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LSD and endogeneous serotonin

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  • LSD and endogeneous serotonin

    I've just listened to a rather good if short piece on R4 - an LSD culture retrospective and overview. Covered Hoffman's bike trip, Leary, even some Hawkwind members. A very clear and non-reactionary history.

    I'm fascinated by the 'Acid' experience as the descriptions of 'trips' seem to echo a lot of sensations and experience I feel when I'm 'creating', or just tootling around 'synthesising' my own visions. This isn't meant to be glib - I experienced what I later realised was synaesthesia frequently as a child. When I was at Vetschool (which is a pretty hedonistic place, especially pharmaceutically) I was never a frequent drug-user: A very occassional spliff, a few mushroom teas and one E-tab constitute my record. I was always stoked up on exercise-generated endorphins. I have never tried LSD. Fellow-students used to say 'You (ie, me) don't change when you take drugs' which was curious. But the acid-culture seems to resonate how I see the world. Now, the question is, does this mean I have an endogeneous excess of serotonin release (possibly suppressed when I suffered from depression) that acts in a similar way to that of the LSD-triggered flux of 5-HT? Or, were some of those sugarcubes I scoffed as a kid not all they seemed, and did I read The Butterfly Ball too much??? :D Comments on your experiences, especially re: creativity and the worlds we inhabit?

  • #2
    I've had even fewer drug experiences than you, despite the fact that almost all of my favourite creative types have indulged... then again many of them died rather too young, so that may have put me off a bit.

    I can't say I ever got a great deal out of smoking gear, but I'm not much of a smoker so it might not have gone down the right way... I had much more fun on a camping trip to Wales, during which I had about an hour's sleep in total. There were faces in the wallpaper and everything! Great fun. Meanwhile I've been reading about the history of Oz magazine, and how everyone expanded their minds and started producing so much fantastic art after they'd dropped a tab or two (not always intentionally), and I wonder if a little chemical augmentation might help me free my mind a little... for someone who draws a lot, I really have a tough time visualizing anything. I could probably knock out some excellent copies of other people's psychadelic artwork, but I could never create a Cream album cover on my own intitiative (not that they've ever asked me too). In the end, in hindsight, the author of the book (Richard Neville) suggested that drugs were a way of opening the doors to perception, but shouldn't be a crutch... once you'd opened the doors, you were probably better off winging it on your own creativity.

    As I say though, I have no great experience in this field. I've found that meditation can produce some interesting effects, in terms of a greater appreciation of music and so forth (at least, I think that's why I was crying over Paradise City), but the point of such disciplines is to focus on the actual, rather than encourage "visions" and so forth... which is a bit of a shame, because I might enjoy a good vision every now and then, but I'm probably lagging behind on the path to enlightenment as it is, so it's best not to pout about these things.

    These days, I'm inclined to believe the notion that perception shapes reality to a degree, so I doubt very much that we all inhabit the same world, although obviously they overlap at times. This is progress for me, as I used to feel that I was a bit part in someone else's story. Now I think I've been granted a spin-off series of my own, which is nice.

    That probably didn't make a lot of sense, but then you shouldn't start a thread about psychadelic drugs and expect people to make too much sense. ;)
    "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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    • #3
      My own belief is that most of the Oz people got high on bullshit. I mean, how many of them went on to greater things ? Felix Dennis, the breadhead of the group, did well for himself in the exploitation field and the rest seem to run on reminiscence. A few of the contributors, like Charles Shaar Murray, have gone on to do more interesting work.
      My point being that leisure drugs should be used for leisure and that once you start using drugs for work you have to develop as much discipline as you'd use to get there without drugs... I also believe that drugs should be banned -- to everyone under forty... :D Meditation and sleep deprivation aren't bad, either.

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      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
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      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DeeCrowSeer
        These days, I'm inclined to believe the notion that perception shapes reality to a degree, so I doubt very much that we all inhabit the same world, although obviously they overlap at times.
        Drugs or no drugs, I have to agree with this, Dee. I would even take it one step further and say that perception is the reality, or at least the only reality we can really know. However you can get in touch with that...

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
          .
          My point being that leisure drugs should be used for leisure and that once you start using drugs for work you have to develop as much discipline as you'd use to get there without drugs...
          I would guess that without that discipline, managing drug use would actually become the work.

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          • #6
            I think that the drugs / creativity thing has been overplayed. I suspect that extreme self-discipline of a shamanistic variety would be needed to really make it work. Saying that, the LSD explosion of the late '60s certainly did coincide with an upsurge of creativity - a catalyst not a crutch might be a fair assessment. Nothing's guaranteed. I've been reading about Steve Took - it didn't seem to do him much good. Or Syd Barrett, of course.
            \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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            • #7
              My friend S, also a vet, a very visually creative type and my Best Man at my wedding (although she's a girl) was a pretty heavy drug 'cocktail' user at college. She has low-level ongoing therapy now, but what worried me most was when I was out with her and her mum and the latter asked S what her best memories were of childhood.

              'Er, I haven't got any' says S. I laughed.

              'No, really. I can't remember any of it' she says.

              I mean. Jesus. Another mate, T, a very good climber, can't finish a sentence most of the time. Too much dope - loses track. I know these are just anecdotal, but there's an indication there...

              I feel that artificial psychedelic experiences might be useful for the highly prosaic, just to hint at the possibilities of imaginary gymnastics for them. For naturally 'expanded' minds, whether through genetics, environment or active training, there may be too many negative effects. MM's tongue-in-cheek 40-yr-old 'responsibility threshold' (I'm assuming that's what it was! :roll: ) may have a reversed importance: I've noticed that some people seem to petrify their thoughts as they get older, perhaps through not challenging their paradigms sufficiently frequently. Probably to do with mortgages and raising kids, although you'd think the latter would be a creative expansion in itself. I don't insist on this: It's just personal observation - I get the 'thousand-yard-glaze' in the eyes of more people of my age when I get into conversation with them than I do with younger (and somewhat older, oddly) folk. Is it my generation? Were the adolescents of the Thatcher-Blair continuum irreversibly damaged by the Yuppie culture and political correctness? Jings!

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              • #8
                Tooky was pretty spaced out most of the time, it's true. And, of course, I've worked with quite a few people like that. I've also worked with people who were able to do recreational heroin without any bad effects at all. We are so diverse that it's impossible to make general rules about drug use. I've known people to go up on downers and down on speed. Others find a small joint a lot better for them than any number of mood controlling substances. I've known some respectable old codgers in highly responsible jobs who haven't shown any signs (at least expected signs) of being heavy cocaine users for forty years, same with morphine/heroin users.I've had friends go completely psychotic on a single tab of acid.
                One argument I raise against too much dope smoking is that it really does have the same bad physical side effects as nicotine smoking, though is not nearly as addictive. It's a shame all this stuff can't be legalised in some way to make the sellers report possible side-effects, the way they have to with legal drugs. My chief argument doesn't have much to do with whether drugs are good or bad for you (see above -- it depends on the individual) but that in demonising drugs the authorities make them more dangerous for those who, inevitably, are going to use them. .

                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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                • #9
                  I did one hell of a lot of LSD in the '80s and thankfully it doesn't seem to have hurt my memory too much. Nor has a longer term, though not current, affair with THC and the usual rounds with alcohol. It's like Michael says, different people react differently to chemicals, and I've been fortunate where memory and even (I think) sanity are concerned.

                  It'd be hard to deny that acid and pot have affected my aesthetic, but I don't, in hindsight, think they did much to increase creativity. Certainly they put one in a mood where creating art or music seem increasingly pleasurable, and I have evidence of results I enjoy. But then I have those from sobriety as well, and I've certainly watched plenty of artists let the chemicals become a crutch and then just do the chemicals without much art. Alcohol is actually the worst for that most often though. I rather hate alcohol for all the friends I've seen turn to mush from it, so I'm not sure I think legalization works so well after all.

                  I'm actually one of those people who tend to relax on stimulants, and pot always wakes me up wide awake and ready to talk a mile a minute. Regardless, the creative work I've done when uninfluenced often seems like the biggest accomplishment.

                  Michael's idea of making 40 the legalization age for all drugs is amusing, because not many people would do them then! When I was 20 doing 5 hits of acid and smoking a gram of weed then climbing around the outside of a tower in the woods at night seemed like great fun. Nowadays, I'd be horrified to trip because I think I'd probably just concentrate on the frailty of my physical body and the stress of life, and I'm still a couple years away from 40 and by most people's estimation in the physical condition of someone in their 20s. Really, I get carded when I buy non-alcoholic beer!
                  My Facebook; My Band; My Radio Show; My Flickr Page; Science Fiction Message Board

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                  • #10
                    Another good vet friend, B, was involved in one of our 'shrooming parties around some barrows in the Mendip Hills above Langford (the place, not the actress) and made the mistake of gobbling up all the psilocybe mush that remained in the bottom of the teapot. He spent the subsequent twelve hours alternately crouched on his haunches with his hands over his head, shouting and then running around frantically. We determined eventually that he believed himself to be a corporal in the Kaiser's army at Verdun, and the French were attacking his trench with giant luminous slugs. He was in a right state, but I thought this sounded quite good inspiration for something...(As S, T and B were all contemporary vet students, I'm quite relieved that Vet School wasn't filmed while we were there... :) ).

                    The 'glowing slug trench assault' incident occurred on the same occassion that I watched my friend Torquil's (a different T to the other T above, and not a vet at all, so I'll use his real name!) face transform into a talking skull as a result of the visual cue of moonlight striking his jawline. Yikes! Hallucination persisted for some minutes. I mention this because one of the Hawkwind members in yesterday's R4 piece (they rather oddly didn't say who) described how he was on stage on acid when the entire audience suddenly turned into skeletons. He says that he turned to Lemmy and asked him frantically what was going on, but latter was of course bemused and told him to get on with it. Unnamed member carried on playing (how do they do that? I have trouble playing four notes straight) but then mistook the red stage lighting for haemorrhaging and fell over. Sounds like quite a show.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                      My own belief is that most of the Oz people got high on bullshit. I mean, how many of them went on to greater things?
                      Actually, that's a good point. I was getting a little carried away when I said that they "started producing so much fantastic art"... I haven't seen this art, I've only read about it, so it's rather silly of me to make such claims. My envy usually needs very little physical evidence to get its green eyes a-blazin'. I still have a hopelessly romantic nostalgia for a decade that I was "born too late" for, and most of that is probably a contact high from their "bullshit". It would probably be smarter at this point to accept that I'm probably as creative now as I'm ever going to be... and that I was born in the era I was meant for. Or something.

                      Personally I believe that self-discipline is a jolly good thing whether you're taking drugs or not... and considering how difficult it is just to count four breaths in a row without drifting off a bit, I dread to think how much self-discipline it takes to do anything constructive while you're "under the influence".

                      As you were...
                      "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

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                      • #12
                        We are the Era, Dee. It is what we make it. Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha haaaaa! Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaar!

                        >Ahem< Like the psychedelic new avatar, man. It's like 'wow!' and he said 'kinda freaky' and she's like 'no way!' and I said 'yeah!'. We are normal and we want our freedom!.

                        Sorry. Just trying to cheer myself up 'cos John Lewis have run out of Dualit four-slot toasters and I couldn't get the microfibre underwear I wanted in M&S. That's what growing up in the 'Eighties does for you.

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                        • #13
                          Most of my magic mushroom tales revolve around the completely inane. There was the time I very nearly fell off of the top of Hengistbury Head - I was standing right on the edge, with my back to it, unawares - this was during a bit of a WW2 fantasy as the police had been called to an absurdly large fire a couple of metalheads we were with had lit in the woods, and we had all got separated by running off in different directions into the undergrowth, and then decided that the Old Bill were German soldiers who had captured our missing comrades.

                          I like to think that if I had actually taken the plummet my friends would have cremated me on the beach like Shelley - but what actually happened is that we all eventually cogregated in the ladies toilets in the car park and had endless fun flushing them and warming ourselves on the hand driers. Make some art out of that! (OK, Mr DuChamp...) And the time I had a huge freak out on Glastonbury Tor, and ended up getting my head back together by talking to this guy about how much he liked living in Milton Keynes. Far out, maaaaannnnn! :roll:
                          \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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                          • #15
                            Yep - I guess we've all had need of a "Man from Milton Keynes" at some point in our lives. The "Person from Porlock" in a positive light!
                            \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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