proved to be false, as it is
often perceived to be more real by the user than reality itself, but the
psychedelic experience has greater value elsewhere. Hallucinogens alter the
way in which you process information in a profound but sometimes subtle
way. That which is valued highest is an ability to strip the user of
presupposition and conditioning, to induce life-changing experiences of
ineffable profundity, to allow one to view the world as they did as a child, far
freer of clouding judgement. If somebody takes 200ug of LSD with the
hedonistic intention of getting hammered and having a laugh, it is likely that
they will gain no more from the experience than that. If however, a
hallucinogen is taken with the aim of gaining a greater understanding of
oneself or the world in which they live, or for self development, or for freeing
the subconscious for psychotherapy, it is more than likely that the user will
experience some sort of elucidation. The changing of the manner in which
one thinks can lead to incredible insights of a philosophical nature, if one
applies the tool they are given to appropriate ends. I shall explain this in
greater detail throughout this chapter.

True, open-eye hallucinations, that is to say the appreciation of sensory
information that has no root in the external world, are rare. Far more
frequently, the pattern of perception is altered so that the same data is

collected by the senses and sent to the brain, but the very mechanism of the
brain changes to alter the final image perceived. It is as if a code-breaker
suddenly started using a new algorithm to interpret messages. It is impossible
to quantifiably assess the validity of either mechanism, except by defining true
perception as that most commonly experienced. This has certain problems;
firstly, perception can never be truly translated; secondly, it is self-evident that
to compare this altered algorithm to the seemingly ever-prevailing algorithm of
sobriety, the latter will appear more prevalent, causing the former to be
considered untrue. This is simply bad reasoning, for all it says is that there are
more people sober, more of the time than there are people under the
influence of a hallucinogen.

The most common form of hallucination is of a kind which we can experience
sober, every day ( and certainly every night) - closed eye visuals. For those
of us with strong visual imaginations, images manifest themselves when one
closes one s eyes. Under the hallucinogenic influence, these images
become markedly more intense, vivid, clear and explorative. Occasionally,
these images may creep under the eyelid when the eye is open, and fractal
patterns may be superimposed upon reality.

One of the most salient forms of open-eye visuals, according to my research,
is the recognition and manifestation of previously unappreciated patterns.
Looking at an uneven surface, or upon scattered gravel, the surface of a
brick, the crumpling of a fabric or at a bed of grass one may focus upon
particular configurations and relationships previously unidentified. Another
form is an unconscious reduction of a visual area to its basic patterns of size
and lines and form, which leads to a cycling though various mental archetypes
to which the pattern could be assigned. A crumpled bit of paper, for instance,
could be looked at and identified as a whole host of things, depending on the
way it was folded and the casting of shadows. It may appear as a face, and
then as a house, or as a mouse fighting for a piece of cheese. Normally,

unless one falls too much into this game, the sober form is still appreciated.
This is a game that, like the closed-eye visuals, can be played without the
taking of a hallucinogen. Meditate upon a physical item until it is
unrecognisable, or repeat a word over and over again until you have forgotten
its meaning, and it appears alien and infinitely improbable.

Distortions in space are very hard to analyse. A wall may appear to have lost
its flat, linear properties and may appear weaving and bobbing like the skin of
an ocean. Compare it to a ruler however, and the ruler also is pulsing and
breathing. Perform any test of physics you like, and the results would be the
same as under sober conditions, and yet it is quite manifestly different. How
can one quantifiably explain the distortion in the perception of what is usually
called a centimetre? It still appears to be 10 millimetres across, but what on
earth does that mean? To look across a room may cast its dimensions into
measurement of miles, of vast distances. And yet, it is a vast distance.
Compared to a supernova somewhere in the depths of space, we are
unfathomably tiny, but compared to an atom or a Planck length, we are also
immeasurably massive. Every step we take spans billions of molecular
measurements. If we are tiny, we are tiny titans. To look through psychedelic
eyes at the world, and to see distortions in space, one may very well think it to
be somehow invalid. But upon inspection, upon real observation, it is an
impossible thing to claim. The beauty of the psychedelic experience is that
one can openly, and with a clear, rational mind, look at the world through
sober eyes, and the next minute change the world completely ( and yet at the
same time, not in the slightest ) and by doing so enable a direct comparative
analysis of perception. It is quite literally a temporary broadening of human

The human perception of the world is a very complex thing to analyse. From
philosophy to psychology to neurochemistry, it is central to almost everything
we can study. World views differ between ages, cultures, subcultures,

individuals, states of consciousness, emotive temperament and extra-physical
beliefs, and are virtually impossible to compare. Think about how your own
perception of the world has changed throughout your life. I will detour away
from the realm of psychedelics temporarily to bring you examples of different
ways people see the world and factors that contribute to these different

There is a theory known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which claims that our
very understanding of the nature of the world around us is shaped by our
linguistic systems and classifications. It postulates a systematic relationship
between our thought patterns, our mental categorisation of our habitat and
our behaviour with the structure and pattern of our language.

It all comes down to classification systems, on which our understanding of the
world is reliant. Take the colour spectrum. The English language splits a
certain section of the spectrum into the following five classifications; green,
blue, grey, brown and black. Standard welsh takes the same section and
divides it into four divisions; gwyrdd, glas, llwyd and du. Gwyrdd refers to
about half of the English green spectrum; glas to the remaining half, the
entirety of the blue spectrum and half of grey; llwyd to half of grey and half of
black; and du to the remainder of brown and the entirety of black. Modern
colloquial welsh has the five categories gwyrdd, glas, llwyd, brown and du,
which match the English colour classifications precisely. The Ibo language
splits this section of the spectrum into only two categories; ahehea ndu
( green, blue and a little grey ) and ojii ( brown, black and a little grey ) . The
writings of Homer show Ancient Greek colour classifications to have been
divided by shade or darkness, as opposed to hue. Homer will refer to a wine-
dark ocean, and is describing its lightness. He is not saying that the ocean is
red. The English language, according to Paul Kay, has eleven basic words for
colour across the full spectrum, while the New Guinea language Dani has only
two and the Amazonian Pirahu tribe have no fundamental vocabulary for

colour at all. They simply do not analyse and classify that particular area of
sensory information in the way that we do.

What does this example show us? It shows us how language is linked to
classification systems in our understanding of the world. Cultures may have
different words for the same things, you might say, but they surely see the
same things? What does it matter if they divide things differently?

Our language causes us to draw invisible lines around things. This is a
necessary development of thought, for it would be impossible to function in
the way that we do without an ability to identify objects. Imagine that you are
standing in a wood, but you do not have any sort of vocabulary such as
t ree" or branch" to define what you see around you. You are staring at
what you would under other circumstances call a tree; the language to which
you are normally accustomed would cause you to group a particular series of
shapes together. Without language to distinguish anything in your field of
vision from another, would you have any sort of appreciation that the trunk,
the branches, the twigs, the leaves and the roots were a single object ,
while the ground, the grass and the surrounding trees were separate? If you
had an appreciation of a word for only leaf , you would divide the world
into l eaves" and not-leaves . The rest of the tree, the ground, the
surrounding trees, the branches and everything else that falls under the
category of not-leaf would be identifiable under a single label. Imagine
this scenario a step further; you have no language and you have just found
yourself in this wood as your first experience on earth. You have never before
seen anything, heard anything or smelt anything. Would you see that wood
then as you saw it before? It would be completely and utterly transfigured.
With no classification systems and no language, there would be no immediate
understanding of depth, distance, colour, texture or light. Remember that in a
non-anthropocentric sense, the universe is just an infinite series of
happenings. The eyeball ( in conjunction with the brain ) is able to identify a

particular type of happening; the movement of photons, but the images that
we see of the world do not exist anywhere except in the human mind. If we
close our eyes, it does not mean that the world out there ceases to exist, and
neither does it mean that when we have our eyes open we create the world
around us, but we do create a type of information from the otherwise arbitrary
input of data that our eyes receive to produce the visual sense of the world.
Hence the old philosophical conundrum of whether or not a tree makes a
sound if it falls in a wood, with nobody to hear it. Yes, the fallen tree would
cause vibrations through the air as it hit the ground, but the word sound'
refers to the way in which the human brain interprets a particular kind of
otherwise arbitrary data and turns it into a type of information. With no human
to hear the tree falling, it cannot make a sound, because the sound is not
made by the falling tree the falling tree produces only the environmental
factors for the brain to decipher the sound is made by the brain.

Before language, before the brain has had time to make classification
systems and order the kaleidoscopic mayhem of sensory data into a
manageable system of perception, that person in the woods would be seeing
a wholly different world to the one we live in. That person does not yet know
that a particular sequence of lines, colours and shapes means a tree, or that a
particular configuration can be used to determine distance and depth.
Moreover, without any sort of linguistic line between what he will later come to
call I" and what he will later come to call t he world , there is no divorce
between subject and object. This newly born person is exposed to the world
in its most truthful manifestation, before the brain has a chance to impose
order and classification, meaning and comprehension. This person will grow,
learning all the time to classify and categorise the world into identifiable
chunks. I believe that this process is not entirely dictated by language, but
that language is an indubitably important factor. The ability to memorise first
requires the ability to categorise, to turn data into information. Consequently,
this person will forget what it is like to see through the eyes of a new born

baby, and later what it is like to be a child. This person will live in the here and
now, the ever rolling continuum of the present.

Shakespeare said that the fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man
knows himself to be a fool . Lao Tzu said that to know that you do not
know is the best. To pretend to know when you do not know is a disease ,
and Socrates said that the only true wisdom is in knowing you know
nothing . All too often, one forgets how little he knows and how much he
does not. All too often one believes that he knows precisely what is what. The
person born in the woods will one day see the world, burdened by
conditioning, presupposition and habit and he will say this is truth . With all
the cultures in the world, with their different ideologies, with completely
different perceptions of their environment, with different opinions and faiths
and beliefs, with their different languages, their different subcultures and
values, their different individuals and religions and philosophies, their different
diets and sleeping patterns and exposures to light what exactly is this truth of
which he speaks? And what of the fluctuation within individuals themselves, of
emotional change, of spiritual change? What of the changes caused by
maturity, by sleep deprivation or by food deprivation. The truth is argued not
to be what is out there, because that does not change, the truth is argued to
be a specific biochemical, physiological configuration. The truth is a set of
particular neuroelectrical pathways, that change from day to day, from person
to person, and whether or not a particular chemical has been ingested. This
is truth , he says, but he does not know truth.

Imagine being brought up in a world where you are taught quite inflexibly what
is what. In this world, there is a library, full of books which suggest rather
manifestly that what what is, is not necessarily what you believed it to be.
These books offer a different perspective, a new way of seeing. They may or
may not hold any truth, but who is to say whether or not they hold any more or
less truth than what you thought previously. All they offer is a new way of

looking at the world.

Timothy Leary identified three factors which influence a psychedelic
experience; the drug, the set and the setting. Without knowledge of the latter

two, it is very hard to suggest how an experience might play out. Set refers to
the mindset of the person taking the substance; what they plan to achieve
from it, their previous experience, and their personality. Setting refers to the
surroundings in which the drug is taken. During clinical experiments with

hallucinogens doctors found that users would react with anxiety and
discomfort to the hospital setting, with its hard, white, sterilised appearance. It
is common for users to experience a wish to be in a natural setting, or a
garden. The drug itself plays an obvious part, but a sensible user of
psychedelics will pay careful attention to both set and setting when preparing
themselves for an experience.

The psychedelic experience may be accompanied by a vibrant, brilliant
enhancement of colour; as if they were only really being seen for the first time.
Distortions in time and space often occur, as may a depersonalisation of self,
something known as ego-loss. Without falling into an unconscious state of
any kind, the world manifests itself in a way not unlike a dream that appears
far more real than the normal world does. Objects that are usually unnoticed
may develop new significance, and it is not uncommon to find elucidation in
entirely new aspects of things with which you had thought yourself familiar.
The filter of the psychedelic experience is almost invariably one accompanied
by a feeling of ineffability a feeling that what is being experienced cannot be
described by language, and that an attempt to do so will at best produce a
vague, futile and inadequate representation, in the same way that a
photograph will often not satisfactorily encapsulate the precise nature of a
situation. The psychedelic experience can produce deep analytic
introspection, or it can induce a euphoric and vocal appreciation of the world.
It can bypass the expectations of what we usually suppose to see, and what
we usually look for, and show us something new or unforeseen. As a
psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic tool, it can yield incredible results. It is
not uncommon to hear that a psychedelic experience has been such a
profound, spiritual, religious or philosophical encounter that the user treasures
it as a rare and often life-changing moment for the rest of their lives.

For those of you with objections to the use of hallucinogens ( and perhaps by
now you have started to distinguish between hallucinogens and the greater,

almost indefinable group of drugs as a whole ) you may well find it an
interesting exercise to examine precisely what it is about them that makes you
feel that way. With a poorly chosen set and setting, unpleasant bad trips
can occur; perhaps you know somebody who has had such an unfortunate
experience. Perhaps your objection is a direct effect of their illegality, but the
section on legality in this booklet will hopefully suggest that this is not as
simple as it seems. Perhaps ( and this certainly is not a reason that would be
unjust ) you feel unnerved by their power to alter the workings of the mind so
profoundly. All human fear is rooted in an inability to control, and although the
psychedelic experience is often accompanied by a feeling of clarity and
sobriety ( depending on the drug ) , it is certainly a terrifying thought to lose
control of ones own mind, even temporarily. I do not know your reasons for
objection, and I have no desire to change your mind, nor do I want to appear
to be condemning your view, this booklet is here only so that I may present
my belief alongside information that you may not have heard before. As the
saying goes, a mind is like a parachute; if it isn t open, it won t work. It s
not a great simile, but you get the idea.

To object to hallucinogens, without personal experimentation, on the fervent
belief that what they present is not real, is a viewpoint I find most peculiar.
Indeed, to have an absolute, immovable belief about anything at all without a
personal experience in it is something I find a little silly. One might as well
believe with equal fervency that the mindset of someone under practised
meditation is not real, or that one from a different culture and language sees
the world in a way with less truth than you. I may as well claim that the drug of
human sobriety shows us visions, hallucinations of structure and framework,
of a practical unreality. Against what is this value of truth measured? It is wise
to make sure that you are not egocentrically elevating your own flexible,
malleable mindset to the position of truth. One cannot very well assess the
reality of a situation of which they have no experience. Surely to take one
configuration of brain activity and to compare it against another configuration,

which is precisely what one is doing here, and to somehow decide that the
world is more accurately analysed via one than the other, especially with an
understanding only of what one of these sets of data actually signifies, must
be a fallacy.

All we can really say is that our sober mindset ( a particular neurological
pattern ) has been deemed by natural selection more appropriate for survival
than any other- for we do not find ourselves day to day in a natural state such
as that conjured by 400mg of mescaline. The fact that we have this particular
sober mindset proves that, against all competing base states , we have
evolved that particular neurological pattern as an appropriate state to exist in.
If an archaic Homo sapiens, 200,000 years ago, came across a predator
under a mindset akin to that produced by some hallucinogens, they may very
well be more inclined to approach it with a sense of wonder and curiosity than
to turn tail and flee. As you may appreciate, this is not a great approach for
survival purposes. Nevertheless, this cannot mean that the sober mindset is in
any way more valid or more truthful than any other, merely that it may have
been more useful in a fight or flight situation in our ancestral past.

The opportunity to examine the world in a wholly new way, assuming that this
examination is not accompanied by any physiological or metabolic detriment,
is in my opinion such an important opportunity because it provides a unique
holiday from one s sober mindset to fully compare and analyse what one
previously held as truths. It provides a temporary release from a whole host of
preconceptions, predispositions and presuppositions. In our sober lives we
see very much what we wish to see in the world around us. The psychedelic
experience offers a chance to see more of what we notice every day, but
haven t really seen since childhood. That which, like a cosmic optical
illusion, can be seen in a different way. How much truth it may contain is
something personal, something that must be experienced and analysed and

contemplated by those people who have an interest in discovering it for
themselves. My opinions are of no more validity than yours, but I would ask
you keep an open and a curious mind to all avenues of life. An opinion can
not be of very much personal value if one has never really thought properly
about what it means.

The truth of the psychedelic experience, the reality what authority does the
deaf man have to judge the truthfulness of sound? That is a riddle that can
only be answered by those who choose to find out for themselves.


I know that hallucinogens can be used safely, with little risk and with great
capacity for social and personal benefit. I know also that hallucinogens can be
used with irreverence or with immoderation to ends that are not necessarily
beneficial. Their potential for good may only be fully realised if approached
with sensibility and intelligence, and if they were legalised today, I fear a great
number would experiment in ways that would not coerce that potential into

On the one hand there are a great number of reasons as to why
hallucinogens should be legal. Prohibition simply does not work;
hallucinogens ( as with all drugs ) are still consumed. It does not stop usage
by the general public. What it does prevent is genuine medical or scientific
research. If prohibition does not work, it should not exist. It serves only as an
inconvenience and as a waste of government funds. Hallucinogens are not
intrinsically bad, just as they are not intrinsically good. It is an act of laziness
for the government to ban drugs, they are simply scapegoats. Prohibition
does not attack the root problems, nor does it recognise them. If the
education system provided a sensible discussion of drugs, if all drugs were
legalised, if information and discussion and scientific investigation were
promoted, the usage of harmful drugs would fall. This is manifest in the case
of Portugal ( touched upon in the Legality chapter ) . Drugs, in all
manifestations, have always and will always be used. Holidays from sobriety
are necessary, especially from those lives which are dull or unsatisfactory. If
the government wants to control drug use then measures should not be

taken, as they are, to reduce or limit these mental excursions, they should be
taken to broaden and control them through means over which the government
has power. To illegalise drugs gives the control of the substances to criminal
groups over which the government has no power. Prohibition therefore only
serves to limit the control of the government, a stance that is more than a little
silly. The response of the government is the War on Drugs, which is simply a
more aggressive prohibition. It tries to stamp out the criminal groups who
have the power, which leads to a vast expenditure and the damaging of the
human rights of the general public. The government instead tries to direct all
desires for mental holidays into the whisky bottle, a practice that is damaging
to both individual and society. It is worth noting also that many bad trips or
experiences these days occur as a result of hallucinogens that have been
sold with impurities, or as something other than what they are. The
legalisation and control of hallucinogenic sale would ensure purity and
chemical safety.

As an ethical argument, and this applies to all drugs: what right has the
government to tell me what I can and cannot do to my own body? The only
person who should have control over my own consciousness, over my own
free action in regards to the health of my own body is me. Nobody owns this
body except me. My skin is the end of anyone else s jurisdiction, assuming
that my own actions cause no harm to anyone else. The reasons why
someone would chose to turn to an addictive and harmful drug must lie
elsewhere. The drug problem , in my opinion, is somewhat of a misnomer.
Simply put, I believe that the drug problem is not a drug problem. The
problem hangs at the very core of Western society.

Find me a person that will think for themself, who will challenge themself, who
will seek knowledge, who does not assume themself to be infallible, who can
philosophically and not egocentrically appreciate their own importance, who
wonders about the fundamental nature of things, who seeks to improve

themself, who seeks to understand more about the world or the self, who
applies their intelligence intelligently and give that person 300mg of
mescaline. I will wager almost anything that that person will emerge from the
experience feeling that they have gained something profound.

Yet, what would be the impact of legalised hallucinogens on the general
public? As I say, the problems lie not with the drugs but with the users. We
are taught that the pathway to happiness is immoderate material success; two
cars will make you happier than just one car, a large house is better than a
small house, more money means a better life. The binge drinking culture is
founded on immoderation, indeed the more immoderate a night out is the
better it is considered to be. There are a great number of problems in the
world today that have roots in the desire for power, in greed, in irreverence
and selfishness and a focus on short-term positives over accompanying long-
term negatives. The possible benefits of hallucinogenic use include self-
analysis, empathy and a de-conditioning, but such tools are not only wasted
but can actually reinforce negative traits if used inappropriately. I cannot help
but feel that the widespread legalisation of hallucinogens in today s society
could bring more harm than good, and yet I also believe that hallucinogenic
use could inspire a sort of utopic revolution if utilised properly. If a genie were
to appear out of the ther and offer me the chance to have hallucinogens
legalised, with immediate effect, I cannot say that I would not hesitate.

It is very difficult to describe the problems with our culture that would be at
odds with the widespread usage of hallucinogens. I do not believe that a
mass legalisation would result in a resurgence of the behaviour seen in the
1960s, where drug use was simply part of a greater whole of cultural
revolution. While the legality of the drugs could change overnight, social
perspective of them would not. The media would be flooded with hype-stirring
sensationalist stories and there would be a great deal of opposition. Legality
would not be an immediate precursor to social acceptance. The majority of

use would probably involve recreational excursions into hedonism, probably
using excess quantities and with a tendency to try and get as high as
possible. Widespread, irresponsible, excessive use of hallucinogens, coupled
with the accumulated notions associated with 40 years of anti-hallucinogen
propaganda and myth, used without preparation or research, could easily lead
to some disastrous social accidents, thereby solidifying the argument that
hallucinogens are not compatible with society. The media would whip up a
storm of opposition and anger.

On one side, the use of hallucinogens would demand the realisation of
different ways of looking at the world. They could very definitely be a major
factor in a holistic change of thought, and yet that change would indeed have
to be holistic. It is somewhat of a vicious circle - hallucinogens could induce
extensive and beneficial social changes, but society as it is now would need
to be changed first in order to introduce hallucinogens in this way. Alcohol, the
root of approved Western recreation, leads to increased aggression,
boastfulness, hangovers and inhibition loss when used in excess, as it
generally is. Many hallucinogens are, conversely, accompanied by curiosity,
empathy, personal noetic elucidations, and reduced aggression.
Hallucinogens can be either used or abused; the former may provide
beneficial changes in thought and mood, the latter can be dangerous and
irresponsible. Greatest good would come from widespread use, but
widespread abuse is a scenario I find more likely. My aim with this booklet, as
it is aimed at those of my friends with open minds and intellectual
dispositions, is to demonstrate the potential in use that lies within these
mysterious plants and chemicals. As I said in the introduction to this booklet, I
am not trying to create a new generation of hippies.

Most of you will know of my appreciation of Aldous Huxley s work. His final
book, Island, demonstrates the way in which man could live most agreeably
and happily. Eastern philosophy is coupled with Western science, and

provides a good example of a society in which hallucinogens are used in their
most positive way. After some thought, I have decided to not explain or
describe Island too fully here, instead I shall just suggest and recommend it
as a novel well worth exploring and thinking about.

All of this leads me quite nicely into a description of what I wish to do with my
life. I mentioned in the introduction that I will do a Masters in pharmacognosy
and a Doctorate in some area of ethnopharmacology. I mention also that
these studies will involve research into hallucinogens. I feel that alcohol as a
recreation is not only intrinsically linked with our culture, but that it is also
going to go the same way as tobacco. The government is finally realising that
alcohol abuse is costing it more ( socially and financially ) than it can afford.
Over the next decade or so I predict that increased medical warnings will
appear, taxes will inflate, the age of purchase may rise to 21, bold health
statements will appear on alcohol packaging, further limitations on advertising
will be enforced and the excessive use of alcohol will become less and less
socially acceptable. It will not be outright prohibited, for this would solve little
and provoke much, and the dangers of alcohol are not in the occasional and
moderate usage but in the abuse.

My aim is to research, develop and synthesize a replacement intoxicant for
the Western world, and the group of hallucinogens provide an excellent
starting point.

The way to prevent people from drinking too much alcohol, or becoming
addicts to morphine or cocaine, is to give them an efficient but wholesome
substitute for these delicious and ( i n the present imperfect world )
necessary poisons , said Huxley in his 1931 essay A Treatise on Drugs ,
almost twenty years before his first experience with mescaline.


In his essay Wanted, A New Pleasure , also in 1931, he wrote:
"If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each
day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing
exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth
living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-
transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning
with a clear head and an undamaged constitution -- then, it seems to me, all
our problems ( and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel
pleasure ) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise."

If this newly-discovered drug was suitably empathising and euphoric, without
promoting aggression or recklessness, while being appropriately non-toxic,
non-harmful and non-addictive, and if its introduction were nurtured with
education of usage and effects, and popularised in a particular way, I believe
it could be one of the greatest precursors to a change of cultural thought that
man has yet experienced. It would also need to be cheap and relatively easy
to synthesise, distribute and consume. By establishing, with legal and
governmental approval, a drug that would have otherwise probably have
been illegalised ( or at the least condemnded by those many in society who
support alcohol fully but denounce all other drugs with equal enthusiasm ) it
would almost be fooling people into accepting the positives of a situation that
they might otherwise have ignored. When I wrote to Dennis McKenna, a
famous researcher in the field of psychoactives, he suggested that the closest
compound to these requirements that had been synthesized was MDMA, if
not for its physiological and metabolic detriments. If the compound acted as
an emetic at a dose nearing toxicity, or if it were combined with an emetic in
such a dose, the risk of immoderate abuse would be nullified. It would,
because of the intrinsic pleasure of the experience, find popularity with ease.
It would also be extremely lucrative for any company which were to own the
rights to its production and distribution.


The government funding for such projects is minimal, and indeed the
prospects of my being able to establish a skilled team, attain funding, receive
approval, discover such a drug and then market it successfully are somewhat
slim. I would need to approach a pharmaceuticals company, for they are
uniquely situated to provide funding and influence. Even if it never happens,
and I never discover this perfect intoxicant, I shall still consider it a cause
worth having devoted myself to.

What of the ethics of creating a new drug? Firstly it is pointless and stupid to
overlook the fact that drug use is a part of human nature, it always has been.
Secondly, there are a great deal of drugs out there, including alcohol, that are
damaging in various ways. The introduction of a replacement drug, one that
satisfies the need for intoxication without necessarily being intoxicating, one
that is as pleasant but far less damaging, would be in itself a fine thing to work

However, the development of a drug that could induce such powerful
cognitive changes as could revolutionise the Western man s outlook on the
world, such as a hallucinogen - although the drug would not necessarily have
to cause hallucinations - would have different ethical ramifications. What right
have I to try and change the way in which people think? Yet, I believe it
cannot be immoral to broaden the scope of thought, mind and understanding.
I would consider any restriction of thought an ethical offence, perhaps it would
also be such an issue to introduce an enhancement of perception to people
who would oppose such a change, and yet this new drug would never be
forced upon people. The choice would always exist.

While prohibition of hallucinogens does not work, legalisation too could cause
problems. What way out of this is there? The introduction of a new,
wholesome drug would massively reduce drug crime and hospital admissions,
lessen harmful drug use and alcohol-related social problems and could pave

the way for or accompany a full legalisation of all substances. Who would turn
to more harmful drugs if the pressure of dealers did not exist and there was a
cheap, readily available, safe alternative? Those areas in which the Western
world fails are too numerous and too complex to discuss and analyse now,
but I believe that the new-drug solution could be an important starting
point for cultural change. The discovery of a perfect drug may be an
unattainable dream, and even if it were found it would need to be at the right
time, in the right place, with the right people. For now, I can do what I am
doing with this booklet; try to distribute information on the class of compounds
I believe are closest to that final, elusive goal. The members of this class are
far more varied than I was able to demonstrate in this booklet, as certain
encyclopaedic volumes in the bibliography can tell you, but I hope that this
short introduction has started to dispel a few myths and inspire a little interest.
My apologies for the various generalisations and summaries I have had to
make. I think it important that the positive aspects of hallucinogens are more
widely known, for until public view becomes more tolerant to these chemicals,
no progress may be made in their medical utilisation, nor may acceptance be
found in their use.

I like to think of hallucinogens a little like promethean fire; the potential, stolen
from the gods, to warm, heal and awe but for those who approach with
immoderation or without precaution, the potential also to burn, frighten and
envelop. I wonder whether Prometheus, looking down at the world today,
would chose to bring us his gift or, fearful of causing a dangerous and
uncontrollable blaze, would keep aloof, deciding that this was not the time to
start playing with fire. Personally speaking, as a pyrotechnician, in a
controlled and researched setting, I have always had somewhat of a penchant
for fire


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Text and Cover Illustration Copyright 2009 David King