Psychedelic Addiction In People Seeking Spiritual Enlightening

People who use psychedelic drugs often seek enlightenment. In this article, we review the dangers of this behavior and where to seek help if you become addicted to psychedelic drugs.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: People who seek spiritual enlightenment from psychedelic drugs often fall into dependence. In this article, we review what this dependence is, how it affects you, and how you can get help. Plus, we introduce other ways you can seek enlightenment.


What Are Psychedelic Drugs?

Psychedelic drugs are a classification of any psychoactive substance that creates psychedelic experiences through serotonin receptor agonism. [1] The effects of these drugs are often noteworthy, as most people experience an increase in all sensory perception, especially sounds and smells. Many people who use these drugs also report mystical or religious feelings. Other effects of psychedelics include:

  • Altered state of consciousness
  • Auditory and visual changes
  • Distorted perspective of time
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Rapid mood changes

The most common types of psychedelic drugs include:

  • Ayahuasca
  • Cannabis
  • DMT
  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • LSD or Acid
  • Mescaline or Peyote
  • Psilocybin Mushrooms
  • Salvia

Though studies have found no connection between psychedelic use and physical dependence, this class of substances does hold potential for psychological addiction. [2]

Why Do People Feel Enlightened From Psychedelic Drugs?

Psychedelic drugs offer users a different perspective on life, often beautiful and insightful. Due to this new frame of thought, many feel as though psychedelics unlock the doors to enlightenment. In the words of Steve Jobs:

“LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important – creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

Considering that such influential people encourage this kind of drug use, many young people feel as though it’s “okay” to experiment with these drugs. Through these experiments, many might even find that enlightening experience they sought out. However, what remains consistent is the science. No matter what famous psychedelic activists proclaim about the drug, there’s undeniable proof it has its negative effects.

Take a “bad trip” as an example. [3] Similar to entering a psychosis, people who have a “bad trip” feel as though they can’t escape from it. They’re overwhelmed by fear and paranoia. This fear often separates their own thoughts from themselves and people can enter a state of psychosis, believing in nightmares which aren’t really there.

Quite the opposite effect of an enlightening experience.

Psychedelic Drug Addiction: How It Works

Before we begin, it’s vital to understand, psychedelic drugs WILL NOT cause physical addiction. In other words, your body will not need the drug in order to feel normal as is the case with substances such as heroin or alcohol. Rather, you mind develops a dependence on the drug.

So, how do psychedelic drugs affect the brain?

When scientists first asked this question themselves, they had one assumption: brain activity would increase exponentially. However, through study, they were surprised to find the brain’s activity remained relatively the same. That is except for a few specific areas in the brain where activity was actually decreased. Furthermore, participants of one study who underwent the most intense psychedelic experience actually had stronger decreases in brain activity. [5]

Why does this happen?

As people who have taken psychedelics can tell you, your brain isn’t entirely disrupted when you’re on a trip. In other words, you won’t see any dragons or the devil himself. Rather, you have enough sense of reality to communicate with others, use the bathroom, and do other necessary daily tasks.

When someone takes psychedelics, the connector hubs in their brain shut down. In order to understand how these hubs work, you can think of brain communication like traffic in a city. Let’s say the road from A to B (a healthy connector hub) is shut down (due to psychedelic use). A driver still has the ability to go from A to B, but must take a different route. This different, lengthier route is just what a psychedelic trip is. [6]

This is why one shut down in the brain causes an abundance of neural communications in other parts of the brain. Though this brain activity doesn’t cause any physical threats, the threats to a person’s mental state are severe. People who take psychedelics frequently often due so to cope with emotions. Drugs like LSD have a way of making you temporarily feel better about your life situation.

However, this emotional coping comes at a cost.

Problems associated with frequent psychedelic use include:

  • Increased risk of a dangerous accident
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Mental health problems
  • Mood disorders like anxiety, depression, or mania

Furthermore, people who take psychedelics as a means of handling emotional problems might find their problems intensified. For example, if someone has anxiety and takes a psychedelic, their anxiety can worsen. Or, use of these kinds of drugs can develop into another mental health condition, such as schizophrenia.

The Harms in Psychedelic Dependence

Science has found that people who use psychedelics over the long-term are often left with mental health problems not seen prior to taking the drug. [7] These complications include:

  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Extreme paranoia
  • Intense anxiety
  • Panic
  • Psychosis

One of the largest studied negative effects of psychedelic use is known as persistent psychosis. [8] Persistent psychosis occurs when you experience continual psychological disruption triggered by drug use. In this state, everyday life becomes a difficulty, as you must face:

  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Mood changes
  • Paranoia
  • Visual disturbances

Another real harm psychedelics can cause is something known as “flashbacks”. This is a brief and random return of the experiences these drugs inflict. For example, you might be at a meeting at work and suddenly feel as though you’re hallucinating. These flashbacks can appears weeks, months, or even years after the psychedelic was initially digested. [9]

Another risk is not know what’s actually in the drug you’re taking. A substance like LSD is a liquid chemical dripped onto an absorbent piece of paper. In order access this, you must approach a drug dealer who has no regulations surrounding his/her practice. Often, substances are mixed or substituted. So, if you’re looking for an “LSD trip”, you might actually find that you’re taking a completely different chemical.

Take the story of West Virginia man, Todd Anthony Honaker, as an example. [10] He and his wife, Renee, took a substance they believed to be LSD. A bit after the drug was ingested, Renee began convulsing and eventually died. It turns out, they took the synthetic hallucinogen 25b-NBOMe instead of LSD. Todd Honaker was then charged with involuntary manslaughter.

There are also instances of people taking psychedelics and getting themselves into situations which can be fatal. Though psychedelics themselves can’t cause overdoses – except for synthetic psychedelics – they can put people in bad situations. A couple years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported of a 15-year-old boy who took LSD, jumped off a balcony and died as a consequence. [11]

Psychedelic Drug Treatment

If you or someone you love uses psychedelic drugs on a regular basis, help is available!

As people who “trip” understand, psychedelic drugs affect everyone differently. The same rule applies for those seeking treatment. In order to make the most out of a facility, people struggling with addiction must find a program which fits to THEIR specific needs. If you run across a facility offering a “one size fits all” motto, steer clear!

Psychedelic treatment also works a bit differently in comparison to other drug treatment programs. Since the body doesn’t need to detox, people fighting this kind of addiction will focus primarily on the psychological aspects of treatment. To give you a sense of how this works, there are five key steps to beating psychedelics for good!

The five main stages of treatment for psychedelic drug problems are:

1. Medical Assessment: Treatment staff first asses you medically. This helps clinicians develop a sense of who YOU are. Assessment usually includes an interview about your current health condition, medical history, and family history. You’ll also receive drug tests and other medical exams.

2. Detox: Since psychedelic drugs don’t affect the body nearly as much as the mind, most people don’t experience physical withdraws when they quit. As a result, detox isn’t necessary. Still, there are a select cases where people who take psychedelics extremely frequently may benefit from detox.

3. Psychological Treatment: The primary focus of psychedelic addiction treatment is through psychological therapies. Since psychedelic drugs have extreme effects on the mind, people who are beating dependence must pay close attention to understanding their thoughts and developing skill in taking control of the mind.

Talk therapy is the most common form of psychological treatment. This will include both individual and group options. Behavioral therapy can also help you to change your thoughts, patterns, and beliefs. This is so you’ll no longer feel the need to use psychedelic drugs to relieve your emotional struggles.

4. Educational Sessions: Once you’re facing addiction, it’s important to remember just what you are up against. Through educational sessions, you’ll develop a better understanding of the dangers in psychedelic use. You’ll learn more about how the brain works. You’ll also understand the cycle of use and patterns of thought. This is a way to prevent relapse.

5. Supportive Services: A reputable treatment facility will offer you supportive services following your treatment. These include vocational training, housing assistance, financial assistance, legal assistance, and medical assistance. Though you might not need any of these options, they’re at your disposal in any case.

Where Else Can People Seek Enlightenment

It’s important to understand that enlightenment can be found in all corners of this life. Often, it appears at random and when we don’t choose for it to come. Still, people have a right to explore enlightenment if they desire to. And there are a number of avenues to take which don’t hold nearly as big a risk as psychedelic drugs do. Here are some other ways you can search for a sense of purpose and connectedness with life.

1. You can explore religion.

Not everyone holds religious beliefs. But if you do, religious services offer an abundance of spiritual benefits. Whether you’re visiting a church or spending time in a temple, the people in these locations are all seeking the same thing you do. Don’t be afraid to get involved in religious events and keeping up with the community. Religion can offer you an abundance of enlightening techniques you may not have considered prior.

2. Practice meditation and yoga.

Though some religions incorporate meditation into their practices, not all do. Furthermore, for those who don’t believe in a religion, meditation offers a great way to better understand yourself and the world around you. It allows you to clear your conscious of all the emotional hardships you sought to fix through psychedelic use. And it allows you to place your energy into a progressive realm. Yoga, though not for everyone, has also helped people reach these states due to the physical health benefits that come with it.

3. Simply, live.

After you come out of a psychedelic addiction, you’re going to realize life is a “trip” in and of itself. By developing positive habits, such as gardening or writing, you’re going to find yourself enlightened more and more everyday.

REMEMBER: Enlightenment doesn’t always come as easily as a psychedelic experience does. It’s not as simple as eating some mushrooms or taking a tab of acid. Rather, enlightenment comes to those who are patient and keep their minds open to change.

Your Questions

Have you used psychedelic drugs in order to find enlightenment? Are you worried about the repercussions this can have on your psychology? Help is available. We encourage you reach out to our 24/7 hotline in order to find the right treatment for you.

Still have questions surrounding psychedelic drug enlightenment and addiction?

Feel free to ask them in the comments section below. If you have more information on the topic, we’d also love to hear from you. We try to reply to each comment in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources: [1] NIH: Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs: How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?
[2] NIH: Drug Facts: What are hallucinogens?
[3] Medical News Today: LSD: Effects and hazards
[4] Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Brain mechanisms of hallucinogens and entactogens
[5] NIH: Revealed: LSD Docked in its Human Brain Target
[6] PNAS: Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging
[7] PLOS One: Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Population Study
[8] Psychopharmacology: Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder
[9] NCBI: An analysis of psychedelic drug flashbacks.
[10] Charleston Gazette-Mail: Man guilty in wife’s drug death
[11] Los Angeles Times: Santa Monica High School freshman dies after falling from apartment building while on LSD
About the author
Paul James is a mental health and addiction writer. He's spent the last year and a half spreading awareness and knowledge in hopes of ending the stigmas attached to these topics. You can read more on his blog .
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