Understanding psychedelics as amplifiers of the placebo response helps explain their ever-widening scope of applications—from accelerating one’s spiritual growth to reducing tobacco use. Manageable doses of these drugs may thus be conceptualized as optimizing placebo’s contribution to their observed benefits. The biological correlates of successful outcomes may therefore relate as much to indirect psychedelic-effected changes in the placebo response as to direct effects of the drugs. A “mystical/peak experience” is now believed to be the common denominator underlying the benefits reported in current research across a wide variety of conditions. However, I believe that an enhanced placebo response is a...
In last week’s post, I promised to discuss high-dose psychedelic work. However, as I began writing this week’s post, I saw that it would be beneficial to first discuss not-high-doses. These are what I refer to as manageable doses. Modern clinical research with psychedelics is generating uniformly and markedly beneficial results, both practical and heuristic. Researchers are deliberately administering modest doses of drugs, in combination with rigorously structured set and setting. In this context, modest doses maximize sessions’ effects toward desired outcomes and away from negative ones. These results enable psychedelic research to progress within the mainstream, albeit at its...
The three pillars of the psychedelic drug experience—set, setting, and dose—are the topics for this and the next blog post. They are inextricably intertwined. Channeling the set and setting toward well-defined goals acceptable by the mainstream requires staying within “manageable” doses of drug. By carefully regulating dose, set, and setting, we are now witnessing the publication of a remarkable series of beneficial and heuristically useful outcomes to psychedelic drug projects. In addition, such studies report a very low incidence of serious adverse effects. Posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, creativity, spirituality, end-of-life palliation—the list seems to grow...
How do the current presentation and reception of psychedelic drugs reflect lessons learned from the backlash against these drugs in the 1960s? And what does this say about their future? In this week’s blog I describe some ways in which psychedelics and their effects are being mainstreamed and attaining political correctness through their biomedicalization. However, by this process, I see a potential risk in limiting our understanding and application of the full range their effects. The media In the current revival of interest in psychedelics, the media have up until now taken a balanced and positive approach to anything psychedelic....
September 12, 2017 “At the very least, we must enlarge the discussion about psychedelics.” Dr. Willis Harman, one of the pioneers of research into the effects of psychedelics on creativity, made this declaration to me while I was in the early stages of performing my DMT studies. We were walking along the central California coast during a break in an invitational conference on psychedelics at Esalen Institute. I was nervously prattling on about God knows what, and he cut right through the fog with his characteristic precision. It was great advice, and has been one of the touchstones of my...
Since 1996, Dr. Strassman has been exploring models for the DMT effect focusing primarily on the Old Testament concept of prophecy. Prophecy is a spiritual experience which takes into account the apparently external, free-standing nature of the DMT "worlds," in which one's sense of self is highly preserved and interactive. The Old Testament concept of prophecy provides an alternative to other models that borrow more heavily from Eastern religious systems, and those of Latin American shamanism. The notion of prophecy also deals directly with ethical and moral concerns, adding a crucial element to our ability to understand and integrate the content of the psychedelic experience. He is developing these ideas in his next book, The Soul of Prophecy, due to appear in 2013.
Dr. Strassman is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He is also President and co-founder of the Cottonwood Research Foundation, which is dedicated to consciousness research.
Rick Strassman MD performed the first new human studies with psychedelic drugs in the US in over 20 years.
His research involved the powerful naturally-occurring compound, DMT – N,N-dimethyltryptamine. Led to this substance through his earlier study of the pineal gland as a potential biological locus for spiritual experiences, he administered several hundred doses of DMT to approximately 60 volunteers between 1990 and 1995. He wrote about this research in the popular book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which has sold over 100,000 copies, has been translated into 12 languages, and is now available as an audio-book. It also inspired an independent documentary by the same name, picked up by Warner Bros distributing in Fall, 2011. With three distinguished collaborators, he co-authored Inner Paths to Outer Space, which looks more carefully at the common "other worlds" experience that volunteers frequently reported during his research.
The most extensive scientific study of the mental and perceptual effects of a psychedelic drug since the 1960s.
author of Ayahuasca: Consciousness and the Spirits of Nature
A dazzling journey through psychedelic drug experimentation and a tantalizing peek into a new model of how the brain and mind work. Strassman’s research points toward a physiological basis for spirit and its interaction with the human body; his data suggests that our brain chemistry allows us access to other realms of existence just when we need it most, and his story recounts both the dangers and promises of entering this brave new world.
Editor, Journal of Near-Death Studies
DMT: The Spirit Molecule points the way beyond the present impasse of the reigning 'drug abuse' paradigm.
author of The Age of Entheogens and Hallucinogenic Plants of North America
This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the mind, philosophy, the nature of reality, and spirituality.