The above quote inspired Aldous Huxley to write about his experiences on the psychedelic substance mescaline. It also gave rise to one of the most famous bands to come out of the 1960s.
For me, the quote signifies the winter of 2014 when I took four doses of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and experienced what many in the psychedelic community refer to as an ego death. I think Medium writer, Cassy Myers, summed it up perfectly when she wrote:
“Ego death is described as the ‘complete loss of subjective self-identity,’ and can be brought on by a large dose of any psychedelic drug. It’s a state of being where a person is ripped from their ‘reality tunnel.’ Ego death is essentially an experience of embodying your True Nature completely (or returning back to who you really are), temporarily.” ¹
It’s important to mention that the experience is truly impossible to describe if you’ve never taken a psychedelic yourself. It’s extremely personal and dives deep into your psyche, revealing aspects of yourself you’ve always known, but have for too long ignored.
Such an experience is naturally bound to change an individual. And with such a change, an individual’s day-to-day experiences are also likely to alter. For many of us, this includes our recreational use of marijuana.
Since cannabis is also a psychedelic, I personally found my highs to be a lot more involved after an ego death. So much so, I’ve had some pretty nasty panic attacks just off a few hits. For a while, such experiences can make a man feel as though he’s going insane.
And, as with most people in today’s society, when a man feels as though he’s going insane, he scours the internet in hopes of validation. Little did I know, there were hundreds of communities of people who have looked into the effects of cannabis after a psychedelic experience.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look into this community. From there, we’re going to try and figure out if there is a correlation between psychedelic drugs and weed. Though there is no scientific research surrounding the matter, the science that is there for cannabis and psychedelics may just help us with this venture.
How Do Psychedelics Affect the Brain?
Research concerning psychedelics has been limited. Since the 1960s, substances like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms were considered dangerous with no apparent medical purposes. However, in recent years, psychedelics have made a comeback as some people are finding it alleviates with certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
And, with that, research concerning psychedelics has also been making headlines.
It’s always been a given that these substances are some of the most powerful drugs known to affect brain function. Popular for their hallucinogenic properties, psychedelic drugs can produce images, sounds, and sensations that feel very real but don’t necessarily exist.
Rolling Stone reports that this has to do with psychedelics’ effects on neural activity. Many of the brain’s functions are less restrained during a trip, leaving users “better able to emotion.” Furthermore, there are various networks in your brain that become much more connected, creating that higher state of consciousness many people report. ²
Of course, various psychedelic substances affect the brain in different manners. However, it’s generally granted that all psychedelics will rewire the brain in one way or another in order to produce hallucinations.
Recent research has found that some of these effects may be long-lasting, if not permanent. A recent study, reported by Live Science, reveals that psychedelics will physically alter the brain by changing the formation of brain cells.
Though this may be intimidating to some, the effects this can have on an individual are actually quite positive. David Olson, an assistant professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular medicine at the University of California, Davis, claims, “Psychedelics are able to actually [change] neuronal structure, [and] that’s really important because [brain] structure controls function.” ³
Due to this control, psychedelics hold the possibility of helping repair brain networks in the prefrontal cortex that may have been damaged from various medical conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Take the psychedelic drug DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine) as an example. The researchers gave rats a dose and found that though the effects didn’t last long – most of the drug was completely flushed from their systems within just a few hours – the rats’ brains continue to rewire, according to the psychedelic, for a minimum of 24 hours.
Again, research is very primitive and the psychedelic experience far outweighs anything a number of lab reports can write about it. Still, with the knowledge we’ve laid out above, it’s safe to say these substances have a profound effect on the brain. One of which continues to have influence even after the drug is out of an individual’s system.
If that’s the case, then it’s granted that these effects can play some kind of role in cannabis consumption after a psychedelic experience.
Weed and the Brain
Since cannabis’ affects all work through our endocannabinoid system (ECS), the substance affects the brain differently in comparison to other psychedelic drugs. To sum it up, cannabis directly affects neurotransmitters which are little chemical messengers for our whole body. By influencing these transmitters, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the main chemical compound in marijuana) slows down how cells send, receive and process messages. ⁴
In many regards, THC’s influence on the ECS is overwhelming and this is part of the reason we experience a high from smoking cannabis. Since the ECS influences a number of neurotransmitters, this gives THC the ability to have it influence on the following brain structures:
- Amygdala – regulates emotions and anxiety
- Basal Ganglia – regulates planning and starting a movement
- Brain Stem – regulates information between the brain and spinal column
- Cerebellum – regulates motor coordination and balance
- Hippocampus – regulates learning of new information
- Hypothalamus – regulates eating and sexual behavior
- Neocortex – regulates complex thinking, feeling, and movements
- Nucleus Accumbens – regulates motivation and reward
- Spinal Cord – regulates the transmission of information between body and brain (i.e. pain)
Unfortunately, it’s not certain how other psychedelic drugs, like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, effect each of these specific areas of the brain. However, as mentioned, these drugs have the ability to change the structure of various brain cells and repair brain networks.
With that information, it’s extremely safe to say that psychedelics’ long-lasting effects on the brain will have short-term effects when an individual consumes cannabis.
Cannabis and Psychedelics – A New Way to Get High
Generally speaking, most people within the psychedelic community claim that their cannabis highs are much “trippier” after a psychedelic experience.
In a personal account by Reddit User guitarguy1326, “I tried acid for the first time about a year ago. Since then, I’ve tripped six times and, while talking to my friend today, we got on the topic of LSD. We both agreed that weed doesn’t feel the same after using psychedelics, it almost feels like I’m about to go into a trip. In fact, I don’t even remember what weed used to feel like, but it certainly wasn’t like this.”
Many of the replies to this account agree that a cannabis high after LSD is almost like microdosing a psychedelic drug. Some even go as far as to say a bad trip led them to have panic attacks while high on weed.
There are a number of theories as to why this happens. Some believe it has to do with whether or not you smoke during a psychedelic trip. Others say it has to do with your environment and the people you surround yourself with while high.
In accordance with the science we’ve mentioned, I believe it has much more to do with the brain’s restructuring. Not to mention a number of other factors, including your cannabis tolerance and what your psychedelic experience was like.
Personally, I haven’t done psychedelics in almost five years. Since that time, cannabis has slowly gone back to what I originally remember it to be – a substance I can consume to relax at the end of the day. Sometimes I’ll get a “trippy” experience from cannabis high, but this is usually based on how much I consume and my environment.
Still, I can’t help but recall that within the weeks and months of a psychedelic experience, I had a similar experience to what these people are discussing. And I believe a lot of other young people experimenting with psychedelics are also going through this and are just as confused as I was.
As I mentioned in the beginning, people often report an “ego death” from a psychedelic experience. I believe the science we’ve laid out within this article can confirm why that ego death takes place. And if the ego is bound to collapse through the psychedelic experience, there’s no denying that a cannabis high with a weaker ego is bound to differ.
Though psychedelic substances and cannabis aren’t directly linked, they do seem to play off one another. And, with that said, it’s possible that doing psychedelics even just one time can change the way people feel when they’re high on cannabis.
Written and published Paul James In Weed World Magazine Issue 146