Cambridge, England (TFC)– Modern rejuvenation of psychedelic research recently yielded some very telling, albeit, paradoxical fruits of venture. Researchers, studying lysergic acid diethylamide–LSD–and its beneficial mental health effects, also observed the emergence of “psychosis-like” symptoms. Their findings, while propelling LSD understandings, almost rebels against itself, and the place of “psychosis” in our culture.
Since it’s psychonautic blast off into American culture, LSD has remained a once open, now taboo, scientific curiosity. Before the curtain came down, Aunt Lucy showed promise in treating numerous ailments, including alcoholism. The compounds’ effectiveness against depression, addiction, and end-of-life anxiety have since been acknowledged.
Researchers, however, have also used LSD, and other psychedelics for that matter, to mimic “psychosis-like” states. The abstractness of mental illness, it seems, can be scarcely investigated without the awe-worthy psychedelic experience. This duality, Huffington Post reports, manifested in a London Imperial College study, published in the Journal For Psychological Medicine. Such results continue a tradition since the 60’s of regarding psychedelics as suitable models for mental illness.
One explanation, researchers say, may lie within the so-called psychedelically induced “cognitive looseness”. The phenomenon, with its curious ability to highly enhance mental flexibility, may somehow catalyst psychosis-like states.
“There’s probably a sweet spot to the balance of thinking between flexibility on the one hand–the ability to be adaptive and creative”, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris”, and then on the other hand, to be able to focus and be organized.”
Speculating that normal waking consciousness sits at a specific “spot”, she proposes psychedelics push one “a little bit towards the pole of more flexibility, more creativity.” Perhaps this phenomenon can account for the emergence of psychosis–idea’s without “firm anchorage in reality or logic”, in some cases.
Dr. Carhart-Harris’ study examined 20 healthy adults, Huffington Post reports, conducting 75 microgram acid sessions, placebo’s included. Volunteer’s filled out two questionnaires: one about the LSD experience, the other scanning for signs of psychosis-like symptoms. According to the good doctor, LSD produced increased mental flexibility in volunteers, as well as heightened mood states.
Though some showed “symptoms” resembling psychosis, personality surveys taken two weeks later contests such assumptions. Dr. Carhart-Harris’ team noted more optimism and open mindedness in volunteers, as well as augmented cravings for intellectual stimulation. They desired to expand their knowledge and experiences, none of these developments were delusional.
Another study, investigating psychedelically induced “ego dissolution”–or ego death– and psychosis, revealed an unusual quality of LSD. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris and her team conducted this study as well, finding that the compound actually enhances brain network connection. Sometimes, the findings show, networks which normally would not interact are connected, perhaps leading to psychosis-like results. “It would be wrong to oversell the relationship between the psychedelic state and psychosis”, she asserts, “because equally in the acute psychedelic state, there can be amazing clarity. People have genuine insights.”
The latter point regarding “genuine insights”, being as true as it is, should perhaps raise questions on the models we use to investigate such things. Psychedelic experiences are often discounted as simple products of brain candy. Since this is a drug being taken by a person, then it shouldn’t matter if they convert religions or see E.T.’s. It’s not “real”, right?
What is “real” though? If you ask any quantum physicist, the criteria for “real” are not as black and white as we in the west would perhaps like. Reality, as it seems, doesn’t care what we humans accept as “real”. It’s ever changing, vastly abstract, operating unimpeded by the inability of our greatest minds to wrap their heads around it’s secrets. Reality and the human concept of “real” are two separate constructs of differing qualities and substance.
British writer and journalist Graham Hancock has argued this point for some time. In his travels, Graham’s crossed paths with numerous shamans and spiritual leaders, many from very distant, traditional cultures. When he asks them, “what our problem is in the west”, they often say it’s simple, “you’ve severed your connection with spirit.” In other words, when a young boy or girl begins having mood swings or having “hallucinations” in shamanic cultures, they are not medicated then locked away or invalidated. They are taken to the current shaman, taught how to manage these things, and eventually, upon becoming the next shaman, integrates into their society as an important, valued person. This is the opposite end result of the system of medicating, stigmatization, and relegation which exists in western culture. Simply put, our two peoples have different models of recognizing and addressing such phenomenon.
So, as a psychedelic-science renaissance continues to attract the curious, perhaps our researchers would be wise to consider such things. This study’s findings supports the notion of a “paradoxical” nature of LSD, that being the emergence of both mental health benefits and “psychosis”. Perhaps what we know as psychosis will be interpreted different, more positively, in the coming future as more research is done. Scientists have already been blown away by the profound nature of the psychedelic, left dumbfounded, speechless, and disturbed by implications. The Lucy Paradox may best be understood as yet another sapien mystery to be validated through our own doubt.