Misreported Science

by Myron Stolaroff

Misreported science is information that looks scientific but isn’t.   With the heavy bias of the press over the last 3-1/2 decades to report only negative aspects of psychedelics (see Roger Walsh, 1982, "Psychedelics and Psychological Well-being," Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 22-32), scientific information on psychedelics has been particularly misrepresented.

Another contributing factor is the growing effort of the government, seeking to fulfill political goals, to determine what research is conducted and to what ends.  The situation is very succinctly articulated by Alexander Shulgin, one of the world’s notable chemists, in his Foreword to The Heffter Review of Psychedelic Research, Volume 1 1998.  He states:  "In the academic world there has been a gradual shifting of research funding sources from the interests of the University to the interest of the Government.  Today a very large percentage of research at both the graduate and the post-doctoral levels is supported by grants from any of several institutes in Washington.  And, as the recipients of these grants are increasingly beholden to the political bodies that fund them, they effectively define what is acceptable science.  Whereas grant applications were originally chosen to reflect the questions arising out of the curiosity of the experimenter, now they usually reflect the quest for answers that would be of interest to the funder.  And in the area of drugs this is strongly biased towards the perceived need for information that would support the war on drugs and further justify its escalation.  Many grants are awarded specifically to document some negative property of a given drug, rather than simply to search for the properties of that drug."

Another tool often used by government agencies pursuing political or invested interests is to selectively report the data. The following passage comes from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and is an excellent example of highly selective reporting.  A cursory glance at the scientific literature will reveal how the DEA has chosen primarily those reported characteristics which indicate adverse, uncomfortable, or undesirable effects, while ignoring or downplaying evidence of important, useful, beneficial, creative, or enlightening outcomes.  It is possible that their reports come from worst-case situations, but if so, this limitation is not mentioned.  Large numbers of properly conducted investigations yielding desirable and beneficial outcomes are ignored.  For example, see Savage and Stolaroff, "Clarifying the Confusion Regarding LSD-25, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease vol. 140 No.3: 218-221, and particularly references 25, Unger, and 23, Schmiege, which review the therapeutic literature of the time.

We have inserted comments on the DEA information which are shown with reduced margins and gold coloring. The full DEA document may be read at        http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/lsd/toc.htm.


DEA      LSD Effects

 Physical Effects (according to the DEA):

 LSD use can produce a number of physical changes: mydriasis (prolonged dilatation of the  pupil of the eye), raised body temperature, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure,
 increased blood sugar, salivation, tingling in fingers and toes, weakness, tremors, palpitations,  facial flushing, chills, gooseflesh, profuse perspiration, nausea, dizziness, inappropriate speech,  blurred vision, and intense anxiety. Death caused by the direct effect of LSD on the body is  virtually impossible.  However, death related to LSD abuse have occurred as a result of the  panic reactions, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia experienced by users.

No doubt all of the above phenomena has been observed at some time or other.  What is not readily apparent, and what it is important to understand, is that most of the symptoms described are not the effect of the drug itself, but the result of the inner experience the subject is undergoing.  The action of psychedelic drugs is still poorly understood by many mainstream scientists, primarily because of lack of understanding of the transpersonal nature of the human being.  They commonly hold an allopathic view of the nature of drug action, where it is believed that the drug has specific actions in the body.  The action of psychedelics is entirely different.  They mainly function to open the door to the unconscious mind, which can expose an enormous range of possible experiences.  This includes repressed psychic material and the release of a wide range of positive functions, including intuition, creativity, and the crowning experience of directly perceiving the ultimate nature of reality.   It is possible to discover the Divine nature of all of creation, and even achieve the most cherished experience possible to mankind, direct union with the Godhead.
           The positive aspects of experience are available only with proper understanding, preparation, intent to discover truth, and most important of all, HONESTY.  Healthy minded persons who deeply appreciate life readily move into the positive areas.  However, those with heavily repressed material in their unconscious may have to face and resolve uncomfortable situations.  After all, we repress what we do not like and do not wish to encounter.  Since we have chosen to put it out of sight, many will not care to discover their inappropriate choices and behavior.  Resisting such information can become uncomfortable; the more heavily repressed, the greater the discomfort.  However, the honest person will welcome discovering the dynamics of his/her unconscious.  Encountering and resolving such material releases the energy tied up in repression, results in greater understanding, freedom of expression, heightened awareness, clearer communication, and increased joy and well-being.
           Most of the symptoms described above by the DEA are the result of uninformed, illicit use.  Even so, much of what is described are minor effects, readily ignored in favor of attending the interesting parts of the experience.  Of course if an unprepared person has entered unfamiliar, frightening territory, all of these adverse symptoms can become amplified and produce panic.  The greatest protection against adverse experiences is the presence of a knowledgable, supportive guide. It is hoped that the government will once more approve research projects, so that the potential of psychedelic substances can be fully determined and appropriate means of application developed.

 LSD distorts electrical messages sent to and from various parts of the brain, primarily those  pertaining to visual information. Messages from any of the senses can be perceived as merged  together, creating a sensation known as "synesthesia." This most commonly is represented as  "hearing colors" or "seeing sounds."

 LSD affects moods and emotions and suppresses memory centers and other higher cerebral  functions, such as judgment, reason, behavior, and self-awareness. The combination and  intensity of these reactions create the profound mental effect most closely associated with  LSD.

 The above two paragraphs well illustrate the attempt to describe the effects of LSD through allopathic actions.  What occurs is not the action  described above, but the result of releasing unconscious contents of the mind.  An uninformed user who has no idea of what to expect can be very disturbed by the changes taking place.  However, with proper preparation and intent, LSD can be a powerful learning tool.

 Mental Effects (according to the DEA):

 The mental effects most commonly associated with LSD use, particularly at high doses, are visual images or hallucinations, often involving simulated philosophical or religious
 connotations. It is this artificial imagery which has been advocated erroneously as providing true psychological insight and benefit.

Note the words "simulated" and "erroneously."  Such descriptions can be offered only by those who have no understanding of the true nature of the experiences possible with LSD.  For those who are open and wish to learn, the philosophical, religious, and psychological experiences can be profound, life-changing experiences of the utmost value.

 The cause of most LSD-related problems is the intense visual illusions triggered that seem real  and become overpowering, prompting the user to want to withdraw from the drug state  immediately. Initially, at lower dosage levels, the visual images are intensified in color or  flashes of light are seen. The visual images progress to brightly colored geometric designs and  become distorted. At higher dosages, images appear as distortions of reality or as completely  new visual images and can be seen with the eyes open or closed.

   The first sentence of the above paragraph is somewhat accurate, and would be even more accurate if it included the intensity of negative feelings that the unprepared user may encounter.  The remainder of the paragraph seems intended to once more establish that LSD has specific effects, like most pharmaceutical drugs.  Effects actually vary enormously from person to person, and depend a great deal on the contents of the inner psyche.    The intensity of sensual impressions is the result of LSD dissolving the conditioning armor most of us have built up which restricts our sense functioning, thereby permitting the full capability of our natural senses.  What is actually experienced in the form of imagery and light varies very appreciably from person to person.  For example, one may or may not see geometric patterns, depending upon a wide number of factors rooted in the psyche of the individual.

 Hallucinations also take other forms: thoughts become dreamlike or free-flowing, perception of time can become slowed or distorted, and out-of-body experiences may occur or the perception that one's body has merged with another person or object.

 Emotional responses to the vivid hallucinations can be wide-ranging, from euphoria and
 contentment to disturbing feelings of confusion, fear, and despair. Moods can change
 profoundly in a short period to time, from excitability to tranquillity.

All of the above effects are the result of opening the unconscious mind.  To the ignorant and unprepared, all such effects can happen.  When used with intention, all such effects can become part of a valuable learning process.

 The consequences of LSD use can be deleterious, not merely benign as commonly perceived.  Powerful hallucinations can lead to acute panic reactions when the mental effect cannot be  controlled and when the user wishes to end the drug-induced state. While these panic  reactions more often than not are resolved successfully over time, prolonged anxiety and  psychotic reactions have been reported. The mental effect can cause psychotic crises and  compound existing psychiatric problems.

Panic reactions are not produced by the drug, but are the result of releasing material from the unconscious.  One cannot experience what is not already contained in one’s inner being.  Consequently it is dangerous for disturbed persons to have uninformed, unprepared experiences.  However, should one have such experiences, the aid of a good therapist knowledgeable of the true action of psychedelic drugs can be of great help in aiding the subject to utilize the experience for maximum personal benefit.

 Flashbacks (according to the DEA):

 Flashbacks are one of the most dangerous side effects of LSD use. They are recurrences of  images or effects that were experienced during a previous LSD administration and they can  vary in intensity and duration. Flashbacks can occur spontaneously or they can be spurred by  the use of other drugs (particularly marijuana or hashish), emotional stress, fatigue, or  movement from a light to a dark environment. These flashbacks can last from a few seconds  to several hours. Ironically, some experienced LSD users do not consider flashbacks to be an  adverse consequence of LSD use and actually enjoy the renewed perceptions or images as a  "free trip."

This discussion of flashbacks highly exaggerates their dangers.  Flashbacks seldom occur to those who have taken LSD under properly conducted conditions, and when they do, they may be used fruitfully as part of the learning process.  Most difficulties reported are the result of uninformed, illicit  use.  Flashbacks result from the individual, particular psychic structure of the imbibing person. Again, the aid of a truly informed therapist can be of great help in resolving problems resulting from flashbacks.

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For those who wish to understand the true nature and potential of psychedelic substances, there are many excellent books available, as well as hundreds of published papers.  For further information, click on Resources

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