For thousands and thousands of years humans have sought out mind-altering experiences. Early civilizations cultivated plants that provided “mystical” experiences and used them in a litany of religious ceremonies (Britannica, 2021). In 1970, the United States signed the Controlled Substance Act into law, making psychedelic drug use illegal (Belouin & Henningfield, 2018). As our modern political ground continues to shift, psychedelics are being examined as potential treatments for several psychiatric conditions. Today we are going to break down psychedelics!
Let’s start off by going over some common psychedelic drugs:
- Psilocybin (“Magic Mushrooms”) → After ingested, the user will experience an altered state of mind for 3-6 hours. This drug works by mimicking serotonin and binding to serotonin receptors and altering brain function (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017; Roate, Bhattacharya, & Panicker, 2019)
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (“LSD”) → After ingested, the user will experience an altered state of mind for 8-12 hours. This drug works by activating several different types of serotonin and dopamine receptors (Liechti, 2017; Joyce, 2017).
- N-N,Dimethyltryptamine (“DMT”) → After ingested, DMT has a rapid onset and creates an altered state of mind for 15-60 minutes. The drug works by primarily binding to serotonin receptors, as well as non-serotonin receptors (thought to be opioid receptors). This chemical is the active ingredient in ayahuasca and is also produced naturally by the body, although scientists have not come to consensus of what the purpose of naturally produced DMT (Morales-Garcia et al., 2020; Carbonaro & Gatch, 2016).
Based on what we have been told by individuals who have used these substances, we believe that the differences in experience between these drugs are notable. Psilocybin supposedly produces a more “full body” hallucination while LSD produces a more “brain-localized” hallucination. DMT has been reported to be more of a “journey through the subconscious.” None of these descriptions are scientific, however we thought it would be meaningful to share these lived experiences!