By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor | Photos By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor
“The Deal with Drugs” is a special series that looks at various aspects and issues of drugs and drug addiction.
Psychedelics are a classification of drugs that have mind-altering effects because they affect the brain chemistry easily, said Director of Nursing Programs Diane Evans-Prior.
Psychedelics can alter neural transmission and cause visual or auditory hallucinations, she said.
“It’s that they change the perceptions. Visually, the colors seem brighter, your sensations feel intense. Some people will report that the experience is like synesthesia, where people will smell music or hear color,” she said.
An experience can be positive or negative. Taking peyote is almost always associated with heavy vomiting, she said. If someone takes the drug on a whim and has depression or anxiety, the psychedelic trip can make the effects of the disorder worse, she said.
“A lot of people who are pursuing this are looking for something to stop the pain, something to make them forget their bad lives. Often times it is considered a bad trip when the hallucinations end up being very terrifying,” she said.
There are also instances of users having good psychedelic trips, and the popularity of this type of drug is re-emerging in an unexpected way.
“There are some psychedelics that are used in meditation in Central America, and South America. Well-established people who have some money take trips down there to experience these psychedelic meditations, and they’re finding that the overall experience is very healing,” she said.
Nutrition major Lorenzo Ascoagea said he is on the fence about the use of psychedelics.
These types of drugs alter the state of mind and it is hard to tell how much of the user’s true personality is still there during a trip, he said.
He has also seen studies in which psychedelics are used to treat people with certain mental disorders.
“Some things I’ve watched say it can help with psychological problems with certain people, so it’s good and bad for me,” he said.
Evans-Prior said that, in conjunction with heavy therapy, psychedelics like LSD are starting to be used for disorders such as anxiety or depression because the participant can have a more active role in the treatment.
“The psychedelic experience tends to be on a much more lucid side. They do tend to cause people to let go a little bit and some people might be more inclined to let some of those walls down to talk about those issues,” she said. “It’s not like alcohol where your speech gets slurred and you don’t really remember things, or morphine and opiates where you’re more sleepy.”
Science major Thom Maybee said that psychedelics can be good or bad, depending on people’s perspectives and what outcomes they are looking for.
There are more benefits from the use of psychedelics than negative outcomes, he said. There are dangers to certain types, but the majority of the slight chemical alterations in the brain do not outweigh the enlightenment a person can take from the experience.
“In societal merit I think they are more of a help than a hindrance. What you derive from that chemical alteration can be immensely more positive than the downside biologically. I definitely believe that the altered state has a negative connotation about it,” said Maybee.
He said he has had several experiences with psychedelics in the past 10 to 20 years, and some of them were bad in the beginning, but have since always been positive.
“I’ve had bad experiences in the beginning but those bad experiences enlightened me into more meaningful experiences later on after the hindsight,” he said.
Prior-Evans said a psychedelic that can be found locally is Artemisia, otherwise known as wormwood, whict has been used by the Native American population for religious ceremonies.
There was a time when wormwood was being used by teenagers and young adults in an irresponsible manner and the outcome was not always a good psychedelic trip, she said.
“It’s one of the sage plants here. It has been used by the Native population because it is very mind altering. There was a time here when some teenagers were using it, and if you’re just doing this willy nilly it could be deadly,” she said.
It is important to have proper education on drugs and their effects because when a substance starts to cross into the central nervous system, it can be very dangerous, she said.
“The person who is seeking it to become insightful for healing, under the right circumstances and processes, could actually achieve that. Unfortunately that’s the minimum. Most people want to see the walls move, and that becomes really dangerous,” she said.
Those who use psychedelic drugs for spiritual or medicinal purposes usually do so very carefully but even under the most controlled circumstances, their use can be very dangerous.
“They know how much to take, they know how to prepare it, how to consume it. It has got to be used very cautiously,” she said.
Experiencing psychedelics outside of the practitioner realm, spiritual leaders included, is dangerous because when money is the motivator to distribute the drugs, the user cannot know if it has been cut with a dangerous substance, she said.
“People are unscrupulous and they don’t care. It might be cut with something that looks like it or tastes like it — anything from Dran-O to baking soda,” she said.
Christopher Pope contributed to this article.