Fresh Ideas: Mental expansion may mean bigger realities

The new laws permitting use of cannabis means there will be experimenters. While a first experience of psychedelics is unique to the individual, it also is similar to that of others.

Psychedelics relax inhibitions we’ve developed to protect ourselves from feelings and situations that threaten our comfort zone. We’ve essentially subdued our brains and dumbed ourselves down.

The effects of LSD were discovered in 1943 when its Swiss inventor, Albert Hofmann, inadvertently absorbed some while compounding the substance to study its potential as a respiratory stimulant.

He noted his imagination became highly active, producing a stream of fantastic pictures in vivid, swirling colors.

His subsequent systematic experiments proved LSD to be far stronger than historically used hallucinogens such as peyote and mushrooms.

Depending upon such factors as dosage, your companions during your LSD “trip,” and your emotional makeup, reactions can include paranoia, emotional swings, distorted perceptions, hallucinations, and terror of losing control.

On the other hand, cannabis is a gentle psychedelic, with similar but less intense effects, unless you’re the unfortunate party-goer who unwittingly downs “dosed” brownies at a party and later becomes overwhelmed by an unexpected swarm of fantastic images and ideas. Smoking the herb gives an immediate sensation, without the time lapse necessary for digestion to release the effects.

Psychedelics have long been a convenient political whipping boy. The growing popularity of drugs in the Roaring Twenties was celebrated in song in the 1920s and 30s, and cannabis was demonized in the 1938 movie “Reefer Madness.”

By the 1950s LSD had become popularized, and in 1970 all psychoactive drugs were made illegal. They were condemned as highly dangerous without testing or study, and declared to be of no accepted medical value. Public and privately funded studies were outlawed, and so decades have passed with no progress made in identifying potential benefits to psychiatric care.

Meanwhile, government agencies conducted highly classified tests of psychedelics, ESP, and distance-visualizing during the Cold War to outflank the Soviets. Remember “The Manchurian Candidate?” Stories emerged of subjects dosed without their knowledge becoming terrified, not realizing their biology was overcome by an outside agent, like the unwitting party-goer.

With a cautious approach, the sensations can be euphoric and delightful, with a gentle expansion of consciousness, widening our comfort zone by eliminate habitual thought patterns and behaviors. Learning new things and seeing the world through different eyes is fun. Hard as it may be for some people to understand, using cannabis is fun, and fun is valuable and life affirming.

I’ve seen folks laugh a lot, or chatter on, or say nothing for an unusually long time and finally comment, “Well, that didn’t affect me.” Some folks dance a lot, some lose themselves in work. I’ve had a calming sensation, a sort of “Oh, why didn’t you say so?” feeling. I’ve seen there’s more to life than the sterile interpretations of reality I’ve grown old on. Cannabis confirmed life is larger and far more interesting than I’d been told.

Sincere gratitude and fun are in mighty short supply these days. The biological instinct to suspect danger in our environment makes it easy to criticize our circumstances, rather than acknowledge the good things in our lives, such as our wonderfully complex bodies which permit us to think and act. If we permit ourselves to experience mental expansion, we may encounter bigger realities, and learn more about the massive number of awesome things we actually can be grateful for, which we don’t even notice in our busy, stress-filled every day lives.

Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a long-time Comstock resident.


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