Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and mystical experiences
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Introduction: The term psychedelic (“mind-manifesting”) was coined by British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond in 1956 to refer to a unique class of mind-altering chemicals with distinctive effects that set them apart from other drugs with hallucinogenic properties. Some psychedelics come from natural sources that have been traditionally featured in religious, ritual, and healing practices of indigenous cultures of the Americas (Anderson, 1980; Hofmann, 1983; Salak, 2007; Smith, 2000); such drugs include mescaline (from peyote and San Pedro cacti), psilocybin and psilocin (from Psilocybe mushrooms), and dimethyltryptamine or DMT (from the leaves of Psychotria viridis). Many other psychedelics have partly or wholly synthetic origins. The most potent psychedelic agent yet discovered is the semisynthetic ergot derivative lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), which has distinctive effects at the microscopic dose of 25 μg; a typical psychedelic dose ranges from 50 to 200 μg. There are also a number of purely synthetic psychedelics, many of which are chemically related to both amphetamine and mescaline (Shulgin & Shulgin, 1991). One of the most potent of these is dimethoxymethylamphetamine, or DOM, which was known as “STP” when introduced to the hippie subculture of San Francisco in the late 1960s. More familiar today is methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy), which has only mild or partial psychedelic effects as opposed to full psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline; MDMA is thus sometimes described as an “entactogen,” meaning “touch within” (Bravo, 2001; Smith, 2000), as opposed to full psychedelics or “entheogens,” meaning “God within.” A newer, extremely potent synthetic psychedelic, 2-(4-iodo-2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-N-[(2-methoxyphenyl)methyl] ethanamine (2CI-NBOMe, or “N-Bomb”), was invented in 2003 and is useful as a laboratory tool to map brain serotonin receptors (Ettrup et al., 2010). The threshold dose is several hundred micrograms, making this psychedelic second in potency only to LSD. Media reports indicate that 2CI-NBOMe has been sold to drug users on pieces of blotter paper, like LSD, and often misrepresented as the latter drug. Unfortunately 2CI-NBOMe has a much lower therapeutic index than LSD, hence several highly publicized deaths appear to have been caused by this drug (e.g., Hastings, 2013; Poklis et al., 2014) and, in some cases, possibly misattributed to LSD. Some of the deaths resulted from drug-induced seizures, whereas in other cases the individuals killed themselves accidentally or purposefully in a drug-induced psychotic or delirious state. By contrast, fatal reactions are extremely uncommon with the “classic” psychedelics LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline.
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