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Substance Warnings and Guidelines
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10/6/14 1:47 PM
Dear DhO Posters,

This is the stickied thread that sits at the top of a new category. It is a place to discuss the effects of substances on your practice that are not supplements and not prescribed pharmaceuticals, such as things like enthogens. It is offered in the spirit of sites like Erowid, which believe that rational discussion and a supportive community of wise practitioners helping those who choose to explore those territories will have better outcomes.

That said: be warned that this is not any advocacy for the use of any substances, and individual posters and readers take responsibility for their own choices and their legal consequences.

Further, unlicensed and ilicit substances are well known to cause dangerous consequences, including severe mental illness, dangerous behaviour and death. Any use of any substance actually entails risks, as does meditation and spiritual training.

As people are going to use substances anyway, and as some members have had experiences both good and bad that were of significant consequence to their practice, it is worth having a place to include wise and thoughtful discussion of these things. Further, as this site benefits from map and meditative theory that is generally far beyond that found elsewhere, the application of that to experiences that may have occurred while using substances has been found to have been pragmatically helpful to many posters here, as noted in those threads. Thus, despite the risks, the benefits of these discussions hopefully will help people stay sane, healthy, functional and alive.

Threads on these topics will be moderated heavily owing to the nature of this topic. Be wise, caring, and thoughtful when posting here.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 10:38 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Howdy Daniel,
I like the idea of this sticky.  I also think that the attitude of Erowid is adult and similar to the flavour here.  ie:Be fully informed before you make decisions that affect only yourself and accept the consequences.

One point I would like to make is that Pharmaceuticals are far more dangerous than non-pharmaceutical abuse substances.  I know that's a big statement and will imediately raise hackles.  Note that I'm not implying that there are no benefits from some pharmaceuticals. 

I am assuming that they are being left our of this discussion because they are not generally though of as "mind expanding" in the sense of enthogens or that the discussion would be less focused were they to be included?  Is that correct?

Cheers

tom

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 1:30 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
There are actually three sub-categories on the category, and one of them is Pharmaceuticals, another Supplements, another is the one that has that stickied on it: Other.

I totally agree that prescribed pharmaceuticals can cause all sorts of complex side effects, but the legal issues are different.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 2:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I think it's important to point out that entheogens, though they are used in certain spiritual traditions, are unnecessary for progress along the path of insight (and all other axes of development that I know of). Most Westerners have easy access to a wide variety of teachings and techniques from a wide variety of wisdom traditions where entheogens play no roles.

The progress of insight, the concentration states, and experiences of the powers are crazy enough without entheogens. 

Disclaimer: my only experiences involve opiates. Not recommended

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 2:40 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Well, true in ways and not true in others.

I agree: I know of no wisdom that has come to anyone from opiates beyond those things related to opiates themselves, namely that they control pain, are constipating, sedating and very addictive, can make people vomit, cause rashes, rapidly induce tolerance, may amplify the perception of pain once tolerance has set in, have a nasty withdrawal period, and have other downsides.

As to entheogens, the purist in me would like a world where people simply did clean meditative practices, attained to wisdom and a range of attention-control competencies on thier own power, and that was that. Then we have the real world...

In the real world, loads of people do entheogens, and some get wisdom from them. Others freak out on them. Some just have strange or interesting experiences. Some have serious side effects. Most don't. A few end up in jail, psychotic or dead. I know a guy who spent 25 years in prison after he killed his girlfriend while high on acid in the 1970's when he found her in bed with his best friend. I had a friend in junior high school who dropped his first hit of acid and came down 3 months later and was never really the same after that. I see patients who are violently psychotic in the ED from various drugs, most recently something called "i25". He required about 10 police and security people to hold him down: so don't do i25, that is my best advice.

That said, in my own life, it is entirely possible and actually very likely that, had a good friend not dropped 4 hits of acid one day and crossed the A&P, which later lead to all sorts of other relatively beneficial effects, I would have never found the meditative things that I found.

As many have noted here, there are insights that come from them, and plenty of people get into meditative territory on them that they couldn't have dreamed of until that point. Unfortunately, it is a total crap-shoot, and there is no telling if someone will get insights or have something bad happen. The risks, in my view, are definitely higher with entheogens. That said, intensive meditation practice is not necessarily safe either, as plenty here will attest. Were there not the legal stigma around these things, perhaps real science could be done to help sort this out. Until then, we have case reports of variable quality and communities to help make sense of what happens in the real world.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 3:16 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
FWIW I think you're thinking of 25i-NBOMe. It's a research chemical that mimics LSD to an extent, and costs a fraction of the price. Most people selling 'acid' today are selling 25i or something similar. Definitely avoid and/or get a testing kit

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 3:26 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Ah, yes, that's it: 25i: bad stuff. See how a community brings clarity to these issues? ;)

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 3:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel:
I totally agree that prescribed pharmaceuticals can cause all sorts of complex side effects, but the legal issues are different.

The legal issues are different so long as the pharmaceuticals are prescribed by a licensed medical provider specifically for the person taking them; therefore, could you slightly edit the sticky to make clear that when you say "pharmaceuticals" you are talking about those lawfully prescribed for the person taking them? My neurologist has been through all kinds of crazy situations--for example, a patient stole his prescription pad and went on a controlled substance spree across three counties. My son's friends have stolen prescribed controlled substances from me. And so forth. There is a huge, huge black market of prescription drugs used recreationally, and my son and his friends tell me that these substances are the main "party" substances used and abused these days. As a licensed physician, I'm sure you get what I'm saying. 

And, yes, prescribed drugs can and do cause a myriad of harms even when prescribed conscientiously and legally, whereas certain illegal substances are only minimally risky, if at all. This is something we can discuss here.

I have a lot of personal information/learning to share about supplements, as well as SNRIs and anticonvulsants, and how they can affect bodymind states and practice, so I agree that these discussions are constructive to have.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 4:23 PM as a reply to Jenny.
The legal issues are still different, but I agree, there is tons of prescription drug abuse. I have days when it may be a significant portion of the reason for up to half of my patients coming to the ED one way or the other.

If you will note, in the descriptor, it states prescribed pharmaceuticals.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 4:36 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I agree: I know of no wisdom that has come to anyone from opiates beyond those things related to opiates themselves, namely that they control pain, are constipating, sedating and very addictive, can make people vomit, cause rashes, rapidly induce tolerance, may amplify the perception of pain once tolerance has set in, have a nasty withdrawal period, and have other downsides.
Oh, there's another kind of (conventional) wisdom that come with opiates. I now understand why some unfortunate people spend their entire lives chasing their next high at the expense of everything else. Which is a sad insight.

As to entheogens, the purist in me would like a world where people simply did clean meditative practices, attained to wisdom and a range of attention-control competencies on thier own power, and that was that. Then we have the real world...
Hey, me too! 
In the real world, loads of people do entheogens, and some get wisdom from them. Others freak out on them. Some just have strange or interesting experiences. Some have serious side effects. Most don't. A few end up in jail, psychotic or dead. 

I agree that we live in a world where almost everyone has taken some kind of entheogen, and one could argue that psychoactives in general have played an important part in human history and evolution for tens of thousands of years. That being said, one could make the case that entheogens cover A&P territory. I personally have never heard of anyone getting stream-entry on LSD, though I could very well be wrong, and I would like to hear about it if it has happened.

Another thing worth considering: if someone drops acid and crosses the A&P without knowing what was happening, they've got a big problem. It is true that the A&P can zap people simply going about their lives, but entheogens make it more likely to happen without meditative training.
That said, in my own life, it is entirely possible and actually very likely that, had a good friend not dropped 4 hits of acid one day and crossed the A&P, which later lead to all sorts of other relatively beneficial effects, I would have never found the meditative things that I found.
Well, true, I suppose none of us would be here if he hadn't done that. 
As many have noted here, there are insights that come from them, and plenty of people get into meditative territory on them that they couldn't have dreamed of until that point. Unfortunately, it is a total crap-shoot, and there is no telling if someone will get insights or have something bad happen. The risks, in my view, are definitely higher with entheogens. That said, intensive meditation practice is not necessarily safe either, as plenty here will attest. Were there not the legal stigma around these things, perhaps real science could be done to help sort this out. Until then, we have case reports of variable quality and communities to help make sense of what happens in the real world.

Speaking of legal stigma, I feel inclined to say that anyone posting about the use of entheogens should take the necessary steps to anonymize themselves, such as talking about "a friend of a friend" instead of themselves.

Hopefully the drug war will come to an end in the next couple of decades, but Americans have a bad habit of electing the same morons over and over...

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 5:51 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel:
If you will note, in the descriptor, it states prescribed pharmaceuticals.

Yes, I know it does. But it doesn't say for whom. So this is the same as just saying "prescription drugs," with no implication that we are talking about use of legit medication for legit conditions in that subsection. 

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/6/14 5:57 PM as a reply to Dada Kind.
Yes, true LSD is these days generally not available. It is not profitable to make and sell, so it isn't.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/8/14 12:19 PM as a reply to Jenny.
The 25i-nBome being mistakenly taken/sold as acid is an issue in the drug community, but it is very easy to tell the difference with minimal drug knowledge. Both 25i/25c and LSD are potent enough to be put on blotters and not much else is nearly strong enough to have effects at sub-1mg doses. LSD takes like nothing or has a slight metallic taste depending on how it is produced. 25i numbs the tongue and tastes horrible. One could try a tab and simply spit it out if it tastes like 25i. But in reality, everyone should be getting thier drugs from reputable venders on the internet. Also LSD is still mass produced and very profitable. Tryptamines are wonderful substances. There is something very special and definately useful in meditation and emotional introspection about them. They have had nothing but positive influence on my life, but it is important to note that everyone reacts to drugs differently and they are not for everyone.. 

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/20/14 10:34 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Ok, so this didn't happen to a friend or anything like that, it happened to me. It happened a long time ago while I was in college. It was the first time I passed the A&P. Here's a quote from my soon to be e-published practice memoir:
Impermanence, too, became viscerally real one Saturday night. I decided to take LSD and attend one of the free films provided by the student activities committee. The film that night was Akira Kurosawa’s epic, Seven Samurai. The theater was packed, and I had to stand in the aisles because I had arrived too late to get a seat.  As the movie started, the drug took hold and reality slowly began to slip from its moorings. I had trouble following the plot, the theater was hot, and I lost interest in the film. I walked out of the theater and back to my dorm room. I sat down in my desk chair, and watched the play of lights and feelings as the drug experience gathered power, then moved to the floor, put on my headphones, and tuned the radio to the underground FM radio station from New Haven.

The first few songs were unremarkable, but then, as the drug experience was peaking, a song called Lucky Man by the English progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake, and Palmer came on. It tells the story of a prince who has everything a man could want - fame, women, wealth, and a wonderful life – then he goes to war and is killed. Suddenly, I understood what the young woman professor had meant about impermanence. Impermanence was no longer theoretical. Reality seemed to be literally dissolving before my very eyes. As soon as something arose, it disappeared. The whole of the universe was radically and totally impermanent – with the single exception of the Witness, myself, - watching it all fall apart.

This seems like a classic A&P as described in MCTB through the gates of impermance and maybe suffering (the lyrics of the song), i.e two of the three gates.  After this paragraph, there's a footnote summarizing the MCTB map and pointing out that this was probably an A&P event. I include a couple other footnotes where other A&P events occured, and one where I think I went into Reobservation during a concentration meditation retreat and experienced psychosis, when no drugs were involved. I have unfortunately not yet experienced First Path, even after more than 40 years of meditation practice.

So I do not agree with Brad Warner and others that denigate experiences with psychedelics as being irrelevant towards practice. Nothing in life is irrelevant towards a serious practice. That said, they are a very blunt instrument and can go wrong much more often than they can go right. I know of people who have had their lives seriously derailed by them. I would not, under any circumstances, recommend that people use them even if they were legal, and especially because they are not. In fact, I would not recommend anyone who is serious about practice to smoke marijuana even though it is now legal in Washington and Colorado and I personally do not drink either. To paraphrase my former Zen teacher, how can you expect to wake up if you are taking stuff to put you to sleep?

In contrast, meditation goes right far more often that it goes wrong, but it does go wrong as my aformentioned psychosis illustrates. Of course, there is also the Dark Night, but this particular episode involved hallucinations of devas, daemons and past lives, not depression and wanting to cut off relationships so I could go to Japan and meditate (that happened too, fortunately I didn't follow up on it and got over the depression fairly quickly). A hard core practice risks psychological stability more than the laid back, "just dealing with my stuff" practice which is all too common in the West.

So, in summary, I would say that drugs have no place in a serious practice. There are much cleaner ways to pass the A&P, and that is really all they will bring. But hard core meditation practice is not without its risks too, and teachers really need to make students aware of that.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/21/14 5:41 AM as a reply to svmonk.
in "High"  school, someone dosed me with a hit of windowpane.  it wasn't my first experience but i was not mentally prepared for a trip, so when he told me what he had done I was pretty flipped out. i had to go home to my parents house.  it was incredibly intenst acid and so I said i wasn't feeling well and went up to my bedroom where i proceeded to dive down through the layers of conciousness toward what i imagened at the time to be an unavoidable death.

i kept going "down" through increasingly sublte states but the witness was always there noticing these layers and shifts and never blinked out. 

i believe my first A&P happenned then and the search for the implicit bottom of that experience continues to this day.  it was a formative experience which was terrifying and clarifying simultaneously.

if it hadn't happened i would perhaps be a content accountant in a middle class house enjoying my GMO lunches and johnnie's football games instead of the strange guy who lives in the woods in germany.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/21/14 6:45 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
A relevant topic, which has been touched on in DhO but in a scattered way. Sure to ellicit lots of stuff, for instance…

(In short) Experience with "mind-altering drugs" or "psychodelics", as was the terminology back then, played an important, an educational role in my life back in the 1960-70s. Since then, and especially now, with engagement in serious Theravadan-type practice, that sort of thing is irrelevant, and would be counter-productive.

(Apparently the correct term is now 'entheogens', which I recognize from the Greek as something like 'in/into/within-divinity-generating'. Like the word 'enthusiasm' also 'having the god within.')

(The longer tale) Living in Berkeley (California USA) 1964-1970, and San Francisco 1970-1976, it would have been exceptional, downright weird not to have experienced psychodelics, and/or opiates, speed-drugs, and so on.

Initial encounter with "pot" was early 1960s, still at Stanford, when a close friend took me along "across the tracks" (to East Palo Alto) to visit a Hispanic friend of his. Darkened room in candle light, lounging on the carpet smoking this strange aromatic stuff. Then some music was played that I'd never heard before (despite being a Music major) – John Coltrane and Bob Dylan. Incredible musical experience, so vivid and up-close, as if inside the musicians' consciousness – in hindsight, a sort of absorption. Opened new worlds of musical appreciation. Otherwise, the usual stuff – makes you thirsty, and food was unusually enjoyable.

About the same time, a teacher /colleague once participated in some research at the Palo Alto VA hospital. He was paid $25 to spend the day there, was 'administerd' LSD in the morning, and then had urine and blood samples taken every half-hour for the rest of the day. (Doesn't that sound like a fun 'trip'?) I can't recall anything interesting he had to say about it.

Then at Berkeley (1967 -- the "summerof love", the summer of 'Dr. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (the Beatles), and 'Blonde on Blonde' (Bob Dylan)), I (everyone there) was introduced to LSD, Mescaline etc. At that time, one was usually 'guided' in 1st-time experiences by someone trust-worthy who was familiar with the substance, and knew how to take care of someone doing it for the first time.

I was introduced to LSD, peyote (mostly as refined mescaline), and a couple of flashy but less remarkable sorts like 'MDA'. Some acquaintances went off into cocaine, meth, heroin, etc., usually with bad endings. I tried opium once – it was just a really good sleep.

In hindsight, I would say the cannabis experience was a mild sort of sensual samadhi. LSD was hardcore samadhi, and, on the way out (after the 1st 8 hours or so), opportunity for rather intense vipassana. Mescaline fell somewhere in-between – good for walks in the woods, and long intellectual discussions with friends.

Actually, a group of close friends and I – all grad students in Music History – would gather regularly Friday evenings for 1) some pot to loosen-up, 2) a good meal, followed by 3) 'dropping' LSD or mescaline and an evening of listening to hardcore classical music (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner,…) – exchanging experiences, and, as the drug lightened-up (these sessions went most of the night), in-depth analysis, 'research' we called it. At least one PhD dissertation grew out of that extra-curricular 'course of study'.

A close friend in the composition side of music at Berkeley, was studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen (the leading German composer of mid-late 20th-century electronic music), who was teaching at UC Davis in 1968. Rolf, my friend who was also German, related that Stockhausen pointedly discouraged his students from using the drugs. His opinion was that with discipline and hard work (a true Teutonic type he was) one could achieve just as strong concentration and insight (vis-a-vismusical composition), and the practical results would be far more substantial.

Over the ensuring 25 years, I would occasionally use something socially, mostly pot, but noted that trying to sit down at a computer work-station in such a state was a waste of time. (Computer science / software was my profession in that period.)

Back in the first experiences with LSD, it seemed that conscious awareness was being intensified into deeper layers of neural functioning – experiencing light, sound, etc. as pure and rather radient phenomena minus high-level mental integration (recognizable 'meaning'); higher-level abstract mental functioning, such as reading, writing, logic, dealing with computer programming, etc. was just not accessible, seemed far distant and requiring extreme effort. Not worth it compared with this luxuriant garden of vibrant pure sensation.

For the last 15 years (now professionally into classical Chinese medicine), that's all pretty much history. And, taking up samadhi and vipassana practice for the last 7-8 years, it seems that the earlier drug experiences did help in gaining a familiarity with a variety of possible mental experiences, but has no use in training the durable mental skills needed on the path. Better 'DIY'; better yet, just 'DI' (without the self).

A couple of times in recent years, a colleague (a psychologist) would invite me to share a 'puff or two' (pot -- much stronger varieties now than back then), but I became acutely aware of how it distorted mental presence and how distracting that was. Since then, I understand the '5th precept' (no substances that hinder clear-comprehension), and naturally stick to it – no more drugs, nor beer, wine, etc. Simple Sati is much more worthwhile.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
10/24/14 12:57 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
About 25i, it's a pure 5HT-2a and -2c agonist at relevant doses. It can be fully reversed with any fast-acting antiserotonergic like olanzapine IM. Cyproheptadine works fine too, but I'm not sure how you'd get the pt to take it since there's no IM formulation. 

Not that I suggest anyone take 25i. Its receptor binding profile suggests it's terribly unpleasant and anxiety-provoking for most people.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
2/15/15 11:45 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
There are actually three sub-categories on the category
This has become a very blurry line. It is a simple matter to purchase some powerful psychopharmaceuticals that are legally sold as supplements, herbals, research chemicals. I don't mean that to be scarry, but it is happening very quickly, online and brick and mortar. The bonds of the drug war are raveling, and perhaps intentionally.

Methoxetamime (MXE) is a research chemical developed to reduce toxic effects of ketamine. Both drugs are being researched as fast and effective anti-depressant therapies. I purchased MXE online with little effort. My interest was because my research found it to be safe and effective for depression, and it is a potent entheogen at moderate dose. 

(I tried a moderate dose of about 30mg and found it worked as claimed. It was an excellent concentration tool. My experience was painted with much brighter colors and deeper dimensionality. Cognition was calm, alert and attentive. Depression lifted 100%. Sleep was easy. The hangover was a pleasant lifting of depression that lasted for several days.)

MXE is just one example. There are many more. A good start to see this marketplace is to google nootropics, then look at what is being sold - much of it is pharmaceuticals.

I have no problem with informed use of personal psychoactives. Humans do all kinds of things to change their consciousness. That's why we're all here. Some of these are useful, some are not useful. I am a serious student of the only mind I will ever own, and find some of the chemtools to be good learning tools. An insight triggered by a trip is still an insight.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
2/17/15 7:24 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
What is map theory ( original post) ?   Googling only turned up a bunch of links about mathematics for me and I think it means something else on DHO emoticon.

RE: Substance Warnings and Guidelines
Answer
2/17/15 12:15 PM as a reply to Steve.
howdy steve,
map theory is the idea thatcontemplative practice will lead a practitioner through clearly defined experiences which follow one another in a prescribed  order.  the labels and groupings of experience on the map may differ from tradition to tradition but the range covered is presumed to be similar.